Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

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Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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Ken Whisler
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Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by Ken Whisler » Sun May 05, 2013 6:54 am

A year ago during the Easter season, "O Filii Et Filiae" was being sung at my parish as "Sons and Daughters", just like it is at scores of churches all over the world. Since I was working on an albums' worth of arrangements, the idea struck me to try something with this melody. I made a remark to the liturgical minister that it sounded kind of like a passacaille to me. I composed a prelude for it, which also acts as the postlude, used the "alleluia" as the ostinato, and wrote four variations on the verse melody. Attached is my recording of it.

So am I right in calling this a passacaille?
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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by David_Norton » Sun May 05, 2013 1:40 pm

Ken,

That's one of the more impressive and well-written "non-professional" pieces I've heard posted here! Very commendable.

Not sure about the "passacaille" aspect, which I have always taken as meaning variations over a ground bass. But the meaning of the word in 2013 certainly differs from the meaning in the High Baroque Era, so call it what you feel seems to fit it best. It's a very fine composition.

BTW, a bit of trivia which some readers may not know: "O filii et filiae" is also the basis for Manuel Ponce's last guitar composition, "Variations & fugue on a theme of Cabezon".
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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by musikai » Sun May 05, 2013 2:04 pm

Sounds like a Fantasia! And sounds very beautiful!
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Ken Whisler
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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by Ken Whisler » Sun May 05, 2013 8:10 pm

Thanks to both! David, I remember you from the old eskimo list.

I seem to remember from my college days the talk of what exactly distinguished a "passacaille" from a "chaconne", and just when we thought we had it pegged, an example would surface blowing our distinctions away. Basically, this wiki entry comes to the same conclusion that we did before the digital age:

The passacaglia was redefined in late 1620s by Italian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi, who transformed it into a series of continuous variations over a bass (which itself may be varied).[3] Later composers adopted this model, and by the nineteenth century the word came to mean a series of variations over an ostinato pattern, usually of a serious character.[4] A similar form, the chaconne, was also first developed by Frescobaldi. The two genres are closely related, but since "composers often used the terms chaconne and passacaglia indiscriminately [...] modern attempts to arrive at a clear distinction are arbitrary and historically unfounded".[5] In early scholarship, attempts to formally differentiate between the historical chaconne and passacaglia were made, but researchers often came to opposite conclusions. For example, Percy Goetschius held that the chaconne is usually based on a harmonic sequence with a recurring soprano melody, and the passacaglia was formed over a ground bass pattern,[6] whereas Clarence Lucas defined the two forms in precisely the opposite way.[7] More recently, however, some progress has been made toward making a useful distinction for the usage of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when some composers (notably Frescobaldi and François Couperin) deliberately mixed the two genres in the same composition.[8]

David, I'll share a dirty little secret with you: the tuning is DAdgad. Playing common chord shapes in a different tuning was the springboard in this case. Our hymnal shows the tune in F minor, but it sounded too tinny capo'd on the 3rd fret, so I dropped the capo to the 2nd fret-sounds in Em. I am proud of the composition, but I feel like the tuning and the notation software did most of the work for me. :wink:
Ken Whisler, guitarist and luthier

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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by David_Norton » Sun May 05, 2013 10:41 pm

Ken Whisler wrote:Thanks to both! David, I remember you from the old eskimo list.
<big cut> I am proud of the composition, but I feel like the tuning and the notation software did most of the work for me.
(1) Yeah, I've been around for a while now. :lol:
(2) You're the one who PLAYED the thing; the software didn't help on that.
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bcross3

Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by bcross3 » Sat May 18, 2013 12:00 am

Thats a very nice composition but I don't believe it qualifies as a "passacaille." I thought a passacaille was primary involved with a repeating bass figure, check out some Weiss passacailles for a strict idea of what they sound like, and also check out Leo Brouwer's "An Idea" for a more loose and modern reimagining of a passacaille (he still honors the repeating bass concept at times).

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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by Ken Whisler » Sun May 19, 2013 8:21 pm

bcross3 wrote:Thats a very nice composition but I don't believe it qualifies as a "passacaille." I thought a passacaille was primary involved with a repeating bass figure, check out some Weiss passacailles for a strict idea of what they sound like, and also check out Leo Brouwer's "An Idea" for a more loose and modern reimagining of a passacaille (he still honors the repeating bass concept at times).
You are correct concerning Weiss, yet the famous Roncalli Passacaglia is clearly based on a harmonic sequence.

For example, Percy Goetschius held that the chaconne is usually based on a harmonic sequence with a recurring soprano melody, and the passacaglia was formed over a ground bass pattern, whereas Clarence Lucas defined the two forms in precisely the opposite way.
Ken Whisler, guitarist and luthier

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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by guitarlojak » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:33 pm

Well, that's a good question. Actually it's difficult even to say whether symphonies (for example) by Philip Glass are proper symphonies because they have different harmonies and structure and are totally different organized than symphonies from the classical era. It's the same with your Passacaille. If you only look on the Renaissance, you must agree - the only similarity is the ostinato base. But if you look on the evolution of the Passacaille and the use of it throughthout the centuries you see: There were many composers using it. Frank Martin, Burkhart and so on. Today, the title Passacaille is reduced on the ostinato base. Additionally i think the harmonies should be the same. You can call it Passacaille.
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Re: Can I rightfully call this a " -Passacaille" -?

Post by RichardUno » Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:50 am

I've always associated "passacaille" or "passacaglia" with variations on a ground bass. I always think of the Bach C Minor or this one:


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