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basso continuo


a boy named sue

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basso continuo or continuo v fake book

 

I have two questions about continuo music (the first one to sate my curiosity, the second as purchasing advise).

 

1) How different is it playing from continuo music than playing from a fake book?

2) Are there any good CD compilations with electric bass (bass), electric guitar (chordal), and sax (melody)-- or similar -- playing this stuff?

 

Some background, a radio program introduced me to the fact that in the baroque period composers just wrote melody and chords (although their chord notation was a bit different). The same program played some examples but they used Keys or cello for the bass :(

A man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all; he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame. -- C.S.Lewis
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I'd be really surprised if you found an example of the type you are looking for.

 

The bass was invented later than the music you are talking about.

 

The continuo parts that I've heard played were played on harpsichord. The notation system gives you bass notes and chord names and the keyboard part is improvised. If someone is playing a continuo part on cello, I don't think there is too much improvisation going on.

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The notation system gives you bass notes and chord names and the keyboard part is improvised. If someone is playing a continuo part on cello, I don't think there is too much improvisation going on.

When the cello was playing there was another instrument doing chordal stuff (a harpsichord?). I thought that these bass line could be added to in the original style, ie. they only served to show the chord not tell the bass player (on a harpsichord or cello) what to play. Is this right?

 

Also, a modern interpretation could play chords on the bass as double/triple stops or by walking through the chords, whilst the guitarist is also noodling around. I was wondering if anyone had done this modern interpretation. Are these old tunes worth interpreting this way? Or do these old songs only have merit due to their historical significance?

 

Does anyone have any favorite CDs that start with 'classical' tunes (here I'm using classical to mean any music written more than about 200 years ago) and then do improv?

A man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all; he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame. -- C.S.Lewis
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I believe what you are thinking about is the practice of "Baroque Ornamentation." Try a Google search and do some study. (I took a CEU on this last year.)

 

It may not be as satisfying as you think. Improvisation was practiced extensively, even tastelessly. But it was not what we see in jazz, where a given set of harmony was re-melodicized. Rather, they took the given melody and decorated it will trills, mordents, turns, arpeggios, appogiaturas and a bunch of other stuff. In other words, they took a written melody and made it florid.

 

If you take, say, an aria out of Handel's "Messiah" and compare it to a good recording (Robert Shaw Chorale comes to mind, although it's improvisation is not the most florid...it is the best version ever IMHO) you'll see how the melody is decorated.

 

Ornamentation is now (since the time of Mozart) written out in the music. Many editions of Baroque music have been made with written ornament, an interpretation of what Bach might have wanted.

 

Lots of authentic Baroque Performances are out there. Look for ones with period instruments, and especially with solos. Good luck in your search.

 

Here's a site (pretty basic) and it has a midi file of ornamentation...you'll hear that it doesn't really swing like Gene Krupa. Baroque Ornamentation.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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Click on this sentence for a very good explanation of continuo playing.

 

The lower staff is what the music looks like. The upper staff is what the keyboard player might come up with while reading the lower staff and improvising.

 

http://www.bachfaq.org/figb2.gif

 

I could read this stuff in college and probably still could now if I wanted to. It's a very logical system for spelling chords, way more logical than the way we do it nowadays.

 

Meanwhile, Tom, you might want to listen to the Swingle Singers to hear something like what you are looking for.

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It may not be as satisfying as you think. Improvisation was practiced extensively, even tastelessly. But it was not what we see in jazz, where a given set of harmony was re-melodicized. Rather, they took the given melody and decorated it will trills, mordents, turns, arpeggios, appogiaturas and a bunch of other stuff. In other words, they took a written melody and made it florid.
Thanks for that answer. I'll do a bit more study (so that I can fully understand your answer), but it seems that this music isn't as 'cool' as I had suspected.

 

edit -- just read Jeremy's post (I must type very slowly). I'd found that site from my googling, now I'm off to check out some CDs!

A man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all; he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame. -- C.S.Lewis
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When you mentioned continuo playing, as Jeremy indicated, you are inferring the "realization of figured bass," a method of providing accompaniment from a sparse rendition of harmony.

 

When you mentioned improvisation, I spoke of ornamented melody.

 

Each of these are music practice in the Baroque period. They are improvisation, but with a completely different set of musical understandings.

 

On the other hand, it's totally cool. In fact, music of the Baroque is fascinating. Not so stuffed shirt as the Classical, or as morose as the Romantic. Bach, Corelli, Handel are my favorites, but there is an incredible rich tradition.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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