Melody

For Week 3 of Analytical Techniques, we added the layer of melody to our analysis. The lecture modules described this layer as the reverse of the process we did in Week 2 with Form and Structure—concentrating on the surface level rather than reducing it. We began by looking at the melody Bach used in the fourth movement of his Partita No. 1 in Bb (BWV 825). The Application looked at the fifth movement of Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 In G major, BWV 1007. For the discussion, we read an article analyzing the Presto from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001. The Assignment was to analyze and compose a bass line for the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita in A minor for Solo Flute, BWV 1013.

Application and Live Classroom 1

Prompt: As a way to prepare for this week's Bach Partita/Sarabande assignment, we will look at the Bach Cello Suite No.1 In G major, BWV 1007, Mov. 5. Familiarize yourself with this week's Assignment, and try to apply the ideas to this set of Minuets. Rough out a Roman numeral analysis of implied harmonies, including nonharmonic tones. Consider harmonic rhythm, and cadential points. With Lester's article in mind, group the lines into phrases. How does rhythm play into this?

Discussion: I love the Bach Cello Suites and Cello Sonatas! However, to be perfectly honest, I did not participate in the first Live Classroom this week, as Chloe and I attended a banquet for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Virginia. Luckily, the sessions are recorded so I could catch up on it by watching the video afterwards. Several helpful ideas:

  • Review of Non-Harmonic Tones: Our professor highlighted several that occurred in the context of the Cello Suite, but I also went and dug some information out of my Benward & Saker texts and lecture notes from Music Fundamentals. There was a very helpful diagram in Benward & Saker, Volume 1.

    • Appoggiatura: only NCT approached by leap, usually happens on beat, usually resolves in opposite direction by step. Occasionally resolves in same direction by step

    • Escape Tone (ECH): only NCT resolved by leap. Happen at end of a harmony.

    • Anticipations: usually occur before tonic before a full cadence. Not in the middle of the bar before the dominant.

    • Sevenths need to be held over as a common tone (suspension) or approached by step (passing/neighboring tone) and resolved down by step.

    • Neighboring Tones: Rare to occur on the beat. Almost always unaccented dissonances

  • Put a Roman numeral whenever the harmony changes. Only use root position chords because we have a melody. Assume you are writing a bass line. The bass line should imply the harmonic rhythm. Inversions are ok when they would typically be used. Single bass notes to clarify harmonies.

    • Rare for phrase ending cadences to be in any kind of inversion. Can use lowest lowest notes to imply inversion, but watch out for 6/4 chords.

  • Look for changes in direction in melodic line. Look for leaps. Usually leaps in a harmony are both chord tones

  • Compound melodic lines: line is jumping around, each jump representing different voices

  • Normal for A section of Binary Form to end on Dominant either through modulation or half cadence

  • Looking for Modulations

    • Major Key: looking for accidentals, usually the raised leading tone of new key

    • Minor Key: most often modulate to relative major, so a dearth of accidentals imply modulation

  • Types of Melodic Shapes: ascending, descending, arch, inverse arch

Discussion

Prompt: Begin by reading Joel Lester's article, The Presto from Bach's G-Minor Sonata for Violin Solo, (pp. 167–179), in Engaging Music. In his article on the Presto from Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, Lester draws attention to the metric and melodic complexity of Bach's work, demonstrating how changes in melodic contour and harmonic rhythm contribute to an intensification of musical activity and expression. Lester goes on to discuss how such a perspective may inform a performer's interpretation of the work, and others like it.

This article presents numerous approaches that one might utilize in instrumental teaching. Respond to one of these questions:

  1. Is it possible to employ this type of analysis as a part of teaching a student the stylistic conventions associated with a given work?

  2. How might this type of analysis assist a student in learning the piece?

  3. What benefits might be derived from such an approach?

  4. What challenges or limitations do you foresee?

Post: Lester’s (2005) analysis of the Presto from Bach’s G-minor Sonata for Violin Solo provides several strategies that can help students learn the piece. Lester observed Bach’s sixteenth notes signified a metric hierarchy where different voices continuously interacted (pp. 169–170). Specifically, Lester analyzed how Bach used metric accents at weak points to create conflict or ambiguity (p. 169). Lester also described how Bach uses the counterpoint of voices within a compound melodic line to heighten intensity moving from idea to idea and section to section within the piece (pp. 171–176). These concepts of metric accents and heightening intensity can inform how students interpret the streaming sixteenth notes, not as a “thrilling sense of speed” or as melodic “filler,” but as a means of highlighting Bach’s counterpoint through performance. Lester discusses some of these implications in performances through the use of tempo, bow stroke, and rubato (pp. 178–179).

Lester, J. (2005). The presto from Bach’s g-minor sonata for violin solo: Style, rhythm, and form in a Baroque moto perpetuo. In D. Stein (Ed.), Engaging music: Essays in music analysis (pp. 167–179). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Assignment and Live Classroom 2

Prompt: Melodic analysis is often given less weight in classroom study than analysis of harmony and form. Melody is obviously one of the most important aspects of most music, but it is in some ways less easy to describe and formalize than the others. While it makes sense to talk in terms of types of chords and types of forms, melodies do not classify as readily. As we have seen in this week’s lecture and in the reading by Joel Lester, there are a number of ways in which melody can be analyzed, often in terms of some other aspect of music: counterpoint and nonharmonic tones; implied harmony; rhythm and meter; register; and, contour and shape. Both the lecture and the reading analyze the melodic writing of J.S. Bach. Your assignment consists of doing a melodic analysis of the Sarabande, from Bach’s Partita in A minor for Solo Flute, BWV 1013, utilizing a variety of tools, including writing a bass line to harmonize the melody.

  1. As always, for the first step in your analysis, spend time getting to know the music. Listen through the piece several times, both with and without the score. This piece is simple enough that you should be able to play through it, either on any single-line instrument, or on a piano or keyboard. Especially if you do not play a wind instrument, sing through the first section of the sarabande to get a sense of the connection between the music and breathing.

  2. Along the lines of this week's lecture, analyze the first section of the sarabande, mm. 1–16, for nonharmonic tones—passing, neighboring, appoggiaturas, etc. Write the symbols (P, N, APP) above the notes on the score. Most of the nonharmonic tones will be clear to identify. However, in Bach's music for solo instruments, which was written before the norms of classical harmony had fully developed, the role of certain tones may be ambiguous. For some insight, read through and understand the Guidelines section below before beginning your analysis.

  3. Doing an analysis of nonharmonic tones requires, of course, that you think about the chords or harmonies which underlie the melody. Identify these chords with Roman numerals below the score, writing a complete bass line to accompany the melody on the bottom staff. Strive for a good contrapuntal line, avoiding parallel motion against the melody, etc. Most measures will contain one chord, but some may contain more—but never shorter than a quarter note in duration (with the exception of, perhaps, the final measure). Use only one Roman numeral per chord—i.e., do not write "i–i–i" for the first measure—simply write a single "i" for the duration of the harmony. (One often sees an horizontal line extending from the Roman numeral to the right, signifying the duration of the harmony.) You will analyze a pivot chord modulation to the key of the relative major by m. 8. Harmonic rhythm in Bach speeds up at cadential points, so mm. 15–16 should be analyzed as containing a complete cadential progression. Where chords are incomplete, think in terms of the most important chords of the key, and avoid analyzing parallel triads—for example, m. 11 does not contain the progression iii–ii–I in C major.

  4. Drawing on Lester's article, parse mm. 1–16 into gestures or phrases of one and/or two measures, and analyze their melodic shapes and directions. Notice any patterns or expectations they create.

  5. Finally, write answers to the following items/questions as an essay paragraph or two.

    • Describe a passage of one or two measures where you considered two alternate analyses like those presented in the Guidelines section below. Discuss the basis for each analysis and the reasons for your choice.

    • Discuss the succession and interaction of melodic shapes and patterns in the section. Do not list the shapes one after the other, but group and associate them.

    • Nowadays, many analysts prefer a long-range view of harmony, identifying fewer chords, fewer keys, with more passing and ornamental events. In m. 6, the E on the second quarter-note beat, could possibly be viewed as a passing tone within a chord lasting for the entire measure, rather than as a chord tone in a harmony lasting a single beat. Compare m. 6 with m. 11, where the melodic quarter notes are expanded into sixteenth-note figures. Does this affect the way you analyze m. 6?

Live Classroom: The analysis (for the most part) was pretty straight forward. There were a few ambiguous spots that I was able to work through with classmates and colleagues. I struggled with the Live Classroom as the internet did not seem to have a good connection on either my end or the instructor’s. Here were a few pointers from the Live Classroom:

  • Please do not try to get overly creative with the bass line. This is not a composition assignment; it is an analysis assignment. The simplest solution is often the best. Don’t worry about counterpoint. Not grading parallel motion, but 1st inversion chords could be appropriate. Stick to root position unless there is a reason to do so.

    • Types of 6/4 chords

      • Cadential: occurs on a strong beat

      • Passing: Bass moving by step

      • Neighbor/Pedal: Bass line is a pedal note while chords move above it

    • Voice Exchange

    • Avoiding Leading Tone in outside voice

    • Descending melody 3–2–1, the bass note is usually 1–2–3

  • Fewer chords is likely better, but there will be melodic patterns suggesting harmonic rhythms of quarter notes and possibly 8th notes—usually when approaching important cadences.

  • Before note-by-note harmonization, start with a birds eye view.

    • Play through the whole thing to determine tonality.

    • Parse it up into phrases. Helps answer questions about gestural shapes—Ascending, Descending, Arch, Concave

    • Make sure to correctly identify non-harmonic tones

  • Compound melodic line (jumping to imitate voices) can imply suspensions without ties over barlines

  • Don’t worry about decorations (performance practice).

  • In minor keys, III is extremely common. In major keys, iii is generally avoided. Bach usually used iii as part of a sequence, not as a harmonic progression.

  • Leaps in the melodic line—notes on either side of the leap frequently have to be chord tones.

  • What makes the most logistical sense in the context of the phrase?

Comment

Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.