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Thread: Is functional Harmony considered homophonic?

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    This is the heart of it, millionrainbows, and it seems to be your stumbling block in every one of these threads. When Rameau wrote his treatise he was proposing a theory about how already existing music worked.
    I disagree in this case, since Bach and Rameau were both important theorists. Bach apparently had a vested interest in keeping the figured bass system, and in rejecting Rameau's more elegant system. Perhaps Bach foresaw the 'danger' that harmonic theory could pose to his polyphony/figured-bass method.

    As always, my suggestion is to spend less time playing games with words and more looking at actual music if you want to understand what's going on. If you look at the music you will find functional harmony in Bach (and earlier).
    The fact is, it is only in retrospect that we can look at Bach in terms of harmonic/Roman numeral analysis. Whether or not he thought in terms of harmonic progression I do not know; but it should be clear that if he did, it was subsidiary to his polyphonic procedures of voice leading and resolution. Remember, no major seventh chords allowed.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I disagree in this case, since Bach and Rameau were both important theorists. Bach apparently had a vested interest in keeping the figured bass system, and in rejecting Rameau's more elegant system. Perhaps Bach foresaw the 'danger' that harmonic theory could pose to his polyphony/figured-bass method.
    Figured bass is not a theoretical system, it's a system of notation. Bach was not a theorist, except in the whimsical sense that all composers might be called "applied theorists." Elegance has nothing to do with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    The fact is, it is only in retrospect that we can look at Bach in terms of harmonic/Roman numeral analysis. Whether or not he thought in terms of harmonic progression I do not know; but it should be clear that if he did, it was subsidiary to his polyphonic procedures of voice leading and resolution. Remember, no major seventh chords allowed.
    Of course his thinking included harmonic progressions. Please educate yourself before posting voluminously on issues you don't understand. It's tiresome cleaning up after you.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    No, functional harmony is open and accepting of all gender and sexual identities

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I disagree in this case, since Bach and Rameau were both important theorists. Bach apparently had a vested interest in keeping the figured bass system, and in rejecting Rameau's more elegant system. Perhaps Bach foresaw the 'danger' that harmonic theory could pose to his polyphony/figured-bass method.



    The fact is, it is only in retrospect that we can look at Bach in terms of harmonic/Roman numeral analysis. Whether or not he thought in terms of harmonic progression I do not know; but it should be clear that if he did, it was subsidiary to his polyphonic procedures of voice leading and resolution. Remember, no major seventh chords allowed.

    If Bach was a theorist (he wasn't) can you direct us to any writings on music that can back up that statement?

    As Edward pointed out, figured bass is not a theory, it is a form of musical shorthand to instruct the keyboard player how to harmonize a bass line. Perhaps what you mean is that figured bass is still used in the instruction of classical harmony, which was not its original purpose. Musicians who still use it in performance practice are interpreting works from the Baroque period. For all practical intents and purposes figured bass has been replaced with chord symbols and chord charts that guitarists and keyboard players use in many contemporary styles of music, excluding classical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Figured bass is not a theoretical system, it's a system of notation. Bach was not a theorist, except in the whimsical sense that all composers might be called "applied theorists." Elegance has nothing to do with it.
    I know that. So why did Bach & his sons refuse to accept Rameau's theory of chord inversion, preferring the old figured bass method? It seems to me that this is a theoretical disagreement.

    Of course his thinking included harmonic progressions.
    After the fact, you can analyze his music that way, but it still conforms to older polyphonic ways of thinking: resolution, tension, passing tones, etc., so it is really not what we would consider "harmonic thinking" in any modern sense. There are no "major seventh chords" in Bach.

    Please educate yourself before posting voluminously on issues you don't understand. It's tiresome cleaning up after you.
    Please don't throw around the idea that Bach was a harmonic thinker, because he was clearly a polyphonic thinker, and opposed Rameau. Why do you assume things blindly? At least I can think freely, outside the box of academia; apparently your "education" is a restriction to your thinking. If anyone should "clean their act up," it's you.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-30-2020 at 07:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post
    If Bach was a theorist (he wasn't) can you direct us to any writings on music that can back up that statement?
    This seems to be an argumentative strategy.

    Harmony had not fully developed yet; of course Bach was not a harmonic theorist. However, I'm quite sure that there is some evidence somewhere on a dusty old library shelf which documents Bach & Sons' opposition to Rameau's theories.

    As Edward pointed out, figured bass is not a theory, it is a form of musical shorthand to instruct the keyboard player how to harmonize a bass line.
    I know that, and I never said that figured bass was a theory; it's a method.But it is also "a way of thinking" about chords.

    Why did Bach oppose Rameau's idea of chord inversion? This seems to be the inconvenient "elephant in the room."

    Perhaps what you mean is that figured bass is still used in the instruction of classical harmony, which was not its original purpose. Musicians who still use it in performance practice are interpreting works from the Baroque period. For all practical intents and purposes figured bass has been replaced with chord symbols and chord charts that guitarists and keyboard players use in many contemporary styles of music, excluding classical.
    I can go along with that. Figured bass is best used for interpreting works from the Baroque period.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-30-2020 at 07:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bwv 1080 View Post
    no, functional harmony is open and accepting of all gender and sexual identities
    incuding major seventh chords, i presume?

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    I think the difference in my thinking about 'what is harmonic thinking' as opposed to some other views espoused here (with plenty of personal put-downs about being 'uneducated') is that, for me, true harmonic thinking is based on the ear, namely, my ear. This is the same old obstacle I have always encountered in dealing with more academic thinkers vs. what I would call freer, more modern, and leaning towards jazz thinkers.

    Bach is, and will always remain to me, a more polyphonic thinker, too entrenched in the stylistic norms of his era to be truly free in a harmonic sense. Whatever harmonic thinking we can ascribe to Bach will always be tempered and dictated by the procedures of polyphony, such as passing notes, tensions and resolutions. To say that Bach was a harmonic thinker is therefore, to me, somewhat misleading, and is an after-the-fact conclusion of harmonic thinking applied in retrospect.

    'Free' or more modern harmonic thinking accepts major seventh chords as what they are, and accepts harmonic entities as chords based on the ear, not stylistic procedures derived from the diatonic system of CP. Thus, all sorts of new areas are opened-up, free from the restraints of prescribed voice leading and root movement. Diminished seventh chords can be accepted as 'harmonic mechanisms' which can lead to new areas of harmonic meaning, such as placing different roots under them, substitution of chords, seeing triads within seventh chords, and so on.

    To imply or outright characterize my thinking as being 'uneducated' is downright insulting, and totally unnecessary.

    I would think that this freer, more creative approach would be understood and embraced by anyone with good ears, especially to those who are present-day composers of music.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-30-2020 at 15:08.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    ^You're in danger of becoming the music theory equivalent of people with personal websites who think they've discovered a grand unified theory of physics.

    Fewer words, more music. If you can't illustrate what you're trying to say with some specific musical examples then you're probably not saying anything.

    If your "ear" can't detect functional harmony in Bach then it's no good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    ^You're in danger of becoming the music theory equivalent of people with personal websites who think they've discovered a grand unified theory of physics.
    Irrelevant, personal, says nothing.

    Fewer words, more music. If you can't illustrate what you're trying to say with some specific musical examples then you're probably not saying anything.
    I don't need to post any musical examples, especially at your behest.

    If your "ear" can't detect functional harmony in Bach then it's no good.
    Oh, I can very clearly hear the harmonic elements in Bach's music. It was this very ability which got me into disputes with old-school, myopic teachers who did not recognize the harmonic truth of these implications. That's what I call putting the cart before the horse.

    You have a nice day, too, isorhhytm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    This seems to be an argumentative strategy.

    Harmony had not fully developed yet; of course Bach was not a harmonic theorist. However, I'm quite sure that there is some evidence somewhere on a dusty old library shelf which documents Bach & Sons' opposition to Rameau's theories.



    I know that, and I never said that figured bass was a theory; it's a method.But it is also "a way of thinking" about chords.

    Why did Bach oppose Rameau's idea of chord inversion? This seems to be the inconvenient "elephant in the room."



    I can go along with that. Figured bass is best used for interpreting works from the Baroque period.


    No, it's not an "argumentative strategy". It's a rebuttal to an assertion you made that Bach was a theorist. Prior to Rameau's harmonic theory in the 18th century, there was much music theory before that. Contrapuntal theory by Fux, which Mozart studied, and other European contrapuntal theorists wrote and published their observations on the practice of counterpoint. But Bach published no theoretical writings. But I could be wrong, so please show me a theoretical paper by Bach on contrapuntal theory; I suspect you cannot.

    You also wrote that Bach "opposed" the idea of chord inversion. Have you ever even analyzed one Bach 3-part invention, fugue or choral, or for that matter any of Bach's works? You'd find countless examples of 1st inversion chords; so where do you come up with the idea that he "opposed" the idea of chord inversion?

    Words by "Millionrainbows": Why did Bach oppose Rameau's idea of chord inversion?

    I copied your words because I guess you'll probably write "I didn't' say that!"

    Nobody knows everything, in fact I myself know very little and I know I know little. But on the short time I've been on this forum, I can see you are pretending to be far more knowledgeable than you really are. You've made at least several statements that reveal this to me. I don't know, maybe you're 12 years old and very smart, but cannot admit when he's wrong or mistaken.
    Last edited by Jerry Gerber; Apr-30-2020 at 22:03.

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    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    I'm sick of this identity politics nonsense, how the hell can harmony be homophobic???? The world's gone mad - I wanna get off .....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post
    No, it's not an "argumentative strategy". It's a rebuttal to an assertion you made that Bach was a theorist. Prior to Rameau's harmonic theory in the 18th century, there was much music theory before that. Contrapuntal theory by Fux, which Mozart studied, and other European contrapuntal theorists wrote and published their observations on the practice of counterpoint. But Bach published no theoretical writings. But I could be wrong, so please show me a theoretical paper by Bach on contrapuntal theory; I suspect you cannot.


    Words by "Millionrainbows": Why did Bach oppose Rameau's idea of chord inversion?

    I copied your words because I guess you'll probably write "I didn't' say that!"
    Okay, so in my post #16, I mistakenly said that "I disagree in this case, since Bach and Rameau were both important theorists." I should have said "were important musical thinkers." Big deal! This is a side issue of little importance.

    But it is known that
    Bach apparently had a vested interest in keeping the figured bass system, and in rejecting Rameau's more elegant system. It's in this book:



    You also wrote that Bach "opposed" the idea of chord inversion. Have you ever even analyzed one Bach 3-part invention, fugue or choral, or for that matter any of Bach's works? You'd find countless examples of 1st inversion chords; so where do you come up with the idea that he "opposed" the idea of chord inversion?
    Don't take this too literally. Of course Bach used chords in inversions.

    Be logical, don't be so argumentative. Seek the truth of the idea.

    Bach opposed the idea of identifying a chord in first, second, or third inversion as being essentially the same chord, such as a C major. He was only concerned with figured-bass constructions, not in identifying chords.

    I refer you to "A Geometry of Music" by Dmitri Tymoczko for this information:



    Okay, I've listed two good sources for my argument. Let's see the same from your side. I challenge you to do the same. Why should I be the one doing all the work and "proving?"

    I copied your words because I guess you'll probably write "I didn't' say that!"

    Nobody knows everything, in fact I myself know very little and I know I know little. But on the short time I've been on this forum, I can see you are pretending to be far more knowledgeable than you really are. You've made at least several statements that reveal this to me. I don't know, maybe you're 12 years old and very smart, but cannot admit when he's wrong or mistaken.


    This kind of personal remark is totally unnecessary, and is not encouraged by the moderators. Speaking of "12 year olds," I am very disappointed in you, Jerry. You should be more logical, and if you want to argue an issue, don't make testosterone-charged remarks like this.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-01-2020 at 13:39.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I know that. So why did Bach & his sons refuse to accept Rameau's theory of chord inversion, preferring the old figured bass method? It seems to me that this is a theoretical disagreement.
    Why do you keep putting Rameau's theories and figured bass in the same sentences? They have nothing to do with one another. They don't do the same thing. They are phenomena in completely different categories! Get it? You are fundamentally confused about this in a way that seems impervious to correction.

    What evidence do you have that Bach rejected Rameau's theory? Do you have some quotations or documentary evidence you'd like to share?

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    After the fact, you can analyze his music that way, but it still conforms to older polyphonic ways of thinking: resolution, tension, passing tones, etc., so it is really not what we would consider "harmonic thinking" in any modern sense. There are no "major seventh chords" in Bach.
    How many times do you have to hear this before it sinks in?: Among common practice composers, linear, voice-leading considerations apply across the board whether or not a particular composer writes predominantly polyphonic or homophonic music.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    At least I can think freely, outside the box of academia; apparently your "education" is a restriction to your thinking.
    You haven't demonstrated that you can even see the box, let alone that you know what's in it.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Okay, I've listed two good sources for my argument. Let's see the same from your side. I challenge you to do the same. Why should I be the one doing all the work and "proving?"
    Posting images of books covers isn't supporting your arguments. You need to quote actual content from these sources — words and ideas. You understand that, right?
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-01-2020 at 14:41.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Why do you keep putting Rameau's theories and figured bass in the same sentences? They have nothing to do with one another. They don't do the same thing. They are phenomena in completely different categories! Get it? You are fundamentally confused about this in a way that seems impervious to correction.
    I wouldn't characterize my posts that way. Are you following the discussion?

    What evidence do you have that Bach rejected Rameau's theory? Do you have some quotations or documentary evidence you'd like to share?
    Are you reading the posts and following the discussion? You seem totally confused. I listed two good sources right above this post.

    How many times do you have to hear this before it sinks in?: Among common practice composers, linear, voice-leading considerations apply across the board whether or not a particular composer writes predominantly polyphonic or homophonic music.
    That's really not what the discussion is about, because I'm not limiting "true harmonic thinking" to common practice thinking. This is your assumption. If you want to make that point, you need to say it, and assert it, not just use an unstated assumption to invalidate my assertions. Are you following all this?

    You haven't demonstrated that you can even see the box, let alone that you know what's in it.
    Well, I think you have demonstrated an inability to present a point, other than "because I said so."
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-01-2020 at 14:41.

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