Composition-Immersion In Bach's St John Passion

The painting I am working on is one of those 'gateway' images that set a tone for the following paintings. I am immersed in an usual combination of music to get into it. Combining 70s punks and disco in the laboratory scenes with angelic characterisations. For the aspect of Divinity essential to these paintings, it seems to work to listen a lot to J.S.Bach's St John Passion.

I keep repeating Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen because in this painting it is about DNA code and source (or "S"ource) of life. In the case of artificial life, or hybrids, it is the idea of where genetic traits come from that is of interest to me. The chorale,  Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen interprets the Passion, and the passage from St John has an idea of dividing the garments of the crucified Christ, much as what I imagine in the taking of DNA from different lab animals. I'm not a German speaker, so I had to find a translation of John 19:24 from the Luther Bible.  I don't bother when listening to Bach for pleasure but for the painting I needed one. So, to try and explain a bit further, below is that translation from the Luther Bible in German to English in the New Internation Version of John 19:24. Further below are some samples from this music. It's beautiful.

Luther Bible 1912 (German) (LUT)
24 Da sprachen sie untereinander: Laßt uns den nicht zerteilen, sondern darum losen, wes er sein soll. (Auf daß erfüllet würde die Schrift, die da sagt: "Sie haben meine Kleider unter sich geteilt und haben über meinen Rock das Los geworfen.") Solches taten die Kriegsknechte
New International Version (NIV)
24 "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

Karen Armstrong in A History of God described Christianity's doctrinal wars throughout history and those that wanted an accessible, experiential God, as opposed to the restrictions imposed by doctrine. She writes: 

“They argued that the iconoclasts were wrong to forbid the depictions of Christ. Since the Incarnation, the material world and the human body had both been given a divine dimension and an artist could put paint this new type of deified humanity. He was also painting an image of God, since Christ the Logos was the icon of God par excellence. God could not be contained in words or summed up in human concepts, but he could be “described”by the pen of the artist or in the symbolic gestures of the liturgy.’ (223) Karen Armstrong.

  • Bach - St John Passion - Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen [above]
  • Bach - St John Passion - Eilt ihr eingefocht'nen Seelen
  • Bach - St John Passion - Ach, mein Sinn
  • Bach - St John Passion - Kreuzige, kreuzige
  • Bach - St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 (Karl Richter, 1971) - 1/22


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