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Thread: Baroque "chord progressions"

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    MR just try writing Bachian counterpoint without an awareness of harmonic function and progression. The concept of writing contrapuntally and harmonically at the same time is clear to any composer who has studied and practised it. The two disciplines are intertwined and feed off each other.

    I quote from Oldroyd's Technique and Spirit of Fugue...

    A great hindrance to contrapuntal work is poor harmonic basis. The power to choose chord progressions well - in a word, clear harmonic thinking - is the first essential. Weakness in this respect is too often an unsuspected cause of trouble....

    That's back-up of something I know anyway as does any composer worth their salt.
    Oh, I completely agree with this.
    The aspect of this which I disagree with is the characterization of "composing by ear" as "harmonic thinking," which is misleading and not explicit enough. Not so much the term itself, but the way it is being used.
    What is called "harmonic thinking" is just "using your ear" to hear the "harmonic truth."
    It has less to do with harmonic rules or regulations. It is derived from the act of hearing, not rules.
    https://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/...odel-part.html
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-14-2020 at 15:26.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    What MR has pointed out through a number of sources here, is that the CP harmony is contained within the rules for part-writing and figured bass, with the chord nomenclature a later codification began by Rameau and not fully accepted until the later 18th century. Bach thought in figured bass, not roman numerals (which according to Wiki, began in 1774 with the work of JS Bach's student Johann Kirnberger's Die Kunst des reinen Satzes (wonder if there are any references to him in the work?). But, figured bass is a system for representing chords and harmony, not counterpoint, which began in the early 17th century

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    MR, when writing counterpoint, considerations of spacing are present. Spacing is a vertical dimension and has a considerable influence on how a part might proceed and what its possible subordinate role is to be at a particular vertical point. That is harmonic thinking whilst thinking in a linear fashion.
    I give you a page from Cherubini, admittedly just after Bach...from his Treatise on Counterpoint and Fugue. . Perhaps not the sort of thing you'd expect.

    treatiseoncounte002279mbp_0033.jpg
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-14-2020 at 14:55.
    New website and some new music......www.mikehewer.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    What MR has pointed out through a number of sources here, is that the CP harmony is contained within the rules for part-writing and figured bass, with the chord nomenclature a later codification began by Rameau and not fully accepted until the later 18th century. Bach thought in figured bass, not roman numerals (which according to Wiki, began in 1774 with the work of JS Bach's student Johann Kirnberger's Die Kunst des reinen Satzes (wonder if there are any references to him in the work?). But, figured bass is a system for representing chords and harmony, not counterpoint, which began in the early 17th century
    What I'd rather point out is that "harmonic thinking" is possible without any rules; it operates more on the level of the ear, as a directly perceived "logic" of the senses.

    Yes, figured bass is a system for representing chords and harmony, but only in relation to a bass note. It does not specify function per se, which had not been invented.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-14-2020 at 15:50.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    What I'd rather point out is that "harmonic thinking" is possible without any rules; it operates more on the level of the ear, asa directly perceived "logic" of the senses.

    Yes, figured bass is a system for representing chords and harmony, but only in relation to a bass note. It does not specify function per se, which had not been invented.
    This is so vague I'm not sure exactly what you mean. All composers are guided by their ears, as well as by established practice.

    You attach enormous, unwarranted importance to systems of nomenclature. Whether you use Roman numerals or figured bass notation to describe a chord, it's the same chord. Composers (of all eras) thought in terms of music, not symbols.

    I don't know what Bach said about Rameau, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't like the idea that inversions of a triad are equivalent. They sound different and they're not interchangeable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    This is so vague I'm not sure exactly what you mean. All composers are guided by their ears, as well as by established practice.
    What I'm saying is that "harmonic truths" such as "function" of roots and chords exists without any codification or established practices. It is a universal truth, one of the underlying principles of music.

    You attach enormous, unwarranted importance to systems of nomenclature. Whether you use Roman numerals or figured bass notation to describe a chord, it's the same chord. Composers (of all eras) thought in terms of music, not symbols.
    To that extent, I agree. What I see missing is the acknowledgement that "harmonic hearing" is the underlying basis of all "systems," nomenclatures, and "practices" or rules. That's why I attach enormous, unwarranted importance to systems of nomenclature; because they are not truths unto themselves. They derive from more basic vertical "ear" perception.

    I don't know what Bach said about Rameau, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't like the idea that inversions of a triad are equivalent. They sound different and they're not interchangeable.
    Not literally, but a G major chord has a root, in relation to a tonic, which gives it a function or importance which is determined harmonically, as an interval.
    Since Bach did not acknowledge this, or the fact that "a G is a G is a G," means that he was avoiding abstract thinking. If he did not recognize these equivalencies, he was being too specific and too literal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    No one has admitted this alleged "fact." You have been asked several times to support your assertion that Bach rejected Rameau's theories. You haven't supported the assertion and you continue to make it. Once again, time to put up or shut up. Why shouldn't anyone reading this thread conclude that you are intentionally pushing misinformation?
    From Essay On The True Art Of Keyboard Playing by C.P.E. Bach.

    Pg. 17: Bach and his father were acquainted with Rameau's theory, which has become the basis of most of the writings on harmony, but they disagreed with it. This was made known in a letter to Kirnberger...

    ...Bach's rejection of Rameau can be traced largely to the fact that the latter had a pronounced theory, whereas thorough-bass was essentially a practice.

    Pg. 18: ...Where Rameau's emphasis rests on the vertical origins of a chord, Bach's rests on its behavior.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-14-2020 at 17:12.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    From Essay On The True Art Of Keyboard Playing by C.P.E. Bach.

    Pg. 17: Bach and his father were acquainted with Rameau's theory, which has become the basis of most of the writings on harmony, but they disagreed with it. This was made known in a letter to Kirnberger...

    ...Bach's rejection of Rameau can be traced largely to the fact that the latter had a pronounced theory, whereas thorough-bass was essentially a practice.

    Pg. 18: ...Where Rameau's emphasis rests on the vertical origins of a chord, Bach's rests on its behavior.
    This sounds like it's from a modern introduction or annotation, not CPE Bach's own words, right?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    From Essay On The True Art Of Keyboard Playing by C.P.E. Bach.

    Pg. 17: Bach and his father were acquainted with Rameau's theory, which has become the basis of most of the writings on harmony, but they disagreed with it. This was made known in a letter to Kirnberger...

    ...Bach's rejection of Rameau can be traced largely to the fact that the latter had a pronounced theory, whereas thorough-bass was essentially a practice.

    Pg. 18: ...Where Rameau's emphasis rests on the vertical origins of a chord, Bach's rests on its behavior.
    Clearly the above doesn't quote Bach nor does it establish "rejection" on his part. As I've noted before, figured bass is a system of notation, not a theory of harmony. Now I will refute your entire argument in this thread:

    Throughout this thread and elsewhere you’ve been arguing a binary opposition of contrapuntal versus harmonic thinking, putting forth Bach as a quintessential example of a contrapuntal thinker. You’ve argued that he wasn’t a harmonic thinker. This view has been rejected by me and every other respondent on this thread with formal theoretical training, all of whom know that these two ways of looking at music have never existed in isolation and cannot be disentangled. Unfortunately for your position, this polar opposition of counterpoint/voice-leading versus chordal/harmonic thought was not accepted even in the Renaissance, at the very height and dominance of contrapuntal art, by the authors of counterpoint treatises.

    Gioseffo Zarlino’s Le Istitutione harmoniche (1558) is one of the most influential theoretical treatises of all time. It codified the compositional practice of the early 16thc as practiced by Adrian Willaert, Josquin, Gombert, Lassus, et alia. The third part of the treatise, The Art of Counterpart,* addresses the harmonic elements of music in considerable detail. Zarlino emphasizes the supremacy of what we would call the triad in organizing music’s vertical dimension. In a section on three and four voice counterpoint he states:

    “Variety of extremes … is found only in the fifth and third. Since harmony is a unity of diverse elements, we must strive with all our might, in order to achieve perfection in harmony, to have these two consonances or their compounds sound in our compositions as much as possible. … musicians often write the sixth in place of the fifth, and this is fine.”

    So, in our terms, Zarlino is advocating the triad in root position or first inversion as the ideal vertical arrangement of harmonies to be favored over all others. He notes that in three part writing the fifth or third can be left out if using the octave results in a …

    “… beautiful, elegant, and simple voice line. … However, in four-voice works, the error of omitting one of the two consonances would be greater because the extra part facilitates obedience to the rule.”

    The above shows that the best theorists and composers of counterpoint in the Renaissance thought extensively about harmony and advocated exactly the same supremacy of the triad as practiced throughout the Baroque era, in the work of J. S. Bach and beyond. What the Baroque composers added that brought to their music a modern conception of harmonic progression and tonal grounding was making root motion by fifths (or fourths) the ideal and the centerpiece of the style.

    In short, your theory is refuted by the theoretical thought and compositional practice of centuries. Hundreds of years before Bach, even the most contrapuntal composers and theorists were thinking harmonically.


    *I've quoted from page 188 of The Art of Counterpoint as translated by Guy Marco and Claude Palisca (Norton, 1968).
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-14-2020 at 17:53.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Clearly the above doesn't quote Bach nor does it establish "rejection" on his part. Now I will refute your entire argument in this thread:
    See? I told you this would be your reaction.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    As usual you will do anything to avoid talking about actual music - just words and more words.

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    Here's an example of quite straightforward two and three-part contrapuntal writing where the underlying chord progressions are crystal clear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdLCcQixNvg

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Just remembered an ideal illustration of what we're talking about, starting at 6:30 in the video below. Unfortunately a mis-timed ad comes in a couple seconds into the movement, at least for me - click past it and keep going.



    The violin and keyboard right hand in this movement are playing a strict canon, while the keyboard left hand is outlining the chords. A perfect marriage of counterpoint and harmony. This kind of thing is why people think Bach was such a genius!
    Last edited by isorhythm; May-14-2020 at 20:53.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    Just remembered an ideal illustration of what we're talking about, starting at 6:30 in the video below. Unfortunately a mis-timed ad comes in a couple seconds into the movement, at least for me - click past it and keep going.


    The violin and keyboard right hand in this movement are playing a strict canon, while the keyboard left hand is outlining the chords. A perfect marriage of counterpoint and harmony. This kind of thing is why people think Bach was such a genius!
    Nice. The 'cello part is not exactly the same as the left hand part in the scrolling score but very well played.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; May-14-2020 at 21:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Gioseffo Zarlino’s Le Istitutione harmoniche (1558) is one of the most influential theoretical treatises of all time. It codified the compositional practice of the early 16thc as practiced by Adrian Willaert, Josquin, Gombert, Lassus, et alia. The third part of the treatise, The Art of Counterpart,* addresses the harmonic elements of music in considerable detail. Zarlino emphasizes the supremacy of what we would call the triad in organizing music’s vertical dimension. In a section on three and four voice counterpoint he states:

    “Variety of extremes … is found only in the fifth and third. Since harmony is a unity of diverse elements, we must strive with all our might, in order to achieve perfection in harmony, to have these two consonances or their compounds sound in our compositions as much as possible. … musicians often write the sixth in place of the fifth, and this is fine.”
    This is just talking about figured bass. Yes, figured bass is a system for representing chords and harmony, but only in relation to a bass note. It does not specify function per se, which had not been invented. So this is not truly "harmonic thinking" as we now know it.

    "Harmonic thinking" is possible without any rules; it operates more on the level of the ear, as a directly perceived "logic" of the senses.

    Yes, Bach was thinking harmonically" but without any specified rules or principles such as "chord function" and "chord progression." He was doing this intuitively, by ear.

    This proves my blog assertion: "function" is a characteristic which is inherent in the scale itself, as an interval in relation to a keynote or tonic.

    In a scale, the pull towards a tonic is inherently determined by vertical harmonic factors, not horizontal "emphasis" by repetition or accent. That comes later.

    This chart has been posted already.

    1. minor seventh (C-Bb) 9:16
    2. major seventh (C-B) 8:15
    3. major second (C-D) 8:9
    4. minor sixth (C-Ab) 5:8
    5. minor third (C-Eb) 5:6
    6. major third (C-E) 4:5
    7. major sixth (C-A) 3:5
    8. perfect fourth (C-F) 3:4
    9. perfect fifth (C-G) 2:3
    10. octave (C-C') 1:2
    11. unison (C-C) 1:1

    So a C major scale's horizontal functions correspond to these harmonic relations; and one can observe how these functions were derived:

    I — 1:1
    ii — 8:9
    iii — 4:5
    IV — 3:4
    V — 2:3
    vi — 3:5
    vii — 8:15

    Their importance in establishing the tonality can be ranked by the order of consonance to dissonance, with smaller-number ratios being more consonant.

    I — 1:1
    V — 2:3
    IV — 3:4
    vi — 3:5
    iii — 4:5
    ii — 8:9
    vii — 8:15

    Using this model, a "function" hierarchy can be applied to any scale, after the degrees of dissonance are ranked.

    Whole Tone scale: C-D-D-F#-G#-A#

    C — 1:1
    D —8:9
    E —4:5
    F#— 45:32
    G# — 8:5
    A# — 16:9

    Whether or not you attach Roman numerals to the above is optional; but by the numbers, one can see a ranking:

    C — 1:1
    E —4:5
    G# — 8:5
    D —8:9
    A# — 16:9
    F#— 45:32
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-15-2020 at 08:35.

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