Bach's Modal Chorales

Bach's Modal Chorales

Bach's Modal Chorales

Bach's Modal Chorales

Excerpt

This study presents an original theory of modality in the chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach, a theory that entails an analytic methodology and individual analytic readings for chorales based on modal cantus firmi. In Chapter 1, I will provide the necessary background for the study by generalizing the broader issues that I have attempted to address. There, I will discuss pertinent issues confronted by the modern analyst when interpreting modal harmony; I will also analyze briefly some representative chorales, without formally defining my analytic terms.

Analytic Methodology

My analytic method is based on Schenkerian techniques, but these are extended to accommodate the individual modes. In Chapters 2 and 4, I will define and illustrate harmonic and melodic formulas peculiar to each mode and specify my symbology. Departures from Schenkerian norms will be noted and thoroughly explored. Chapter 2 explores an original analytic model for the Phrygian and Mixolydian modes; Chapter 3 then analyzes pertinent chorales by Bach. Chapters 4 and 5 do the same for Dorian and Aeolian. The modes are paired in this way since Phrygian and Mixolydian share certain common analytic issues, as do Dorian and Aeolian.

My theory of modality naturally reflects my own perceptions, but it has not arisen in isolation from other theoretical or analytical ideas. Rather, it responds to a wide range of literature, ranging at least from Zarlino through Schenker and Dahlhaus into the present. Since the present study is not offered as a historical survey, I will not provide an extensive discussion of modal theory; however, Appendix 1 investigates modal cadence systems and reproduces examples from several pertinent theorists from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Appendix 2 lists representative chorale melodies in each mode as they are identified by pertinent authors who engage the modes and the modal chorale.

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