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Thread: Baroque "chord progressions"

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    There's a question I've been meaning to ask since the Bach chorale harmonizations were first discussed and so many of you agreed that so many of these pieces are considered masterpieces of harmonization. I remember a few of you stating that you found Bach's cantatas boring. Of course, people change their minds, but my understanding is that many of the cantatas are structured and composed in light of the chorale of that particular liturgical date. I might be premature in asking this question since I cannot personally prove this to you, and I will not "call out" anyone in particular, but I wonder how you can say the cantatas are boring and yet recognize the brilliance of the chorale harmonizations?

    I'm not sure that I expect a direct or public response to this question, but I've been meaning to ask it anyway.
    Wouldn't that just fall under the category of personal taste? I know of people who find Wagner boring, which I find unimaginable, but I don't expect them to give me a convincing reason. I dare say there isn't any music, or any anything, that doesn't bore the daylights out of some apparently intelligent person who you or I think ought to know better!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Wouldn't that just fall under the category of personal taste? I know of people who find Wagner boring, which I find unimaginable, but I don't expect them to give me a convincing reason. I dare say there isn't any music, or any anything, that doesn't bore the daylights out of some apparently intelligent person who you or I think ought to know better!
    No, this does not fall under the category of personal taste. Several people in this thread have (finally) acknowledged that they own and have studied their Bach chorale harmonizations, so much to the point that those scores are old and weathered and worn, like a fabulous pair of favored shoes.

    Again, I have read that many of the cantatas were composed and structured around the chorale(s) of the particular liturgical calendar.

    How can one acknowledge their brilliance? Admit that these are masterpieces. Masterpieces of harmonization that have been studied generation after generation. And then state that the cantatas which were composed in light of them are boring?

    That seems to me to be a complete contradiction.

    (Please, don't play semantical games with me. I am being very direct and honest.)


  3. #108
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    No, this does not fall under the category of personal taste. Several people in this thread have (finally) acknowledged that they own and have studied their Bach chorale harmonizations, so much to the point that those scores are old and weathered and worn, like a fabulous pair of favored shoes.

    Again, I have read that many of the cantatas were composed and structured around the chorale(s) of the particular liturgical calendar.

    How can one acknowledge their brilliance? Admit that these are masterpieces. Masterpieces of harmonization that have been studied generation after generation. And then state that the cantatas which were composed in light of them are boring?

    That seems to me to be a complete contradiction.

    (Please, don't play semantical games with me. I am being very direct and honest.)
    What semantical games? There is no contradiction between knowing that music is excellent and being uninterested in listening to it. If you don't care for Beethoven's 9th, despite its generally acknowledged position as a great and significant work of music, you just don't care for it. No arguments or justifications are required.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ........ and I don't think there's any disputing that he did so, to a degree that's never been surpassed or, possibly, equaled - certainly not by those who, knowing they couldn't equal it, decided that leaving tonality behind was more comfortable, and more likely to be noticed, than struggling to compete with the master.
    Some great posts Wooduck, exhilarating and illuminating - they've encouraged me to listen to Wagner again after a long, long hiatus. (As coincidence would have it, I found a complete score to Tristan in a charity shop the other day, for £5).

    The quote above stands out as a little unfair though imv, perhaps you wouldn't mind expanding a little on that, after all, composers of high calibre step to their own music. I certainly don't consider atonality as a more "comfortable" option to tonal, chromatic technique and rhetoric and it certainly wouldn't have been at that time. It would also be fair to say that the emotional narrative, rather than an 'absolute' paradigm will have been the driving force for most composers then as it still is now.

    (btw, may I ask if you are a composer?)
    New website and some new music......www.mikehewer.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    There's a question I've been meaning to ask since the Bach chorale harmonizations were first discussed and so many of you agreed that so many of these pieces are considered masterpieces of harmonization. I remember a few of you stating that you found Bach's cantatas boring. Of course, people change their minds, but my understanding is that many of the cantatas are structured and composed in light of the chorale of that particular liturgical date. I might be premature in asking this question since I cannot personally prove this to you, and I will not "call out" anyone in particular, but I wonder how you can say the cantatas are boring and yet recognize the brilliance of the chorale harmonizations?

    I'm not sure that I expect a direct or public response to this question, but I've been meaning to ask it anyway.
    The RM 371 is my "bible" and the Cantatas are far from boring. Bach boring? Bach is a volcano.

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    Figured bass works for Bach, but it is too short-sighted limited in scope to be of value in music which modulates into other key areas. It can't identify new tonic areas. It doesn't relate different tonics to each other, it only relates the internal structure of a chord to one note.

    It's like entering an enormous darkened room full of possibilities with only a flashlight for guidance.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-31-2019 at 15:27.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TalkingHead View Post
    The RM 371 is my "bible" and the Cantatas are far from boring. Bach boring? Bach is a volcano.
    Apparently TalkingHead is aware of something he said earlier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drmdjones View Post
    EdwardBast is correct in every point he makes.
    This is contradictory, since later drmdjones maintains that "there are no major seventh chords" in direct opposition to EdwardBast.

    EdwarBast said: It makes perfect sense to analyze chord progressions in Baroque music! And yes, what you are observing, the sequential repetition of motives on different scale steps, is a mainstay of the style. The underlying progressions supporting these sequences tend to use lots of root motion by fifths, as in, for example, the progression: iii - vi - ii - V - I - IV...Of course the concept of chord progression applies to the Baroque Era.
    Woodduck backs this up:

    Woodduck said: I'm a bit baffled by this. Does anyone actually think that composers before the Classical period did not hear and conceive music in terms of harmonic progression? To think that they didn't, wouldn't we have to believe that they achieved a satisfactory succession of harmonies not consciously and intentionally but incidentally, solely through the application of rules governing the movement of contrapuntal melodic lines?
    But, in contradiction, drdmjones says:

    drdmjones said:There are no major 7th chords in Bach (or Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Brahms).

    MR said: It would have been much clearer to say "The concept of chord progression applies to the Baroque, except in certain cases."
    To say that the concept of chord progression applies to the Baroque is rather misleading. Besides, the dissonant tones which weren't considered harmonic tones at the time would apply past the Baroque era, into CP classical.
    So really, the whole concept of chord progression in Baroque as well as CP tonality is riddled with exceptions like this, which are exceptions to a modern or jazz concept of what qualifies as a "chord," much less a "chord progression."

    EdwardBast said: This has no clarity whatever and it wasn't what I was saying...Baroque harmonic practice is part of CP. Please learn what the terms you are using mean. There is enough confusion in the world without sowing more...Jazz and modern conceptions aren't relevant here. ...what you wrote: "non-harmonic tones such as a major seventh chord" makes no sense.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-31-2019 at 16:45.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    What semantical games? There is no contradiction between knowing that music is excellent and being uninterested in listening to it. If you don't care for Beethoven's 9th, despite its generally acknowledged position as a great and significant work of music, you just don't care for it. No arguments or justifications are required.
    There will be a significant loss of credibility to such an opinion in light of consensus opinion. The chorales are accepted as masterpieces of harmonization by experts, and they are prototypes of the cantatas, so acknowledging one without the other would render such an imbalanced opinion as the "fringe" view of an outsider.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Figured bass works for Bach, but it is too short-sighted limited in scope to be of value in music which modulates into other key areas. It can't identify new tonic areas. It doesn't relate different tonics to each other, it only relates the internal structure of a chord to one note.
    To the extent it is necessary, key signatures do that.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    It's like entering an enormous darkened room full of possibilities with only a flashlight for guidance.
    It provides precisely enough information for skilled players to produce a number of different but fully valid performances. The unskilled find darkness and confusion everywhere they look.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Mar-31-2019 at 16:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    To the extent it is necessary, key signatures do that.
    I said that figured bass "doesn't relate different tonics to each other." All a key signature does is indicate the key. It does not indication dual-functions in modulations.

    It provides precisely enough information for skilled players to produce a number of different but fully valid performances.
    Wow, that's impressive. They can play in one key!

    Figured bass is just an archaic set of instructions. It can't be used to analyze chord functions in progressions, unless Roman numerals are used to clarify it.

    The unskilled find darkness and confusion everywhere they look.
    He who would search for pearls must dive below.

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    Motto of Nashville songwriters who've studied Hugo Riemann: "Three functions and the Truth."
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Mar-31-2019 at 19:22.

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  19. #118
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Figured bass works for Bach, but it is too short-sighted limited in scope to be of value in music which modulates into other key areas. It can't identify new tonic areas. It doesn't relate different tonics to each other, it only relates the internal structure of a chord to one note.

    It's like entering an enormous darkened room full of possibilities with only a flashlight for guidance.
    Are you saying, from an analytical "eyes on the score" point of view, that figured bass doesn't identify modulations ("new tonic areas") as easily as Roman numerals (e.g. V/VI [V of VI])?

    Edit: I see you have already answered this just above.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; Mar-31-2019 at 19:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    There will be a significant loss of credibility to such an opinion in light of consensus opinion. The chorales are accepted as masterpieces of harmonization by experts, and they are prototypes of the cantatas, so acknowledging one without the other would render such an imbalanced opinion as the "fringe" view of an outsider.
    Well, I know what you're trying to say but I wouldn't call them prototypes; more a source of generative material.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I said that figured bass "doesn't relate different tonics to each other." All a key signature does is indicate the key.
    Normally yes. But in the "371" there are a good few instances where Bach uses 3 flats (indicating C minor, for example) but in fact it "sounds" as F minor.

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