ground bass

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ground bass,

melodic phrase used repeatedly as a bass line. In its earlier form, developed in the 13th and 14th cent., the ground or basso ostinato [Ital.,=obstinate] never varied in harmonization or pitch. The tenor, or pes, of Sumer Is Icumen InSumer Is Icumen In
[M.E.,=summer has (literally: is) come in], an English rota or round composed c.1250. It is the earliest extant example of canon, of six part music, and of ground bass. Four tenor voices are in canon and two bass voices sing the pes, or ground, also in canon.
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 is such a ground. Another sort was developed during the 17th cent. by Purcell and his contemporaries. This ground was not rigid as to pitch, sometimes moving from bass to soprano. It was composed with varying melodies and harmonies in the upper parts. The result was often a series of variations as in the baroque chaconne and passacagliachaconne and passacaglia
, two closely related musical forms popular during the baroque period. Both are in triple meter time and employ a characteristic recurring harmonic pattern or actual bass line of four or eight
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. The device often has great dramatic effect. J. S. Bach and Handel made remarkable use of it.

ground bass

, ground
Music a short melodic bass line that is repeated over and over again