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Thread: Jean-Philippe Rameau

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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    I've read that Bach had a terrible opinion about Rameau, at least as a theorist. What's the reason for that?
    Which Bach?


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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    johan sebastian

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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    johan sebastian


    I don't believe that Bach's library contained anything by Rameau, and as far as can see Forkel doesn't say say CPEB said his father had an opinion about Rameau. I don't feel able to comment on whether Bach's music resembles Rameau's in any interesting way, maybe others will.

    This may be interesting or it may not

    http://schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-..._bach_kep.html
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-10-2015 at 18:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I don't believe that Bach's library contained anything by Rameau, and as far as can see Forkel doesn't say say CPEB said his father had an opinion about Rameau.
    a couple of links:
    "Although he surely fancied himself more as composer than as theorist, Jean-Philippe Rameau's great gift to the world was his concept of chord generation from the fundamental bass and the simple, albeit revolutionary, notion of the invertibility of the triad. His Traité de l'Harmonie not only explained the generation of the seventh chord upon the basis of tertian theory, it was developed upon propositions strongly suggestive of the yet undiscovered harmonic series. It is reported that J. S. Bach was familiar with Rameau's theory of chord inversion, but that he rejected it. "
    http://www2.nau.edu/tas3/baroqueideal.html

    https://books.google.it/books?id=m_A...father&f=false
    'You may state publicly that my principles, and those of my late father, are antithetical to Rameau's.' (this one is C.P.E Bach)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    This may be interesting or it may not

    http://schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-..._bach_kep.html
    thank you, it seems interesting

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    That comment attributed to Bach allegedly by his son, I remember years ago being in a discussion about it with some historians, and I remember they cast doubt on its reliability. It comes from a record by Kimberger if I recall correctly, and both Kimberger and CPE Bach were not in agreement with Rameau's theoretical ideas.

    But I'm out of my depth here. What would be really interesting would be if someone who knows about music could comment on whether J S Bach's compositional techniques are consistent with Rameau's ideas.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-10-2015 at 21:17.

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    Senior Member GreenMamba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    I've read that Bach had a terrible opinion about Rameau, at least as a theorist. What's the reason for that?
    Some information on that here:

    http://schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-..._bach_kep.html

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    The criticism of Rameau is distorted and exaggerated. Bach certainly had a sense of vertical harmony, which he played on frequently in his contrapuntal excursions. If viewed in this way, Bach had an "expanded" sense of harmony, because he used "chords" like major sevenths which didn't "exist" as harmonic entities, except as the result of simultaneous soundings of separate lines. I have always loved this aspect of Bach: his harmonic adventurousness, even radicalness.

    If viewed this way, the distinctions between vertical harmony and counterpoint become less relevant and more illusory.

    Still, this is not Gregorian chant; Bach was using scales and key signatures, and was very interested in tuning and temperament ("pure, sensual sound"). Bach thought harmonically without a doubt. He was very well aware of the vertical, harmonic implications of his counterpoint.

    In fact, I will go so far as to say that Bach used counterpoint in the service of the harmonic, vertical effects that it produced, not so much for the melodic effects. Many times we hear his 'counterpoint' as being sequences, almost mechanical in nature. I think he saw the 'true art' of what he was doing as the vertical, chordal, harmonic effects he produced, which allowed him to go outside the box of tonal thinking as it stood. The counterpoint was just scale runs, sequences, and little phrases, by comparison (of course that's an exaggeration as well). He saw counterpoint as the mechanics, and harmony as the artistic goal.

    It's just different ways of thinking. I'm surprised that we didn't consider chords as separate harmonic entities long before this. Perhaps Gregorian chant and the pressure from the Church to adhere to tradition had something to do with this attitude.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Oct-13-2015 at 20:25.
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  10. #38
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    Interesting discussion on Bach's thinking on Rameau. As I understand it, we don't really know what JS Bach thought of Rameau if he indeed thought of Rameau at all. In any case, it wouldn't be surprising as their music is worlds apart.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenMamba View Post
    Wow, that's quite a harsh steaming critique of Rameau. I'd say that both counterpoint and chordal theory have their places. Rameau offers a particular view of how to imagine vertical harmony but I don't think it works solely by itself in isolation of other compositional thinking. It's better than 12-tone compositional theory though!

    This quote amuses me; using an example of Rameau's own music he says, "At first hearing, it sounds nice, and you can be fooled by Rameau, who is skillful at creating harmonic sound-effects and putting short counterpoint imitations in." This is someone who is critiquing Rameau over they way he chooses to compose rather than the quality of how the end result affects the listener. I rather like Rameau, ok it's true that he wrote crap fugues (by crap I mean technically now very skilful or clever) but that's because he focuses on the emotional and harmonic effect on the listener rather than on the technical skill of fugal counterpoint. In some respects that made him quite modern for the time, as he stripped out complexity and went straight for feeling.

    A friend of mine calls Rameau 'all style over substance'. Perhaps that's what this critique is getting at. He was an original, bigger picture composer with inspired melodic ideas rather than a philosophical, technically skilled one seeking the deeper meanings of complexity.
    Last edited by Rik1; Oct-28-2015 at 12:36.

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    I just got done listening to a Rameau harpsichord CD I brought some time back but never listened to. It's a Amadis/Naxos recording with Alan Cuckston performing Pieces de clavecin (1724, rev. 1731), Cinq pieces pour clavecin (1741), and La Dauphine (1747). Wow, I really enjoyed those pieces. Of course, I generally enjoy Baroque harpsichord works, but these have a somewhat modern sound with the expected French lightness and wit. Anyway, I recommend these works for anyone who enjoys solo harpsichord music, whether it be older or more modern stuff.

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    I read somewhere that Marcelle Meyer's Rameau was 'revelatory' (maybe it was here in this forum). Ok, then, here I go!

    So far: OMG! What a tragedy that Glenn Gould did not record these! The music is wonderful, and Marcelle Meyer is, indeed, a revelation!

    Current Listening Vol V-meyer-marcelle-box-200-aCurrent Listening Vol V-meyer-marcelle-cd9-back
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    Bach was an older-style thinker as far as theory, and he used the figured-bass method.

    The book to read on this is "Essay on the True Art of Keyboard Playing" by C.P.E. Bach.

    Even in the introduction of the book "Essay on the True Art of Keyboard Playing" by C.P.E. Bach, the authors admit that Bach's thorough bass practice would become unwieldy as more chords were added to the harmonic collection. Rameau's 'root system' was far smaller and easier to work with.

    During the early eighteenth century, Jean-Phillipe Rameau articulated the modern notion of a chord, classifying basic musical objects based on their pitch-class content rather than their order or registral arrangement. Rameau implicitly suggested that three basic operations preserve the "chordal" or "harmonic" identity of a musical object: octave shifts, permutation (or reordering), and cardinality change (or note duplication). For instance, one can transform (C4, E4 G4) by reordering its notes to produce (E4, G4, C4), transposing the second note up an octave to produce (C4, E5, G4), or duplicating the third note to produce (C4, E4, G4,G4) - all without changing its right to be called a "C major chord." Furthermore, these transformations can be combined to produce an endless collection of objects, all representing the same chord: (E4, G4, C5), (G3, G4, C5, E4), (E2, G3, C4, E4, E5), and so on. To be a C major chord is simply to belong to this equivalency class - or in other words, to contain all and only the three pitch-classes C, E, and G. We can therefore represent the C major chord as the unordered set of pitch classes {C, E, G}. -Tymoczko, p. 36

    I think figured bass is rather archaic unless one has an overview, and I think it's limited to that older style of music, and is really more of a "technique" which was used in lieu of harmonic/root thinking, which was not developed or accepted or used, whatever.

    This figured-bass thinking was perhaps a method which worked its way into the stylistic arsenal of composers, and yes, they had to be handled in specific ways, but the abstracted convenience of thinking harmonically is still in evidence to modern analysts. Figured-bass tends to get bogged-down in voice-leading details which ignore a purer, freer abstract distillation of harmonic considerations. And as harmony got more complex, what happened to figured bass thinking? It failed, or rejected more complex harmony. Figured bass is an ideological artifact of a bygone way of thinking. We have bigger, more complex fish to fry.

    A chord in all its inversions has the same root function (not bass note), and the same quality (major/minor).

    Maybe in earlier times, it is treated differently...

    In some convoluted sense, it could be said that since figured bass notation recognizes each inversion separately from a bass note (not a root function), that they are not "equivalent" in that sense.

    WIK: Figured-bass numerals express distinct intervals in a chord only as they relate to the bass note (not a root function). They make no reference to the key of the progression (unlike Roman-numeral harmonic analysis).

    Because that would be "harmonic thinking."

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    More revelatory playing of Rameau by Marcelle Meyer! Recorded in 1946 and 1953. The 1946 stuff sounds like it was transferred from acetates, but is good. Her playing was maybe better back then. Very facile, lots of ornaments, sometimes a staccato touch. Her double-tapping is impeccable! It's what I imagine Glenn Gould could have done with these pieces.

    Current Listening Vol V-meyer-marcelle-box-200-aCurrent Listening Vol V-meyer-marcelle-cd10-back

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  19. #44
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    Absolutely one of my very favourite composers. And yet...his music isn't 'easy'. Especially the stage works with their high ambitus in vocal lines and woodwinds. A very familiar stylistic trait of Rameau. But comparatively not a very accessible. Unlike Couperin:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r5kecJfS2I

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    Rameau was who got me into opera.

    Could Couperin do this?

    https://youtu.be/E1EE6CSIo6A


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