So besides appearing with instrument nearby (or contained, as in the voice), and making noises which are either really wonderful or not...what do those folks actually DO?
Here's an article which tells you a little. Some musicians study music created by others and find fascinating things therein; others actually WRITE the music with all that fascinating stuff in there.
Might I add that this paper should add something to the "Liturgical Music" discussion which is ongoing in the Church. (And in other churches...) It should be perfectly clear that JSBach understood the concepts of 1) praising God and 2) elevating the minds and hearts of the Faithful to God--the two principal and intertwined purposes of musica sacra, sacred music.
He also took for granted that a portion of the audience understood what he was saying and doing--in other words, the idea that 17th-Century people were oh, so LESS smart than 20th-Century people is, ah, bogus.
Warning: the article is not light reading, but it IS comprehensible.
"I tell you now that, while it is certainly a great work of art, the B Minor demands that one approach it not merely as art, but as icon--a religious object crafted for the purpose of divine worship and instruction. In the words of Christoph Wolff, the composer himself saw his Mass as "the supreme opportunity to unite his creed as a Christian with his creed as a musician in a single statement." By "icon" I do not mean that twaddling sense in which the word has come to be used of late. I use the word, rather, in its historical sense, especially as it is represented in one of the richest and most varied traditions in art history, that of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We have all seen these icons, with their wide eyes, tilted heads, halos, vivid colors, and piously folded hands. I am talking about a type of art expressive of a people capable of devotion so profound as to be practically incomprehensible to the western mind. "
C. S. Lewis's purpose for art--"to know that we are not alone"--and St. John of Damascus's purpose for icons--to know that God is with us--both stand in stark contrast to the existentialist philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre and others of our own century who portray mankind as very much alone and adrift in a meaningless universe, without God, but with a terrifying freedom to choose. The purpose of the icon, in particular, has been to say exactly the opposite, that the Creator did not leave creation alone, to its own devices, but that the Creator is active, involved, concerned, and full of love for his people
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