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Descending chromatic bass lines (Read 1473 times)

Offline ranjit

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Descending chromatic bass lines
« on: September 19, 2019, 03:05:24 PM »
It is common in popular/jazz music to have a chord progression in which you have a descending chromatic bass line over a constant chord. For example, it is very common to have Cmin - Cmin/B - Cmin/Bb - Cmin/A. Does this occur in classical music as well? Where did it originate? Would the chord progression be considered "functional"?

Offline j_tour

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Re: Descending chromatic bass lines
«Reply #1 on: September 19, 2019, 09:07:02 PM »
You have me at a bit of a loss, because I've heard making a "line" in the bass (or in other voices, for that matter) in legit music so many times, I wouldn't know how to start finding examples unless just going through score after score.  No examples are really jumping out at me when I'm just typing on the computer, but unless I'm completely deluded, this is something I hear all over the place, in all kinds of music.

Is it functional harmony?

Yes, I don't any other term for chromatic elaboration of static harmony.  You know, I don't think anyone would argue that tunes like "Yesterdays" or "My Funny Valentine" or "Thrill is Gone" aren't primarily functional tunes:  they're not atonal or modal tunes, for sure.

If someone were to wrong-headedly (in my view) try to ascribe a completely separate harmony to every little change in the bass part, then...well, first thing, it would just look like a mess in RNA IME, and I think it would miss the point.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Descending chromatic bass lines
«Reply #2 on: September 20, 2019, 03:17:15 AM »
I'm sure it occurs in jazz all the time. I was wondering whether it occurred in, say, nineteenth century music as well.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Descending chromatic bass lines
«Reply #3 on: September 20, 2019, 04:47:12 AM »
I'm sure it occurs in jazz all the time. I was wondering whether it occurred in, say, nineteenth century music as well.

Well, yeah, I just don't have the perfect recall of every single legit music piece.

Beethoven, Op. 126, in the fifth bagatelle, and in the third. 

For something even simpler, just look at the prelude to Bach's Bb major prelude from WTC1, with the motion of the bass.

The mind just boggles at how many places to even begin to look. 

I confess I don't know any more than the average person about late or middle Romantic composers, but, just for fun, look at Liszt's arrangement of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise."  All over the place.

If there's one lesson to be learned it's that voice-leading and part-writing in general never really went away.  It got buried a bit with all some of the virtuosic antics, but it never left entirely.

Beethoven's variations for cello and piano off that little thing from Mozart's Magic Flute.

No, it never went away, and it never disrupted the idea of functional harmony. 

Just part of the toolbox.

IMHO.