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Duke University Press

Yale University Department of Music


Heinichen, Rameau, and the Italian Thoroughbass Tradition: Concepts of Tonality and Chord in
the Rule of the Octave
Author(s): Ludwig Holtmeier
Source: Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 51, No. 1, Partimenti (Spring, 2007), pp. 5-49
Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of the Yale University Department of Music
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Heinichen, Rameau, and the


Italian ThoroughbassTradition
Conceptsof Tonalityand Chord
in the Rule of the Octave

Ludwig Holtmeier

This essay explores the understandingof tonality and in particularthe concept of chord, as demonstrated in the Italianthoroughbass tradition,especially in the didactic traditionof partimenti.Fora long time this
traditionwas entirely overlooked because of the dominance of the neo-Ramellian Harmonielehretradition.The

Abstract

differences are exemplified by comparingRameau'sbasse fondamentalewWhHeinichen'sfluctuatingunderstanding of tonality.Itwas Heinichenwho, at the start of the eighteenth century,attempted most thoroughlyto conceptualize Italianmusic theory. LikeRameau, he, too, developed an overarchingexplanatorymodel of harmonythat
involves coherent concepts of harmonicfunctionalityand chordmorphology.Heinichen'sand Rameau's"systems,"
however, rest on opposing assumptions. However many speculative aspects it may embrace, Heinichen'smusic
theory nonetheless remains directly indebted to musical practice and consistently rejects that esprit du systme
that is so characteristic of Rameau'stheory. While Rameau, acting in the modern, scientific spirit of the early
Enlightenment,attempts to derive all aspects of his theory from a few fundamental principles, Heinichenworks
throughthe many tensions and contradictionsbetween the modern Klangprogression, as formalizedin the Rule
of the Octave, and the old legacy of traditionalcounterpointinstruction.

A blind spot in the history of music theory


in the last few years, with the strengthening of that movement within music
or "historicallyinformed music
Satzlehre
theory commonly known as historische
a
of
awareness
if
an
as
it
seems
forgotten "culture"of music theory has
theory,"
tradition
been given new life. The nineteenth-century German Harmonielehre
occupied,1 well into the twenty-firstcentury, such an unquestioned, nearly

1 The bourgeois tradition of the Harmonielehre (meaning


both "the theory of harmony" and "the harmony textbook")
is "German" in view of the fact that those treatises that
later served as models were nearly all published in Germany. During the course of the nineteenth century, these
treatises were translated into several languages, and many

of the texts originating outside of Germany- particularly


those in the English-speaking world- follow those models
in their organization. It is not asserted, however, that the
Harmonielehre tradition was the only one, or that there was
a lack of relevant national differences.

Journal of Music Theory 51:1, Spring 2007

DOI 10.1215/00222909-2008-022 2009 byYale University

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

monopolistic position that one must first come to terms with the notion that,
existing alongside the theoretical lineage of Jean-Philippe Rameau, there was
yet another music-theoretical culture no less significant in music history and
the history of music theory. It is this forgotten culture and its renaissance that
are the focus of this essay.
The fixation of the Harmonielehre
tradition on the late, "abstract"writings of Rameau2and his successors has led to one of the largest omissions of
music-theoretical historiography:the nearly complete neglect of Italian music
theory, its concept of tonality, and particularlythe so-called partimentotradition, which contributed so much to the true face of European composition
teaching from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.3There can be
little doubt, for instance, that the thoroughbass teachings of "Viennese classicism"were at their core a Ramellian reshaping of an Italian music theory,4just
as the prevailing music theory at the ParisConservatorywas likewise minted in
Italy.5In Europe, the Ramellian and neo-Ramellian tradition was an essential
music-theoretical current, but until the mid-nineteenth century it was by no
means the one with the greatest practical impact.
In terms of reception history,there are many reasons why the partimento
tradition could never step out from the shadow of Rameau's theory. Here it
is sufficient to note only the most obvious: the textbooks of the partimento
tradition usually consisted mainly of music notation. In these books, "theory"
is not, in the common meaning of the word, presented and developed "scientifically."In general, nineteenth-century music theorists could no longer
take this tradition to be, strictly speaking, "theory,"let alone take it seriously
(Weber 1826). Viewed in retrospect, it decayed into Generalbasslehre
(thoroughbass teaching), to "pure practice," and simply fell outside the concept
of theory.6The sharp and often polemical delimitation of eighteenth-century
thoroughbass teaching, which continues beyond Hugo Riemann up to Carl
Dahlhaus, is a precondition for the rise of the nineteenth-century Harmonielehretradition.7
2 Meaning those writings produced after the Trait de
l'Harmonie (1722).
3 Regarding the history of the Neapolitan conservatories,
see Florimo 1882/83. In this connection, the works of
Rosa Cafiero 1993, 1999, 2001, 2005 and Giorgio Sanguinetti 1999, 2005 merit special mention. After Carl Gustav
Fellerer's early studies (1939), Florian Grampp gave a first
larger overview of the topic (2004/2005). In 2007, Robert 0.
Gjerdingen presented his comprehensive study (Gjerdingen
2007). Bruno Gingras 2008 followed with a study on the
German partimento fugue. See also Aerts (2006). Holtmeier
and Diergarten 2008 offers a general overview.
4 On this point, see especially Budday 2002, Holtmeier
2008, 2009, Grandjean 2006, Kaiser 2007a, and Diergarten 2008. The harmony and thoroughbass text of Bruckner's teacher Durrnberger (1841) is written in the spirit of

the partimento tradition, and one can still clearly detect


this provenance in Simon Sechter's already unequivocally
Ramellian Practische Generalbass-Schule (1830). Only the
neo-Ramellian turn taken in Sechter's Grundstze (1852/54)
represents a real break.
5 On the reception of partimenti in France, see the article by
Rosa Cafiero in this issue.
6 On this point, compare the disparaging remarks of Ftis
quoted by Rosa Cafiero in her article in this issue (150).
7 Even a cursory glance at the leading music journals in the
first half of the nineteenth century shows that "thoroughbass bashing" was pervasive. Gottfried Weber speaks of a
"jumble of note numbers and other symbols that one calls
thoroughbass" (1824, 55). In the context of his discussion
of Johann Bernhard Logier's System der Musikwissen-

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass


A digression on partimento reception
descolesd'Italie(1804) and his
Alexandre-Etienne Choron 's Principesd'accompagnement
descolesd'Italie(1808) together represent what is
monumental Principesde composition
surely the most obvious source for the French reception of the partimento tradition,
and the influence of Choron on Franois-JosephFtis is of central importance for
French music theory (Simms 1975). But Choron 's direct influence on the teaching of
remained limited. "Italian"influence, however, goes
composition at the Conservatoire
far beyond these explicit documents. The structure of Charles-Simon Catel's popular
Traitd'harmonie,for example, shows clear vestiges of "Italian"practice (1802). But it
wasfirst and foremost Luigi Cherubini's teaching method (1847) that stood completely
within this tradition. Even the bassesdonnesand chantsdonnsexercises found in textbooks like Henri Reber's Traitd'harmonie(1862) and Franois Bazin's Coursd'harmonie
etpratique(1875) - both texts alreadyclearly marked as Ramellian- document
thorique
the continuing influence of the Italian partimento tradition.
While for a long time partimento practice remained a living tradition in Parisian conservatories and in Italy (Vidal and Boulanger 2006), its decline in Germany
was accelerated by the collapse of the old bourgeois and clerical institutions of music
education. With the establishment of the Leipzig Conservatory (1843), the training of
musicians in Germany was reprofessionalized. The Italian partimento tradition could
find only sporadic admission into this new civil institution. Nevertheless, the traditionreshaped by other music-theoretical tendencies - did survive at other conservatories,
especially in Munich. There Josef Gabriel Rheinberger taught "high-Romantic"partimen ti (both figured and unfigured; Rheinberger 2001; Irmen 1974), and the exercises
(1907) of Rudolf Louis and Ludwig Thuille
provided in the influential Harmonielehre
also remain in this tradition. In Germany,however, the partimento tradition- and, in
particular,the practice of the Rule of the Octave survived best in the "lower"music
orientation
a
with
seminars
teacher
of
(Piel 1887). Their complete
practical
pedagogy
abolition with the general program of the Kestenberg reforms in 1925 (Leo Kestenberg was an influential music educator in the Weimar Republic) sealed the fate of the
partimento tradition in Germany.

From thoroughbass to Harmonielehre


The purely performance-practice term thoroughbass(Gen: Generaibass,It.:
bassocontinuo),which underlies the above-mentioned polemic, oversimplifies
the facts. In 1873, the Beethoven researcher Gustav Nottebohm had already
pointed out that in Beethoven's time one understood a "twofold"meaning by
the term thoroughbass
(Nottebohm 1873, 5): "(1) the embodiment of the rules
for accompanying a figured bass, and (2) the science of the combination and
connection of intervals and chords, with or without consideration of thoroughbass performance."Johann David Heinichen grounded his thoroughbass
schaften (1827), Adolf Bemhard Marx speaks of the "antimusical sloppiness of thoroughbass" (1830, 414). As late as
1860, Heinrich Josef Vincent titled his text on the basics of
music theory Kein Generalbass mehr (No More Thoroughbass; Vincent 1830).

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY


method on the categorical distinction between Accompagnistenand Componisten (Heinichen 1728, preface). In the eighteenth century, Heinichen's distinction became part of common sense and led to music theory differentiating
between a "theory" and a "practice" of thoroughbass, as Johann Friedrich
Daube described it (Daube 1756, vii). Johann Georg Sulzer even speaks of
a "science of thoroughbass" (1771/74, 456). Although the borders between
theory and practice were fluid, their relationship was nevertheless subject to
a clear hierarchical order. As declared in Sulzer's Allgemeine Thorieder schnen
Kunste (1771/74, 456), "Without a complete understanding of harmony it is
impossible to play thoroughbass correctly." Daube defined the relationship
between the theory and practice of thoroughbass as follows (1756, viii):
To it [thoroughbass performance] belongs, besides a skill in the practical exercise, a theoretical cognisance so that one knows: (1) from whence most chords
originate, (2) to where they may be connected, and (3) how, from the first
chord, one can deduce the subsequent ones. ... In addition to the practice of
thoroughbass, an accompanist should also understand the theory, so that he
can know how the rules of composition derive from it. A well grounded composer could even dispense with the practice of thoroughbass if he only possessed a complete command of the theory. Nevertheless having both together
is better still. A complete understanding of thoroughbass always remains the
foundation for the melodic structures that can be built upon it.8
Thus, in the eighteenth century, the term thoroughbasscovered exactly the
subject matter that, in the nineteenth century, would fall under the jurisdiction of a Harmonielehre.

Riemann spoke of thoroughbass as a "simple tool of performance practice." Equally problematical is the overgeneralizing discourse of "the" thoroughbass, which implicitly assumes a single two-hundred-yearperiod embracing a broadly static, self-contained historical and theoretical entity. But what
one comprehends by thoroughbass around the year 1600 is entirely different
from what the term implies around 1700 or even 1800. Notions of an "Ageof
or of "Thoroughbass Harmony" (DahlThoroughbass" (Generalbasszeitalter)
haus 1990, 125) provide little help. In particular,the typical German Harmonielehretradition, which attained international prevalence in the second half
of the nineteenth century, had an undifferentiated and markedly one-sided
theounderstanding of thoroughbass. In the process, nearly all Harmonielehre
reticians developed an almost manic fixation on the numerical shorthand,
on the "figures"of "figured bass."They read the figures as representatives of
8 Hierzu gehrt, neben der der praktischen Ausubung auch
eine theoretische Kenntnifc, dafc man wisse: (1) woher die
meisten Accorde entspringen. (2) Wohin sie sich lenken lassen. (3) Und wie man aus dem ersten Accorde den darauffolgenden errathen solle. . . . Ein Accompagnist soil neben
der Praxis auch die Thorie des General-Basses verstehen,
damit er wisse: wie die Regeln der Composition daraus

entspringen. Ein grundlicher Componist kann noch eher


die Praxis des General-Basses entbehren, wenn er nur die
Thorie vollkommen besitzet. Doch ist beydes beisammen
noch besser. Die vllige Kenntniftdes General-Basses bleibt
jederzeit der Grund des darauf zu bauenden melodischen
Gebaudes.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

chords, understood them almost exclusively vertically,built "stacks"of thirds


over the respective bass notes, and thus unconsciously transferred their own
understanding of chord, harmonic progression, and, above all, harmonic analtradition, whether oriented
ysis to the music of the past. For the Harmonielehre
toward theories of scalar degrees (Roman numerals, Stufentheorie)or functional theory (Funktionstheorie)
, harmonic progression meant the leap from
chord to chord, and it was in this sense that even thoroughbass was understood and its figures read.9 In this purely vertical reading, the figures can be
theorists were unable to engage with
read off clearly.Hence, the Harmonielehre
the
and Konbecause
separation of Harmonielehre
thoroughbass appropriately
trapunkthad already been completely internalized and transferred to the past
as something self-evident. The opposition between "harmony"and "melody,"
and the resultant division between the teaching of harmony and counterpoint,
The more
is the starting point for the neo-Ramellian German Harmonielehre.
theorists decried, wrote against, and tried to surmount this
the Harmonielehre
"artificial"separation, the more it became solidified and, as it were, a natural
law.They attempted to resolve a self-inflicted problem. The reconciliation of
harmony and melody, of line and Klang(i.e., a sonority perceived as a chord),
tradition (Kuhn 1994).
is ^central theme of the entire Harmonielehre
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, considering the typical
case, thoroughbass figures had not only vertical but also linear significance.
One is often unable to draw a line between the contrapuntal and harmonic
sense of the figures.10The recurring formulation in Italian lesson books,
where one learns counterpoint through thoroughbass or partimento, should
be taken seriously and understood quite concretely- by contrapuntoone had
in mind not just the "special disciplines" of counterpoint but above all the
correct disposizione(Sanguinetti 2005, 496f.), that is, "diebesteLage" the correct voice leading above the thoroughbass (Frster 1818, 1; Holtmeier 2009).
The trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli became the unquestioned pedagogical models for this ideal voice leading. They embodied a compositional ideal
valid from the seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century. That is, a
four-voice texture was considered a three-voice texture supplemented by the
presence of an added voice (ad libitum), which could as easily be missing.
For the Ramellian and neo-Ramellian Harmonielehre,
however, a three-voice
texture is an idealized four-voice texture missing one voice. I return later to
the substantial difference between these concepts of chord.

9 Hugo Riemann also understood the figures as pure "instructions for hand positions" {Griffanweisung) to which no functional harmonic or contrapuntal significance is attached.
Characteristically he put not only his notorious Klangschlssel but also his symbols for harmonic function under all the
exercises in his Anleitung zum Generalba&Spielen (Riemann 1889).

10 One is tempted to say - with all due caution - that at the


beginning of the eighteenth century the linear significance
still predominates, and that thoroughbass or the understanding of thoroughbass becomes increasingly "verticalized" during the course of the century under the influence
of Ramellian thinking. The one-sided vertical reading of the
German Harmonielehre is only a (radical) consequence of
this development.

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10

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY


A digression on Corelli reception

Corelli had as authoritaWithout exaggeration, can one assert that for the stilontoderno,
tive a stature as that of Palestrina for stilo antico.He was, in terms of the reception of
his style and the diffusion of his works, a composer of European importance. Angelo
Berardi had already called him the "new Orfeo of our time" ("nuovo Orfeo nostri
giorni";Berardi 1689, 45). ForJohann Mattheson he was "the prince of all composers"
(Mattheson 1739, 326). And Michel de Saint Lambert referred to him as the "famous
Corelli, so celebrated now in all Europe, and for several years so fashionable among
us" ("fameux Corelli, si clbre maintenant dans l'Europe, & si la mode parmi nous
depuis quelques annes"; Saint Lambert 1707, 41). Corelli's music was so popular that
Denis Arnold spoke of a "Corelliancult" (Arnold 1978).
In 1681, the Pasquini pupil George Muffat became personally acquainted with
Corelli in Rome. One could point to Muffat's RegulaeconcentuumPartiturae(1699) as
f/theoretical document for the modern (Corellian) trio-sonatastyle of composition.
Here composition in four or more voices is consistently presented as an extension
of three-voice composition. Mattheson stressed, "If one can deal with three voices
properly, singably,and with full sonority, then all will go happily even with twenty-four
voices" (1739, 344). Even in Joseph Riepel's dialogues, the Teacher explains to his Student that one must "patchin" the fourth voice (Riepel 1996, 571). This procedure can
still be seen clearly in Stanislao Mattei'sfour-voicesettings of bassinumerati(1850) - the
viola part is an optional filler voice.
The single voice of the thoroughbass stood as representative of an essentially three-voice, contrapuntal constellation of voices, whose contrapuntal
topoi had already been practiced during instruction in composition.11 Given
a schematic excerpt of the bass and/or the figures, one assigned it a two-voice
accompaniment. By no means could the harmonic "content" of a bass be logically derived, as it were, in the abstract from the figures themselves. Thus one
knew that the two-voice 2-6-7-3 model for the upper voices (bracket "a" in
Example lb) was assigned to a rising fifth with the figures 4-3 (Example 1,
Ledbetter 1990, 12; Fenaroli 1978, bk. 3, 9). Likewise, one knew which upper
voices corresponded to the clausula of the cadenza composta (slur "b" in Example lb). One recognized larger contexts and allocated the missing voices, but
on no account was the point to be "counting outMchord tones from the bass.

11 Particularlyin recent German music theory, the discussion of compositional models represents its own strong
tradition. In this regard, Ernst Seidel's article on the "devil's
mill" {Teufelsmhle; 1969) is of special significance (see
also Holtmeier 2008, s.v. "Teufelsmhle"; Dietrich 2007;
Yellin 1998). Furthermore, one should mention, on the
one hand, the teaching methods and the less historically
than systematically oriented works of the "Berlin school"
centered around Hartmut Fladt (2005, 2007), which found
its most powerful expression in Ulrich Kaiser's influential

two-volume Gehrbildung {Ear Training-,2000) and, on the


other hand, the works developed in the environment of
the so-called "historical composition training" {historische
Satzlehre). Here the teaching methods and the writings of
Markus Jans have been exemplary (Jans 1987, 1993; see
also Holtmeier 2002, 2008, s.v. "Satzmodelle"; Dodds
2006; Froebe 2007; Menke 2008; Schwenkreis 2008). See
also the current discussions around these models: Aerts
2007, Kaiser 2007b, and Schwab-Felisch 2007.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass


43

434343436

'"I'T

11

\(

H1

c_T

I'1

Example 1a. A typical series of bass tones and figures

H'Ur

i1

T7p
'
"

Vf' nyr
r

"

ut

l<i

Example 1b. A realization of the bass of Example 1 using preferred voice-leading

i1

j r
models

Toward a history and theory of the Rule of the Octave


At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the splitting of thoroughbass into
"science"and "practice,"along with the "invention"of the Rule of the Octave
around 1700, was a pivotal turning point in the history of both thoroughbass
and harmonic tonality. It is a still widespread misunderstanding that the Rule
of the Octave is only a "model harmonization,"one among several possibilities
for furnishing major and minor scales with chords. But that view recognizes
only the most extrinsic aspect of the Rule of the Octave and overlooks its intrin-,
sic significance for music history and the history of music theory. At heart the
Rule of the Octave is not merely "pragmatic"legerdemain (Christensen 1993,
170) , but the crucial step towarda theorlzation of thoroughbass. It is not solely
a concrete statement of compositional norms but aboye all an instrument of
harmonicanalysis.12The Rule of the Octave codifies what is generally understood by the terms "major-minortonality,""cadential harmony,"or "modern
tonality."With the Rule of the Octave thoroughbass becomes a Harmonielehre
in the modern sense. The Rule of the Octave frees thoroughbass from traditional thinking in terms of model-bound (contrapuntal) contexts, isolates the
individual Klang,and leads to a hitherto unknown verticalization of harmonic
discourse- the Rule of the Octave is a theory of harmonic functionality.

12 Scholars did not follow up on Walter Heimann's remarks


on "Rule-of-the-Octave texture" (Oktavregelsati) in his
splendid study of Bach's chorale style (Heimann 1973, 62f.).
Only with Wolfgang Budday's Harmomelehre Wiener Klassik.
Thorie- Satztechnik-Werkanalyse (Harmony in Viennese
Classicism; 2002) was the Rule of the Octave brought back
into the discourse of practical music theory. FranckThomas

Arnold's monumental study on thoroughbass from 1931


must also be mentioned in this context. Arnold comes close
to many of the insights that were presented in the works of
Heimann and Budday. But his general historical approach is
underpinned by that tenacious neo-Ramellianism that was
so typical for his time.

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12

JOURNAL of MUSK. THEORY

No one more clearly recognized the verticalization of harmonic discourse and more radically formulated it than Rameau. If one does a close
reading of his Traitde l'Harmonie(1722), then there can be no doubt that
Rameau's theory of the bassefondamentalearose from the attempt to theoretically pinpoint the Rule of the Octave (see Heinichen 1728, 764). In the first
two books of the Trait,he develops theoretically what in the central, third
book he achieves by practical application in the example of the Rule of the
Octave. That is, the bassefondamentaleexplains the modus vivendi of the Rule
of the Octave, its ruling principe.The bassefondamentaleconstitutes the inner
"essence"of harmony, the Rule of the Octave its outward appearance.13It is
no doubt correct that, after the Trait,Rameau's music theory distanced itself
ever further from its origins in the Rule of the Octave. From the publication
of the Nouveausystme(1726) onward, Rameau's theory becomes noticeably
more abstract and formalistic. The internal aspects of the theory turn ever
more clearly toward the external. The bassefondamentalebecomes the paramount principle which usurps even musical practice. Paradoxically,the Rule
of the Octave itself becomes, at least dating from the public argument between
Rameau and Michel-Pignolet Montclair in the MercuredeFrance(Rameau and
Montclair 1729/30; Christensen 1993, 56) , first a counterproposal to the basse
fondamentale,and finally the epitome of a spiritless,atheoretical practice pitted
against the lone scientific theory in the form of the bassefondamentale.
One must alwaysbear in mind the Janus-faced character of Ramellian
theory in order to understand its complex reception history.This divides along
two main paths, which one could reify and characterize as the "practical"and
the "speculative."The practical takes its point of departure from the third
and fourth books of the Trait,in which the Rule of the Octave plays a central
role. The speculative derives from the first two books, which deal exclusively
with the bassefondamentale.The German, and above all the north German,
reception of Rameau can be predominantly assigned to the speculative path,
the French and Italian reception, save for isolated exceptions, to the practical.
The Viennese tradition of thoroughbass teaching is, as already mentioned, in
the broadest sense associated with the Italian tradition. In the French and Italian school of teaching composition (and the Viennese school can be regarded
as belonging to it), the bassefondamentalefirmly integrated itself into the deepseated educational tradition of the Rule of the Octave. There the Rule could
hold its central position across the whole of the eighteenth century without
13 The Rule of the Octave occupied Rameau's attention his
whole life. He was always finding new interpretations of it
(Christensen 1993).
14 This becomes clear, for instance, in the statement
by FriedrichWilhelm Marpurg that "since the time of his
[Rameau] Traitde l'Harmonie, the Testore musico of someone likeTevo cuts as poor a figure as, for example, the logic
of Christian Weisen since the advent of [Christian)Wolff's

philosophy of reason" ("seit der zeit seines [Rameausl


Trait de l'Harmonie macht der Testore musico einesTevo
und andrer eine so schlechte Figur, als etwa eine Logik von
ChristianWeisen, seit die WolfscheVernunftlehre existiert";
Marpurg 1760, 57). That the basse fondamentale succeeded
to become the epitome of "modern" scientific method may
have been the essential reason behind the extraordinary
success story of Ramellian theory.

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LudwigHoltmeier~ Heinichen, Rameau,and Italian Thoroughbass


any real dispute. On the other hand, alreadyin the worksof FriedrichWilhelm
Marpurg and Johann Philipp Kirnberger,who more than any others spread
Ramellian theory into German-speaking lands, the Rule of the Octave plays
only a marginal role. And from the early writings of the German Harmonielehretradition (Gottfried Weber,Adolf Bernhard Marx) it finally disappeared
almost completely. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Rule of the
Octave also begins to lose its significance in France and Italy.Toward the end
of the century it was displaced across nearly all of Europe by the modern scaletraditiondegree (i.e., Roman numeral) theory of the German Harmonielehre
a global export success. It was completely forgotten that the Rule of the Octave
had once actually founded the "modern"conception of tonality.
A digression on Rameau reception

The receptionof Rameau'steachingswasalsohamperedby the factthat,apartfroma


relativelyearlytranslationof the thirdand fourthbooksinto English(Rameau1737),
no furthertranslationswerepublishedduringthe eighteenthand nineteenthcenturies. Rameau'stheorycame to GermanyprincipallythroughFriedrichWilhelmMarsummaryofJean Le RondD'Alembert(1757).
purg'stranslationof the "theory-laden"
Yetthere were tracesof Italianmusictheoryeven in the Prussiannorth. Maximilian
a friendof Haydn,broughtthe Italiantraditionto the districtof
von Droste-Hlshoff,
Munster(Droste-Hlshoff
1821;Fellerer1939;Kantsteiner1974/75); BernhardKlein
in
to the Sing-Akademie
tradition
of the ParisConservatory
the
brought partimento
RamellianBerlin(Eitner1882).Klein'spupil,the archivistandmusictheoristSiegfried
Dehn, was a great connoisseurof Italianmusic theory.Towardthe mid-nineteenth
century,Dehnpublishedtwonotabletextbooksin the Italianspirit(Dehn 1840,1859).
Kleinbroughtdownon himselfthe oppositionof the all-powerful
Characteristically,
CarlFriedrichZelter(Eitner1882),and Dehn'sharmonybookbecamethe targetof a
famouspolemicalattackfromAdolfBernhardMarx(1841).
The fact that the Rule of the Octave was consistently understood as
"practice"and not as "theory"is based on the nature of the Rule of the Octave
itself. In contrast to the closed system of Ramellian theory, the Rule of the
Octave developed through a long history and melded together different, occasionally divergent music-theoretical contents and traditions. The Rule of the
Octave has neither a sole "inventor"nor an unambiguously defined form. But
one can come up with three factors that define the nature of the Rule of the
Octave, and which I would like to describe schematically as the sequential,
the cadential, and the systematic.The intrinsic multiplicity of the Rule of the
Octave even explains its diverse manifestations- some emphasize the sequential factor, others the cadential or the systematic.
The Rule of the Octave is usuallydescribed as standing in the tradition of
models used in improvised contrapuntoalla mente- from Guilielmus Monachus
(1965) to Fray Toms de Sancta Maria (1565) to Spiridionis (1670/71/75;
Lamott 1980; Christensen 1992; Jans 2007; Gjerdingen 2007, 467f.). Thus,

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13

14

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

666

66

66

Example 2. An improvised

scale harmonization

66

as precursor to the Rule of the Octave

the Rule of the Octavecarriesforwardthe traditionalcategoriesof intervals


and their "dynamic"
qualities.The triadrepresentsperfect consonance,the
"cadential"
sonorityof repose, the initialand goal chord of a harpersistent
monic progression.By contrast,the chord of the sixth representsimperfect
consonance,the sonorityof motion,whichdemandsa stepwisecontinuation.
Therefore,the primitivemodel of the Rule of the Octavewould involvea
stepwisesuccessionof chords of the sixth, linkinga perfect consonanceon
the firstdegree to a perfectconsonanceon the fifthdegree,and ultimatelyto
a perfectconsonanceon the eighth degree (see Example2).
But the specificGestaltof the Rule of the Octavecannot be attributed
solely to the traditionof improvisedscale harmonizations.On the contrary,
there is an auraof mysticalrevelationthat surroundsthe descriptionof the
sources.15
One can
Ruleof the Octavein quitea fewearlyseventeenth-century
music-theoretical
still sense it in that intrinsicallyGerman-language,
concept
of the "naturalscale"(naturlicher
ambitus)or "naturalharmony"(naturliche
s.v."Ambitus")
("Itseems to me
Harmonie)(Heinichen 1728,750 and register
as if thisharmonicscalehasbeen implantedinto our earsfromthe beginning
of the world"["Mirdeucht,es seydiseharmonischeLeiterunsermGehrvon
Anbeginnder Welteingepflanzt"];Riepel1996,580), and the manyclaimsof
prioritymakeclearthat the Rule'sappearancewasfelt as a remarkableevent
andan importantdemarcationwithinthe historiesof compositionand theory.
Thatwouldhardlyrequireexplanationwereit nothingmorethana pureconmodels.The forerunnersof
tinuationof the traditionalinterval-progression
the Ruleof the Octavepresupposeda separationbetweena logic of progression tied to a model- in the sense of improvisedGymel(Jans 1987)- and of
a cadential,punctuatingsegment.Modeland cadenceare the centralcategoriesof compositionalinstructionin the seventeenthcentury.To compose,one
might say somewhatsimplistically,meant an alternatingexchange between
cadentialand sequentialmodels.The second half of the seventeenthcentury
can be describedas a processduring which these sequentialand cadential
modelscome ever closer to each other.The Ruleof the Octavefinallymelds
both factorstogether.
15 Here one must mention Franois Campion (1716, 1730),
who claimed for himself the authorship of the Rule of the
Octave - an old musician bequeathed it to him, as it were,
on his deathbed (Mason 1981). This story spread quickly and
remained in circulation for a long time in northern Europe,
particularlythrough David Kellner's frequently reprinted Treulicher Unterricht im General-Bass (Kellner 1732).

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

15

In the early eighteenth century, contemporary writersclearly recognized


that the changed role of the "false"(diminished) fifth and the "major"(augmented) fourth was the central sign of the new harmonic language. It is also
one of the central theorems of Italian music theory and of Ramellian teaching
that the relationship between the "leading tones" 7 and 4 forms the core of
a theory of harmony. As a matter of fact, the feature that most clearly differentiates the Rule-of-the-Octaveharmony in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries from the harmony of the seventeenth century is the compelling
assignment of the (dominant-function) six-four-twochord to the descending
fourth degree.16It is precisely that new role for the "false"fifth and "major"
fourth that differentiates the Rule of the Octave, in qualitative respects, from
all the older harmonization models of the scale.17
A digression on the "false" fifth

A remark made by Angelo Berardi in the context of discussing a resolution of the dissonant second into a "false"fifth supports the thesis that the "consonant"and free use
of the diminished fifth in the modern harmony at the close of the seventeenth century
was borrowed from popular music: "Some moderns have resolved the suspended second to the false fifth; one allows this method of resolution, it being hard and harsh,
only in popular song for the expression of certain words. Thus, one should use it with
caution" ("Alcunimoderni hanno legato la seconda con la quinta falsa: questo modo
di legare, per essere duro e aspro, si concede solamente nelle cantilene volgari per
esprimere qualche parola. Si deve perci usare con prudenza"; Berardi 1687, 137).
Mattheson grasped the changed role of the diminished fifth precisely when, in Der
he maintained one would have "good reasons" (billigeUrsache)
volikommene
Kapellmeister,
the
it
to
for "appending
consonances," since "itdoes far more harmonious service than
fifth"
the perfect
(Mattheson 1739, 235). At the beginning of the nineteenth century,
de
Momigny still maintained that one had to treat the tritone and the
Jerome Joseph
if
false fifth "as they were consonant, ... for thirds, sixths, false fifths, and tritones
are the true harmonic intervals that can be used in two-partcomposition" ("comme
s'ils taient des consonnans, ... les tierces, les sixtes et les fausses quintes ou tritons
sont les vrais intervalles harmoniques, employable dans la composition deux partie";
Momigny 1803/1806, 1:284). Similarly,Ftis regarded both the diminished fifth and
the augmented fourth as consonant intervals (Simms 1975, 122). Nicol Zingarelli
16 And likewise, the (dominant) six-five chord on the ascending seventh degree. In terms of historical development, the
fact that (along with the four-two chord on the descending
fourth degree) it concerns a harmonic passing-chord phenomenon remains evident for a long time in the Italian partimento tradition. According to Giovanni Paisiello (Dellaborra
2007), the dominant four-two chord occurs "when one
descends from the fifth of the key to the third of the key"
("quando discende dalla Quinta delTono allaTerza delTono";
Paisiello 1782, 5; Holtmeier, Menke, and Diergarten 2008).
In the course of this development, however, this passingchord phenomenon becomes emancipated from its origin,

and one could thus with equal justification designate the


fifth degree as a "preparation" for the descending fourth
degree.
17 Johann Georg Albrechtsberger stresses that there is a
"bass scale of the old composers" and a "bass scale of
the newer composers" (Albrechtsberger 1790, 12/13). For
the chord on the descending fourth degree, the four-two
chord suits the "newer" scale - the modern Rule of the
Octave, while the simple six-three chord, which only serves
the distinction between perfect and imperfect triads, suits
the older scale.

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16

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY


opened up his lessons in composition with what he considered to be the core relation of harmony. He wrote the tritone and the diminished fifth and their resolutions
on a piece of paper with the words: 'You shall begin from the scale in two voices; and
remember, in harmony the fourth descends, and the seventh ascends" (Sanguinetti
2005, 451f.).

It is not difficult to discern the derivation of the harmonic formula for


the descending 4-3-2-1 scale-degree progression in the Rule of the Octave:
its source is the cadenzadoppia(see Example 3) , which playssuch a prominent
role in the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Gjerdingen
2007, 169).
Early-eighteenth-centuryItalian thoroughbass manuals recognized three
types of cadences, which were designated in the eighteenth-century partimento tradition by the terms semplice(simple), composta(compound) , and doppia (double).18Thus, semplicegenerally signifies a simple dominant-tonic relationship, compostathe classical4-3 suspension cadence, and doppiathe "grand"
cadence with the consonant fourth. These cadences have not merely an articulating, punctuating function, but in the seventeenth century they become
comprehensive compositional models that pervade entire compositions. It is
crucial to note that these cadences are contrapuntalmodels. At its core, each
cadence consists of three voices, which relate to each other in triple counterpoint: although the unfigured bass clausula of the cadenzadoppia(Example
3a) can only be set over a soprano clausula, not over the tenor clausula, some
other standardized figurations (c-f ) even permit the later arrangement.19
Underlying the Rule of the Octave is less a collection of interval-progression models and more a Durchkadenzierung
(thorough cadentializing) of the
scale by means of these contrapuntal cadence models- above all the cadenza
doppia.Starting points for the emergence of the Rule of the Octave might be
phrases "in the style of Corelli,"as in Example 4.
In Example 4a, the slurs mark the doppiaversions of tenor clausulae, the
brackets mark the doppiaversions of soprano clausulae (see also Example 4b),
and the wavyline designates the figuration of a doppiabass clausula. One can
easily clarifythe derivation of the Rule of the Octave from the modern Italian
18 See Gjerdingen 2007, 141 f. A historical investigation of
this concept is a topic of current scholarship and would
exceed the limits of this essay. The term doppia and the
quasi-standardized use of the conceptual triad of semplice,
composta, and doppia is a relatively late feature of Italian
music theory. Also, the terms are hardly used in a consistent way. Even in the late eighteenth century, depending
on the author, the terms may overlap in content, especially with semplice and composta. In earlier sources the
doppia cadence is designated by a multiplicity of terms
like cadenza major, gro&e Cadenz, grande cadence, great
cadence (Godfrey Keller), gantze Cadenz or cadentia maior
perfectis (Muffat), and so forth. Even later- despite a clearly

perceptible process of standardization- the terminology is


by no means consistent. Similarlyambiguous are the derivation and meaning of the term doppia (double). On the one
hand, it can refer to the (metrical) breadth of the cadence,
and on the other hand, to the combination of semplice and
composta into one "doubled" cadence.
19 The fifth scale degree thereby becomes a superjectio of
the fourth degree. The bass clausula thus actually becomes
a variant in double counterpoint of the alto clausula. This
quasi identity between figurations of bass and alto clausulae
is an essential element of innumerable contrapuntal designs
in the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~

(a)

Heinichen,

(b)

17

Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

(c)

(f)

(e)

(d)

- II
- r i r =t= |J-J,Jlj- Fr^rlf1
I*
FriHJrrlfJ
1 liK
r i r *= |j;J,
?==r
r |-Jh'
-f
--f flr^rll1
^rrrjJ|-j
rrrr f

\-};I" N TrrrI>JlrJrrMTrrr 'iJ IrrrrI'J Trrr I>J


Example 3. The cadenza doppia as a model of triple counterpoint

(a)

k,i,

j||777lrrnTrrr_
IrfT]^^
666

754

676

46716
2

(b)

ill

.OjJjjJ^ijjl

b:"

1^

r r

If

?\f

r r

I.

Ir

r r

^^

Example 4. The Rule of the Octave in the style of Corelli

of
of the Corelli-styletrio-sonataformatif one makesa "reduction"
"tonality"
To
That
4a.20
that
one
first
removes
all
the
end,
Example
suspensionfigures,.
includesthe 7-6 suspensionsin mm. 4 and 5, the 4-3 suspensionin the third
measure,and even the 7-5 progressionin thatsamebar,whichis actuallyonly
an "elision"of a 7-6-5-4-3 progression.In this form the progressionalso
appearsin the then-currentmodel-basedphrasesshownin Example5. If one
20 In the early eighteenth century, this kind of dissonance
reduction is a common procedure in thoroughbass pedagogy. In particular, see Michel de Saint Lambert 1707 and
Godfrey Keller 1707.

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18

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

^^F=#^r
[r

765

fe

r
666

765

Ir

43

765

If
43

model

r.

nr

xr

43

Example 5. The 7-6-5-4-3

^f

^ip

r r
66

FrTMr

fl

r_x

H^

rT7^J

616

466
2

Example 6. The classical Rule of the Octave: reduction of Example 4a

now- retainingthis organizingprinciple- also begins the descendingscale


witha perfectconsonance,thereemergesthe classicalformof the Ruleof the
Octave(Example6).
It becomesclearduringthis processof derivationwhatis reallyrevolutionaryabout the Rule of the Octave:the derhythmizationof the cadence,
the decoupling of dissonancefrom ligatura,from syncopatio.
In short, the
of
the
traditional
cadential
the
dissolution
breakup
interrelationships.Only
of the "bonds"(ties) in the clausulaefrees the Klang.21
This emancipationof
individualsonoritiesinevitablyaccompaniesa far-ranginglooseningof superordinaterhythmicand linear relationships.Thus, in the context of the doppia tenor clausula,the thirdscale degree in the bassactuallybecomesonly a
"passingchord"on a weakbeat, carrierof a consonantpreparationfor the
followingdissonanttenor clausula(Example7a). The principleof the stepwiseprogressionisolatesthe sonoritiesand permitsa largelyderhythmicized
"binaryrelationship"of chords to replacethe three-and four-notecontexts
21 Nowhere can one more clearly discern the factor of
abstraction, the "material character" of the Rule of the
Octave, than in this process. Here too lies the crucial difference between the sequential and cadential models, which

as concrete compositional building blocks can be, as it


were, directly adopted and employed in compositional practice. The Rule of the Octave, by contrast, always requires
positioning within the rhythmic design.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~

(a)

Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

Heinichen,

(b)

i f f

(b-f

^i

|h

|f

id

|r

"

Example 7

of the clausulae(Example7b). Thus, the thirddegree takeson a sonorityin


its own right.
It is particularly
here in the Ruleof the Octavethatone finds"old"interval progressionsand the "new"Corelli-stylecadentialharmonyin a relationship of dialecticaltension.As a chord of motion, the imperfectconsonance
on the thirdscaledegree leadsacrossthe imperfectsecond degree to resting
point on the perfectfirstdegree (Example7a). Yetas a more "emancipated"
componentof the cadenzadoppia,the chordof the sixthis a goal and point of
resolutionfor the dissonantsix-four-two
chord on the fourth degree, which
precedesit (Example7b). It is thusjust asmucha chordof repose.The cadenza
doppiacarriesthe factorof harmonictensionand relaxationinto the old progressionmodel. This is exactlywhereRameau's theorybegins- the model of
tension and relaxationbecomes the centralfeatureof his bassefondamentale.
Consonanceand dissonanceassumethe place held by perfectand imperfect
consonancein the musictheoryof the seventeenthcentury.Dissonancetakes
overthe functionof imperfectconsonance.Harmonicmovementis no longer
the progression,by means of a multiplicityof imperfectconsonances,from
an opening perfect consonance through a series of intermediatecaesuralike perfect consonancesto a closing perfectconsonance (the so-calledpipprinciple;Jans 1987). Now harmonicmovementis a routineconsequenceof
dissonanceand consonance, of tension and relaxation(Christensen1993,
120f.).22ForRameau,thejuxtapositionof doppiaclausulaein the Ruleof the
Octavebecomes a routine consequence of two-stagecadences
parfaites.The
close dependencedevelopedby Rameau's bassefondamentale
on the cadential
harmonyof the Ruleof the Octavebecomesclearif one sets belowthe doppia
cadencesof Example4a a bassvoicewithoutfiguration(Example8a givestwo
alternativeversions)and then comparesthissupporting"fundamental
voice"
22 Or the connection of two consonances by a chain of dissonances. Thomas Christensen points out that for Rameau
"every non-tonic scale degree carries a seventh chord"
(1993, 129).

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19

20

JOURNAL

of MUSIC THEORY

(a)

J J ft J J , J Jm_J J J ... ,
rfbjp^J
f f
f r r
w^=^
=

,>>'.V_[J j

spF^

|j

J Io

*=

|.. ;

|o

(b)

fglgi
Biffe-ContftJS",

tf

6
me
Domini-*

^T^^^|'^V-l^^U^r-4^-TNone
toniqtiHlWf,

&-f-^
^-^.t
.

-pNoTi__. ^
" - tNotM.->tianbU'-

f-He.*jwMot-*

T'
,

I"

\,

^~-t^

r# majeurf\)t.

BASSE-FONDAMENTALE,

777747.

Example 8. Rameau's interpretation

of the Rule of the Octave

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass


6
5

?o
[7]
|

6
5

.. o ;>
I

[7]
|

Example 9. "Implicit" harmonic structure of Rameau's


Rule of the Octave

ascending

with the bassefondamentale(Example 8b) that Rameau provided for the Rule
of the Octave (Rameau 1722, 382).
Even Rameau's bassefondamentaleuses only the tones of the doppiabass
clausulae: C, G, and D.23One clearly recognizes, however, the differences.
Rameau applies, as it were, the same model to the succession of the descending scale as to the ascending scale. Thus, in the descending scale, the fifth
degree is treated like a first degree (as a nottetonique), and the leading tone
( nottesensible)is treated like a third degree ( mediante). These degrees are thus
interpreted as if ascending: for Rameau, the schematic progression in Example 9 implicitly underlies the ascending scale (Rameau 1722, 208).
The diatonic arrangement of the mode prohibits the leading tone to the
fifth degree from actuallysounding (Rameau conceives the fifth degree comme
une nottetonique)(Rameau 1722, 213). Yet regarded functionally, the progression of the leading tone to the tonic {nottesensibleto nottetonique)is identical
to that of the fourth degree to the dominant (quatrimeto dominante)(Rameau
1722, 208). At the end of Rameau's ascending scale (Example 8b) a scarcely
motivated, apparent leap from the leading tone to the fifth degree owes its
existence to Rameau's logic of progressions. It clarifies the dual function of
the seventh scale degree, which must at the same time support an inversion
of a perfect triad (parfait)and a seventh chord (Vaccordde la septime).On the
one hand, it is a medianteof a "tonicized"dominant accordingly ushered in by
its own dominant (D3 in the bassefondamentaleof Example 8b) (Rameau 1722,
211). On the other hand, it really is the nottesensible,obliged to lead into the
tonic and to support a (dominant) six-five chord (l'accordde la fausse quinte).
One can clearly detect these changes of function from the bassefondamentale.
The bassefondamentaleunder the leading tone (G3) does not bear the signature of a seventh chord, because the sounding dissonance of the six-fivechord
on this seventh scale degree is just an apparent one. In its true essence this
dissonance is a parfaitin first-inversionform. Only with the next chord does
the fundamental seventh chord become "material"and resolve itself properly.
23 The much discussed problem area of the double emploi
(see Example 8b, m. 3) lies outside the scope of this
essay.

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21

22

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

That the seventh of the bassefondamentaleunder the sixth scale degree (C


above D), which performs the function of a dominant to the medianteo the
tonicized dominant, is not resolving correctly but ascends to the D, justifies
Rameau in the prohibition of doubling the leading tone (B), which a proper
resolution of that dissonant seventh would violate (Rameau 1722, 213; see also
Rousseau 1768). So just as that six-five chord over the seventh scale degree
is actually a perfect triad, then conversely the six chord over the sixth scale
degree is actually,in a functional sense, a dissonant seventh chord.
Alreadywe can clearlymake out that tendency towardformalisticabstracand
tion
espritdu systmethat in the late writingsof Rameau often takes on such
abstruse manifestations.24In the Trait,however, Rameau's complex operations still have a recognizable basis in experience and in the musical features
themselves. The thesis that the fundamental principle of modern (Rule of the
Octave) harmony was the dogmatization of the cadence, understood as the
transition from a dissonant sonority to a consonant one (and vice versa), actually grasps an essential aspect of the new chordal basis of composition in the
style of Corelli's trio sonatas. But one can also clearly distinguish in Rameau's
bassefondamentalethe difficulties and problems of a one-dimensional systemization of the Rule of the Octave. In concert with his theory of inversion,
Rameau's consonance-dissonance dichotomy eliminates the concept of imperfect consonance. It may still be present as a phenomenon in compositional
technique, but as a music-theoretical category it disappears completely.25The
consequences are far reaching. As imperfect consonances merge with perfect
consonances in the concept of chord, the concept of harmonic movement is
tied exclusively to dissonance. Beyond dissonance, Rameau's system reaches
an impasse. Thus it is literally impossible for two accordsparfaits(each with a
different bassefondamentale)to follow one another. At their core, the labored
constructions of the cadenceirregulire(sixte ajoute),the later sous-dominante,
and the infamous doubleemploionly serve the purpose of maintaining the rigid
logic of progression, which enforces the exclusion of imperfect consonances
and the dogmatization of dissonance. Rameau's music theory does not engage
the dialectical tension between the old interval progressions and the "new"
cadential harmony of the Corelli style, which was worked out as a central factor in the Rule of the Octave. With a revolutionarygesture he simplywiped the
centuries-old and autonomous theory of intervallic qualities off the table.
Toward an "Italian" concept of chord
No music-theoretical theorem of the eighteenth century did more to imple- "inversion"
ment a break with tradition than Rameau's theory of renversement
24 In the Trait, Rameau himself points repeatedly to the
fact that the basse fondamentale is "of little use in practical
music" (inutile la pratique; Rameau 1722, 381).

25 Christensen refers to the difference between a concept


of inversion based on "inversional derivation," which was
already common before Rameau, and one based on this
new "inversional equivalence" (1993, 70f.).

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

23

sealed the fate of the old intervallic qualities. No other concept of Ramellian theory would have a comparablywide diffusion. Even traditions of musictheory teaching that took themselves to be anti-Rameau and rejected in particular his theory of chord progression26nevertheless adopted as self-evident
the concept of inversion. By the end of the eighteenth century it had already
gained acceptance across all of Europe, and by the middle of the nineteenth
century it finally achieved a position where it had almost no competition.
Even today, it still holds sway so naturally, so unchallenged that it is worthwhile drawing attention to what a radical break it once represented from
a centuries-old tradition. According to Rameau, a chord of the sixth is no
longer an independent sonority in its own right, but becomes a "derivative"
chord, an "inversion"of a "fundamental"triad. The old pivotal distinction
between fifth and sixth, between a sonority of rest and one of motion, was
not only completely leveled, but perfect and imperfect consonances became,
in Rameau's thoughts on inversion, nearly "identical."His new principle of
the stacking of thirds takes the place of the old intervallic qualities. From it
Rameau derives both of his "root chords":the triad {parfait)and the seventh
He even bases the essential opposition between
chord (dominante-tonique).
consonant and dissonant chords- between consonance and dissonance- on
his principle of the stacking of thirds.
The partisansand interpreters of Rameau have alwaysinvoked the idea
that his theory was the first to actually develop a precise concept of harmonic
dynamism (Christensen 1993, 132). That would be correct if one has in mind
his attempt to trace harmonic process back to the "basic units" of tension
and release, to the dominant-to-tonic progression, and his efforts to develop
a holistic concept of harmonic space. Yet one could as easily argue the opposite- that in its schematized ideas of inversion and the stacking of thirds,
Rameau's theory leads to a complete antidynamic enervation of harmonic
process. Forjust as the difference between perfect and imperfect consonance
vanishes, so does any factor of linearity in the concept of chord.27
One can unproblematically ascribe the sonorities of the Rule of the
Octave to a series of cadencesparfaiteson the notes of the bassefondamentale
as long as it behaves like forms of cadenzedi grado,thus as long as there is a
soprano or tenor clausula in the bass. The fifth degree of the ascending Rule
of the Octave- as the penultimate tone in a bass clausula- properly requires
a leap and so becomes a problematic case for Ramellian theory, a problem
whose elaborate solution has been discussed in detail above.
26 In the eighteenth century, Rameau's theory of chord
progressions - the actual heart of his theory - only plays a
subordinate role, and even German scale-degree theory of
the early nineteenth century only marginally takes up this
aspect of it. Only with the "neo-Ramellian turn" of fundamental bass in Vienna (Sechter) and of functions theory in
Leipzig (Hauptman) does Rameau's theory of progression
finally become relevant for musical practice.

27 In the early twentieth century, it was Heinrich Schenker


who time and again pointed out Rameau's "overemphasis on
the vertical" (1930, 11). As much as he was unconsciously
bound to an understanding of tonality that was Ramellian at
its core, it is his undisputed historical achievement to have
highlighted the significance of the compositional framework
and its figuration for "classical" tonality.

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24

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY


(a)

(b)

'

\t

1 1'

(c)

I1

li'

(d)

i'

IfLMI
7

6
5

Example 10

The cadential effect of the fifth degree is actuallysuperior in the Rule of


the Octave, even if in a sense different from the one Rameau thought of. The
triad (Example 10a), but especially the seventh chord (Example 10b), on the
fifth degree almost compels a cadential resolution, thus a drop of a fifth or
third following it. The example makes it clear that in the Rule of the Octave,
degrees 6 and 7 following the dominant (Example lOd) should be understood
as merely a stepwise filling out of the ascending cadential leap of a fourth, and
are treated as "passingchords" (Schulz [Kirnberger] 1773, 36). If one considers m. 2 in Example 4a, one will see that the rising scalar passage from D3 to
G3 in the bass actually presents the figuration of a doppiabass clausula. One
can glean from this and other examples that Rameau's interpretation of the
Rule of the Octave is doomed to failure because it does not respect the functional differences and the functional variabilityof the individual degrees and
their sonorities. For Rameau, cadenzedoppie,cadenzesemplici,passing chords,
chords resulting from figurations- in short, everything- must conform to the
unitary mechanism of the consonance-dissonance succession of the cadence
parfaite.To be sure, the Rule of the Octave also isolates individual sonorities from their originally linear contexts. Nonetheless, one can still document
within it a contrapuntal provenance from three-voice compositional and
cadential models. In Rameau's theory of chords, however, chordal sonorities
become radically equalized. Chordal relationships that extend beyond the
simple two-stage progression from consonance to dissonance fall completely
outside the system.
The functional variabilityof chordal scale degrees (Stuferi)can be clearly
demonstrated by the chord of the sixth on the third degree, one of the outwardly most stable harmonic constellations within the Rule of the Octave
(Example 11). On the one hand, the chord of the sixth on the third degree
can essentially serve, in Rameau'ssense, the function of a tonic chord in inversion (Example lia). But given its placement on a mi-degree, it can also be part
of a cadenzasempliceand exercise the function of a "local"dominant to the
fourth degree, which in turn will be treated like a Mitteltonika(Riepel 1996,

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~

(a)

p
'^i'f

(b)

(c)

J i li i
6

|H^
r

If

i1
6

Example 11. The multifunctionality


scale degree

Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

Heinichen,

Ir

6
5

of the sixth chord on the third

585) (Examplelib). Moreover,it is alsofrequentlypartof a dominantpreparation,one that preparesthe dissonantsix-fivechord on the fourth degree
(Examplelie).
Such fine differentiationsfind no resonancein the mechanismof the
bassefondamentale.
Hence, the vanishingof the distinctionbetween perfect
and imperfectconsonanceultimatelyleadsto an impoverishmentin the concept of harmonicfunctionality.Giventhe disappearanceof all linearfactors,
harmonicdynamismappearsin the form of a monotonous,basically"undynamic"logic of progressions.
Johann David Heinichen and the
systematization of the Rule of the Octave

To speak of a concept of chord in the Italianthoroughbasstraditionraises


its own problems.On the one hand, the notion is hardlymore than a rough
summaryof certaintraditionsof instruction,whicheach ought to be historicallyand geographicallydifferentiated.The readermayhavenotedwithsome
confusionthat the partimentotradition,the Italianthoroughbasstradition,
and the Ruleof the Octaveare not clearlyset apartfrom one anotherin this
text. In fact,it is scarcelypossibleto drawclearboundariesbetweenthem. If
one refersto partimentias the didacticalthoroughbassexercisesthemselves,
it is not difficultto showa continuoustraditionalcontextthroughoutEurope,
extendingfarinto the twentiethcentury,in whichthe differencebetweenItalian, French,or even Germantheoreticalapproaches,betweenthe Ruleof the
or scale-degree(Roman-numeral)theory (StufenOctave,bassefondamentale,
theorie)are of secondarysignificance.If one takes partimentias a didactic
tradition,however,in whichthe accompanimentof unfiguredbassesis of fundamentalimportance,then "partimento"
alsocontainsa theoreticalapproach
that is inseparablytied to the principlesof the Rule of the Octaveand the
compositionalmodels.If I referhere alsoto an Italianthoroughbasstradition,
it is becausethis theoreticalapproachis not bound to the didacticismof the

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25

26

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

partimenti, even if it developed from them. Manyschools of thoroughbass are


certainly in the partimento tradition, even if they do not make use of actual
partimenti (e.g., Kellner 1732). What they have in common is the central
concept of the Rule of the Octave.
On the other hand, as alreadypointed out, there was no explicitly articulated theory and comprehension of chord that, in the sense that one might
contrast "Italianmusic theory versus French music theory,"one could set in
opposition to the Ramellian bassefondamentale.The singular and indeed puzzling success of Ramellian theory can substantially be attributed to the fact
that Rameau never fledged a real theoretical opponent, someone who could
have confronted his bassefondamentalewith a competing concept. Thus, in the
course of the eighteenth century the Rule of the Octave took on ever more
clearly the role of conservative, "old Catholic," and pretheoretical teachings
that shut themselves off from contemporary Enlightenment innovations, even
before their subversiveprogressive potential, the basis for Rameau's own basse
fondamentale,could have penetrated at all into the general consciousness.
It would be incorrect, however, to state absolutely that no theoretical
counterproposals to Rameau came forward.The attempts made seem to have
found neither the language nor the form of presentation that would have
been recognized as "theoretical"in the discourse of the early Enlightenment,
nor did they develop in a sociocultural environment that would have facilitated a broad European impact transcending their narrowerregional and linguistic borders.28
If one wished to nominate one such counterproposal to Rameau's theory, then first and foremost the monumental second edition (1728) of Johann
David Heinichen's Der General-Bassin der Composition(Thoroughbassin Composi-

tion) comes to mind. The second part of this work, "On the Complete Science of Thoroughbass" ("Von der vollkommenen Wissenschaft des GeneralBasses"), explicitly represents the unique attempt of its time to systematize
and theoretically substantiate the music theory of the Italian partimento tradition (Horn 2000). No other eighteenth-century author made the Rule of the
Octave the basis of his theory to such a degree (Horn 2001, 2002).
A digression on Heinichen

The modern functionality of the Rule of the Octave, which Heinichen develops in his
thoroughbass treatise of 1728, stands at the top of a hierarchy.The "natural"harmonies
of unfigured basses "permit themselves to be discovered in three ways**(Heinichen
1728,726-27):
28 Heinichen's work was therefore unable to find an international audience because German, in contrast to French and
Italian, was not a "European" cultural language. His influence on composition teaching in German was, however,
considerable. See, for instance, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's
very similar concept of chord (C. R E. Bach, 1753/62).

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass


I.
II.
II.

From the vocal or instrumental voice written over the bass.


From some easy general rules, or from characteristic intervals of the
modes.
From some special rules, or from the ambitus of the modes themselves.

On the one hand, this acts like a systematic hierarchy. In order "to guess at" (erraten;
Heinichen 1728, 731) the missing voices from the intervallic relationships between the
upper and lower voices, only a knowledge and mechanical application of chord theory
is required. To move to the second hierarchical level where one applies "generalrules,"
however,already calls for a clearly higher understanding and level of knowledge. Here
(rules for chord progressions) derived
"general rules" mean the old Klangschrittregeln
from the tabulanaturalis.Hardly any treatise of the seventeenth and early eighteenth
centuries lacks these rules for standardized chord combinations, for example,
1. The 5th [scale degree] in the major and minor modes naturally has a major
3rd above itself, and in the system of modes it may or may not be notated. 2. The
4th [scale degree] in the minor modes naturally has a minor 3rd above itself,
and in the system of modes it may or may not be notated. 3. The semitone [leading tone] beneath the major and minor mode, by which one modulates, naturally has a "6"over itself. . . . (Heinichen 1728, 739)
"He who acquaints himself with these general rules," continues Heinichen, "willfrequently acquire great facility in the practice of an unfigured thoroughbass" (738).
Attaining the highest hierarchical level, however, requires "the solid understanding of
the musical ambitus"(731) - by this is meant nothing else than the Rule of the Octave.
It is "the main source from which flow the aforesaid general rules" (738). The Klangschrittregeln
give rules for chord progressions, but they are based on a mere intervallic
relationship. Only the Rule of the Octave gives a precise place to those free intervallic
relations in the harmonic space of the scale.
It is obvious that this hierarchical order of precedence is also a didactic order
("the easiest comes first";Heinichen 1728, 727). That Heinichen 's course of study
to follow
begins quite traditionallywith chord theory and then leaves Klangschrittregeln
means that it represents, at the same time, a historical order of precedence. Klangschrittegeln,especially as explicated in the German tradition (compare, e.g., the treatises of
Matthus Gugl 1719 and Johann Baptist Samber 1704, 1707) is, as it were, a historical prehistory (Christensen 1992, 113), now surpassed and nullified by the new functionality of the Rule of the Octave. One can perceive the same relationship between
Heinichen's later treatise and his own earlier one (1711; see Gjerdingen 2007, 15-16).
Although in 1728 Heinichen asserts that he had already explicated the Rule of the
Octave "in the year 1710 during the preparation of my old edition of this treatise"
(763), that is not really the case. Had his 1711 Klangschrittsequence extended across
all eight tones of the scale, it would take on just as little of the obligatory form of the
Rule of the Octave as with the treatises of Samber, Gugl, and Spiridionis- a qualitative
and the Rule of the Octave (Gjerdingen
difference exists between the Klangschrittregeln
2007, 15-16).

Rameau'sschematized thoughts on inversion and the stacking of thirds


break with a further core aspect of the traditions of music theory and the history of composition: one of the oldest elements in European compositional

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27

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

SchemataModorum,

Example 12. Heinichen's

Schema (Rule of the Octave)

teaching is the distinction between step and leap. The notion that stepwise
progression is, as it were, the prototype of all harmonic and melodic motion
hearkens back to a centuries-old tradition. Thus, in a sense the leap is the
exception to the norm of regular stepwise motion. In Rameau's music theory,
based on the prototypical falling fifth of the cadenceparfaite,the leap not only
takes the place hierarchically of the step progression, but the step progression, as an independent music-theoretical category, became completely meaningless: in Rameau's theory every step is based on a leap. Heinichen's music
theory, as we will see, retains the old distinction between gradus and saltus
(step and leap).
If the Rule of the Octave is to become the basis of a music-theoretical systhen
two central questions must be answered: (1) what happens when the
tem,
bass moves by leap, and (2) how does one explain and categorize sonorities
that do not reside in the model of the classic Rule of the Octave?The Rule of
the Octave must become both a comprehensive theory of chord progression
and a theory of the chord morphology.
Example 12 shows Heinichen's version of the Rule of the Octave.Though
Heinichen also understands the Rule of the Octave as a practical aid to improvisation, it is primarilythe representation of a harmonic system in itself: it represents a comprehensive "schema."The systematic character of Heinichen's
Rule of the Octave is immediately apparent, for it differs conspicuously from
its Italian and French precursors. Aside from the obligatory passing six-fourtwo chord on the fourth scale degree, Heinichen does not present any (dissoand imperfect
nant) four-note chords- only the "pure"perfect (vollkommene)
chords. The absence of the six-five chord on the ascend(unvottkommene)
fourth
scale
ing
degree (l'accordde la grandesixte) is especially conspicuous.
a
"Through complete omission of certain figures" ("durch gnzliche Hinweglassung einiger Ziffern";Heinichen 1728, 765), Heinichen here establishes
something like a "PrimaryRule of the Octave" made up of the most simple

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

Example 13. Gasparini's Rule of the Octave after Heinichen

chordalelements:as in a modularsystem,all more complex and dissonant


variantscan be derivedfrom this prototype,as I showlateron.
The form of representationis also noteworthy:Heinichen's Ruleof the
Octavedoes not move throughthe entire octave,as is the case with Rameau
andin manysourcesfromthe Italianpartimentotradition;instead,his schema
ends on the sixth scale degree and then changesdirection.The similarityto
versionof the Ruleof the Octaveis deceptive,however,
FrancescoGasparini's
for Gasparinidirecdyfollowshis Rule of the Octavein majorwith a harmonizationof the descendingscale degrees 8-7-6-5, in order to make it clear
thaton the descendingsixthdegree the chordwiththe majorsixthshouldbe
placed (Example13) .29
For Heinichen, this is unacceptable:he stressesthat he "omittedthe
majorsixth over the sixth scale degree becauseit addsa new Itthat does not
belong to the mode"("die6. maj.uberdie 6tamodi maj.deswegengarweggelassen,weilsie ein neues I angiebet,welchesgarnichtzu dem Modogehret";
1728,765). He considerswhatGasparinidoes "alreadyhalf a cadence and a
digressioninto D major"("schoneine halbe Cadenzund Ausschweifungin
das D.dur";765). For Heinichen,however,the unityof the mode is an inescapableprerequisiteof the "schema,"of the "naturlicheAmbitus."Thus, he
lets his Ruleof the Octaveascendto the sixth scale degree in order to make
it particularlyclearthat its functiondoes not fundamentallychangewhether
its motionis ascendingor descending.The fact thathe retainsthe traditional
representationof the modes, and first lets his nottetoniquedescend to the
leading tone, also stems from this strictunderstandingof mode: being the
29 Gasparini admittedly notes that "the sixth can be major
or minor" whether ascending or descending {la Sesta porr
essere, o maggiore, o minore) (Gasparini 1722, 61), but he
leaves no doubt that major sixths on the descending sixth
degree "are necessary for their cadential effect" ("necessarie per esser specie di Cadenze") but do not constitute
a modulation to a different note {non fanno mutare il tono;
57).

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29

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

"inseparablecharacteristic of all modes" ("dasunzertrennliche Kennzeichen


aller Modorum") he has "placed the leading tone next to the tonic at the very
outset" ("dasSemitonium modi . . . gleich Anfangs neben sein 8vam lociret";
764).
For our topic, however, something else is far more decisive: Heinichen
repeatedly emphasizes that his "schema"is "much more universaland applicable" ("vielmehr universalerund applicabler";1728, 765) than Gasparini'sand
Rameau'sversions of the Rule of the Octave. According to him, they introduce
"manyspecial signatures that only pertain for as long as the notes march along
nicely in the order in which they were written down" ("vielspciale Signaturen,
die nicht langer gelten, als die Noten fein in der Ordnung marschieren, wie sie
hingeschrieben worden";765) , that is, for as long as the bass moves in stepwise
motion. For the main purpose of Heinichen's reduction to the basic (perfect
and imperfect) chords is to turn the Rule of the Octave into an explanatory
model that also encompasses "leaping"bass progressions.
One sees that Heinichen sets the figures 5 and 6 one after the other over
the second degree (and the sixth degree) of the F-majorscale. The intention is
by no means a model-bound progression like, for instance, a sequence of 5-6
motions, as is sometimes maintained ("thatyou are not allowed to play the signatures one after another, as is usually done in thoroughbass" ["daBman also
nicht beyde Ziffern nacheinander (wie sonst im General-Bassgebruchlich)
anschlagen darff"]; 1728, 750]). Instead Heinichen explains the deeper sense
of this double figuring as follows:
Butconcerningthe majormode one shouldparticularlyobservethat because
its seconddegree supportsa perfectfifth, one is thusfree to use eithera 5 or a
6 overthe said seconddegree.The 6 soundsmore naturalif [the bass]should
risestepwiseto the thirddegree or go backward[downto the firstdegree]
If, however,one is at the second degree midsta leap, then the 5 seems more
natural.(743)30
Here one can still clearly recognize the persistence of the old differentiation
between perfect and imperfect consonance. Particular types of motion are
assigned to particular sonorities: the leap is assigned to the perfect consonance of the five-three chord; the step, to the imperfect consonance of the
six-three chord. The chord of the sixth is placed "more naturally,"namely, in
a stepwise progression, on the second degree. But if a sonority made from
stacked-up thirds (a triad or even a seventh chord) takes the place of the

30 Wegen des modi maj. aber ist besonders zu mercken,


daft weil seine 2da modi allerdings eine 5te perfect, in
ambitu hat, so stehet auch frey, ob man uber besagter 2da
modi die 5te oder die 6te gebrauchen will. Naturlicher lautet
die 6. wenn man gradatim in die 3e auff oder ruckwerts
gehet. . . . Kmt aber die 2da modi mitten im Sprung zu stehen, so fallet die 5te naturlicher aus. . . .

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

six-three chord on the second degree, then a leap ensues. (In case the leap
does not happen, as with the "tonic-like"[Riepel] triad on the fourth degree,
the five-three sonority has the effect of a caesura.) Even if Heinichen does
not fully work out all the consequences of these central ideas of his theory,
it nevertheless becomes clear that one functionally differentiates between a
degree's stepfunction and leapfunction. Of course a three- or four-note stackof-thirdssonority can occur on any scale degree on which a chord of the sixth
occurs in the classic Rule of the Octave. Such a sonority would only require a
- from step to leap.31
change in the modusmovendi
A digression on trainingmanuals
In structure and organization, partimento textbooks follow popular training manuals
like Oratio Scaletta'sfrequently reissued solfge textbook Scaladi musicamoltonecessaria
perprincipianti(1595). In these solmization manuals, the first things taught were the
Scaletta 1595,
ascending and descending scales (portarla voceascendendo,et descendendo;
9). Then followed- likewise ascending and descending - diatonic patterns with leaps
tables
of a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and octave. In the seventeenth century, Klangschritt
of the so-called tabulanaturalis(Christensen 2008, 113; Dahlhaus 1990, 108; Heimann
1973, 55f.) were arranged according to the same paradigm. The compositional models
in the partimento tradition were imparted according to the identical paradigm:harmonization models of the scale ascending (principallychains of 5-6, 7-6, and 9-8 suspensions and progressions of alternating sixths and thirds), the scale descending (chains
of 7-6 suspensions and progressions of alternating seconds and sixths), leaping thirds
ascending and descending, and so forth. Neapolitan composition manuals, above all
the exercises in style found in Francesco Durante's partimentibassi diminuiti (2003),
follow this organization, and many German training manuals are similarlystructured.
Examples would be Friederich Erhardt Niedt's Handleitungzur Variation(Musicalische
(1930), and also Handel's (1978)
Handleitung,vol. 2, 1721), as well as Bach's Vorschriften
cultivates the teaching of comFenaroli
Fedele
exercises.
systematically
thoroughbass
s.v. "Satzmodelle").
Holtmeier
Partimenti
in
his
models
2007,
(1978;
positional

Renversement versus Verwechslung


This puts in sharp relief one of the central distinctions between the functionality of the Rule of the Octave and that of Rameau's bassefondamentale
the former is totally aligned with movement. Rule-of-the-Octavefunctionality
not only distinguishes between a degree's meaning in the context of a step
or a leap, but also differentiates the meaning of a degree according to the
direction of the motion, whether ascending or descending. Thus, the fourth
degree in ascent takes the six-three or six-fivechord, but in descent the "dominant"six-four-twochord; the seventh degree in ascent takes the six-fivechord

31 Riepel (1996, 580f.) and Kellner (1732) follow Heinichen's


conception relatively faithfully and even expand it.

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

but in descent the plain six-three chord, and so forth. For its reception history, one thus encounters a problem with Rule-of-the-Octavefunctionality. Its
"animate"dynamics elude being fixed by a "physicalist"systematization that
permits the derivation of more complex structures from simple basic axioms.
For Rameau's supporters, one of the central arguments in favor of the basse
fondamentaleis that it can explain the basic principles of harmonic tonality in
the shortest time and, as it were, free of presumptions.
As has often been stressed, the principle of inversion adapted by Rameau
was not new (Christensen 1993, 67f.; Barbieri 1991). The interchangeability
of the voices was one of the elementary assumptions of three-voice models for
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cadences, sequences, and the "contrapuntal"orientation of teaching composition. Heinichen was well acquainted with
Rameau's Traitdel'Harmonie.Above all the concept of renversement
(inversion)
left lasting traces in his own theory. But an approach can be observed here
that is typical for the history of the French, Italian, and also Viennese thoroughbass tradition: though Ramellian bassefondamentalefinds an entry into
the teachings, it still cannot displace (or only very slowly) the old theorems.
For Heinichen, a six-three chord can be regarded as being the inverted form
of a five-three chord. But the long commentary in footnotes that he dedicates
to notions of inversion (1728, 146-51) stands surprisinglydetached from the
received thinking in terms of intervallic qualities which unfolds in the main
text. Heinichen, however, completely distances himself from the procedure
of systematic third-stacking,and thus from the basic principle of bassefondamentale.His term Verwechslung
(recombination) designates a concrete procedure of compositional technique - the regrouping of a sonority (usually with
an eventual return to its starting position; Heinichen 1728, 624-25). 32Thus,
each chord can become "recombined":if a six-four-twochord is followed by
a seventh chord, built with the same notes (Kellner describes this concept of
inversion as based on a relation of "pitch classes"; 1732, 32), then this later
chord represents the "firstinversion" ( Verwechslung)
of the first, and so forth.
To speak in Ramellian terms, every type of chord can be considered as a "root
chord." Rameau's idea of inversion, however, is theoretically an a priorievery sonority has to be reduced to its stack-of-thirdsprototype.
Beyond third-stacking: Toward an Italian morphology of chords
For Heinichen, the functional meaning of a chord is not determined by the
principle of third-stacking.Just as he brings leaping bass motions under the
interpretive authority of the Rule of the Octave by falling back on traditional
categories, so too he explains the complex chord morphology of the advanced,
32 In this regard, Daube follows Heinichen (see Diergarten
2008).

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

"theatrical"harmony of his era- his own focus- with the traditional terms of
Italian music theory. To begin with, his concept of chord has an entirely different basis from that of Rameau. For Rameau the chord is its own entity, an
inherently closed unit. Even here the ideal of the four-voice texture ( Vierstimmigkeit)stands in the background. Though certain functions and tendencies
for linear motion are attributed to individual elements (nottefondamentale,notte
sensible,dissonancemajeureand mineure,etc.), these constituents always present themselves in combination and remain functionally invarianteven in the
process of inversion, as will be shown. They are subject to a rigid, hierarchical organizing principle. For Rameau, chords are primarilyvertical blocks of
stacked-up thirds in which the linear tendencies have been frozen.
Heinichen 's way of thinking was shaped by his early "contrapuntal"
schooling in Germany,but above all by the Italian tradition of apprenticeship
that he got to know so well during his long stay in Italy (Buelow 1994). Yet
even though his theory of thoroughbass stands well apart from contemporary
sources on account of its high degree of theoretical awareness, neither with
him nor with any other contemporary author does one find a comprehensive,
systematicallyarticulated theory of chord. In what follows, I have tried to work
out the "implicit"systematicsof Heinichen's theory of chord.
For Heinichen and traditionalItalianmusic theory,the polyphonic chord
heart
was alwayssomething put together- a composite. The contrapuntal
at
pairing of two main voices formed the framework of a composite sonority,
which could be supplemented by Neben-Stimmen
(secondary voices; Heinichen
or more voices. Understood
of
a
texture
to
create
four,
five,
three,
1728, 171)
multivoice
controls
in this way,a distinct hierarchy
sonorities, giving priority
to the chordal components, which effectively determines the comprehension
and functionality of the chord, and which has consequences for the formation of voice leading, consequences that extend the far beyond the chordtradition.
progression, part-writingrules of the modern Harmonielehre
A digression on counterpoint

This other concept of chord also presupposes another concept of counterpoint. It is


significant thatJohann Joseph Fux's Gradusadparnassum(1725), the founding document of the modern, autonomous teaching of counterpoint, originated and was published in close chronological proximity to Rameau's Traitde l'Harmonie.In terms of
reception history, Fux's treatise plays a role quite comparable to that of the Trait.It
much as Rameau's treatise did for that of harmony.
monopolized the term counterpoint
It is above all the idea of "strict counterpoint" (strengeSatz) or even more so what
the Fux reception made of it, that obstructs the view of what, at the beginning of the
eighteenth century, "counterpoint" really was. In the nineteenth-century Harmonielehretradition, "strictcounterpoint" changed from a stylistic category (stilo antico,the
"Knigsdisziplin"of counterpoint) to the epitome of counterpoint itself. As a result of
this development the intrinsically comprehensive doctrine of counterpoint became

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33

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JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY


bound to a markedlynarrowand invariableconcept of dissonance and resolution. The
dissonant intervals are static sizes. Not only are the "false"fifth and "majorfourth," as
diminished and augmented intervals, always dissonant, but also the technical voiceleading behavior of the dissonances- second, fourth, seventh, and ninth- is fixed
once and for all. With the fourth, seventh, and ninth, the upper note is dissonant.
With the second, the lower note. Thus, dissonance completely solidifies into intervallic
quality and abandons what it was in the consciousness of the early eighteenth century
when it actually represented something more: a rhythmic constellation. Significantly,
Berardi treats the dissonances under the heading "Introduction to syncopation or dissonances" ("Introduzione aile legature- owero dissonanze"; 1687, 134). Essential for
the contrapuntal concept of dissonance in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth
The fourth of strict
and supersyncopatio.
century is the distinction between subsyncopatio
to a third. By
which
resolves
is
a
,
(4ta soprasyncopata)
composition
quartasupersyncopata
contrast a quartasubsyncopata(4ta sottosyncopata;Heinichen 1728, 171), in which the
lower note must be "bound,"resolves in the ideal case to the sixth (as in \ to ). In addition, an intrinsicallyconsonant interval can, by virtue of a tie, become a dissonance or
be treated like a dissonance. ("Often the quintaperfectais used as a dissonance and a
quintasyncopata"[Heinichen 1728, 179], as in f.) In place of rigid intervalliccategories,
the early eighteenth century recognized an abundance of intervallic functions (quarta
consonans, quarta dissonans [quarta sopra syncopata], Hulffsquarte [quarta sotto syncopata],
quarte irregolare[quarta italica], quarta transiens, quarta suavis, quinta perfecta, quinta syn-

copata,sextaperfecta,sextasyncopata,etc.; see Muffat 1699, 8-bis). It is this open concept


of interval that allows harmony and counterpoint to be conceived as a unity.

Examples 14 and 15 clarify the differences between Rameau's and Heinichen's concept of chord, using the case of the dominant seventh chord and
its inversions. For Rameau, not only the (dominant) six-five chord (Vaccord
de la fausse quinte;Example 14b), but also the four-three chord (/ 'accordde la
petitesixte-,Example 14c) and the four-two chord (Vaccorddu triton;Example
14c) are nothing but derivativeforms of the stack-of-thirdsdominant seventh
chord (dominante-tonique;
Example 14a). The functional roles of the chordal
are
distributed:
G is the root (bassefondamentale),the third
components
clearly
B is the leading tone (nottesensible)and must move up a step as a dissonance
majeure,the chordal fifth D takes on the role of filler voice, and F is dissonant seventh, which must resolve down a step as dissonancemineure(Example
14e). The structurallycontrolling interval is the seventh. It is, so to speak, the
mother of all (chordal) dissonances. For Rameau's thinking about inversion,
it is essential that the functional roles of chord tones remain fixed once and
for all, and persist in every inversion. Thus, B is alwaysa leading tone, F a dissonant seventh, D alwaysa filler tone,33and G alwaysa root, regardless of the
particular constellation in which the tones occur.
33 Significantly, the fact that the chordal fifth in effect fulfilled a dual function- both that of the filler tone and that
of the tenor clausula - hardly plays a role in Rameau's idea
of inversion.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~

(c)

(b)

(a)

Heinichen,

35

Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

(e)

(d)

r~^"
IB I[g I,ub !... II

I*'""

II

Example 14

(a)

JB
Framework
,

voices

(6) r(o)i
^

(6V

(b)

(c)

(d)

I""

I"

!"

(oi

(O)

<ro (9L l/ffL4-z ~'\

65)

gS

-Gt-*=3=
" -9-J^E \/
rVici
few
voiccsft,_.

l$(o?

Secondary

/ X

'Toi
l^*^

" Uvel

.X-^ X^y^
FO)[o] 1 >
rof V

Example 15

In contrastto this novel, invariantchord morphology,one can posit a


concept of chord that clearlyderivesits origin from the contrapuntalthinking of the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturies,and in whose traditionHeinichen also stands.In Example15, one againsees Rameau'sbasicchord and
its formsof inversion,but now examinedin light of Heinichen'sconcept of
chord (Example15). Eachchordis basedon a two-voiceframework(Example
15, staffI). It is assembledfrom those chord tones most clearlyand unmistakablyable to representeach sonorityin a two-voicesetting.This two-voice
frameworkis far more than a systematiccategoryof organization.Rather,it
designatesan "idealplacement,"a real aestheticand didacticstandardfor
the relationshipbetweenbassand melody.The factthatas a theoryof correct
voiceleadingit wasassignedto trainingin counterpointprovidesevidencefor
the extensive,stillintactunityof contrapuntaland harmonicthinking.Under
or besteLage
the termof disposizione
(Frster1818,1) it wasa central,practical
of
teaching.
composition
eighteenth-century
topic
This compositionalframeworkcan most clearlybe derivedby wayof a
reductiveprocess,one that at the same time uncoversthe internalhierarchical structureof the chords.Forinstance,the chordalfifthoccupiesthe lowest
level in the hierarchyof Rameau'sbasicdominantchord {dominante-tonique).

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36

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

It is a classic filler voice that enjoys a relative freedom in voice leading. It can
and as a tone
appear both as a classic "pedal"or "common tone" (Liegestimme)
free to leap; it can (in the sense of a tenor clausula) be treated like a voice in
parallel upper thirds with the chordal third (the leading tone) or even like
a voice in parallel lower thirds with the chordal seventh. The chordal third
(leading tone) is one hierarchical level below the frameworktones, which are
formed here by the mandatory bass note and the "characteristic"dissonance
of the seventh. The chordal third thus supplements the two-voice framework
to achieve the ideal three-voice setting.
In Example 15a, I, square bracketsindicate frameworktones of the dominant seventh chords that form a diminished fifth between the tones B and F.
This alternative framework refers to the alleged "root"tone G being at times
able to appear as a secondary voice, as a lower third to the leading tone. That
is especially the case when the dominant seventh chord does not progress with
a genuine root progression (i.e., by leap) to a (cadential) chord of resolution,
but almost appears in transituitself, that is, appears to be a passing chord (see
Example lOd).
In the six-five chord (Example 15b) the framework is formed by the
framing interval of the diminished fifth. The sixth (G), as bearer of the dissonance, is an important but nevertheless hierarchically subordinate voice.
Functionally, it can appear upper sixth to the bass note (B). Here, the third
(D) takes over the role of the supplementary, filler voice.
In the four-three chord (Example 15c), the frameworkset is formed by
the majorsixth between the bass note and the leading tone. The third (F) , as a
voice in parallel thirds with the bass, supplements the two-voiceframeworkto
form a three-voice setting. The fourth (G) is, however,pure filler- a dissonant
common tone that received special attention from contemporary theorists
due to its special dissonance treatment. It was called quantairregolaris,quanta
(Heinichen 1728, 151), or quartaitalica(Muffat 1699, 8). The special
irregolare
position of this fourth highlights the fact that for many eighteenth-century
theorists- thus also for Heinichen - the four-three chord did not appear as
an independent chordal category, but was treated as a special form of the sixoften not marked even in a figured bass ("The
three chord. Quartairregolaris,
not
is
fourth
alwaysexpressly indicated above the notes" ["Eswird
irregular
aber . . . diese irregulaire 4 ... nicht iederzeit ber denen Noten ausdrcklich angedeutet"]; Heinichen 1728, 151), was a quasi-"improvisational"addition to the basic three voices of a six-three chord. The French term petitesixte
testifies to this origin.34
34 Riepel perceived the quarta irregolaris as a fashionable
aberration. He labeled such intervals pejoratively as "Turkish
fourths" since they reminded him of Turkish"fifes" blowing
"a loud series of fourths one after the other," which he had
heard "in the year 1737 near Banja Luka" (1757, 39).

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

6
4
3

Example 16. Two of the examples


for the 3a syncopata

6
14
3

15
I

Heinichen gives

Naturally,that is not the only form in which the four-threechord can


occur.It can alsoappearas a terzasyncopata
as shownin some examplesbyHeinichen (see Example16) (Heinichen 1728, 163). The four-threechordwith
terzasyncopata
most closelyresemblesa Ramellianchord of inversion.Yetin
the improvisatory
and compositionalpracticeof the eighteenthcentury,this
is just
chord, when comparedto the four-threechord with quartairregolaris,
four-threechord is
the exception. Heinichen stressesthat the "syncopated"
properlyunderstoodas a variantof the four-twochord ("relatedto the syncoHeinichen 1728, 163).
pated second"["der2da syncopata. . . anverwandt"];
And in factthe chordis alsomostoften utilizedin thisform (see Arnold1931,
632, his example9).
chord (Example15d) restson the frameworkof
Finally,the six-four-two
the augmentedfourth (F-B). Heinichendescribesthisfourth,whichresolves
to the sixth,asa "helper-fourth"
, as ancilla2dae(handmaidento the
(Hulffs-4te)
second) (Heinichen1728,171). Here,one can clearlyrecognizehowthe hierarchicalconcept of chord also impliesa hierarchicalconcept of dissonance.
The notion of the ancilla2daeis basedon the centraldistinctionbetweendissonantiadominansand dissonantiaconcomitans(Heinichen 1728, 186), between

a "controlling"
and an "accompanying"
dissonance.ForHeinichen,the dissonantfourthis an "accompanying"
dissonance,an upperthirdto the "controlling"dissonantsecond.In the musicalpracticeof the eighteenthcentury,however,the circumstancesseem to be just the reverse:the seventhscale degree
is the "ideal"uppervoice for the fourthscaledegree in the bass,and only the
chord in a
augmentedfourthcan unambiguouslyrepresentthe six-four-two
two-voicesetting.Yetfor Heinichenthis fourth (B) is, accordingto its inner
nature,an upperthirdto the second (G). Converselythe G becomesthe lower
thirdto the leadingtone (B). The sixth (D) appearsas its upperthirdor as a
"free"secondaryvoice. In the specialcase of this chordone can hardlyspeak
of a hierarchicalprioritybetweenthe twosecondaryvoices.
In orderto makethis hierarchicalconcept of chord still clearer,Exam1
7
ple constructsa few chords not from the perspectiveof Ramellianinversion, but ratheron the basisof the relationshipbetweena two-voicecomposi-

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38

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

(I)

(ID

(a) |(fo fl3LXT ^

(HI)

I J

<\

|j

l[g U |.w]

J^

[ j 1 bjg

[ j 1 -f]g

[rfTzz

--W^J

-J.I

""""

M^

J-

r il N

...

il

*J

r ji

TfJi

i^| .J, \f\4m^

Example 17

frameworkvoices
tionalframeworkand secondaryvoices.The "leading-tone"
determinethe functionof chordson the ascendingand descendingsecond
degree in majorand minor,on the descendingsixthdegree in minor,and on
the descendingfourthdegree in majorand minor (Example17, col. I). They
markthe invariants
of the functionalconcept of chord.The obligatorythird
in
as
the
first
joins
secondaryvoice added to the sixth on the second degree
and to the augmentedsixthon the sixthdegree (Example17, col. II, stavesa
andb) andeithera sixth(Example17,col. II,stafFd)or a second (Example17,
col. II,staffe) can be addedwithequaleffectas a thirdvoice to the tritoneon
the fourthdegree.Forthe fourth,"filler"voice,even more tonesare possible.
Not only the fourthbut also the diminishedor perfectfifth can supplement
the sixthon the seconddegree (Example17, col. Ill, 8taffa). A fourthor fifth
can be added to the augmentedsixth on the sixth degree (Example17, col.
Ill, staffb). And if a sixth is addedas thirdvoice to the tritoneon the fourth
degree, the second, the minor third,or the majorthirdcan enter as a filler
voice (Example17, col. Ill, staffe). Differentchords (with"stepfunction")
can thus representthe scaledegree.Though the choice of the fillertone can
cruciallyshape the auraand color of a chord,the functionof thatcbord- its
dynamictendency- is exclusivelyassignedby the frameworkvoices.
The function of chord tones

In Rameau'stheory,chord tones retainthe same functionalqualitiesin varichord. The


ous inversionthat had accrued to them in the "root-position"
In the Italin
all
inversions.
dissonance
remains
the
same
function-defining
ian thoroughbasstraditionas systematizedby Heinichen, however,chordal

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

39

elements are subjectto a great degree of functionalvariability.(The interconnected circlesin Example15 tryto clarifythis point.) Not only do these
elements belong to differenthierarchicalchord levels, thus havinga different structuralsignificancein differentchords,but theyalso altertheirvoiceleadingpropertiesin the context of differentchords.Only the leadingtone
maintainsitsfunction,evenfor Heinichen,in allformsof Ramellianinversion.
The seventh,however,appearsin three functionallydistinctforms (Example
18): (1) as prototypeof the (suspendedor passing)dissonance,it appearsonly
in the basic,root-positionchord itself (Example18, 1) and in the six-four-two
chord (Example18, II); (2) in the six-fivechord, it formsa "semiconsonant"
diminishedfifthwiththe bass,whichdoes not requirepreparation(Example
18, III);and (3) in the four-threechord it appearsas a parallelupper-third
voice to the bass,consequentlyas an imperfectconsonancenot subjectto the
need to resolveand thus free to move stepwiseup (Example18, FVa),down
(Example18, IVb),or even to leap (Example18, IVc).
WithRameau,the chordalfifth takesover the functionof a fillervoice.
It approachesthis functionwith Heinichen too, but in the four-threechord
it lies in the bassvoice and there its functionchanges.It becomesthe penultimatetone of a tenor clausulaand is thereforesubjectto a need to progress
stepwise(Example18, IV). The second scale stage (the chord fifth) is functionallyambiguous.It can be understoodas a componentof a tenor clausula
or as a pure "patchtone"(Riepel),as so to speaka variantof an alto clausula.

(la)

(b)

ifj
>n

!r

\h'j

.1

If

(b)

(c)

lA-J I'll-]

(lia)

rli

(b)

|iljdi|d
Hr r
(Va)

jiH
Irr'r

I"'

si

f F liUd

r r

1-^^

(Via)

(b)

L'l IIi P lj

(IVa)

(III)

(b)

IJ J IJ J Ile g le II

Example 18

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40

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

Also with the six-three, six-five-three,and six-four-twochords they mostly progress stepwise, in the sense of a tenor clausula. This voice leading is not, however, mandatory. The fifth of the root chord can likewise leap to the fifth of
the chord of resolution, even if it should result in consecutive fifths (Example
18, Va) or if a fifth in the outer voices is reached by direct motion (motusrectusr,Example 18, Vb). If the chordal fifth of the six-four-twochord lies in the
upper voice, then a leap is actually the rule: it is necessary to avoid the empty
cadential perfect consonance of the octave in the outer voices of the chord of
resolution (Example 18, Via) and to go instead to the imperfect tenth in the
outer voices (Example 18, VIb). The difference, however,with Rameau's static
functionality shows itself most clearly when one regards the functional variabilityof the very voice that, in Rameau's theory, represents the foundation of
the chord. For Heinichen as well, the "root"appears in three distinct forms.
In the six-five and six-four-twochords it is the lower third or upper sixth of
the leading tone, and thus simply a secondary voice. In the four-three chord,
it actually takes the lowest place in the chordal hierarchy.
as quartairregolaris,
Only in the basic, root-position chord is it what Rameau saw in it- the centre
of the Klang.
harmonique
If one allows a "contrast-enhanced"formulation of Heinichen 's theory
of chord, then there are two basic chords from which all other chord forms
are derived- the five-three sonority and the six-three chord. One sees the old
opposition of perfect and imperfect consonance that alreadydetermined Heinichen's concept of the Rule of the Octave, seamlessly brought forward into
modern chord theory. In harmonic discourse, the third, on which the whole
Ramellian system is based, had long become an unmarked filler interval that
indiscriminately characterized the pattern of all chords, whether consonant
or dissonant. And so there are essentially two intervals that determine the
nature of chords: a fifth or sixth distinguishes the basic functional orientation
of a sonority.
The crucial difference between Rameau's basic chord and its inverted
forms can be viewed from the perspective that while the basic chord is determined by "static"fifth, the inversions are characterizedby the "mobile"interval
of the sixth. This difference is categorical in nature and cannot be waived by
a simple process of derivation, in the sense of Rameau's idea of inversion. For
Rameau, dissonance connects the basic chord with its inversional forms and
makesobsolete the differentiation between perfect and imperfect consonance.
In this understanding of chord, however,the dissonant character of a sonority
replicates the distinction between fifth and sixth, since it is these intervals that
determine the fundamental dynamic nature of sonorities. Rameau's inversion forms are first and foremost sixth chords and require stepwise motion (a
"varietyof sixth chords";Christensen 1993, 172). The fifth of the basic chord,
by contrast, requires a leap. Dissonance is added to the sixth or the fifth, as it
were, externally.To the sixth one can add a fifth (Example 19, la), or a fourth

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~

(Ilia)

(b)

Heinichen,

(c)

(Via)

(a)\

Step
a

(b)

A6* ascending
5

(IVa)

(b)

v'

(c)

(b)

(I)

41

Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

(c)

6
4 cendiPS
descending
3

(II)
..
,
4 descending

l^aP

(b)

(Va)

'

r^t

(a)

//

Example 19

and third (Example19, Ib), or a fourthand second (Example19, Ic). To the


fifthone can add a seventhas its upperthird (Example19, Ha).
In so doing,the originaltendenciesfor motionareonlystrengthenedby
the requirementfor dissonanceresolution.It is as if dissonancerepresentsan
autonomouscontrapuntalelementwithinthe chord.The dissonant"auxiliary
note"does not changethe fundamentalfunctionalcharacterof the chord,but
ratherintensifiesitstendencyformotionandspcifiesitsdirectionof motion.35
The added fifth lends a risingtendencyto the six-threechord (Example19,
la) becausemovingdownwardstepwiseeasilyleadsto parallelfifths(Example
fourth"or as an accompanying
19, Ilia), an addedfourth(whethera "Turkish
note to the terzasyncopata)
permitsmotion in either direction (Example19,
IV), and an added second forces the sixth downward(Example19, V). The
chords are not strictlybound to these forms of motion. The six-fivechord
can resolvedowna step into a six-foursuspension(Example19, IIIc),;andin
certainharmonicformulasthe dominantsix-four-two
chordcan moveup stepwise (Example19, Vb). Notwithstandingthe inganno(deceptivecadence), a
35 "Vonder Sextenkette, die zur Oktave strebt unterscheidet
sich Rameaus Septakkordfolge deren Ziel ein Dreiklang, ein
Accord parfait' bildet, zwar graduell, aber nicht prinzipiell"
(Dahlhaus 1990, 27).

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42

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

in transitu)
stepwiseascendingseventhchordis often a passingchord (septima
or
an
7-6
a
unresolved suspension "retarded"
sixthchord
(Example19,Via)
so to saythat finds its resolutionin the followingconsonanceor dissonance
(Example19,VIb,c). Butaccordingto theirbasictendenciesthe six-fiveis a
is a fallingchord,and the four-threechord can
risingchord,the six-four-two
eitherriseor fall.
*

The idea of chord and sonority(Klang)dealtwithhere is fundamentallydifferentfromthatof Rameau.His rigidsystem,madeup of a fewbasicelements


and basedon a logic of chordderivation,is set againsta sophisticatedframeworkof variationand relationalcomplexity.
It is perhapsthisveryrichnessthatspelleddoom for thisunderstanding
of chord:as is well knownhistorically,it wasto succumbto Rameau's theory.
It could raisescantoppositionto the manifestlogic of Rameau'sprincipleof
inversion.We can assumethat Rameau'stheorywasable to gain such popularityonly becausehis concept of chord filled a widelyperceivedvacuum.It
seems self-evidentthat the modern harmoniclanguageof the seventeenth
and eighteenthcenturiescraveda new explanatorymodel that transcended
the old counterpointinstructionof the sixteenthand seventeenthcenturies.
Rameauoffereda clearand at the same time simple responseto a question
that had neverbeen put quite so explicitlybefore,but that had clearlybeen
hangingin the air:whatis Klang}
Heinichen also offers a resoundingresponse- in favorof the Italian
reconstructedin
tradition,as it were.But much of whathas been "implicitly"
this essayremainsunspokenby Heinichen,as in the entire Italianthoroughbass tradition:he neither developsthe concept of frameworkvoices in any
consistent manner nor systematizesthe functionalityof steps and leaps
conclusively.
No modernapproachcan remedythis alleged lackof systematicthinkand
this text, too, bearswitnessto the difficultyof coming closer to a
ing,
of
concept chordand tonality(dealtwithhere in a verylimitedway)thatlies
The internal
beyondthe Ramellianconcept of inversionand third-stacking.
contradictionsof an account that describesa four-voicechord, on the one
hand, as being a five-threeor sixthchord supplementedby a "contrapuntal"
auxiliarynote, and on the other hand, as a compositesonoritymade up of
a two-voiceframeworkand secondaryvoices,are obvious:followingthe first
interpretation,the dominantsix-four-twochord on the descendingfourth
degreeis a variantof a sixthchord,withthe sixthbeing the function-defining
interval.Followingthe second interpretation,the tritoneappearsas the censubordinatenote
tralbasisand the sixthas a secondaryvoice,a hierarchically
thatcould easilybe omittedfroma three-voicetexture.

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Ludwig Holtmeier ~ Heinichen, Rameau, and Italian Thoroughbass

Upon closerinspection,however,we mustconcede thatit is not so much


a contradictionas ratherone and the same phenomenonviewedfrom different perspectives.If the idea of chord progressionsis basedon the dichotandimperfect{unvollkommeri)
chords,dissonance
omyof perfect(vollkommeri)
becomesa subordinateparameter.But if the movementof the dissonances
itselfis the focusof consideration,the distinctionbetweenperfectand imperfect consonancebecomesof secondaryimportance.
Itis preciselythejuxtapositionof thesedifferentperspectivesthatreflects
the historicalsituationaroundthe turnof the century:the modernfunctionality of the Rule of the Octaveand the traditionalcontrapuntaltextureof the
trio sonatacompetewitheach other,though the one growsout of the other
in an organicfashion,as I haveattemptedto demonstrate.
One mightconsiderit a deficitthatthe traditionof Italianthoroughbass
does not offera comprehensiveand straightforward
systematics,but perhaps
thisis preciselywhereits truestrengthlies:thatit does not seek to deduceharmonyand melody,line and sonority(Klang),chordand counterpointfroma
single coherentprinciple,as Rameaudoes, but permanentlyworksthrough
the tensionbetweenthose poles in a dialecticalway.
Heinichenconstantlywaversbetweenthe newchordfunctionalityof the
Ruleof the Octaveand the "classical"
theoryof counterpointand dissonance
treatment.This is not merelya sign of his theoreticalindecision,however,
but also revealshis deep-seatedaversionto a certainconcept of natureand
sciencethathe sees prevailingin Rameau's theory:he confrontsthis formof
that"German,French
systematicthinkingwithhis "rulesof art"(Arth-Regeln)
of
for
the
use
.
.
.
have
authors
and Italian
unfiguredthoroughbass
provided
a long timeago, whichthe latter[i.e., the Italianauthors]since then brought
to the highest perfection"("welchedeutsche,franzsischeund italienische
Autores.... vom General-Bassohne Signaturentheils von langer Zeit her
zu geben angefangen,theilsletzterezeitherozurVollkommenheitgebracht";
Heinichen1728,19). Heinichendrawsthe principlesof his theorysolelyfrom
musicalpracticeand tradition:for him, "nature"manifestsitselfin the "conventionalschemataof composition"("den gebrulichenpassibuscompositionis";19), but it cannot be deduced from the physicalnatureof the corps
sonore.It is this proximityto compositionalpracticeand musicalexperience
in particularthat makesthe Italian(and accordinglythe Italian-influenced)
thoroughbasstraditionso interestingfor us today.
It goeswithoutsayingthatthe complexconceptof harmonicfunctionalon
ity whichthisItaliantraditionof the late seventeenthand earlyeighteenth
centuriesis basedwouldalwayshavemeritedour historicalinterest.Another
question,however- and perhapsactuallythe crucialone- is whatwe are to
makeof thisrenaissanceof Italianmusictheory.It opens up the possibilityof
interpretingand analyzingthe compositionaltechniquesof the seventeenth
and eighteenthcenturiesin a differentway.Elucidatingthe possiblenatureof

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43

44

JOURNAL of MUSIC THEORY

this different way would exceed the scope of this essay;a study of such a kind
is in progress, however, and will appear at a later date.

Works Cited
Aerts, Hans. 2006. "Thoroughbass in Practice, Theory, and Improvisation." ZeitschriftderGesell15/01 15.html.
de/zeitschrift/artikel/01
schaftfur Musiktheorie3. http://xjuww.gmth.
. 2007. "'Modeir und Topos' in der deutschsprachigen Musiktheorie seit Riemann."
4/1-2. http://www.gmth.de/zeitschrift/artikel/0123/
fur Musiktheorie
ZeitschriftderGesellschaft
0123.html.
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Ludwig Holtmeier teaches music theory at the Hochschule fur Musik in Freiburg and historische
Satzlehre at the Schola Cantorum in Basel. He is the editor of Musik & sthetik and has published
widely on the history of music theory, the Second Viennese School, and RichardWagner. U*v

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49