Room 9

In this section, we will deal with one of the most famous classical pieces of the last 30 years. It's known as the Canon by Pachelbel. (No!, it's not Taco Bell!) It's based upon what is called a chaconne. It has been a very useful musical form for hundreds of years. It is merely a pattern of harmonies that is repeated over and over again. It can be in any meter duple or triple. The Pachelbel is in duple mater, and it is eight measures long. To familiarize yourself with the sound, here is a brief portion of the Canon. Listen!

Here's a sample of another piece that is by Claudio Monteverdi. It's a duet for two tenor voices titled Zefiro torna (Gentle zephyr). Listen and see if you can tell whether the meter is duple or triple. By the way, this piece was supposedly a favorite of 20th century Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

Here ia a complete performance.

If you said it was triple, you're right. Here's another clue about chaconnes--many times the bass line is repeated over and over again. If that happens, it's probably a chaconne, although sometimes the bass line doesn't repeat. It all depends on the ingenuity of the composer.

Here's one more example of a chaconne. When it has a repeated bass line (and it was written in England) it was called a Ground, hence the PDQ Bach joke about him writing a piece called the Ground Round (but that's another story). This ground is by William Croft and it is played on harp. Listen for the repeated bass line and then the varied melody that is created over it. Listen!

If you think about it, most popular songs since the early 20th century are based on chaconnes. As you listen to music away from the computer, how many times can you recognize a chaconne? Don't get confused because sometimes there are contrasting sections (sometimes called bridges) which are used like connective tissue in musical structures.

If you want the Pachelbel Canon, album title is Bedroom Adagios. Label is Decca. Catalog number is 470 460.

Zefiro torna is hard to find. It's only on an 8 CD set of Madrigals by Monteverdi. Label is Philips. Catalog number is 462 243.

The Croft piece, merely titled Ground, is from the Bedroom Adagios album.

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