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Passus duriusculus

'passus duriusculus'

Continue of discussion from Cantata BWV 91 - Discussions Part 2

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 1, 2006):
How a Bach expert uses the term 'passus duriusculus' (as musical figures that either descending or ascend chromatically).

Eric Chafe "Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach", University of California Press, 1991,

pp.200-201

BWV 181/2 ("Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister") [Re: the first recitative]:

"The devices of the tonal ascent and turn from minor to major have all been encountered in other cantatas. More interesting here is the manner in which the ascent is initiated at the end of the first recitative. At first the narrative moves downward from E minor, approaching an A minor cadence though its subdominant in "den Schaden nicht versteht noch glaubt." The succeeding arioso then moves sharpward (E minor, B minor) in imitative dissonance-resolution patterns reminiscent of the opening chorus of "ich hatte viel Bekümmernis," diverting the arrival at B minor to a low D sharp in the bass. Then the chord of the diminished seventh above D sharp and the dominant seventh on G sharp (i.e., dominant functions to E minor and C sharp, respectively) are emphasized; the bass outlines the tones of the latter chord, working its way down to the low B sharp (enharmonically C, the bottom of the normal pitch spectrum). From this point to the final bass f sharp the chromatic notes between b sharp and f sharp appear in a variety of intervals that would have been identified as the music-rhetorical figures 'passus duriusculus' and 'saltus duriusculus': diminished octave, diminished fifth, chromatic semitone. Cross-relations occur with some of the changes of harmony. The text throughout this passage refers to the rocks split apart by Jesus' last words, the stone rolled away from Jesus' tomb, and the rock from which Moses brought forth water, ening "Willst du, o Herz, noch härter sein?". This ending is but one of the places where Bach associates sharps with the 'cantus durus' to allegorize hard-heartedness. As all these works show, the sharps can be 'scharf' and 'hart', allegorizing a 'schwere Gang', but the ascent, once attained, is positive."

pp. 418-419

[Re: SMP, BWV 244 "The Trial"]

"The move into sharps for the trial was delayed, undoubtedly to allow the flats to culminate in Jesus' "Du sagest's." Pilate's question, "Hörest du nicht, wie 'hart' sie dich verklagen?" sets up an antithetical relationship between Jesus and his persecutors. Numerous devices throughout the trial then express its hard character: that interrupted cadence at "Barabbam!" with its diminished fifth bass motion substituting for the expected perfect fifth, the chromaticism of "Wie wunderbarlich" ('passus duriusculus' in the old rhetorical terminology), the augmented and diminished intervals ('salti duriusculi) of "Lass ihn kreuzigen," as well as the transposition of its second appearance further into sharps, the severity of "Sein Blut komme über uns," and the like. Against all this, as we said, the aria "Aus Liebe" stands as an oasis of gentleness."

"Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe!" Chorale BWV 244/46 bass line ascending chromatically.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 1, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< How a Bach expert uses the term 'passus duriusculus' (as musical figures that either descending or ascend chromatically).
Eric Chafe "Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach", University of California Press, 1991, pp.200-201
BWV 181/2 ("Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister")
Re: the first recitative]:
[...] From this point to the final bass f sharp the chromatic notes between b sharp and f sharp appear in a variety of intervals that would have been identified as the music-rhetorical figures 'passus duriusculus' and 'saltus duriusculus': diminished octave, diminished fifth, chromatic semitone. <end quote>
This sentence is typical of much of Chafe's writing: virtually impenetrable to the non-specialist reader, without a music example. I suspect it is equally impenetrable to the specialist reader. I will hope that one of them speaks up.

And perhaps it would remain equally impenetrable, even with a music example, who knows.

Chris Rowson wrote (December 1, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] I asked some Latin scholars to explain the term for me. "Passus" of course is "step" (compare the English "pace"). "durus" is "hard" and "durius" is "harder", so "passus durius would be "harder step". The "-culus" termination is a diminutive, so "a bit harder". Thus the phrase means roughly "slightly harder step".

I hope that makes everything clear.

Chris Stanley wrote (December 1, 2006):
Or does it correspond to the Wikipedia translation of "suffer harshness"?

According to google (who needs a shelf of music dictionaries nowadays?) - try an advanced search and use exact phrase to get rid of the dross-

.... it is a chromatic 4th "a musical figure introduced by Christoph Bernhard in his Tractatus compositionis augmentatus (1648-9)" quotation from a fascinating article by Ruben Lopez Cano at: http://www.geocities.com/lopezcano/Expresive.htm

or simply a series of chromatic steps: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~neumeyer/rules/Bernhard.html

is the Wikipedia definition correct?

and you can find out more about passus duriusculus from the other 590 odd google returns no doubt in addition to the Peter Smaill piece on pd on BWV 78.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 1, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] I believe saltus = Eng. leap, so saltus d. would then be <slightly harder leap>? As in <leap of Faith>?

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 1, 2006):
[To Chris Stanley] The series of chromatic steps seems to be common to all definitions, although I am not sure what the Chafe citation actually says. He appears to be allowing a variety of intervals, but he also appears to almost always conform to a principle something like <when you don't know what you are talking about, make sure no one else does either.> I made a pretty good living for many years as a consultant in various fields, so I am adept at the technique when there is cash (or even casg) at stake. Fortunately, that's not the case here, so I reiterate my motto: eschew obfuscation!

I believe we could come up with a perfectly good American English definition along the lines of the <series of chromatic steps>. The direction and limits of the series would need to be established and agreed on, a daunting but not impossible challenge. Whether anyone would use the definition is another matter. We are still struggling with the X-motif proposed by Alain, as a less confusing alternative for ciirculatio.

BTW and OT, are you not another rock guy? The curators at the Harvard Mineralogical Museum are good friends of mine. They believe they have the best collection in the Americas. I asked <Why not the world?> The response: <Can't touch the British Museum.>

Chris Rowson wrote (December 1, 2006):
[To Chris Stanley] The Wikipedia translation as "suffer harshness" is attractive because of the usual perception of the falling semitones as linked with suffering, or even death (vide Schütz, Purcell and JSB) but problematical because of the question of how to parse the adjectival form "duriusculus" if "passus" is seen as conjugated from "patior" = I suffer.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 2, 2006):
It may be that such a term as 'passus duriusculus', although actively used and understood during the 17th century, more specifically in Germany, is now experiencing a revival of sorts, particularly as musicologists and performers interested in performance practices of the 17th and 18th century German music seek a deeper understanding of musical rhetorical figures as understood by composers of that time. Modern musical dictionaries seem to be playing a game of catch-up with the research in this field which began in the 20th , but which has increased dramatically during the past decade or so. The Harvard Music Dictionary, I assume, is hopelessly outdated in this regard (please correct me, if the term 'passus duriusculus' is included with an explanation/definition of this term) and the Grove Music Dictonary does not fare too well in this regard either: there are only two references to the term and these come from the works of German scholars from the late 1980s.

The following two quotations are the only ones containing the term 'passus duriusculus'. They are from Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 12/1/06:

An article on Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) by Janice B Stockigt who attributes this information to W. Reich: 'Zwei Zelenka-Studien' (Dresden, 1987).

"Repeated shifts between parallel major and minor tonalities, chromaticisms emanating from the use of the 'passus duriusculus' and concentrated harmonic progressions with amassings of suspensions (reminiscent of Lotti) frequently appear."

also

in the article "Rhetoric and Music after 1750" by Peter A Hoyt:

"In the late 20th century Krones extended this tradition to the analysis of works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and even later composers. His account of the first three bars of Wagner's prelude to "Tristan und Isolde" proposes the use of "exclamatio" (the rising minor 6th), "passus duriusculus" (the rising and falling chromatic lines), "catachresis" (the 'Tristan chord') and "suspiratio" (the rest at the end of the phrase). Here figures no longer ornament the language, as in traditional rhetorical theory, but comprise the very stuff of the language itself."

H. Krones : "Rhetorik und rhetorische Symbolik in der Musik um 1800: vom Weiterleben eines Prinzips", Musiktheorie, iii (1988), 117-40

H. Krones : '"Meine Sprache verstehet man durch die ganze Welt": das "redende Prinzip" in Joseph Haydns Instrumentalmusik', "Wort und Ton im Europäischen Raum: Gedenkschrift für Robert Schollum", ed. H. Krones (Vienna, 1989), 79-108

The MGG1 (Bärenreiter, 1986) despite being already quite dated nevertheless fares a little better with the following two entries:

Harold E. Samuel's article on Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1665)

"Wie alle Nürnberger hat Kindermann relativ wenig Gebrauch von den rhetorischen Figuren der Musica poetica gemacht, aber einige Beisp. sind auffallend, wie die "Passus duriusculus" bei den Worten »passus et sepultus est« im »Credo in unum deum« (Nr. 2 der Musica Catechetica). (Bärenreiter, 1986) ["Similar to all {other} Nürnberg {composers of that period}, Kindermann made relatively little use of the rhetorical figures of the "Musica poetica", but several examples are remarkable/worth noting; for instance, the 'passus duriusculus' used where the words "passus et sepultus est" occur in his "Credo in unum deum" (number 2 of the "Musica Catechetica". "]

Arnold Schmitz's article on "Musikalisch-rhetorische Figuren" delves more deeply into this matter:

He states that Christoph Bernhard's (1627-1692) 'passus duriusculus' is probably the same as Joachim Burmeister's (1566-1629) term 'parrhesia'.

[Johann Gottfried Walther, in his 'Musicalisches Lexicon." Leipzig 1732 also has an entry for the latter term for which he cites Joachimus Thuringus' "Opusculum bipartitum" vol. 2 "de Compenendi Regulis" Berlin, 1625, where the term 'parrhesia' means whenever a 'mi contra fa' is used in a composition but does not create an "Übellaut" (literally a "bad sound," or "dissonance")].

Schmitz, in the section of this article pertinent to his introduction of the term "passus duriusculus", begins with describing the category of musical figures subsumed under the name "Hypotyposis", a class of an inexhaustible number of musical figures. One type is called 'musical onamatopoeia' and the other type is 'musical word-painting'. Burmeister (1606) gives a general definition of this type:

»Hypotyposis est illud ornamentum, quo textus significatio ita deumbratur, ut ea, quae textui subsunt et animam vitamque non habent, vita esse praedita videantur«

["Hypotyposis is that kind of ornament by means of which the meaning of the text is made clearer, so that that which is at the basis of the text and lacks both soul and life, will be provided with life."]

Vividness/rich imagery, whether quite apparent or hidden, can also be an important aspect of musical figures which belong to other classes as well; for example, the 'saltus duriusculus' and 'passus duriusculus,' the 'suspiratio' or 'tmesis,' 'catachresis,' 'heteropesis,' among others. The names of these rhetorical figures are already in themselves very picturesque and they contain a description of the essential element that explains their nature as well as indicating how they are to be applied. Among the figures in the class of "emphasis" are some of the following: 'anaphora,' 'epizeuxis' = 'gradation/auxesis,' 'anadiplosis,' 'epistrophe,' 'symploke' ('complexio'), 'polyptoton,' etc. [all of these are given with short explanations].

Among these figures belonging to the class of the 'emphasis' type are several which serve to bring out emotional expression, particularly among the group called the "pathopoiia" which were described by Burmeister and Thuringus as figures in which there is a progression of stepwise forward movement in semitones either ascending or descending. Bernhard describes the 'saltus duriusculus' as consisting of interval 'leaps' of at least a 6th or more or intervals that are augmented or diminished. The 'passus duriusculus,' according to Bernhard, is the movement to a diminished or augmented interval. All these figures take place only within one and the same part. Bernhard's 'passus duriusculus' is probably identical with the figure called 'parrhesia' (melodic) in Burmeister's treatise. Related to this group of musical figures is 'parrhesia' (harmonic) which implies the artistic introduction of 'false relations' between different parts. One of the most daring instances of this can be found in the accompaniment for the recitative "Ach Golgatha, unsel'ges Golgatha" from the SMP (BWV 244) in the passage where the text reads "der Segen und das Heil der Welt."

(musical example is present in the text and will hopefully be supplied soon to the BCW)

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< From this point to the final bass f sharp the chromatic notes between b sharp and f sharp appear in a variety of intervals that would have been identified as the music-rhetorical figures 'passus duriusculus' and 'saltus duriusculus': diminished octave, diminished fifth, chromatic semitone. Cross-relations occur with some of the changes of harmony. The text throughout this passage refers to the rocks split apart by Jesus' last words, the stone >
This dense language, quoted by Thomas Bratty from Eric Chafe, which I previously responded to, is on more careful inspection perhaps more comprehensible than I first thought. Eric appears to be referring to up and down motions in the music which may occur at intervals of a minor second (chromatic semitone), a flatted fifth (Charles ("Bird') Parker). i.e., diminished fifth, or a diminished octave (I don't recall what "Bird " called this). Chafe adds to the clarity of the sentence by referring to the informal (Latin) names for these figures in inverse sequence, relative to his enumeration of them in standard musical jargon.

This clever device ensures that only the most persistent, the most dedicated of pedants will get the slightest inkling of what he might have been trying to say. If, indeed, he was trying to say anything at all, rather than being the clever Graduate Student, running some poundage past the professor. Time will tell. Nevertheless, it also ensures that there is a s kernel of some sort buried in the language. Whether that kernel represents truth is another matter. Apologies for the clarity of that statement.

And whether that kernel ultimately has any discernible meaning to others is now open for discussion.I have grasped it, at last! Now it is your turn.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 2, 2006):
Score Examples of Passus Duriusculus, etc.

Aryeh Oron has kindly placed some examples of 'passus duriusculus', 'saltus duriusculus' and 'parrhesia' as documented by Schmitz in his MGG1 article from which some definitions were presented yesterday.

The URL: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/Passus-Sco.htm
(to enlarge image, click again on it)

Chris Rowson wrote (December 2, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Do we have relevant translations of these Latin and Greek terms? My best understanding so far is that "passus duriusculus" = "slightly harder step". Earlier it seemed to mean "chromatic passage" but no longer.

From the days of my Greek studies, I remember that "parrhesia" means "saying everything", or "speaking clearly and simply".

What do these terms mean in this context, please?

Peter Smaill wrote (December 2, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] I am now confused a little as to what the passus duriusculus is since the four whole-tone opening of the Chorale BWV60/5 is also referred to by Dürr as the "Diabolicus in musica".

Here is a rendering of Bernhard's definition at: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~neumeyer/rules/Bernhard.html :

"13. Passus duriusculus: irregular melodic movements a. series of chromatic steps b. leaps of +2, +4, +5. He says none of these is common. -- about +2 as harmonic interval, see no. 18 below

14. Saltus duriusculus: irregular leaps
a. descending leap of m6
b. ascending leap of m6 from an accidental
c. ascending or descending d4
d. descending d5 -- not ascending
e. descending d7 -- not ascending (and not in choral music, only solo parts)
"
From this it seems that the expressions can be used quite widely , and not just for a chromatic run (passus duriusculus) or a particular downward leap (saltus duriusculus).

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< Do we have relevant translations of these Latin and Greek terms? My best understanding so far is that "passus duriusculus" = "slightly harder step". Earlier it seemed to mean "chromatic passage" but no longer.
From the days of my Greek studies, I remember that "parrhesia" means "saying everything", or "speaking clearly and simply".
What do these terms mean in this context, please? >
I looked at the samples, and wondered where to put Jump Up. Then I remembered the fine, if colloquial, American English expression <You know where you can put that!>

Julian Mincham wrote (December 2, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< I am now confused a little as to what the passus duriusculus is since the four whole-tone opening of the Chorale BWV60/5 is also referred to by Dürr as the "Diabolicus in musica". >
I have been confused by the entire discussion.

Many musical concepts are complex; the very nature of an art form which takes place wthin a pre-determined time scale with different events happening simultaneously is bound to be complicated. But most of the relevant ideas can be communicated and discussed in simple, clear language. A few technical terms may be helpful and they can always be explained or defined. But the wrapping up of straightforward events and techniques in obscure latinised terms does nothing to aid communication:- as the recent correspondence would seen to illustrate clearly.

(As far as I am concerned it is all that it has illustrated!)

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< (As far as I am concerned it is all that it has illustrated!) >
Au contraire, mon ami! (To the contrary, my friend). It has also illustrated the verity of the line by USA humorist Garrison Keillor: Lutheran humor is an oxymoron.

I'm pretty sure he said it, I'll do the research and report back.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 2, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>I am now confused a little as to what the passus duriusculus is since the four whole-tone opening of the Chorale BWV60/5 is also referred to by Dürr as the "Diabolicus in musica".<<
This has certainly surprised me as well!. The musical examples were derived from Schmitz' interpretation in the MGG1 (1986) long before anything on this appeared in English Music Dictionaries and even before some major research on these Baroque musical figures began to be published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hopefully I will be able to share some more definitive(?), at least more recent, information relative to this subject matter from Dietrich Bartel's more comprehensive book on this subject matter. (An article by Bartel was recently referred to on this list.) The questions that remain are "How is this term as well as few others like 'circulatio' being used by musicologists today?" and "Have the definitions been generalized?" We do know now that there was not always strict agreement on the definitions even among the 17th-century theorists and that different terms
may have been used to define similar musical-rhetorical figures.

In attempting to trace how the theoretical concept of musical-rhetorical figures was received in the late 17th century, Werner Braun ["Deutsche Musiktheorie des 15. bis 17. Jahrhunderts. Zweiter Teil: Von Calvisius bis Mattheson", Darmstadt, 1994] argued that it was possible to distinguish two independent concepts: one referring to Christoph Bernhard and another based on Burmeister's ideas in his "Musica poetica". The latter's ideas/concepts are the ones more likely to have received Bach's attention. Burmeister's definitions of musical-rhetorical figures were proliferated in Protestant regions of Germany by Joachim Thuringus' "Opusculum bipartitum de primordiis musicis..", Berlin, 1624. Burmeister and Thuringus were personally acquainted with each other. It is via Thuringus that Burmeister was included in Johann Gottfried Walther's "Musicalisches Lexicon...", Leipzig, 1732. The Catholic reception was engendered by Abbot Johannes Nucius' "Musices poeticae sive de compositione cantus. Praeceptiones absolutissimae...", Neisse, 1613. Nucius developed his musical-rhetorical figures along Burmeister's model, and on Nucius in return refer the theories of musical-rhetorical figures of influential authors such as Wolfgang Schonsleder ("Architectonice musices universalis", Ingolstadt, 1631 - 2nd ed. 1684, and Athanasius Kircher ("Musurgia universalis", Rome, 1650.

[The above information and summary courtesy of Rainer Bayreuther from his introduction to Burmeister's "Musica poetica", Laaber, 2004.]

Chris Rowson wrote (December 2, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This has certainly surprised me as well!. The musical examples were derived from Schmitz' interpretation in the MGG1 (1986) long before anything on this appeared in English Music Dictionaries and even before some major research on these Baroque musical figures began to be published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hopefully I will be able to share some more definitive(?), at least more recent, information relative to this subject matter from Dietrich Bartel's more comprehensive book on this subject matter. (An article by Bartel was recently referred to on this list.) The questions that remain are "How is this term as well as few others like 'circulatio' being used by musicologists today?" and "Have the definitions been generalized?" .
Nucius developed his musical-rhetorical figures along Burmeister's model, and on Nucius in return refer the theories of musical-rhetorical figures of influential authors such as Wolfgang Schonsleder ("Architectonice musices universalis", Ingolstadt, 1631 - 2nd. ed. 1684, and Athanasius Kircher ("Musurgia universalis", Rome, 1650. >
Perhaps I am beginning to understand what is going on here. I think Dr. Braatz is cultivating something I had not previously been aware of, or at least had dismissed from my awareness, namely Music Theory.

He and other music theorists use Latin and Greek terms to describe musical patterns or some such entities, which are the objects of musical theory. They do not give traof these terms, because these are simply the names for the objects of music theory. Even where, as with "passus duriusculus", the meaning of the phrase has not yet crystallised, this is not in the least disturbing. It simply continues to be discussed. Consensus may emerge, or it may not.

We who play and listen to music regard the theorists in blank incomprehension and wonder what it´s all for, and indeed it essentially has no meaning for us - while the reverse is equally the case.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 3, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< Even where, as with "passus duriusculus", the meaning of the phrase has not yet crystallised, this is not in the least disturbing. It simply continues to be discussed. >
I am pleased that you restricted this to p. d., because it appears that my suggested translation for saltus duriusculus (Jump Up) has been found acceptable. At least no one has objected publicly, or off-list to me.

Of course, it is early yet, four more hours of pre-Advent frivolity. I presume that Advent begins at midnight, local time, not at 2400 UT.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 3, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>I am now confused a little as to what the passus duriusculus is since the four whole-tone opening of the Chorale BWV60/5 is also referred to by Dürr as the "Diabolicus in musica".<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This has certainly surprised me as well!. >
Could it be that the author meant to refer to the tritone ("devil's leap) as a saltus d., not as a passus d.?

---------

From Chafe's analysis of BWV 181/2, we can see he refers to any semitone step as a p.d. (or in other examples, steps plural, meaning a chromatic passage), if this semitone step occurs in a chromatic environment (and the passage to which he refers, from B# to the final F# in the continuo, is amazingly atonal and chromatic). Presumably the step of F# to G, for example, in a G major scale, does not qualify.

The (upward) major 7th and (downward) diminished 5th leaps are examples of saltus d. in his analysis of BWV 181/2. (Access to a score, and one's full attention, are required to follow Chafe, as Ed has discovered!).

BTW, the piano realisation of this recitative, BWV 181/2, (available at the BCW) is most effective, with raging passages of rising and falling arpeggios (in 1/32nd notes) on dom. and dim. 7th chords representing the "crashing rocks" etc.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 3, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< (As far as I am concerned it is all that it has illustrated!) >>
I previously wrote, Saturday:
< Au contraire, mon ami! (To the contrary, my friend). It has also illustrated the verity of the line by USA humorist Garrison Keillor: Lutheran humor is an oxymoron. >
I'm pretty sure he said it, I'll do the research and report back.

EM Sunday
Not worth spending much time on the research. I am unable to associate this phrase with Keillor, although it sure sounds like him. I did find, on beeradvocate.com:

Re: Regional searches - Chinese beers?
Posted: 07-20-2006 04:34:17 UTC
In reply to this post by fanglemeister
--
"Chinese beer"
I thought that was a kind of oxymoron. Kind of like "French war heroes," "Lutheran humor," or "English cuisine." <end quote>

Military intelligence? There, that should piss off just about everyone, and I will have plenty to be penitential about for Advent.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 6, 2006):
Definitions & additional score samples

Primary and secondary source materials regarding the following terms recently discussed are found readily available on the BCW thanks to Aryeh Oron who has kindly set up a place for them:

Passus duriusculus: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Passus-Source.htm

Circulatio, etc.: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Circulatio-Source.htm
<>
------------------------------------------------------

Additional score samples from Bach's works:

Some examples of 'crosses' are given at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/Cross-Sco.htm

A corrected version of the first page of BWV 91/1 making all the notes visible is found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm

A possible embedded reference to the CM for BWV 121 in BWV 121/2 might be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV121-Sco.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 13, 2006):
Saltus duriusculus (definition and source material)

At the following URL you can find information about the musico-rhetorical figure called the "saltus duriusculus": http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Passus-Source.htm

Tom Dent wrote (December 13, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] The examples are, unfortunately, not totally clear. The only definite thing to come out of them is just that 'saltus duriusculus' means 'awkward or difficult leap'. I don't know what is gained by using the Latin term rather than the English.

Does the term 'saltus duriusculus' actually appear in the Bernhard treatise? Is it the title of the section that has been excerpted?

In the excerpt we have, Bernhard refers to 'unnatural' progressions and leaps, including: chromatically altered minor 6ths (with a music example of D-F# and E-G#); diminished 4ths both rising and falling; diminished 5ths falling; diminished 7ths falling, in vocal solos; ordinary 7ths and 9ths, and other intervals larger than an octave - mentioning that some bass lines even make a downward leap of two octaves. His second music example is a diminished 7th (occurring, as he says, in a vocal solo and descending) with the text 'Und dein Hertz falsch gewesen ist'.

The word 'duriusculus' itself is problematic. 'Durus' would be good Latin and easy to understand. But the 'culus' ending is usually a diminutive. In any event I find it to mean either 'harsher' or 'somewhat harsh' as here: http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/words.exe?duriusculus

...one cannot exclude the possibility that, in context, it simply means 'difficult' or indeed 'difficult to sing' - which may have been why it was forbidden in strict counterpoint. The word 'durus' itself (quoted by Bartel) does not seem to appear in Bernhard.

Bartel seems, as before, to have constructed a large speculative edifice on a pretty small base of evidence.

He does not explain why he calls it a 'dissonant' leap. A melodic interval by itself is not consonant or dissonant. That depends on which other notes it is harmonized with. A minor 6th, which is discussed under the same heading in Bernhard, is not dissonant at all, either as melody or harmony - nor is a double octave. One might equally well call a diatonic scale a 'dissonant' progression because it is made up of tones and semitone, each of which would be a dissonant interval in harmony.

What Bernhard surely means by 'duriusculus' is a melodic progression that is awkward and unnatural - not a 'dissonance'.

Bartel's main discussion is focused on the music example of the falling diminished seventh, and completely ignores the other intervals mentioned by Bernhard.

Further:

'Not only is the text effectively expressed through the dissonance'

(... as I argued, a melody by itself cannot be 'dissonant')

'... but an added significance of "harshness, shamelessness" is implied through the literal meaning of a duriusculus leap.'

Leaving aside what might be the 'added significance implied through the literal meaning' of anything, Bartel seems to have a bizarre and totally impractical view of how music can be experienced.

If I am reading aright, he is saying that the 'significance' lies not in any directly audible phenomenon such as 'dissonance' (or more precisely, awkwardness and unnaturalness of melodic progression). Rather, one must in listening identifythe figure as a manifestation of a 'duriusculus'; then using one's knowledge of Latin terms of rhetoric, translate this word into one's native tongue, to find its 'literal meaning' (which is variously given as 'hard, harsh, rough, brazen, shameless' by Bartel); and finally apply this verbal gloss to the text and music one has heard, assuming that one remembers any of it at this late stage.

In other words, the music must be listened to, not merely by paying attention to how it sounds, but by filtering it through a list of names of recognised musical-rhetorical figures contained in textbooks, by which its 'significance' is mysteriously enhanced.

This seems to me precisely backwards. I would rather think Bernhard called it a 'harsh' (or rather, 'unnatural') progression because it sounds or feels unnatural to the listener or performer. Then its expressive function, and its musical significance, would be one and the same with how it sounds in performance. And it would be possible to fully experience the music simply by listening to it.

Bartel's protocol bears the considerable risk that one can end up judging the musical expression and significance of works by the extent to which they correspond with rhetorical figures in old textbooks - rather than by the way they sound.

I would take the reverse view and say the textbooks were compilations of figures that had been found to sound musically effective. Which would not exclude the possibilities that a bad composer could use the figures but still fail to express anything; or that a good composer might invent a mode of expression which did not involve the previously codified figures.

This doesn't mean that the old textbooks are of no use. On the contrary, they can reassure us that people back then found the same types of melodic and harmonic figures to be effective as we do now.

Bartel finally says the figure 'can ... assume an added explicative dimension, lending it the potential to signify more than even the text might apply'. I find it difficult to attach any meaning to this, unless he is just repeating the truism that text plus music can amount to more than text alone.

 

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Last update: ıDecember 19, 2006 ı10:50:16