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In praise of the ground bass

I have always been terrified of boredom.  I admit that sometimes this fear may have led me to overcomplicate things (both personally and professionally…)

Now, I understand that simple can be good, but I don’t like things to be too predictable; it has got to remain interesting.  There is, for me, a clear example in the music world of this apparent paradox :

The ground bass.  A ground bass is a musical phrase that recurs many times in succession.  Predictable?  Absolutely.  And yet I’m a sucker for a good ground bass.  Boring?  Hell, no.  Not at all.


Well, the ground bass, which was much used during the Baroque period, but occurs in many different musical styles, is often associated with improvisation.  It is accompanied by continuous variation in the upper parts; and there’s the crux of the matter.  A ground bass provides security and continuity whilst allowing imagination free range within certain boundaries.  (I refer to my earlier blog, Narrow the path to find direction.)

Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa is in three parts.  The middle part is based on a ground bass.  Listen to this on youtube, and I’m sure you’ll get my point.

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