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Thread: Baroque "chord progressions"

  1. #166
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    Literally no one will ever tell you "chords did not exist in Baroque music," as that would be wrong and insane.
    I don't believe that. In fact, this entire thread starts with these words:

    Quote Originally Posted by sealep View Post
    I know the concept of chord progression is not applicable in the period of the Baroque. However, I cannot help but hear certain progressions as I listen to Bach orchestral suites or concertos, or Vivaldi for that matter. They seems to rise or fall on the diatonic scale by a step, repeating the same motif. Does that make sense? For example, Bach seems to like repeating downward scales on successively incrementing steps; building tension upward with the key, while descending melodically.
    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    Some notable major seventh chords in Bach are in WTC book 1 C major prelude. Since the piece a series of broken chords each lasting one measure, it would be very hard to argue that Bach wasn't thinking in terms of chords or that he considered the major sevenths to be less "real" than the other chords in the piece.

    Another major seventh occurs in the ritornello of "Sheep may safely graze."

    I'm sure there are many others, those two come to mind because they're very famous.
    I agree that it sounds as if those are major seventh chords. But CP theory (and this includes Baroque) doesn't recognize these as chords. And I think Bach thought contrapuntally (not harmonically except in a very general sense).

    This shows us that Bach and contrapuntal music in general is not based on how things sound harmonically, but is based on strictly-defined voice-leading procedures and concepts of "non-harmonic tones."
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-11-2020 at 17:55.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    ....
    I agree that it sounds as if those are major seventh chords. But CP theory (and this includes Baroque) doesn't recognize these as chords. And I think Bach thought contrapuntally (not harmonically except in a very general sense).

    This shows us that Bach and contrapuntal music in general is not based on how things sound harmonically, but is based on strictly-defined voice-leading procedures and concepts of "non-harmonic tones."
    It's much more nuanced than that. It's fair to say that Bach did frequently let the line override the vertical, resulting in a particular harmonic spice that gives his work immense emotional power, but one can't write counterpoint in his style without harmonic thought and consideration - it's just not possible, the two trains of thought are the two sides of a single coin.

    Part of Bach's genius was to expand the reach of the emotional potential in momentary dissonance imv. He did this by allowing the linear to follow it's own logic seemingly unimpeded at times, giving rise to clashes that as a result, seem inevitable but also calculated. However, the individual lines are also cogniscent of their vertical obligations and as such are also determined by the vertical.

    Bach, as well as thinking contrapuntally, also had to think harmonically and not just in a "very general sense", but rather from beat to beat, phrase to phrase, cadence to cadence and as a consideration for defining form.

    The best way to gain a deep understanding of the synergy between harmonic and contrapuntal thought is to learn to write counterpoint in Bach's style, it then becomes clear that one needs the other in more than a superficial or general way.
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-12-2020 at 13:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sealep View Post
    I know the concept of chord progression is not applicable in the period of the Baroque. However, I cannot help but hear certain progressions as I listen to Bach orchestral suites or concertos, or Vivaldi for that matter. They seems to rise or fall on the diatonic scale by a step, repeating the same motif. Does that make sense? For example, Bach seems to like repeating downward scales on successively incrementing steps; building tension upward with the key, while descending melodically.
    That's what they felt was appropriate to represent awe yet glorify the church without blasphemy. Baroque music is orderly and never sensual or leaning towards amorality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    That's what they felt was appropriate to represent awe yet glorify the church without blasphemy. Baroque music is orderly and never sensual or leaning towards amorality.
    Music has nothing to do with morality and feelings!!! You can associate certain sounds with some kind of cultural norms, it doesn't mean anything.
    And using stock motives/phrases/whole sequences has little to do with order or balance in composition, more with craftsmanship and commercial productivity + lack of creativity (or else Telemann wouldn't write 3000 compositions). And this remark can be applied to other musical periods and famous composers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    That's what they felt was appropriate to represent awe yet glorify the church without blasphemy. Baroque music is orderly and never sensual or leaning towards amorality.
    Baroque music's origins are in Opera with the goal of better expression of drama and human passions

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    It's much more nuanced than that.
    Okay, but I'm speaking generally. Bach did not think "now I'm going to a I major seventh chord" when writing. He may have heard the harmonic effect of a M7 "chord" but he saw it as a non-harmonic tone and treated it as that.

    It's fair to say that Bach did frequently let the line override the vertical, resulting in a particular harmonic spice that gives his work immense emotional power, but one can't write counterpoint in his style without harmonic thought and consideration - it's just not possible, the two trains of thought are the two sides of a single coin.
    I didn't say that ALL harmonic thought was excluded; only instances of "I M7" which was used from the beginning as an example of a "non-harmonic tone" instead of being thought of as a chord.

    ...it's just not possible, the two trains of thought are the two sides of a single coin.
    No they aren't. There are specific exclusions of "non-harmonic tones" as mentioned above. I'm focussing on differences, not on similarities.

    Part of Bach's genius was to expand the reach of the emotional potential in momentary dissonance imv. He did this by allowing the linear to follow it's own logic seemingly unimpeded at times, giving rise to clashes that as a result, seem inevitable but also calculated. However, the individual lines are also cogniscent of their vertical obligations and as such are also determined by the vertical.
    Well, I don't know about this description. I hear contrapuntal music as distinctly different than music where chord changes are done in 'blocks.'

    Bach, as well as thinking contrapuntally, also had to think harmonically and not just in a "very general sense", but rather from beat to beat, phrase to phrase, cadence to cadence and as a consideration for defining form.
    There's a flip side to that coin. If, as you say, harmonic thinking is required in order to write music, then it was in an undefined, vague form which no one can explain. How did the Baroque "classify chords" if they did not recognize the idea of chords?

    That's why I contend that Bach thought more predominantly linearly (because this was counterpoint). Otherwise, he would deliberately have used M7 chords. In fact, Bach did not think "in chords" nor did he recognize chord inversions.

    The best way to gain a deep understanding of the synergy between harmonic and contrapuntal thought is to learn to write counterpoint in Bach's style, it then becomes clear that one needs the other in more than a superficial or general way.
    Harmonic thinking did not exist in Bach's time, so no one has explained exactly how he thought about harmonic root movement or harmonic "progressions."
    That is, unless he was "cheating" and thinking harmonically anyway. But how? Bach did not recognize "chord function" or "chord inversion."

    If this is true, Bach was WRONG in rejecting Rameau's theories of chord inversion.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-13-2020 at 22:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Music has nothing to do with morality and feelings!!! You can associate certain sounds with some kind of cultural norms, it doesn't mean anything.
    That's wrong; it can be. As early as Gregorian chant, certain phrases represented Christ's ascension, crucifixion, etc.

    The writers actually felt as if this had supernatural consequences. Who knows, maybe Messiaen still thought this in the 20th century. And it might be true, for all you know. But you're a total rationalist.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-13-2020 at 16:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    It's much more nuanced than that. It's fair to say that Bach did frequently let the line override the vertical, resulting in a particular harmonic spice that gives his work immense emotional power, but one can't write counterpoint in his style without harmonic thought and consideration - it's just not possible, the two trains of thought are the two sides of a single coin.

    Part of Bach's genius was to expand the reach of the emotional potential in momentary dissonance imv. He did this by allowing the linear to follow it's own logic seemingly unimpeded at times, giving rise to clashes that as a result, seem inevitable but also calculated. However, the individual lines are also cogniscent of their vertical obligations and as such are also determined by the vertical.

    Bach, as well as thinking contrapuntally, also had to think harmonically and not just in a "very general sense", but rather from beat to beat, phrase to phrase, cadence to cadence and as a consideration for defining form.

    The best way to gain a deep understanding of the synergy between harmonic and contrapuntal thought is to learn to write counterpoint in Bach's style, it then becomes clear that one needs the other in more than a superficial or general way.
    Perfect. This is exactly the response I would have tried to formulate had the burden of the assignment not filled me with weariness and dread.

    The idea that because Bach didn't entertain certain analytical notions (and do we know exactly what analytical notions he did entertain?), he didn't "think harmonically," is ridiculous. His harmonic thinking exceeded in complexity and power that of any other composer of his time, and it was precisely what enabled him to give coherence to his contrapuntal thinking, which also exceeded in complexity and power that of any other composer of his time.

    "Thinking," in the act of composition, is not academic analysis.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    so no one has explained exactly how he thought about harmonic root movement or harmonic "progressions."
    [/B]
    If you want to get an idea of how he thought, you have to study his music. That's all there is to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    If you want to get an idea of how he thought, you have to study his music. That's all there is to it.
    ..even better...practise writing it.

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    Senior Member Luchesi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Music has nothing to do with morality and feelings!!! You can associate certain sounds with some kind of cultural norms, it doesn't mean anything.
    And using stock motives/phrases/whole sequences has little to do with order or balance in composition, more with craftsmanship and commercial productivity + lack of creativity (or else Telemann wouldn't write 3000 compositions). And this remark can be applied to other musical periods and famous composers.
    "Music has nothing to do with morality and feelings!!!"

    Huh? What would call it if not feelings and lofty ideals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    ..even better...practise writing it.
    That's right. I actually teach the harmonisation of Bach chorales at undergraduate level and I usually start off following Bach's own teaching method whereby I give my students the soprano and bass parts and ask them to compose the alto and tenor voices. This involves of course contrapuntal writing for those parts but also demands a firm anchoring of the A & S voices to the underlying harmonic structure.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; May-13-2020 at 20:22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    If you want to get an idea of how he thought, you have to study his music. That's all there is to it.
    Okay, I get it. It's okay to tell a modern harmonic thinker like myself that "major seventh chords on the I (tonic) degree do not really exist in Baroque music because they contain non-harmonic tones," but if this is used to demonstrate that, in this instance "Bach did not think harmonically" it's wrong?

    It sounds like to me "non-harmonic tones" are being used as a bludgeon in invalidating the idea of a major seventh chord on the I (tonic) degree, because that's a jazz concept.

    Why did the academic thinker who asserted that "chords were not recognized as such in the Baroque" even bring this up, then?

    And beyond that, I still see problems with writing or analyzing music without using the idea of chords.

    I think these defenders of Bach want it both ways, but they can't explain any of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TalkingHead View Post
    That's right. I actually teach the harmonisation of Bach chorales at undergraduate level and I usually start off following Bach's own teaching method whereby I give my students the soprano and bass parts and ask them to compose the alto and tenor voices. This involves of course contrapuntal writing for those parts but also demands a firm anchoring of the A & S voices to the underlying harmonic structure.
    So, you are saying there is an "underlying harmonic structure?" How do you explain it?

    Remember, these students have the advantage of modern harmonic, or at least later CP thinking.

    An underlying harmonic structure sounds suspiciously like a harmonic plan which would indicate root movements and represents "functions" of chords.
    Are you saying that this harmonic planning was assumed, but never articulated?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luchesi View Post
    "Music has nothing to do with morality and feelings!!!"

    Huh? What would call it if not feelings and lofty ideals?
    That person's being 'objective' in a purely formal sense, Luchesi. Ignore him, he doesn't have your innate European artistic sensibility; that's the typical 'ugly American' way of thinking.

    They also reject jazz, the only music created in America which is recognized by Europeans.

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