Bach Through the Lens of Artistic Research

Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences


Humanities, music, musicology, performance research

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Artistic Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-28-2022


My scholarly-performative research on J. S. Bach's Grave in A minor synthesizes two main popular threads related to inquiring interpretations. The first being an interpretation that relies on harmonic analysis influences, and the second being a more recent thread where traditional ways of understanding and interpreting works -- adhering to concepts of Werktreue in performance -- should be questioned.

I will draw from various sources, readings, and interpretations which will create an interdisciplinary aspect to my research. Much of my work will additionally lean on artistic research--being day to day recordings of my practice, thoughts, and musical interpretations. Assessment of validity of different performances and performance preparation will be done through a comparative recording and recital project. To question the first interpretation, I will be using historical and analytical methods in an effort to contextualize historically and analyze from a harmonic perspective Bach's solo movement for violin. I will be particularly drawing attention to creating a harmonic analysis that is performable, resulting in an interpretation similar to that of a Schenker graph, which supplies a wholesome bi-picture view on my interpretation (rather than a too fragmented approach which loses sight of main harmonic events). Dissemination of this first element of research will be presented in my recording. To question my second interpretation, I will examine traditional approach where the interpretation follows analysis. This questioning standpoint is well represented in the literature of recent times, particularly in the areas of performance studies (and more specifically, performance-based research, also known as Artistic Research). By engaging this questioning approach in my methodology, there will be several components: a) a live performance of b); surveys with listeners manifesting their impressions of my performance; day-to-day journaling about the evolution of my questioning interpretation; inquiry into whether or how my harmonic analysis influenced my performance of the piece in the "questioning" interpretation; etc.

In my approach to this research, work by Daniel Leech-Wilkenson, Anna Scott, Joel Lester, and others will be analyzed and incorporated into the research process. It is vital that past and present writings are analyzed and incorporated side by side harmonic/tonal analysis and the artistic research as challenging performance and performance practice is the chief goal if this research. Additionally, historical analysis of Bach’s intentions and influence may aid in additional emphasis on creativity, beauty, and simplicity in western classical music.

My thesis will be a developing thesis that incorporates scholarly research, literature, and will take into account the process of my project. I believe that more emphasis needs to be placed on the second style of performance and performance practice because it brings the power of the music back to the performer and the people receiving it. By doing this, one would use what the composer has given as a groundwork for creative exploration instead of a rigid instructional manual. The most essential thing in music needs to be beauty and intention, not perfection and demanding productivity. I believe that my research will demonstrate that this way of thinking also inspires better mental health in musicians and performances and prioritizes intention and simplicity in music over competition.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Morgen Heissenbuettel is a fourth year music performance and psychology major at Valparaiso University. She plays violin, studying under Dr. Katharina Uhde, and has a particular focus on orchestral and baroque performance practice in her studies. Her intense interest in violin and baroque music in particular drew her to artistic research with a new lens that is a focus in the work by Daniel Leech-Wilkenson. She hopes her research can be a platform for future discussion and research on the process of performing and recording music.

For Artistic Presentations

I will just present and play my violin, so I don't need much space or any equipment.

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