Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The theological changes of the Reformation were paralleled by an increasing reliance on the literal meaning of Scripture and an examination of passages in authentic languages in order to find the full resonance of each word to achieve the greatest possible emphasis; this emphasology was the principal function of the interpretation, founded on a pluralistic meaning of the text. Lutheran hermeneutes developed a common method of interpretation and format of presentation. The hermeneutical treatises written by German authors in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries have been virtually ignored by scholars of all disciplines, partly because they did not seem important in the context of modern philosophy, aesthetics, or theology (Gadamer).;This method influenced Kuhnau's musical settings in two ways. He used it as the procedure for his own exegesis of the text and chose musical devices to emphasize the meanings found in the interpretation, making his composition, in effect, a re-phrasing in music of his hermeneutical interpretation of a Biblical passage. That this is so can be seen in his own description of the musical setting of Psalm 1 in his writings and in his music. The other influence is in the structure of his cantata texts, which are seen to follow the traditional hermeneutical categories. The operation of these principles is evident not only in the structure of the texts, but also in Kuhnau's writings.;This study examines musical sources and writings critically, using the tools and terms of contemporary hermeneutics (and rhetoric). The results change our understanding of the music and music theory of the pre-Enlightenment period in Germany. For German composers of sacred music the response to the text was determined by the absolute authority of the Bible as the word of God and the primacy of literal, emphatic and pluralistic interpretation. Kuhnau's compositions are considered, in this study, in their own historic-critical context, and this stands in direct contrast to the music of the high Baroque.



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