Durch Adams Fall
, BWV 637
Johann Sebastian Bach
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Track 45
One is three listeners to Bach. First, you hear Durch Adams Fall
as you walk into the sanctuary. Although you do not know the text and are only guessing the composer, something about the piece seems beautifully, heartbreakingly asymmetrical. Second, you follow up on your curiosity and clumsily read through the piece on your own several times. You stop and start, sometimes playing a chord or passage several times while you hum along. Third, while waiting in line at the county clerk’s office to renew your auto license, the entire piece, unsolicited, emerges from your unaware mind in clear detail. You hear the imperfect silence of the hallway and understand the sound of this piece as a profound constellation of meanings.
It is remarkable that this piece is a four voice chorale. The inner voices move around too much and the bass voice is barely supportive. Furthermore, there are three different speeds. The Soprano moves in quarter notes, the alto and tenor in sixteenth notes, and the bass in eighth notes. And yet, we are never lost and what confusion we encounter inspires contemplation.
What I like about Adam’s Fall is the way Bach anticipates the tune by two notes in the alto voice. This figure repeats several times in this very short piece. It is an insistence on the elasticity of a grave fall in slow motion.