MUS 311 Counterpoint

S. Contrapuntal Variation Forms

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 311 Menu

  1. Cantus Firmus variation-types make use of a shorter pattern (melodic or harmonic) that is stated over and over again.  The variations are continuous--no real cessation of motion between them.

The Ground

  1. In the ground, the fixed element is a short melodic line, usually 4-6 bars, that occurs repeatedly in the bottom voice (ground bass).

  1. Basso ostinato-- a term usually reserved for a ground bass of approximately two measures or less.

The Passacaglia and Chaconne:

  1. Passacaglia:

  • The basis for the variations is a melodic line.

  • In triple meter; minor mode

  • The theme, which is heard alone at the start, is usually 8 bars in length.

  • The variations tend to become more animated and complex as the work progresses.

  • Occasionally the theme is transferred to an upper voice for variety.

  1. Chaconne:

  • The basis for the variations is harmonic succession.

  • In triple meter; minor

  • Harmonic rhythm of chordal succession is slow, usually one harmony per measure.
  • First and last harmonies remain constant; different harmonies are sometimes substituted in between for variety.
  1. The passacaglia and chaconne both contain elements of the other, and the distinction is not always clear as to the type.

    TIP:  An easy way to remember the general difference is to associate the "c" in chaconne with the "c" in chord progression.  Then, remember that the other term (passacaglia) is related to the other type (melody).

  1. Length of the passacaglia/chaconne is sometimes of monumental proportion:  20-30 variations.
  1. Quodlibet ("because it pleases")--music in which one or more well-known melodies is woven into the musical fabric against the regular material.  The intent is usually humorous ... a musical quote.

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 311 Menu