I’ve been listening through Bach’s Six Cello Suites for weeks. The Suite No. 2 is my favorite. Can’t tell you what it is. You have to spend the 22 minutes to find out. Classical music might not be your thing. It is an acquired taste that you have to work on, but the rewards are worth it.
After you’ve enjoyed listening to Steuart Pincombe perform the piece, please listen to the shorter interview with him as well. The interview is why I’m posting this. As you listen to his interview, change the Cello to the Bible, take the music to be played as the biblical text, and take the performer/musician as you the reader/interpreter. Once you make those adjustments, Pincombe might as well be describing biblical interpretation. The notation Bach left is a definite something, a path to follow. It’s not a textual free-for-all. But though the text never changes, no two performances are the same. The discovery (both for Bach and the Bible) is to realize you are being read and interpreted, you are being asked the questions, not the other way around. Reading the Bible is how the texts of our lives are read and interpreted by the Spirit.
I see the Bible these days more and more this way. Yes – it has a historical occasion to note, a language and grammar to respect, embedded intentions of the author(s) which define its voice. But you don’t hear any of it, haven’t read it, until you perform it, just like the text of Bach naturally longs to be performed. And it’s only performed when it addresses us, changes us, sends us searching not just for the meaning of the text but for our meaning as determined by prayerfully listening to the text (staring into its transparency to see ourselves, James 1.23-25). We, not God, are the ones who get exegeted, expounded, and explained. Just a thought.