3

I have wondered what the correct musical term for the voiced melody overlaid in a piece like Jesu Joy of Man's Desire BWV147, or Sleepers Awake BWV645 is. In this piece of music (and other likes it, especially in Bach's music), it's the sung voice, sitting atop the instrumental lines. I thought I'd heard from a teacher that it was called the 'overlay', but I'm not sure this is the right term.

  • Could you clarify what you mean by "the voiced melody" in BWV 147.10? This is a four-part chorale with instrumental accompaniment. Are you talking about the soprano part? – user48353 Mar 13 at 21:24
  • Do you mean the addition of a choral melody to an instrumental part that was already heard without voices? The German term for that is "Choreinbau" (or more correctly "Vokaleinbau", since the same method appears in many solo arias as well), popularized by Alfred Dürr. I'm not aware of a canonical English translation. – Kilian Foth Mar 13 at 22:04
  • @replete : perhaps BWV 147 was not a great example, although I do mean the chorale over the instrumental accompaniment in this piece. Another example: BWV 22 "Ertoedt uns durch dine' Guete", in the Harriet Cohen piano transcription, it's the accented tune of the sung part that starts in bar 4 with B flat, -, B flat, C, D, C, -, B flat, D etc. which I think is the sung part in the original cantata. – Pete855217 Mar 29 at 13:29
  • @Kilian Foth - yes it may be the Choreinbau, but I thought it might have had a more common English term as it's so common in Bach's work (at least). In Jesu bleibet meine Freude (BWV 147), it famously starts at bar 9 as the 'slower' sung componen. – Pete855217 Mar 29 at 13:35
  • 3
    the main voice, either vocal or instrumental can be called cantus firmus. It holds the main melody. It is not important to have it as the highest element, so a cantus firmus can be arranged in the bass voice, where the upper voices accompany it. This thechnique is typical for Bach and the whole figured bass era. The other voices are referred to as counterpoint often in ths style. – HiDuEi Jun 24 at 23:33
3

After researching HiDuEi's comment:

The main voice, either vocal or instrumental can be called cantus firmus. It holds the main melody. It is not important to have it as the highest element, so a cantus firmus can be arranged in the bass voice, where the upper voices accompany it. This thechnique is typical for Bach and the whole figured bass era. The other voices are referred to as counterpoint often in this style.

and suggestion the term I was looking for is cantus firmus, I believe this is the correct answer.

(HiDuEi, I've posted your comment as the answer, thanks and I hope this helps others!)

  • 1
    Yep. I'd just add that the use of cantus firmus also goes back much further than Bach, to medieval and renaissance music. – Scott Wallace Jul 17 at 13:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.