Benedict Roff-Marsh

Cantata No. 27 – Bach

Week Three of the release of my “Plugged-In Bach” is the deep ‘n’ dark one of the bunch. Cleverly hidden in the middle so no one notices how broody & melancholy it is.

This one was written for the church. Back when the church service was a big thing. I guess really this fills a similar sort of space that the God Rockin’ songs do in a Hillsong meeting. Only with less froth.

This would have sounded grand, overbearing yet tender, in the cathedral it was no doubt presented in.

Cantata no. 27 is really the complete opposite of the Brandenburg Concerto before. Where that one was all bombast and “too many notes” (yes I know, wrong composer), this piece is Bach exposing himself far more as a real artist painting in sound to intrigue & uplift the human spirit.

No Choir

Canterbury Cathedral EnglandThe elephant in the room for any who know “proper” recordings of this work is that the choir singing lyrics has been replaced with voices doing the Aaah thing. Now being short one choir at my house I was faced with the dilemma of how to deliver the material.

I knew this piece in no intimate way so I simply took the name in the MIDI file for each instrumental line and started with a “scratch” sound that seemed to deliver the notes nicely. When I got to the voices, I intended to make synth sounds for those roles too. But until I could understand what the notes were trying to say I assigned matching voice names from a sample set of Choir sounds.

Once I felt I had sense in the instruments I came back to the voices and started to make synth sounds but they didn’t manage to exceed the samples I had used. There is something haunting in how the voice samples contrast with the synths. Yet they gel so well. The words are missing but the melodic flow seems so otherworldly already.

What Have I Done To Deserve This?

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I tried not to. Really I did.

I did consider making each of the six parts of this work into a separate mini-blaze of wacky sounds. But once the music started to speak to me – remember that I followed the notes not some musicologist’s opinions – the more muted sounds really felt right, even if at first they might seem a let-down after the Concerto going before.

Each of the parts of the whole work bears a relationship to the others in carrying melodic themes. If I knew what the words were (and I still haven’t researched) then no doubt I would find a tie there too. Breaking that up to aggrandize myself didn’t feel like the right thing to do here at all. It felt like taking someone else’s story and running roughshod over it.

I hope you can take the time to appreciate both the majesty and subtly of this work. If I helped you in any way with that then I guess I did my job well.

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