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Luis Felipe Vargas Magdaleno de Moraes

Introduction to Schenckerian Analysis – MUS624A

Final Project – Sarabande from French Suite Nº 6 by Johann Sebastian Bach

The Sarabande from the French Suite Nº 6 by Johann Sebastian Bach is in a simple binary form,

which results in a continuous Urlinie, without interruption. The Urlinie in that case is a Five

Line (5-4-3-2-1), with an Anstieg in the first four measures. Before it reaches its final descent,

the piece, in the key of E major, modulates do B major and F# minor. Four levels of analyses

are provided. The Foreground intendeds to provide more details, especially between motivic

parallelisms, while the Middle Ground offers a more fluent view of the piece. The Deep Middle

Ground and the Background graphs are shown in order to demonstrate the further development

of the analysis, but they will not be discussed in the current paper.

The first challenge this piece offers is how to define the Kopfton. It could be either on scale

degree number 3 or scale degree number 5, and probably both of them are right if well argued.

The scale degree number 3 appears right in the first beat of the piece, while the scale degree

number 5 appears on measure 5, supported by a previous Anstieg. In this case, we chose scale

degree number 5 as our Kopfton, considering the constant recurrence of this degree, as well as

the Anstieg in the first four measures and its compressed recapitulation in measure 21-22. Given

these considerations, the Five Line Urlinie seems to fulfill the needs of this analysis


Another feature that can be confusing is how to choose the middle voice. In the case of an

instrumental piece such as the one analyzed here, it is very common to see middle voices
suddenly appearing and disappearing, without any damage to the counterpoint. Considering de

particularities of an instrumental piece, the criteria used to deal with the middle voices in this

analysis was the harmony, since the harmony in this piece can get fairly complex and needs

support. Contrapunctual lines are also considered, but sometimes they do not give enough

support to the harmony. In these cases, an extra middle voice is shown to support the harmony

(e.g. mm. 1).

In the Foreground graph, during the first motivic parallelism, we find the Anstieg (G# - A – B)

in the first four measures, here represented by stemmed black notes. The same Anstieg will

occur in mm. 21-22, but this time compressed and preceded by the Kopfton. The Five Line

starts in a B4, and at the end of the piece, it will jump up an octave to a B5. We opted to

normalize the Five Line starting on the Middle ground, since keeping the original pitch on the

Foreground allows for a better understanding on how the Anstieg is recapitulated and brings the

Urlinie an octave higher. We can see also in the Foreground some motivic parallelisms (mm.

1-4, mm. 9-12, mm. 17-18). What is interesting in these motivic parallelisms is that they seem

to fill the gaps of the Urlinie, appearing where the scale degree number 5 prolongs for a long

time, except for mm. 6-7, where the melodic movement from C#5 to A4 will become an upper

neighbor in the Middle ground graph. In addition, these moments seem to be the more fluid and

richer in harmony development. The harmony is another content that we can understand better

in the Foreground. In binary pieces such as this one, we usually see a harmonic movement to

the Dominant at the double bar, and after some harmonic development over the Dominant, the

harmony comes back to the Tonic. In this piece the harmony follow this pattern, but when the

piece reaches the Dominant it quickly modulates to the key of F# minor, and stays there much

longer than it stays in the Dominant key, which is clear in the foreground graph.
As said before, the Middle ground offers a more fluid view of the piece. For that purpose, we

normalized the Urlinie. Even if the Urlinie stays longer in the lower octave (B4), it was

normalized an octave higher (B5) in consideration to the melodic movement that leads towards

the final descent, which happens in an octave higher compared with the first appearance of the

Kopfton. The most important things we can observe in the Middle ground graph are the fluidity

and modulations. The extensively prolonged Kopfton, as well as the long spams on both the

melody and the bass line represent the fluidity. Furthermore, in order to keep the fluidity of the

Middle ground graph some reductions are necessary. For example, mm. 6-7, where the melodic

line starting on C#5 becomes an upper neighbor. The three tonal areas of this piece (E major,

B major and F# minor) are highlighted by beamed notes on the bass line showing the

correspondent cadences - standard beamed white notes for the cadences in the original key and

black beamed notes for auxiliary cadences. Considering these three tonal areas, it is safe to say

that there are three major sections on the Middle ground graph. Another interesting point

represented in the Middle ground is the importance of the F# minor section. Here we have a

Five Line over the F# minor cadence, confirming the statement that this tonal area plays a more

important role than the Dominant area. In order to have a Five Line we used the concept of the

“imaginary continuum”, since the C#6 does not appear in the melody but appears in the middle

voice. The final descent is a typical tonal ending, supported by the tonic and dominant chords.

Both graphs show relatively close things, one offering more details and the other more fluidity,

and both have the intention to show not just the structural passages but also how lively this

piece is in between the structural passages.

Schenker: Final Project

For your final project, please choose one of the Bach pieces passed
out in class on Tuesday. Provide two levels of analysis. Your first
level should be a relatively detailed foreground analysis that shows
bar lines. Your second level should be more middleground, showing
no bar lines.
Once you have completed the graph, please type up a 2-4 page
commentary on your analysis, explaining what your graph shows and
discussing any difficult decisions the piece forced you to make.
Follow these guidelines:
12-point font
Double spaced
1-inch margins
I will not accept hand-written commentaries. You do not need to
include a title or a thesis statement, but you might want to start with
the big picture (i.e., what is the long-range structure of the piece and
how does your graph reflect that?) and get more detailed from there.
The project (including graph and written commentary) is due on
Wednesday, December 14, by 5:00 PM. I will accept hard copy, email
attachment, or a combination of the two.
The penalty for submitting this project late will be harsh. Your grade
will be lowered a whole letter grade for each hour it is late. I am not
kidding here and exceptions will be made only in extreme cases.
If any part of this assignment is unclear, contact me right now at
You’ve been a great class and I look forward to seeing your capstone
work. Make it neat, clear, and thoughtful!