Bach Chaconne analysis

*An excerpt from the dissertation History, Implementation, and Pedagogical Implications of an Updated System of Functional Analysis*

The following examples from the class during winter 2014, Examples 4.1 and 4.2, show how Functional Analysis helps lead to better phrase and motivic understanding. These two versions of a harmonic analysis of the Bach Chaconne from the Partita in D minor show the Chaconne analyzed with Roman numerals (Example 4.1) and Functional Analysis (Example 4.2). This comparison allows us to see the functions changing from the stable basis of the chaconne pattern. These analyses are the product of our class discussion, and other analysts may hear the chords changing at different times or wish to emphasize different sonorities based on their hearing. Even if one disagrees with the specific details of the analysis, I believe the comparison between the Roman numerals and the Functional Analysis still stands.

With Roman numerals, it is possible to see the changes as the chaconne pattern mutates. Different predominants are used; the V comes in different flavors and at slightly different times. In order to see these changes, students must first understand that ii and iv are both predominants, and have some concept of function and larger phrase structure. However, with Functional Analysis, the functions are not hidden knowledge but present immediately in the label. The two short, low-level cycles through the primary functions (mm. 1–2 and 3–4) are easily apparent, and comparisons could be drawn within the phrase as well as across the phrases. Most changes noted with Roman numerals analysis can be seen as less drastic, for example, merely an added tone in m. 8. Additionally, since the functional areas of the phrase are clearer, it is easier to see when the predominant area changes length (mm. 10–11, 14–15) or the dominant starts early (mm. 12, 16). This can lead to a discussion of how the different functional prolongations create tension or interact with melodic motives or bring out different contrapuntal inner voices, a specialty of this type of unaccompanied piece. Admittedly, these discussions can also be fostered with Roman numerals, but a quick, transparent understanding of harmony, harmonic rhythm, and phrase pillars moves the discussion away from vocabulary and naming and toward complex musical ideas sooner.

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