WWJD 1.1

“WWJD” has become a Christian catchphrase summarizing an ethical test:  faced with a difficult decision, one is to ask “What would Jesus do?”

But in the present case–and with all respect to the original case–what I’m proposing is a bit of a musical parlor game:  “What would Johann do?”

Bach, that is–Johann Sebastian Bach.

What I’ll do in these “WWJD” posts (for I’m imagining a series of them) is this:  in part 1, I’ll present the melody of a Bach chorale.

Readers–should I actually have any–can then submit their harmonizations if they choose, the best of which I’ll present in part 2.  (Heck, I’ll even throw in a prize of some sort.)  I’ll give my harmonization, just to show I’m not a chicken.

Finally, of course, part 3 will give the original harmonization by the Master.  (Hey, if Sherlockians can use that terminology, then so can Bach enthusiasts.  JSB was at least historical!)

So, without further ado, here’s ‘WWJD I’:WWJD I 1.1


5 thoughts on “WWJD 1.1

  1. No takers yet! Possibly the supply of folks who find part-writing a fun diversion is even smaller than I thought…
    A few more days, and I’ll post my solution. But even after I do, I’ll be glad to accept and (if you like) post reader solutions. (Anything from Finale files to cell phone shots of manuscript will work.)

  2. Reblogged this on Anthropocene Daze and commented:
    The fermata is a giveaway for the tonic or dominant, which points to G-major, especially with the key signature and first and last measures. Neither A Dorian nor E Aeolian looked like good fits (though I have seen Bach do some tricky things in chorales, so it’s good to consider other possibilities, at least until the weight of evidence or some contradiction dismisses their use). For the opening, one can pedal on tonic in the 2nd measure, or head directly for IV. I’m somewhat uncertain of the tessitura of the bass (aspects of both a tenor and a bass line?), though that was mostly to try to keep it from wandering too far from the upper line, or to avoid direct motion to a perfect fifth, both problems less of an issue when using three or more voices. Otherwise, mostly just winging it harmonically with frequent use of I, IV, and V, plus what I’ve learned of counterpoint to move things along horizontally (also things like IV7 is C E G B, so the B is therefore a good note to step down to in the bass, especially with G above, and then from Schoenberg this is G-major, so hitting F♯ and C will be handy to define the key). And so to avoid spending yet more time fiddling with things:

    [thrig’s image didn’t come through, but he has it on his blog, linked above; easy to pop over there to check it out. Note that his is in 2 parts; both my realization and the Bach I’ll present in Part 3 are in 4 parts, SATB.]

    • G major it is, all the way! Interesting you should mention the bass tessitura, as Bach often takes it lower than recommended by modern texts. (The issue is clouded by the fact that some chorales have been transposed from the original (which has since been lost), and that there can also be confusion between the vocal and instrumental basses (always present in the original cantata settings, but absent from the ‘371’ collection.)

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