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The Role of the 12/8 Time Signature in J. S. Bach's Sacred Vocal Music

Lee, Kayoung (2005) The Role of the 12/8 Time Signature in J. S. Bach's Sacred Vocal Music. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Only in recent years have scholars begun to explicate the principles of the temporal system that formed the basic foundation of Johann Sebastian Bach's notational practice. However, research that focuses on the role of a particular time signature in Bach's sacred vocal music has been lacking. This dissertation provides a case study that examines the role of the 12/8 time signature found in Bach's sacred vocal music, and the new compositional procedures Bach implemented in conjunction with it. To address the important role of the 12/8 time signature, I trace the musico-historical context in which the signature was defined and employed by late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century theorists and composers. Through an analysis of the treatises of the period along with selected musical examples, I identify the temporal, notational, compositional conventions associated to the signature. Further, I analyze the movements notated in 12/8 in Bach's sacred vocal music in terms of their stylistic, notational, and formal procedures, exploring the extent to which Bach adhered to or deviated from these conventions.My analysis is based on six independent categories of Bach's 12/8 movements, each representing a specific type of piece. These categories include: 12/8 and continuo arias, 12/8 and chorale, 12/8 and the gigue, Cantata 136 and new experimentation, 12/8 in the passions, and 12/8 and the pastorale. Also important are the notational, stylistic, and formal changes that take place in each category over the course of time. These changes often occur in association with Bach's experimentation with new compositional procedures. Examination of the 12/8 movements also reveals the great care Bach takes in capturing the theological images and messages of the text. The examination of the music and text of Bach's 12/8 movements reveals that when he chooses to use the 12/8 time signature, he not only links it to the notational and temporal conventions he had inherited from his predecessors, but also adapts and modifies it, often with the use of new compositional procedures, to achieve new and distinctive musical results.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFranklin, Don Odof@pitt.eduDOF
Committee MemberColin, Amy
Committee MemberBrodbeck, David
Committee MemberLewi, Marylsm@pitt.eduLSM
Date: 5 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 2 February 2004
Approval Date: 5 October 2005
Submission Date: 2 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: 12/8 time signature; ritornello; tempo; chorale chorus; compositional procedure; time signature; free da capo form
Other ID:, etd-08022005-145802
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:47


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