Talk:Johann Sebastian Bach

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Former good article Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the Music good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.

Caption to image of bible page[edit]

This currently says "reads...", which is plainly wrong, since it is written in German. The original text should be included (particularly since German handwriting is very hard to read for many of us), with a translation. The current translation does not seem very good: "Conscientious" is rather odd, and should surely be something like "devotional". The original text is given as follows, but I am not sure quite what the = means, so I look for help before trying to edit myself.

N[ota] B[ene] Bey einer andächtigen Musiq ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden= Gegenwart

Imaginatorium (talk) 16:04, 5 October 2015 (UTC)

Re. "=" – I suppose it is a typo from the one making the transcript. The "=" sign is sometimes used as a splitting device (as in Gesang=Buch here), but I can't find it in Bach's handwriting on the image, nor would it make much sense. --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:19, 5 October 2015 (UTC)
Here's the version at wikiquote:Johann Sebastian Bach#Quotes (somewhat modernized version of the German I suppose, anyway no "="):

Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart

Was however a bit surprised to see "andächtig" translated as "devotional" there, don't know whether that covers the ground better than "conscientious", how it is now translated on the bio page. . --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:57, 5 October 2015 (UTC)
I think it is much the best to quote what is written, old spelling and all, then gloss it appropriately. I really do not understand what "conscientious" would mean here; I do not think a piece of music can be conscientious. (A person can be "conscientious", but it basically just means "doing your job properly".) I just looked up "andächtig" at wiktionary, where both suggestions given have religious overtones. So what does andächtig actually mean? I don't know... Imaginatorium (talk) 09:09, 6 October 2015 (UTC)
I thought a little about this question when it was posted. Probably a better translation of andächtig would be "devout" or "pious". However, Bach was probably using the term in an idiosyncratic way, defined by his own thoughts about music and the purpose for which he created it, that it was somehow motivated by his religious belief. It is probably not synonymous with "sacred"; I'm reminded of something András Schiff said in a video about the French Suites: that they are not the music of an atheist (even though they're not sacred music), but somehow reflect that Bach believed in God. Schiff's words sound like a sort of bare outline of what Bach might have meant by andächtig. — Eru·tuon 03:22, 31 October 2015 (UTC)
Anyway I got confused by (Dutch) aandachtig (en: attentive) which seems to be a false friend of (German) andächtig (en: devotional).
Maybe this would work: "In a music of worship God is always present with his grace" (seems to be aligned with the bible passage were Bach added his remark too)? --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:01, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

Infobox revert[edit]

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
There was consensus for the infobox, and it looks like it was added, boxing this up because its listed at WP:ANRFC. AlbinoFerret 21:32, 18 November 2015 (UTC)

{{Infobox person
| name          = Johann Sebastian Bach
| image         = Johann Sebastian Bach.jpg
| image_size    =
| caption       = Portrait of Bach, aged 61, by [[Elias Gottlob Haussmann|E.G. Haussmann]], 1748
| alt           = 
| birth_date    = 21 March 1685 [[Old Style and New Style dates|(O.S.)]]
| birth_place   = [[Eisenach]], [[duchy of Saxe-Eisenach]]
| birth_name    = 
| death_date    =  {{death date and age|1750|7|28|1685|3|31|df=y}} <!-- 31 March, new style date -->      
| death_place   = [[Leipzig]], Holy Roman Empire
| works = [[List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach|List of compositions]]
| signature     = Johann Sebastian Bach signature.svg
| signature_size     = 300px

An editor seemingly unaware of infobox disagreements made this suggestion, which was promptly reverted. Last time we discussed was 2013, and a different box. This one follows examples Handel and Beethoven, and I support having it. We can still discuss parameters. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 07:34, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

  • Here's what I've been up to lately: sorting through media (images and audio) to capture the best ones for this article. This led me to some category sorting at commons, and while doing all this I realised that for a famous composer we should have some signature pieces in the lead, which for me is a much more stimulating idea than boring infobox discussions. Now there is a special format for the {{listen}} template to include it in an infobox, but the layout of that one isn't equal in all browsers, so I'm not sure we should use it, or rather should have a normal "Listen" template below the lead image.
Apart from the layout issue it's about the choice of the pieces that are most emblematic for the composer. For me that would be, for example, the air from the third suite (preferably not the "on the G string" version), the toccata BWV 565, and "O Haupt ..." (St. Matthew Passion version). Then I got side-tracked by BWV 565 for its possibly-not-by-Bach status, and am currently in the process of overhauling that article (whether or not I'd propose BWV 565 as audio example here is still very much in the balance, suppose I'll be only clear on that once the overhaul of the article on the composition is completed & acceptable).
Well, that was my part of discussing "parameters" before deciding to include an infobox or keep it with a lead image as it is now. --Francis Schonken (talk) 11:06, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Key pieces will probably be different for every reader, while a prominent neutral link to the compositions is less obvious in the lead, nor are the life data (formerly persondata) together in the lead. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:04, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Re. "will probably be different for every reader", true, but that's not the point. It's about the one that would be generally the most recognisable (auditively). Which Bach composition is 14 times (!) on one record? BWV 565 – don't know anything that comes near by comparison. Which is Bach's best picture is the same: "will probably be different for every reader", but we end up making a choice and put it in the lead. Which is the most recognisable article title? may be different depending on reader, but if we don't agree we conduct a WP:RM or whatever and in the end we make a choice.
Images, like audio files, also depend on resolution/quality of the available files, sometimes disappointing for the copyright-free ones, so true: a lot of factors need to be taken into account, that's why I had preferred not to speak about this until I was sure I could propose a coherent choice regarding this composer. --Francis Schonken (talk) 12:31, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Picture: easy, we have only two on the commons, one is debated. Therefore all cantata infoboxes (example) do not have an image of Bach, who when he looked like pictured here composed [only] the Mass in B minor and the Art of Fugue, - he was around 25 years younger at his peak of productivity. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:37, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Really, why is it always so difficult to have a simple reasonable conversation with you? I spoke about lead images (on composer pages or whatever) in general. For Chopin it wasn't all that easy. We came to a solution. that's all I wanted to illustrate as a comparison with audio files: for audio files it isn't always easy either I suppose. We can come to a conclusion there too, that's what I'm sure of and wanted to illustrate. End of example. End of comparison. I give examples to explain something, please don't run of on a tangent that has nothing to do with what I tried to explain. --Francis Schonken (talk) 12:46, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Given the vast number of people with whom Gerda has perfectly simple and reasonable conversations, that's an unwarranted personal attack. As to why you seem unable to have a simple reasonable conversation with Gerda; that's left as an exercise for the reader. As for "running off at tangent"... Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:20, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Oppose infobox, specifically the somewhat farfetched (i.e. correct but farfetched) "Holy Roman Empire" references; the signature that became too small; the caption of the image which I like better the way it is currently under the lead image (including the links in that caption, which indeed would be rather confusing in the infobox). For these reasons I'd like to keep the lead image as it is now, and not the infobox. --Francis Schonken (talk) 13:27, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Besides, the OP of the infobox had blundered on Bach's death date (I corrected it), which shows what kind of a liability these boxes are, if even the proposors of them can't get the facts right? It's just a lot of work to keep checking infoboxes' content in addition to getting the article and its intro right. --Francis Schonken (talk) 13:35, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
  • I support the addition of an infobox, as it will provide a simple overview of salient points for the convenience of our readers; and make them machine-readable. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:20, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
HRE can be replaced (see above). A date is no more likely to be incorrect in an infobox than in prose; in fact your "fix" made things worse. The signature can be any size we want (see above). Captions in infoboxes may also have links. Your remaining objection appears to be "IDONTLIKEIT". Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:55, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
I think the current:
Thoroughly unsatisfactory, that should probably rather be:
or, with this capitalisation:
or, without redirects:
(but that's again far-fetched, Thuringia wasn't a state at the time, just an indication of a region), or, more recognisable (if region without being exactly a state at the time is OK):
But wait, hadn't we decided to call him "German" following the sources instead of "Saxonian", per the discussion above?
Or, to end the confusion:
(states/regions maybe not so relevant for the infobox, there's little "music" in it, and for me Bach is about the music.) As for his title at death: "Royal-Polish and Prince-electoral Saxonian court composer" (see Bach's Nekrolog, caption of lead image), the "Royal-Polish" may have been as important to Bach as the "Prince-Electoral Saxonian", but infoboxes are not suitable for such nuances I suppose – so I'd keep it with the last solution I proposed above, i.e.: avoid naming states/regions. --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:39, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
  • "German" in this context is just an ethnonym; where he lived was not a political entity called "Germany" at that time. We can call him "German" but saying he was born and died in "Germany" is historically incorrect. Using "(birth) Eisenach" and "(death) Leipzig" is probably sufficient. If not, "(birth) Eisenach, Saxony" and "(death) Leipzig, Saxony" should be enough. While "(birth) Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach" and "(death) Leipzig, Saxony" could theoretically be used, there seems to be no point ("Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach" is redundant, and there seems no benefit to giving "Electorate of Saxony" vs. just "Saxony". Adding in the "Dutchy of" and "Electorate of" stuff is unnecessary verbiage in an infobox. "Thuringia" would be unhelpful, like writing "Seattle, Pacific Northwest".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:07, 10 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Support infobox in general, the simple design up there as of right now (see timestamp) looks good to me, the simple link to "list of compositions" seems to be a good way to address the concern about bloat. Let's all keep the discussion on track about this infobox for this article and not bring the past or personalities into it. WP:AFG, WP:NPA. Montanabw(talk) 14:12, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Support per Montanabwl, whom I agree with in every respect. Jusdafax 14:18, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Support I was very opposed to the bloated and highly problematic box proposed 2 years ago, but this simple unbloated version is fine and an asset to the article. For one thing, the lead sentence doesn't even mention his place of birth or death—standard encyclopedic information. That could be remedied, although given the MOS injunction about adding places of birth and death after the dates, the phrasing would end up rather convoluted. However, even if they were added somewhere in the lede, it is convenient to the reader to have it summarised clearly and simply in the box. I'd even go so far to say add the Known for parameter filled with "Composer and musician". Believe it or not, a lot of people don't know who he was or have only a vague idea. I'd be very against using Occupation for that, though. It's horribly anachronistic and unencyclopedic to apply it to people of that era. Voceditenore (talk) 15:31, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

The reason my 13:55 comment, above, appears odd, and wrongly formatted, is that Francis Schonken insists on inserting his comments out-of-sequence, and has moved one of his, to which mine was a reply. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:16, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

  • I support the simple infobox. Of the place-name options listed by Francis Schonken above, I support listing the states to which Eisenach and Leipzig belonged when Bach was born and died. This is the practice used in the infoboxes for some other famous personalities (René Descartes, Martin Luther, Desiderius Erasmus), and it's less likely to cause controversy than saying Germany, given the previous discussion on this page. — Eru·tuon 00:56, 15 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Support a simple infobox. I also agree with Voceditenore above, that this should include a "Known for" line, though I'm not honestly sure how to complete it (perhaps "musician" rather than "composer"). Imaginatorium (talk) 04:01, 15 October 2015 (UTC)
    • Both; a |known_for= (or, for modern figures, |occupation=) can contain more than one item: |known_for=[[Composer]], [[musician]] (or maybe something more specific). A problem that needs to be resolve is that this isn't the purpose the {{Infobox person|known_for}} parameter was intended, and it's wording doesn't grammatically work well this way. We probably need to add a |notable_as= parameter, and use that in {{Infobox composer}}, instead, since "Known for: Composer" borders on gibberish. I'll go and propose |notable_as= right now at Template talk:Infobox person.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:54, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Francis Schonken, but a short infobox, if it can be kept that way, is better than a long one. I see the discussions as to "states" have already begun. Given the section above, who can doubt that the "nationality" question will be far behind? Johnbod (talk) 10:37, 15 October 2015 (UTC)
    • Wikipedia editors discussing what to include in an article. How awful. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 10:55, 15 October 2015 (UTC)
      • Yes, the endless talk page arguments over a word or two that so many Wikipedia "editors" seem to prefer over substantive improvements to articles are indeed awful. Let's not feed the fires. Johnbod (talk) 12:38, 15 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Support I personally have never understood what manner of encyclopedic value or context is added by placing the signature so prominently in the infobox (or for that matter, in the article at all), but otherwise the infobox in question seems to present only basic and salient details. I personally wouldn't be opposed a version with up to twice as many parameters, provided they were all relevant details. But as an expedient to avoiding the grueling debates that always arise in composer-related articles with regard to infoboxes because of the polarized opinion, this simplified version will do in a pinch, given the broad support. Snow let's rap 03:17, 21 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose—I've never liked them. Tony (talk) 10:20, 21 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Support a typical biographical infobox, including the list of major works since people seem to want that included. Also agree with Voceditenore's objection to "occupation" as anachronistic, and with Francis Schonken's objection to "Holy Roman Empire" as silly (akin to using "Delhi, British Empire" for someone born there in the early 20th century). I agree with critics that huge autographs in infoboxes are pointless, but doing away with them is a matter for discussion at the bio infobox template's talk page (and I think that would be a lively discussion, because we appear to have nowhere else to put them except as stand-alone images in the article, which I think many would object to). The fact of the matter is that mobile users generally depend heavily on infoboxes to give them a concise précis, whether all of us like the way they appear or not (largely a matter of CSS; propose changes at WT:INFOBOX). At some point the WP:LOCALCONSENSUS against infoboxes that WP:CLASSICAL has been advancing for so long (I seem to recall ArbCom ruling that one wikiproject can't push this unilaterally, since any topic is within the scope of multiple projects, e.g. geographical as well as topical ones) has to give way to the practical needs of users, since this is an encyclopedia written for its readers, after all, not for its camps of editors. The overall, WP-wide consensus appears to be that biographical articles above the stub stage should have infoboxes, and most of them do in fact have infoboxes.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:07, 10 November 2015 (UTC)
Thank you. The infobox is already in the article, I removed it now here, to not count it twice in inclusion counts, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 08:53, 10 November 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Why is that f.....g infobox still there? Tony (talk) 14:34, 24 October 2015 (UTC)

The discussion above seems to be divided and still at least a little ongoing (my own chiming in was pretty recent).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:54, 11 November 2015 (UTC)