Is there a name for this musical progression?

December 27, 2017, 8:48 PM · In the 3rd mvt of the Bach double, there is a musical progression that I think I have heard in other baroque pieces. Is there a name for this...can someone describe to me what is happening here from a theory perspective?

I get the general idea that it’s a progression of chords where one note changes at a time. But I am wondering if there is more to it than that and if there is an actual term for this.

1:06 to 1:16 in this video:
https://youtu.be/gsdtwVZJo5Y

Replies (4)

December 27, 2017, 9:07 PM · Sounds like he might be going through the "cycle of 5ths" (you can look that up) and using some suspensions to do it. My theory is rusty though!
Edited: December 28, 2017, 5:00 PM · I admit I haven't listened to the excerpt, but I'd guess what you're hearing is the common Baroque device known as a "sequence." Bach, Handel, Vivaldi---they all used sequences. You do see sequences in composers that came later but they tend not to be so prevalent or obvious.

What is a sequence?
It's a pattern that repeats according to a pattern. Gemma points out the circle-of-fifths sequence, which is quite common. You can recognize it by looking at prominent bass notes on strong beats, a typical example of which could be D-G-C-F etc. Usually it's "folded up" into up a 4th/down 5th/up, otherwise you'd run out of staff very quickly. Sequences were not only musically interesting to composers of the day, but they serve a very practical purpose: to go from one key are to another. Think of it as a musical escalator: the composer steps on in one key, rises or descends to the desired key, and steps off. In the example I gave above, the composer can get on at D major, and get off at F. In other words, it's a way of modulating. Some works of music, especially those of Vivaldi, seem to be nothing but strings of sequences. The simple pattern we learn in scale books of up 3rd/down a step/up a 3rd is an example of a sequence that we call "broken thirds." The word "progression" was used by the OP, and it is, in a way. But sequences on the violin tend to be idiomatically melodic in nature and not chordal.

We generally reserve the term "progression" to mean a series of chords, and they don't always follow a repeating pattern. Chains of suspensions could be almost a hybrid of the two--chordal in nature but with a definite and repeating pattern. Corelli liked them, and so did Brahms. The G major Sonata has some lovely chains of suspensions.

Hopefully the passage in question is actually a sequence or I've just gotten off the couch for nothing...
I'm betting it is.

December 29, 2017, 3:08 AM · Ah, I assumed he meant progression in the correct sense, yes it was a sequence (I listened to it).
January 2, 2018, 8:55 PM · Thank you Scott for the detailed explanation and Gemma for confirming based on the video! I like the way it sounds and am happy there is an actual name for it. Also good to understand the practical reason for it (yes it sounds just like an elevator!). Agreed that progression is not the right word for it but was the closest I could come up with at the time. Now I have a new word in my musical vocabulary. Thanks!


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