Bach's Feet

Bach's Feet : The Organ Pedals in European Culture

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The organist seated at the king of instruments with thousands of pipes rising all around him, his hands busy at the manuals and his feet patrolling the pedalboard, is a symbol of musical self-sufficiency yielding musical possibilities beyond that of any other mode of solo performance. In this book, David Yearsley presents a new interpretation of the significance of the oldest and richest of European instruments, by investigating the German origins of the uniquely independent use of the feet in organ playing. Delving into a range of musical, literary and visual sources, Bach's Feet demonstrates the cultural importance of this physically demanding mode of music-making, from the blind German organists of the fifteenth century, through the central contribution of Bach's music and legacy, to the newly-pedaling organists of the British Empire and the sinister visions of Nazi propagandists.
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Product details

  • Online resource
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 41 b/w illus. 67 music examples
  • 1139003682
  • 9781139003681

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. Inventing the organist's feet; 2. Harmonies of the feet, visions of the body; 3. Walking towards perfection: pedal solos and cycles; 4. The pedal in the cosmopolitan age of travel; 5. Treading the globe: the world-wide expansion of the German pedal ideal; 6. Bach's feet.
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Review quote

'There is much to enjoy in this compelling study.' Early Music 'Part of [Yearsley's] intent in writing Bach's Feet, which is clearly a labor of love, is to reintroduce the organ into general musicological discourse, and perhaps even attract some lay readers. His book certainly deserves to succeed in its mission, and the organ, as he says, is 'ready for a comeback'.' Notes
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About David Yearsley

David Yearsley is the author of Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint (Cambridge University Press, 2002) as well as numerous essays on European musical culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; his scholarly work has appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music and Letters, Early Music and Eighteenth-Century Music. Active as a performer on organ and other keyboard instruments, his recordings are available on the Loft and Musica Omnia labels. Mr Yearsley has been an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Fellow at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. A long-time member of the pioneering synthesizer trio Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company, he is Professor of Music at Cornell University.
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