Open main menu

Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/534

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

positions, appears finally as the figure immediately attached to the Cadence in D♭, thus—

{ \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \key f \minor \time 4/4 \relative c'' { r4 aes( des, c) | r des \bar "||" s } }

A similar very fine example—too familiar to need quotation here—is at the close of Beethoven's Overture to Coriolan.

The use which Wagner makes of strongly marked figures is very important, as he establishes a consistent connection between the characters and situations and the music by using appropriate figures (Leitmotive), which appear whenever the ideas or characters to which they belong come prominently forward.

That figures vary in intensity to an immense degree hardly requires to be pointed out; and it will also be obvious that figures of accompaniment do not require to be so marked as figures which occupy positions of individual importance. With regard to the latter it may be remarked that there is hardly any department in music in which true feeling and inspiration are more absolutely indispensable, since no amount of ingenuity or perseverance can produce such figures as that which opens the C-minor Symphony, or such soul-moving figures as those in the death march of Siegfried in Wagner's 'Götterdammerung.'

As the common notion that music chiefly consists of pleasant tunes grows weaker, the importance of figures becomes proportionately greater. A succession of isolated tunes is always more or less inconsequent, however deftly they may be connected together, but by the appropriate use of figures and groups of figures, such as real musicians only can invent, and the gradual unfolding of all their latent possibilities, continuous and logical works of art may be constructed; such as will not merely tickle the hearer's fancy, but arouse profound interest, and raise him mentally and morally to a higher standard.

FIGURED. A translation of Figurato, another word for Florid. Figured Counterpoint is where several notes of various lengths, with syncopations and other ornamental devices, are set against the single notes of the Canto fermo; and Figured melody, or Canto figurato, was the breaking up of the long notes of the church melodies into larger or more rapid figures or passages. The figurirter Choral, or Figured chorale, of the German school was a similar treatment of their church tunes, in which either the melody itself or its accompaniments are broken up into 'figures' or groups of smaller notes than the original. Of this numberless examples may be found in the works of J. S. Bach.

FIGURED BASS is a species of musical shorthand by which the harmony only of a piece is indicated. It consists of the bass notes alone, with figures to represent the chords. It seems to have been first employed by Peri, Caccini, Viadana, and Monteverde, about 1600, in the accompaniments of their Recitatives and Songs, and was afterwards for some time in universal use for accompaniment; songs such as the collection of the Orpheus Britannicus, and anthems such as Boyce's collection, and great works like Bach's Passion and Handel's Messiah, having accompaniments indicated in this manner. The bass line consisted of the lowest part of whatever was going on at the time, whether treble, or tenor, or bass, and in choral works it often leapt about promiscuously in a manner that would be very harassing to a player unaccustomed to the process, as for example

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \key d \major \clef bass \partial 4 << \relative a { a8 g fis e d4 \clef alto d'8 e fis g | \clef tenor d,4. e8 fis g a fis } \figures { < _ >4 < 6 >8 < _ > 2.. < 5>8 < 6 >8 < _ >4 <4>4 <3>4 } >> }

from the last chorus of the Messiah.

The figures represented the diatonic intervals counting upwards, without reference to the nature of the chord; thus 2 always meant the next diatonic note above—D above C, as in (a), and 4 the next note but two, as (b), and so on up to the 9th, above which the figures of the lower octave were repeated; and the choice of the particular octave in which a note represented by a figure should be placed, as well as the progression of the parts, was generally left to the discretion of the player.

It was not customary to insert all the figures, as some intervals were looked upon as too familiar to require indication, such as the octave and the fifth and the third, or any of them in combination with other intervals; thus a 7 by itself would admit of any or all of them being taken without being indicated, as (c); and a 9 would admit of a fifth and a third, as (d); and a 6 of a third, but not of a fifth, as (e); and a 4 of a fifth and an octave, as (f). When a 2 was written alone over a note it admitted also of a sixth and a fourth, as (g); but more commonly the 4 was written with the 2, and the sixth only was understood; and this seems to be the only case in which notes other than the octave or fifth or third are left to be understood.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass << \cadenzaOn \relative c << { c2^"(a)" \bar "|" d d' \bar "||" c,^"(b)" \bar "|" f f' \bar "||" g,,^"(c)" \bar "|" <d' b' f'> <f b d g> \bar "||" g,^"(d)" \bar "|" <b d a'> <d b' a'> \bar "||" \break e^"(e)" \bar "|" c' <c g'> \bar "||" c,^"(f)" \bar "|" <f g c> \bar "||" \stemDown f^\markup { \halign #1.5 "(g)"} ^\markup { \finger 2 } \bar "|" \stemNeutral <g b d> \bar "||" e,^"(h)" \bar "|" <g' ais cis> \bar "||" } \\ { s2 c, c s c c s g g s g g s <e' g> e s c s f s e, } >> \figures { <2>2 <_>1 <4>2 <_>1 <7>2 <_>1 <9>2 <_>1 <6>2 <_>1 <4>2 <_>1. <6 4/>2 } >> }

When notes were chromatically altered the accidental was added by the side of the figure representing that note (7♭), or for sharpening a note a line was drawn through the figure or by its side, as at (h), and as it was not customary to write the 3, when the third was to be chromatically altered the accidental was placed by itself with the bass note thus a simple ♯, ♭, or ♮, implied a ♯, ♭, or ♮, 3rd. When the bass moved and any or all