the lament bass
a repeating, cyclical, bass line from
one (tonic) descending to five (dominant) ---->
Musicians took these four descending notes and built (and still build!) harmonies and melodies on top of it.
All of the songs in the playlist use this fundamental structure in someway - thus connecting all of them, from 17th century composer Monteverdi, to 'NSYNC.
the lament bass is usually found in a minor key, but one can also create the same concept in a Major key ---->
click on the slides below to learn a little more about how all of these songs are connected and why the lament bass has it's power ------->
Musicians often alter the lament bass from the original four notes. One famous version is descending from 1 to 5 chromatically like in Henry Purcell's famous "Dido's Lament" ------->
Play the descending four notes of the lament bass on a digital keyboard - sing/hum a melody on top of the bass. Play around with notes that feel like they "fit in" and notes that feel like they "clash" with the bass - find what feels good for you - play around with tempo (fast/slow), feeling, etc. - compose multiple lament bass songs!
If you have a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, download the following Garageband files as a starting point. Play around with changing the tempo, instruments, adding new instruments, and recording a live instrument or voice.
The Washington Post
July 13, 2016
July 13, 2016
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Amy Ione and Christopher Tyler
Ferrine Spector and Daphne Maurer
Jamie Ward and Jason B Mattingly
The Lament Bass
you guys've got this one...
Many composers have written pieces in the style of a funeral march - often using a slow, duple meter (2/4, sometimes 4/4) in a minor key. Here are just a few examples from thousands that exist.
Beethoven, Symphony no.7: Mvt II: Allegretto
This iconic movement (which is used a lot in film scores!) has a steady rhythm throughout - the rhythm of processional funeral drums. r.
You can hear it as ' long - short - short, long - long ' repeated over and ove
Beethoven himself conducted the premier of this Symphony which was a benefit concert for soldiers who had been wounded at the Battle of Hanau - with many thinking this movement was a funeral march for the fallen soldiers. The audience was so moved by the movement they requested it be repeated immediately.
This video is awesome as you can really see the funeral rhythm.
Henry Purcell: The Queen's Funeral March Sounded Before Her Chariot
This piece was a literal funeral march for the Queen Mary of England. In it, you can hear the important role of the drums that, through time and ritual, have come to signify funerary practices.
Frederic Chopin: Marche Funebre
This solo piano piece has become incredibly iconic for it's emotional power. Listen to the steady rhythmic pulse - feel the up / down motion that constantly renews itself - giving the listener of a slow march. Take note when this rhythm stops, and when the key changes minor (doom and gloom) to Major (reminiscent and possibly hopeful).
J.S. Bach's "Sighing" motif
Much of Bach's output was defined by lamenting as he was employed by the Lutheran church for most of his life where we was required to write new Sacred (church text based) pieces of vocal/instrumental music each week. Many of these pieces explore the themes of lamenting in the Christian tradition and Bach developed lamenting musical motifs that run throughout his works.
Bach's "sighing" motif is usually groups of two slurred notes that illustrate musically, the sound of sighing.
Western/European Classical music's Christian Church tradition
Music, as a tool for reflection, grieving, and lament, has been hugely important in the Christian tradition - a tradition that Western/European Classical music was partially born out of and developed in. Thus, there are many "forms" (types of songs / pieces) that are directly related to Sacred practices of mourning that composers continue to use today. Some of these are:
Mass (ex. Josef Haydn, Mass in C Major)
Requiem (ex. Giuseppi Verdi's Requiem)
Passions (ex. J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion)