Does anyone else share this great love of mine??
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Friends,

    I must admit that I have a deep, abiding love for walking bass motion.

    I use this technique all the time when I compose Chabanel Responsorial psalms. Often, one harmonization will have a walking bass upward, and another going downwards. It helps the harmonization in all kinds of ways.

    For instance, I just finished the Responsorial psalm for Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday after Easter).

    [Several other generous composers have also contributed beautiful settings for Divine Mercy Sunday---view them ALL here---as you probably know, all these settings are available for free.]

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    As you can see, HARMONIZATION C has a walking Bass.

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    Here's a A VIDEO RECORDING of this Responsorial Psalm for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

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    R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
    Let the house of Israel say,
    "His mercy endures forever."
    Let the house of Aaron say,
    "His mercy endures forever."
    Let those who fear the LORD say,
    "His mercy endures forever."
    R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
    I was hard pressed and was falling,
    but the LORD helped me.
    My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    and he has been my savior.
    The joyful shout of victory
    in the tents of the just.
    R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.The stone which the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
    By the LORD has this been done;
    it is wonderful in our eyes.
    This is the day the LORD has made;
    let us be glad and rejoice in it.
    R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I agree. Write the bass line, then figure out what it means later! Works 9 times out of 10.
  • Gavin, though a degreed bassist (and flutist), I believe "Melody" doth reign supreme! Unveiling, revealing a bass line of complementary genius to a worthy melody then opens up the universe!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,103
    I share Charles' priorities. As almost always.

    The bass is the the sixth or seventh layer of sound, indispensable but not forefront. When it moves into the foreground (for me this happens after I'm familiar with a great piece) the universe explodes, and paradoxically simultaneously coheres. That's when I know it's really music.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Motion! Energy! Intelligence!

    To evaluate a new score, Brahms used to stick his thumb over the inner parts so he could see the counterpoint between soprano and bass. If that interaction was solid, he felt the piece overall would be solid.

    Not a bad rule of, er, thumb.

    Of course Bach writes beautifully in four-part texture for all the voices. Every voice gets a chance to shine, which is so wonderfully generous of him, you just want to beam at him with appreciation. I think another rule of thumb should be, then, to "write beautifully for the altos." If you focus on making the alto melody beautiful, e.g. more than just covering common tones and dissonance preps, then the chance is probably greater that melodic goodies will be distributed across all the vocal parts more evenly. But hey, it depends on the effect you want, and it's just a theory. FWIW.

    For the musical universe to open for me, I confess to being wide open. Simple chant over a deep ison can be sublime. The interleaving of exquisite melodies in the Golden Age of polyphony -- Josquin, Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria, Lasso, et al -- is exquisitely beautiful. I like the tintinnabuli technique of Pärt, the massed chords of Whitacre, the sparseness of some medieval thing... it's really a whole world of music, isn't it?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,345
    One Soprano and it's chilling
    Add an alto, a bit more filling
    Add a tenor, practically complete
    Add a Bass, it's just plain sweet.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,619
    Then take out the tenor part because the tenor section is really weak...

    Oh.. that's just my choir..
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    For myself, I always write the melody first, then I add the bass line (& other harmonies).

    Also, here's a YouTube version:

    Free Responsorial Psalm for Divine Mercy Sunday
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The main thing I've taken away from Species Method in my counterpoint class has been to notice that ANY satisfactory harmonization, in any harmonic idiom, is essentially species counterpoint between bass and soprano.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Jeff, your RP's have to be sung by the congregation, so it makes all the sense in the world to start with the melody. What's the very next step, typically? Do you break it down into all its harmonic possibilities? Or do you just feel some changes, and work with those?

    Gavin, to continue your thought about counterpoint, it stands to reason that there exists something like "musical grammar." Now, if bad grammar obscures thought, good grammar clarifies it. I wonder what percentage there would be in opening a contemporary hymnal and evaluating the S-B counterpoint of each piece. My suspicion is that you'd find a lot of awkward, ungrammatical writing: parallel fifths and octaves, hidden fifths and octaves, too much similar motion, pedestrian voice leading, weak progressions, irrelevant harmony, and so on, &c.

    This problem isn't aesthetic. The problem is that poor musical writing weakens the power of music. Why? Because it fails to take full advantage of available sonorities.

    Further: one of my theories is that weakness in grammar/vocabulary leads directly to emotional over-compensation. If you have a weak grasp of logic, you will increasingly rely on demagoguery and sophistry. Something similar happens in music, and in some contexts, it's not bad. Rock is a good example: its simplicity requires the kind of emotional outpouring we now expect from it; otherwise, it would be trivial.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Hi, Pes.

    These days, I usually find a tone I like for the particular Psalm verses --- then I usually write the Antiphon (always making sure it can be sung without accompaniment).

    Then I just start harmonizing, exploring possibilities, watching the bassline, experimenting with what the NOH calls "pedal tones" (in Alto or Tenor), more dissonant versions, easy-to-play versions, etc. major endings, minor endings, etc. to give folks options.

    Years of playing through the NOH has helped me a lot.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "one of my theories is that weakness in grammar/vocabulary leads directly to emotional over-compensation"

    See: Rap music.