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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 TalkingHead View Post
    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.
    That's interesting and surprising. A survival of modal thinking?

    Would it be correct to say that a "key" is not identical to a "tonality"? The key may be three flats, but the tonality is F minor. Any number of tonalities might be traversed or suggested within a given key signature.

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  3. #122
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    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?)
    Thanks, Mike. I admit to being a little mischevous with that last comment. It was probably inspired by something I read about Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and friends gathered around a piano one fine evening (I'm indulging my pictorial imagination here), studying the score of Tristan and wondering how the heck anyone could "go beyond Wagner." There are different ways of interpreting that, but with respect to his overall achievement in exploiting the accumulated resources of tonal music to create works of immense scope and depth, "going beyond Wagner" is something no one has done or, until we can learn to breed genius in the laboratory, will do. The score of Parsifal is a virtual summation of the idioms of Western music since Palestrina, but it, like Tristan before it, goes on to discover previously unexploited possibilities of tonal harmony which proved highly suggestive and challenged composers to "go beyond" in ways that could be dangerous to those who failed to perceive the pitfalls. The chromatic surfaces of the music were obviously a seductive siren, but the breadth of vision and the powers of synthesis and organization which enabled Wagner to exploit harmony to maximum effect were not so easily imitated. I think the most perceptive composers at the end of the 19th century knew that they would have to study Wagner, but warily, always consulting the compass of their personal souls in order to reamain true to themselves.

    It would make sense that German/Austrian composers felt themselves under the greatest pressure to process the Wagnerian experience and come up with something perhaps less earth-shaking but still significant and viable, and I don't think anyone was more troubled by the problem than the intensely ambitious and intellectual Schoenberg. His philosophical and theoretical justifications for his own post-Wagnerian revolution were in various respects both admirable and questionable, but I think his proclamation that his ideas would assure the preeminence of German music for the next 100 years can hardly, in light of how things actually turned out, strike us as anything but amusing hubris unless we understand how the specter of Wagner haunted him and ultimately forced him to take a radical step which he could rationalize as the one thing necessary, not merely to him as a solution to his own artistic problems, but to the foreordained course of music itself. If Wagner's harmony could be rationalized as presaging, even necessitating, atonality, then Schoenberg and his disciples could at last "go beyond" Wagner, not on Wagner's terms but on Schoenberg's, and Wagner would become prophet to a new Messiah.

    What I'm suggesting is not that Schoenberg and friends considered atonal writing intrinsically more "comfortable" than tonal writing, but only that striking out on a new path is more gratifying to the ego than feeling oneself in competition with something one can never "go beyond."
    Last edited by Woodduck; Apr-01-2019 at 00:14.

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  5. #123
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TalkingHead View Post
    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.
    Does that mean I'm wrong, or that you are grasping desperately at any exception you can muster?

  6. #124
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Thanks, Mike. I admit to being a little mischevous with that last comment. It was probably inspired by something I read about Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and friends gathered around a piano one fine evening (I'm indulging my pictorial imagination here), studying the score of Tristan and wondering how the heck anyone could "go beyond Wagner." There are different ways of interpreting that, but with respect to his overall achievement in exploiting the accumulated resources of tonal music to create works of immense scope and depth, "going beyond Wagner" is something no one has done or, until we can learn to breed genius in the laboratory, will do. The score of Parsifal is a virtual summation of the idioms of Western music since Palestrina, but it, like Tristan before it, goes on to discover previously unexploited possibilities of tonal harmony which proved highly suggestive and challenged composers to "go beyond" in ways that could be dangerous to those who failed to perceive the pitfalls. The chromatic surfaces of the music were obviously a seductive siren, but the breadth of vision and the powers of synthesis and organization which enabled Wagner to exploit harmony to maximum effect were not so easily imitated. I think the most perceptive composers at the end of the 19th century knew that they would have to study Wagner, but warily, always consulting the compass of their personal souls in order to reamain true to themselves.
    i.e., "bad boys go to Hell."

    It would make sense that German/Austrian composers in general felt themselves under the greatest pressure to process the Wagnerian experience and come up with something perhaps less earth-shaking but still significant and viable, and I don't think anyone was more troubled by the problem than the intensely ambitious and intellectual Schoenberg. His philosophical and theoretical justifications for his own post-Wagnerian revolution were in various respects both admirable and questionable, but I think his proclamation that his ideas would assure the preeminence of German music for the next 100 years can hardly, in light of how things actually turned out, strike us as anything but amusing hubris unless we understand how the specter of Wagner haunted him and ultimately forced him to take a radical step which he could rationalize as the one thing necessary, not merely to him as a solution to his own artistic problems, but to the foreordained course of music itself. If Wagner's harmony could be rationalized as presaging, even necessitating, atonality, then Schoenberg and his disciples could at last "go beyond" Wagner, not on Wagner's terms but on Schoenberg's, and Wagner would become prophet to a new Messiah.
    I think it's safe to say that Schoenberg got over the "German" thing around 1938. And the "Wagner" thing.

    What I'm suggesting is not that Schoenberg and friends considered atonal writing intrinsically more "comfortable" than tonal writing, but only that striking out on a new path is more gratifying to the ego than feeling oneself in competition with something one can never "go beyond."
    That's good, as long as you're just "suggesting" it.

    I think they saw that Wagner at his most daring did not go forward with the implications of that thinking, and instead retreated back to his comfort zone. I think Schoenberg already demonstrated his ability to equal Wagner in his early works, as did Webern with his Passacaglia op.1, and Berg with his op. 1.

    Of course, that's only my opinion, and as you said, "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."
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-31-2019 at 22:58.
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  7. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I think they saw that Wagner at his most daring did not go forward with the implications of that thinking, and instead retreated back to his comfort zone. I think Schoenberg already demonstrated his ability to equal Wagner in his early works, as did Webern with his Passacaglia op.1, and Berg with his op. 1.

    Of course, that's only my opinion, and as you said, "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."
    The idea that Wagner ever "retreated," musically or otherwise, and ever entered a creative "comfort zone" could only occur to someone who doesn't know his music very well.

    I know the atonalist orthodoxy says that the the dissolution and abandonment of tonality is "implicit" in the Tristan chord. Heck, your stated view is that atonality is "implicit" in the C major scale, which strikes me as taking orthodoxy to a new (perhaps insane) level. Well, I'm unorthodox.

    The early, tonal works of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern make effective use of some Wagnerian lessons, but whatever their success (which is variable) they attempt less than Wagner did and so can't be said to "equal" him. I certainly appreciate the works you mention, along with Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, Gurrelieder, some lovely songs, et al., but who can place any of them on the summit reserved for the peak achievements of Western culture? Wagner's mature operas have rested comfortably there for some time, gazing serenely at the landscape below while Schoenberg's predicted atonalist reign of 100 years has neither come nor gone.

    I have to respect the ingenuity and accomplishments of Schoenberg and his sphere, but that doesn't necessitate buying into his attempt to make himself the fulfillment of the evolution of harmony and the fulcrum of history.

  8. #126
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ...your stated view is that atonality is "implicit" in the C major scale, which strikes me as taking orthodoxy to a new (perhaps insane) level.
    Not exactly; I never used the word "atonality." I said it was "harmonically unstable." That's why there are "non harmonic" tones which need resolving.

    The early, tonal works of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern make effective use of some Wagnerian lessons, but whatever their success (which is variable) they attempt less than Wagner did and so can't be said to "equal" him. I certainly appreciate the works you mention, along with Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, Gurrelieder, some lovely songs, et al., but who can place any of them on the summit reserved for the peak achievements of Western culture? Wagner's mature operas have rested comfortably there for some time, gazing serenely at the landscape below while Schoenberg's predicted atonalist reign of 100 years has neither come nor gone. I have to respect the ingenuity and accomplishments of Schoenberg and his sphere, but that doesn't necessitate buying into his attempt to make himself the fulfillment of the evolution of harmony and the fulcrum of history.
    So, we differ.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-31-2019 at 23:53.
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    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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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.
    I am going to refer people to this post next time someone says Bach is not a "Tier One" Composer (I hate those categorizations) or someone says the cantatas are boring! You have my eternal gratitude.

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    TalkingHead, please consider using your post as your signature line!

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Thanks, Mike. I admit to being a little mischevous with that last comment. It was probably inspired by something I read about Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and friends gathered around a piano one fine evening (I'm indulging my pictorial imagination here), studying the score of Tristan and wondering how the heck anyone could "go beyond Wagner." There are different ways of interpreting that, but with respect to his overall achievement in exploiting the accumulated resources of tonal music to create works of immense scope and depth, "going beyond Wagner" is something no one has done or, until we can learn to breed genius in the laboratory, will do. The score of Parsifal is a virtual summation of the idioms of Western music since Palestrina, but it, like Tristan before it, goes on to discover previously unexploited possibilities of tonal harmony which proved highly suggestive and challenged composers to "go beyond" in ways that could be dangerous to those who failed to perceive the pitfalls. The chromatic surfaces of the music were obviously a seductive siren, but the breadth of vision and the powers of synthesis and organization which enabled Wagner to exploit harmony to maximum effect were not so easily imitated. I think the most perceptive composers at the end of the 19th century knew that they would have to study Wagner, but warily, always consulting the compass of their personal souls in order to reamain true to themselves.

    It would make sense that German/Austrian composers felt themselves under the greatest pressure to process the Wagnerian experience and come up with something perhaps less earth-shaking but still significant and viable, and I don't think anyone was more troubled by the problem than the intensely ambitious and intellectual Schoenberg. His philosophical and theoretical justifications for his own post-Wagnerian revolution were in various respects both admirable and questionable, but I think his proclamation that his ideas would assure the preeminence of German music for the next 100 years can hardly, in light of how things actually turned out, strike us as anything but amusing hubris unless we understand how the specter of Wagner haunted him and ultimately forced him to take a radical step which he could rationalize as the one thing necessary, not merely to him as a solution to his own artistic problems, but to the foreordained course of music itself. If Wagner's harmony could be rationalized as presaging, even necessitating, atonality, then Schoenberg and his disciples could at last "go beyond" Wagner, not on Wagner's terms but on Schoenberg's, and Wagner would become prophet to a new Messiah.

    What I'm suggesting is not that Schoenberg and friends considered atonal writing intrinsically more "comfortable" than tonal writing, but only that striking out on a new path is more gratifying to the ego than feeling oneself in competition with something one can never "go beyond."

    Thanks Wooduck, I can see the three of them now, booze on the table, cigarettes in hand, telling dirty jokes and poking fun. Ok I'm taking liberties too, but composers can be very bitchy in my experience, even (especially) the lower league ones who sell their souls to media (and I should know). Britten, being one of the 20thC's greatest pianists, once improvised in the style of Walton and not in an appreciative way and witness Stravinsky's jealous reaction to the news that Britten's masterpiece, the War Requiem, was a great success at its premiere..."Well it can't be that good then" (paraphrased).
    Ironically, as we all know, it was Webern, the pupil, who's work signalled the way forward in the 20thC. Berg too, enjoyed more success than the 'Master' (although Berg and Webern's gratitude to Schoenberg was undimmed and always acknowledged). The next seismic shift in musical thought after Wagner and Schoenberg's developing ideas was the emancipation of rhythm. Stravinsky takes the credit there obviously, but as time progressed, his innovations where developed by others to a point where it became a major contributor to the demise of modern music because rhythm, as John Adams has said, is "the great unifier ". Its ability to anchor the listener with regular pulse and aid in comprehension was subjected to what could be construed as the linear equivalent to Wagner's investigation of chromaticism but with more serious disorientating results.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Apr-01-2019 at 12:26.

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  13. #130
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    This must be another composer from Oregon, part of the current "good ol' boy system."

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    This must be another composer from Oregon, part of the current "good ol' boy system."
    You can see and hear who I am...who are you?
    Last edited by mikeh375; Apr-01-2019 at 12:19.

  15. #132
    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    That's interesting and surprising. A survival of modal thinking?

    Would it be correct to say that a "key" is not identical to a "tonality"? The key may be three flats, but the tonality is F minor. Any number of tonalities might be traversed or suggested within a given key signature.
    Perhaps not so much a survival of modal thinking, more to do with Bach using modal melodies in his chorale harmonizations.
    I enclose a short PDF (two very short pages, promise!) from Boyd's "Chrorale Harmonization" that explains it better than I can (see below).

    As for "keys" not being identical to "tonalities", yes, I would go along with what you say. For me, in Baroque and Classical music, the given key signature denotes the main tonality of the piece and prepares the field of closely related keys (I, IV & V, and their relative minors or majors).

    Bach's modal chorales (Malcolm Boyd, Bach Chorale Harmonization) Page 1.pdf
    Bach's modal chorales (Malcolm Boyd, Bach Chorale Harmonization) Page 2.pdf
    Last edited by TalkingHead; Apr-01-2019 at 13:53.

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  17. #133
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Does that mean I'm wrong, or that you are grasping desperately at any exception you can muster?
    Not at all. You said that "All a key signature does is indicate the key." This is perfectly true.
    I am pointing out that there are a good few exceptions to that in the "371" where, for example, the key signature is G minor (two flats) but in reality it sounds as C minor (3 flats).

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Then you're taking liberties with the definition of "key" and "key signature." "Key signatures" define a diatonic scale that can be used in two modes, major or minor. The "key" of a work is defined in terms of the particular major or minor scale from which its principle pitches are drawn, and this is indicated by a "key signature."

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Not exactly; I never used the word "atonality." I said it was "harmonically unstable." That's why there are "non harmonic" tones which need resolving.
    Saying a C major scale is harmonically unstable is absurd, by which I mean it doesn't even make enough sense to be incorrect. A C major scale is not a harmonic phenomenon. Saying there are "non harmonic" tones in a C major scale that "need resolving" is also a nonsensical statement. Any tone in a major scale can be a harmonic tone and any tone can be a non-harmonic tone. These terms have no meaning as you have used them because they only have meaning in specific contexts, which your statements have not provided. Harmonic tones often require resolution. The tonic note in C major can be a nonharmonic tone requiring resolution.

    Even a sympathetic reading of your statement suggests you don't know what the term nonharmonic tone means.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Apr-01-2019 at 14:30.

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