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Harmonic Rhythm

 

 

Understanding harmonic rhythm

Bradley Lehman
wrote (October 27, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote: << We analyze the harmonic changes in any piece to help figure out the note level of the basic beat. >>
< How does establishing the basic beat through harmonic analysis allegedly prescribe the tempo of a piece, Brad? >
If the correct note-level is the beat, the performance won't be grossly too slow or too fast (by a factor of 2 or 3), or have too much detail (impeding the flow), or too little detail (being glib and facile).

"Duh."

===============

Here's a posting of mine from May 2003, copied over from the BachCantatas list, where I addressed all these same issues. The example in it is especially fresh in my mind today, because the baseball "World Series" was last week and the Star-Spangled Banner was of course sung at every game. That is a piece that is typically done now at a grossly wrong tempo by a factor of 3! Between the 18th century and now, it has slowed down threefold!

However, I sincerely doubt that most singers today have even thought about it in this manner that I describe below; they just go by what they have heard elsewhere, and the piece keeps dragging slower and slower and slower through the generations.

Bart wrote: < You certainly say that when you hummed the piece through the way you like it, it was faster than the tempo of all these conductors. OK.

But are you saying more than that? Are you saying that by studying a score, and ignoring explicit indications like metronome markings, you can DEDUCE what the most appropriate tempo for a piece is?

I would have thought that was logically impossible - unless of course you bring in some explicitly stated assumptions along the way.

Can you clarify this please? >
Bart, those metronome markings in that piano/vocal score were put there more than 150 years after the piece was written. As "explicit indications," yes, they should be ignored! (As our Mr Braatz has pointed out, it's important to know which markings in a score come from a composer and which ones are from elsewhere.)

And, as I've said, there are quite a few clues directly in the composition to determine (deduce) tempo:

< An appropriate tempo, as in all this music, is determined by quite a few factors: the meter marking (cut C, followed by 12/8, followed by cut C); the rate of harmonic change; the acoustics of the hall; the types of figuration in the music; the abilities of the performers; the conventions of performing music that is in this dotted "French ouverture" style (including a non-literal reading of the dotted figures); ..... >
The hall acoustics and the performers' abilities are of course not in the score, but those other things are....

As I pointed out before, with other cantatas and the SJP and SMP etc., the most important considerations are the speed of the harmonic motion and the figuration of the fastest non-ornamental notes. The meter signature also usually gives a confirmation of that same thing, the rate of harmonic motion (changing at half-bars, quarter-bars, whatever). If the music is at all based on dance forms, that too suggests a tempo: how does a dancing human body obey the laws of gravity? And if there are words, at what rates are they intelligible? All these are notated clues to finding an appropriate tempo.

Either on this list or the BachRecordings list, maybe both, I've already recommended the book Dance and the Music of J S Bach by Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne. They present this material well. The speeds for given dance forms could vary, of course, but the basic way of feeling the meter is pretty straightforward.

That doesn't mean one should bash headlong through every piece at a strict, straitjacketed tempo; everything has to breathe. I'm simply saying: the metric and harmonic layout of the music suggest a most natural tempo range. Start off on "the correct foot" by picking a good tempo, and then play/sing musically!

=====

Here's an example from the concert I played on Friday night. The gig was at president James Madison's house, and it was supposed to be rather patriotic, so as the encore we (the singer and I) did a song that was written during Madison's presidency: "The Star-Spangled Banner". The tune is a popular 18th century song (drinking song), "Anacreon in Heaven"...and we performed from the first printed edition that put the music and words together, 1815. (The new words alone were published in 1814 in several journals, saying they should be applied to this tune.)

The meter in that score is 6/4, that is, two beats per bar subdivided into three each. And the harmony changes (not unexpectedly) at that same rate: twice per bar, or sometimes only once per bar...also making it clear that this piece is "in 2." So we picked a straightforward, moderate, easily dancing tempo, felt in 2. The words "Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed by the twilight's last gleaming" lasted about 10 seconds. (Try it. It's about the same speed at which one would speak the words, without music.) And we gave a little bit of lilt and snap to the quavers, the few that there were ("by the dawn's", "what so proud-")...a slight inequality to them...bouncy, like a nice little dance, or like guys heartily singing in a pub, swinging their beer mugs. All a very easy flow of all the normal notes, those crotchets. Then along the way we modified the tempo a bit, for example giving a bit more emphasis to "the rockets' red glare" and the "in God is our trust" (in the fourth stanza), to go with the drama of the words, but then picked back up to that basic tempo.

After the program, several people came up to us and said, "Wow, I've never heard that song done that way before, but it's really beautiful that way! And it sounds so much better like this than it does the much slower baseball-game way! Thank you!"

Heck, we weren't out to strip off 100 years of bad performance tradition (although we did so); we were just trying to present the music beautifully from its notation, and from its background as a pop song, and according to the most natural rate of its words.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 28, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] hey I'm just learning this in theory class! Now I know exactly what you're talking about-that's so cool.

Harmonic Rhythm - Examples

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
I wrote: < (...) Pieces with a fast character-word tend to have slower harmonic rhythm than slow pieces do. THAT IS: harmonic rhythm is more nearly a constant across all sorts of pieces, than you suspected it was.

That is also assuming you understand: words such as "Largo" and "Adagio" and "Allegro" and "Presto" and "Andante" are character words in the 17th and 18th centuries, not absolute tempo words! "Adagio" means "at ease", i.e. free and loose and relaxed, not dogmatically "slow." "Andante" means "like walking." "Vivace" means "lively" (with extra emphasis/attention at >smaller levels of note-values), not dogmatically "fast." >
Here are some examples, so that those who are willing to think in this manner will begin to do so:

- Italian Concerto finale, "Presto", cut-C: the harmony changes most often at the whole bar, occasionally the half-bar...i.e. at a breve or a minim.

- Goldberg Variations #11, unmarked but obviously fast (running semiquavers as groups of 6), 12/16: changes at half-bar, i.e. dotted quaver.

- Goldberg Variations #14, unmarked, 3/4: changes at whole bar, and those bars are filled with semiquavers and hemisemiquavers...a whirlwind!

- Goldberg Variations #15, "Andante", 2/4: harmonic changes most often at the quaver, i.e. four times per bar.

- Goldberg Variations #25, "Adagio", 3/4: harmonic changes most often at the quaver, i.e. six times per bar.

- Sonata 1003 arranged as 964, first mvt, "Grave"/"Adagio", C: most often at crotchet four times per bar.

- Sonata 1003 arranged as 964, second mvt, "Fuga"/"Fuga Allegro", 2/4: most often at whole bar (minim), occasionally at half (crotchets).

- Sonata 1003 arranged as 964, third mvt, "Andante", 3/4: crotchet, three times per bar.

- Sonata 10arranged as 964, fourth mvt, "Allegro", C: most often at half or whole bar; occasionally at crotchet.

- "O Mensch, bewein..." 622, "Adagio assai" & "adagissimo", C: at the quaver, eight times per bar.

Those are all, of course, averages. As Bach was a good composer, he didn't get himself stuck with harmonic changes predictably spaced all the way through a movement; that would be dull. When harmony starts to change more rapidly than the general pattern he has set up, it's exciting (for example, often when approaching a cadence); when it changes more slowly (as at the beginning of a section) it establishes a home key more firmly.

Frankly, this harmonic-rhythm stuff is a good way to recognize an unmarked Adagio (fast harmonic changes on very small note values) or an unmarked Allegro or Presto (whole or half bars, harmony changing at breves or minims). The character comes from the interconnection of the meter signature, harmonic motion, and speed of the fastest values; the character word merely confirms that, rarely telling us anything we couldn't already figure out.

If the harmony is changing faster than the denominator of the meter signature, it's probably slow music. If vice versa, it's fast music.

If it agrees exactly, it's moderate music. This general rule is derived from empirical observation of the music, not from the citation of authority figures.

This is science, but not rocket science. Start by observing the melodic and rhythmic activity of the bass line, and most of the work is already done! (As Bach knew, of course: saying that thoroughbass is the soul of his music.)

=====

What I'm wondering (a question to the psychologists) is: are human beings predisposed to expect harmonic changes at a fairly constant rate (on average), regardless of the character of the music that fills up the time? For 17th and 18th century European music, anyway. Or, even more, is it a cultural thing? I'm thinking of Indian classical music that sometimes stays in the same scale for half an hour. Or Wagner, who pointed out that all music really is Adagio at some level or another.


Academia, harmonic rhythm, eccentricity, etc

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 27, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Uri, I agree. And I've never said that an analysis of harmonic rhythm dictates any immutable tempo choice (which is the extreme way it appears Charles is taking my comments); it's--as I pointed out--only one especially important factor among many. Exactly as you've said here, such analysis shows where tension and resolution happen, and that is a major clue to a proper speed.

A piece of music can be forced to work at some other weird speed, and Scherchen (and Glenn Gould, et al) were masters at doing that; but these were still eccentric interpretations. One needs to know what a normal tempo for a piece is, before doing something eccentric with it (or recognizing it when somebody else does it, recognizing that they're working against the grain of the music to bring out something abnormal). If a listener knows only eccentric interpretations, or favors them among the choices, s/he's inevitably going to pick up some odd priorities, and honestly might not realize they're odd.

As we all [I hope "should already"] know, academia in any field seeks to spell out what is normal, and to codify the "rules" of craftsmanship that can be derived. In any field of education, the student must know what the best accepted (by academic experts) norm is, before picking up an ability to appreciate or recognize the abnormal.

I enjoy idiosyncratic musical performances as much as anyone does, perhaps more, in part because they rub against the norms and make artistic statements; I shoot for such an approach in my own performances also (as un-pedantic as possible, going above pedantic norms by really knowing what they are). But I can appreciate that process a whole lot more on this side after academic study, than I ever could before that education. [And I don't fancy Glenn Gould's work nearly as much now as I did before graduate school!...that was a casualty. Gould was brilliant, and still worth listening to for the ideas he sparks, but he really was a bluffer. If Gould had completed high school and gone on to university, with that inquisitive structural brain of his, he could have done even more brilliant things with his talent!]

That ability to recognize norms and patterns, and to think clearly and critically above them, is the point of truly in-depth education: as opposed to mere training of skill (like a parrot), or wild guesswork, or autodidactic study by people who mean well. An educated person knows how to draw together resources from wherever they may be found (as Bach told his boy CPE), synthesizing them intelligently without wild guessing, knowing how to recognize the best things and then improve upon them. An educated person knows how to learn more, and is thirsty for it, always: and able to draw in useful influences from seemingly different fields altogether. (Does chaos theory in the social sciences and abstract mathematics have something to tell us about musical composition and performance? You betcha! Does negotiation theory in conflict resolution have something to tell us about how people receive a piece of music, coming to it with various expectations? You betcha! Can a musician give a roomful of psychologists and sociologists something to take home, some new insight into their own fields by analogy? You betcha! Can the applied mathematics of acoustics and instrument tuning tell us amazing things about the music, things a non-mathematical person wouldn't realize? Definitely.) That ability to figure things out, both straightforwardly and with some sideways thinking across supposed boundaries, is what a doctorate is supposed to measure and hone and reward.

I remember that some of the other students in my university cohorts (both in performance and musicology) did come into it wanting to be trained like parrots, instead of learning to think, and learning what an informed perspective is. There are always some like that who just want to hear what the established rules are so they can follow them like obedient sheep. But that's weeded out at the doctoral level.

It should be weeded out (IMO) at the undergraduate level, by the third year of university if not before; that's what university education used to mean. But there will always be some who don't want that, who just want to coast through and have the four-year attendance certificate. My wife complains to me regularly that most of her juniors and seniors (she is a university instructor in sociology and political-science subjects) still don't know how to think; the things they write in their exams and research papers are outlandishly bad and silly. All we academic pedants can do is keep correcting them gently but firmly, in the hope that they do learn how to think eventually, and that they have some reliable information at their fingertips instead of bluffing. Call the student's bluffs NOW while he's still in school, instead of letting him get to some later life situation where bluffing won't work, and where the results will have bigger consequences.

Charles Francis wrote (October 28, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: Uri, I agree. And I've never said that an analysis of harmonic rhythm dictates any immutable tempo choice (which is the extreme way it appears Charles is taking my comments); it's--as I pointed out—only one especially important factor among many. >
I see you've adopted a more rational position, Brad.

< Exactly as you've said here, such analysis shows where tension and resolution happen, and that is a major clue to a proper speed. >
How does knowing where tension and resolution occur indicate speed, Brad? Surely, if the tempo is Largo the tension and resolution occurs slowly, while if tempo is Presto it occurs rapidly. In other words "patterns of tension and resolution" do NOT prescribe tempo.

< A piece of music can be forced to work at some other weird speed, and Scherchen (and Glenn Gould, et al) were masters at doing that; but these were still eccentric interpretations. >
We are lacking both quantitative and indicators for the tempo of Contrapuctus 4. What basis, therefore, for classifying a performance as "eccentric" or "weird"?

< One needs to know what a normal tempo for a piece is, before doing something eccentric with it (or recognizing it when somebody else does it, recognizing that they're working against the grain of the music to bring out something abnormal). If a listener knows only eccentric interpretations, or favors them among the choices, s/he's inevitably going to pick up some odd priorities, and honestly might not realize they're odd. >
What is a "normal" tempo, Brad? (hint: ask your wife how norms are established)

< As we all [I hope "should already"] know, academia in any field seeks to spell out what is normal, and to codify the "rules" of craftsmanship that can be derived. In any field of education, the student must know what the best accepted (by academic experts) norm is, before picking up an ability to appreciate or recognize the abnormal. >
Where do these norms come from, Brad?

< I enjoy idiosyncratic musical performances as much as anyone does, perhaps more, in part because they rub against the norms and make artistic statements; I shoot for such an approach in my own performances also (as un-pedantic as possible, going above pedantic norms by really knowing what they are). But I can appreciate that process a whole lot more on this side after academic study, than I ever could before that education. [And I don't fancy Glenn Gould's work nearly as much now as I did before graduate school!...that was a casualty. Gould was brilliant, and still worth listening to for the ideas he sparks, but he really was a bluffer. If Gould had completed high school and gone on to university, with that inquisitive structural brain of his, he could have done even more brilliant things with his talent!] >
What is an idiosyncratic performance, Brad? (hint: ask your wife)

< That ability to recognize norms and patterns, and to think clearly and critically above them, is the point of truly in-depth education: as opposed to mere training of skill (like a parrot), or wild guesswork, or autodidactic study by people who mean well. An educated person knows how to draw together resources from wherever they may be found (as Bach told his boy CPE), synthesizing them intelligently without wild guessing, knowing how to recognize the best things and then improve upon them. An educated person knows how to learn more, and is thirsty for it, always: and able to draw in useful influences from seemingly different fields altogether. >
In science, educated opinion is informed by experiment, while in musicology the criteria for educated opinion appears to be peer review, Brad.

< (Does chaos theory in the social sciences and abstract mathematics have something to tell us about musical composition and performance? You betcha! Does negotiation theory in conflict resolution have something to tell us about how people receive a piece of music, coming to it with various expectations? You betcha! Can a musician give a roomful of psychologists and sociologists something to take home, some new insight into their own fields by analogy? You betcha! Can the applied mathematics of acoustics and instrument tuning tell us amazing things about the music, things a non-mathematical person wouldn't realize? Definitely.) That ability to figure things out, both straightforwardly and with some sideways thinking across supposed boundaries, is what a doctorate is supposed to measure and hone and reward.

I remember that some of the other students in my university cohorts (both in performance and musicology) did come into it wanting to be trained like parrots, instead of learning to think, and learning what an informed perspective is. There are always some like that who just want to hear what the established rules are so they can follow them like obedient sheep. But that's weeded out at the doctoral level.

It should be weeded out (IMO) at the undergraduate level, by the third year of university if not before; that's what university education used to mean. But there will always be some who don't want that, who just want to coast through and have the four-year attendance certificate. ? >
On the other hand, those remedial harmony classes you mentioned presumably gave an essential second chance.

< My wife complains to me regularly that most of her juniors and seniors (she is a university instructor in sociology and political-science subjects) still don't know how to think; the things they write in their exams and research papers are outlandishly bad and silly. >
Your suggestion that harmonic analysis prescribes the tempo of a piece can be viewed in much the same light, Brad.

< All we academic pedants can do is keep correcting them gently but firmly, in the hope that they do learn how to think eventually, and that they have some reliable information at their fingertips instead of bluffing. Call the student's bluffs NOW while he's still in school, instead of letting him get to some later life situation where bluffing won't work, and where the results will have bigger consequences. >
You mentioned working as a computer programmer, Brad. Do you feel handicapped by lack of a relevant PhD?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 28, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: << Uri, I agree. And I've never said that an analysis of harmonic rhythm dictates any immutable tempo choice (which is the extreme way it appears Charles is taking my comments); it's--as I pointed out—only one especially important factor among many. >>
Charles Francis wrote: < I see you've adopted a more rational position, Brad. >
My "rational position" hasn't changed, Charles; only your (now slightly less) limited perception of it.

<< Exactly as you've said here, such analysis shows where tension and resolution happen, and that is a major clue to a proper speed. >>
< How does knowing where tension and resolution occur indicate speed, Brad? Surely, if the tempo is Largo the tension and resolution occurs slowly, while if tempo is Presto it occurs rapidly. >
"Surely"?! Guess again. Better yet, don't guess. I you'd look at the music, you'd see that it's easier to prove the opposite conclusion (empirically!): pieces with a fast character-word tend to have slower harmonic rhythm than slow pieces do. THAT IS: harmonic rhythm is more nearly a constant across all sorts of pieces, than you suspected it was.

That is also assuming you understand: words such as "Largo" and "Adagio" and "Allegro" and "Presto" and "Andante" are character words in the 17th and 18th centuries, not absolute tempo words! "Adagio" means "at ease", i.e. free and loose and relaxed, not dogmatically "slow." "Andante" means "like walking." "Vivace" means "lively" (with extra emphasis/attention at smaller levels of note-values), not dogmatically "fast."

< In other words "patterns of tension and resolution" do NOT prescribe tempo. >
<< A piece of music can be forced to work at some other weird speed, and Scherchen (and Glenn Gould, et al) were masters at doing that; but these were still eccentric interpretations. >>
< We are lacking both quantitative and qualitative indicators for the tempo of Contrapuctus 4. What basis, therefore, for classifying a performance as "eccentric" or "weird"? >
What do you mean, "we" are lacking those things? I'm not. I've already explained to you (quite clearly, I thought) the many quantitative and qualitative factors I weigh in considering a tempo choice. I'm an empiricist in this field.

Have you not read my web essay about that, from last year? This one:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/performance-preparation.htm

< In science, educated opinion is informed by experiment, while in musicology the criteria for educated opinion appears to be peer review, Brad. >
Guess again.

<< My wife complains to me regularly that most of her juniors and seniors (she is a university instructor in sociology and political-science subjects) still don't know how to think; the things they write in their exams and research papers are outlandishly bad and silly. >>
< Your suggestithat harmonic analysis prescribes the tempo of a piece can be viewed in much the same light, Brad. >
What about your assertion that it doesn't?

<< All we academic pedants can do is keep correcting them gently but firmly, in the hope that they do learn how to think eventually, and that they have some reliable information at their fingertips instead of bluffing. Call the student's bluffs NOW while he's still in school, instead of letting him get to some later life situation where bluffing won't work, and where the results will have bigger consequences. >>
< You mentioned working as a computer programmer, Brad. Do you feel handicapped by lack of a relevant PhD? >
Yes, I do. Every day, and even more so when I visit clients' sites as I did several times this month. I get over it by asking my superiors to explain things (I'm good at asking probing questions), and by attending classes, and by reading technical materials, and by studying all the examples I can get my hands on. I'm not totally bereft of logic, either; I do have an undergraduate mathematics degree.

And when I get into a jam in a computer-related situation, I'm humble enough to admit that I don't know or understand something, but am willing to learn. I don't bluff. I ask important questions, and I listen to the answers, and I do experimentation with examples, sifting all the available evidence. That is what a scientist does, empirically, trying to get to the truth. If a client asks me a question I don't understand, I confer with my colleagues or put the client directly into contact with them, so the question can be answered better than I could do. Or, together, we all go do research and experiments so we all learn it, and can come back better informed. I'd rather have them get the right answer than get a bluffed guesswork answer from me. One of my strengths as a computer programmer is in getting the other people on a project to consider the details and possibilities that have been glossed over (I keep saying "But hey, what about that part?"), and give a clearly thought-out solution that can then be programmed: if they can explain it to me, as I gently force them to do, they understand it. That makes the whole project solid.

It's just as important to know where to find good information, as to know it. It's much better to admit a lack of knowledge and say, "But here's where we can find out..." than to bluff or guess an answer to a problem. My doctoral committee MADE SURE that I understood that. So do my computer clients.

=====

Nobody can explain more than he actually understands, in any field, although some people (such as yourself, in music) give it a try anyway. But in doing so, why do you disdain empirical evidence such as the following:
- playing Bach's music on the instruments he knew
- taking seriously the writings of Bach's own students
- the earlier music Bach himself knew
- contemporary theorists (contemporary with Bach, that is) on issues of form, counterpoint, performance practice, and tuning
- working knowledge of thoroughbass (i.e. harmonic analysis and improvisation based on the bass line: a field Bach said was vitally important to know as the soul of his music)?

Those of us who understand such things--and confront them directly--use them as vital parts of the clue-sifting process. If you would rather omit such evidence that you don't understand, and just guess at tempos &c by what you feel sounds good, you're free to do so.

There is some distance that people can travel without clues. Such people tend to get stuck at eccentric places, however, because they haven't been empirical enough with the available evidence. Such people have to fall back on glib assertions to dismiss evidence that is too inconvenient to their limited view of the material. Here are some of your most notable recent assertions: "Surely, if the tempo is Largo the tension and resolution occurs slowly, while if tempo is Presto it occurs rapidly"; and Kirnberger's comment about cut-C meter is "A remark indicative of Rococo performance practice, no doubt." Those are direct quotes from you, Charles. Your words "surely" and "no doubt" indicate that you simply haven't grappled with the material, but would rather have us believe that you did. Perhaps there is "no doubt" in your mind, honestly, but I'd say that suggests the workings of a closed mind.

And I'm still wondering why you said, "Acquaintance with the inane music of Bach's sons convinces me that having JS as a teacher counts for little." Don't you respect Bach's knowledge of the material, and his ability to teach it? That just looks to me like another prelude to dismissing all of Bach's students, saying they had no clue how to understand or perform his music, giving you carte blanche to prefer Scherchen's eccentric interpretations as authoritative. Should we say that your music teachers' abilities count for little, from the observation of your inane output? (I refer to your postings in this group, and the gross misinformation in them; have you also composed any music that we may see and hear?) That's a logical conclusion from your own line of reasoning here; are you sure that's what you want?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Chales Francis] In point of fact, if one looks at the score of BWV 1080, there are no tempo markings period. That means that like the indication of intended instrument, there are no indications of dynamics.

Charles Francis wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Quite so! My correspondent, however, maintains that harmonic analysis of Contrapunctus 4 prescribes the correct tempo (producing a rabbit out of a hat, so to speak). Thus, he concludes his own performance tempo is right, while Scherchen got it wrong.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] And I patiently explained my reasoning, thoroughly (including the part about character words vs tempo words). I see now that it was a waste of my time as you two gentlemen are not willing or prepared to think.

Dave Harman wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] But, please, don't stop. I'm really getting a lot of pleasure reading your replies. It's obvious to me, even if not to them, you're a professional performing musician who can explain some of the detail involved in preparing this music for performance.

I remember reading that the tuning - "temperment" that Bach intended for the
harpsichord when he wrote the WTC, was in existence before he wrote. Did Bach make any origional contributions to temperment ? Did he apply this to organ tuning ? Was Bach aware of the f minor problem and did he leave any writings that he addresses it ?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] What "words" are you referring to? The only "words" I have ever seen in a score of BWV 1080 is the title (i.e., Contrapunctus I ], etc.) or a dscription of the intended imitation (i.e., Canon per diminutio or "Alla Francese"). No other "words" are on any score I have seen (this includes both BGA and NBA).

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, as you would know if you were paying attention, at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11085
I cited quite a few of the Bach pieces that do have character words such as "Andante" or "Presto" (etc) to show that there is a correlation between meter signature, harmonic rhythm, and the character word.

That is: when there is no character word (such as in KdF, BWV 1080, as you've correctly pointed out) we can still determine character and tempo appropriately from the use of these and other clues, and extrapolate a suitable character word. I have described those other clues in other postings, also; check the archives.

It is also valuable to know the 17th and 18th century treatises about meter and tempo, to understand what the markings meant to those composers instead of just guessing from later practice (as you and many others do). A good scholarly study of these sources is George Houle's 1987 book, Meter in Music, 1600-1800: Performance, Perception, andNotation. I dare say, the consideration of all the evidence is an improvement on your guesswork method where you said "As to the speed issue, to me the score speaks for itself. (...)"

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] However, you still leave a lot out.

How do you account for the movements (for example in the Orgelkonzerte) that read "Ohne besetzung" (without meter)?

Also, if one looks at the entire oeuvre of Bach, one would find very little in the way of tempo or dynamics markings (especially in the Keyboard works [including Organ]).

As to your "experts", I would point out that they also address the issue from the point of view of the 20t/21st century. The practice in German lands back then was left to the performer. I should point out that not all performers have the same concept of Allegro or Andante. For example, I might take Allegro a little slower than you do. I also might take Andante a little faster. That is why it is valuable to have more than 1 interpretation in recording of a work. One can do a comparison between the different interpretations and see what one likes.

I would also point out that there are hardly any treatises from the period on rhythm and dynamics. These were of greater concern for the Rococo and later periods. In the Baroque, the performer was still king. This was largely because the composer and the performer were oftentimes one and the same person. They did not do much printing at all of works (particularly in Northern Germany) except the librettos of the Cantatas. The exceptions were of course the Klavieruebung series of Kuehnau and Bach and the Hexachorium Apollonis of Pachelbel. Even Bach's Mühlhausen Ratskantate "Gott
ist mein Köenig
" (BWV 71) is a rarety.

As to the score issue, since we don't have Bach around, the score I feel is the next best source. One can,like I said, have some pretty good guidelines from the score as to tempo and meter for a piece that has no indications. As to the rate of the tempo and/or meter, that depends on the performer. But the general tempo and/or meter can be determined in the way I mentioned.

Keep in mind, too, that the Die Kunst der Fuge has no structure, either. the format we have has come down to us not from Bach himself, butrather from Emanuel Bach. There is an Autograph, but that was left unfinished and/or represents the earlier version. As to the modern structure, I favor Graeser's format since it seems the more logical.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 3, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: << In point of fact, if one looks at the score of BWV 1080, there are no tempo markings period. That means that like the indication of intended instrument, there are no indications of dynamics. >>
Charles Francis wrote: < Quite so! My correspondent, however, maintains that harmonic analysis of Contrapunctus 4 prescribes the correct tempo (producing a rabbit out of a hat, so to speak). Thus, he concludes his own performance tempo is right, while Scherchen got it wrong. >
And I patiently explained my reasoning, thoroughly (including the part about character words vs tempo words). I see now that it was a waste of my time as you two gentlemen are not willing or prepared to think.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 5, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] As I said (or maybe I didn't but meant to), except for a very few words (and those mainly to indicate the type of imitation with the exception of the "alla Francese" contrapunctus), there are no words at all. So your discrimination between tempo words and character words have no bearing on the issue. This, by the way, I got from both the BGA and NBA editions (the BGA is the Graeser one, although the same goes for the other version too).

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Last update: ýNovember 6, 2003 ý20:04:35