Basso Ostinato

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Basso Ostinato


(ground bass), one of the forms of variation in music, based on the repetition of an unchanging theme over and over in the bass (lowest) voice; this theme is accompanied by changing themes in the higher voices. As a result, while the thematic unity is preserved, a constant renewal of the many-voiced musical texture takes place.

The basso ostinato form is very appropriate for the creation of a unified musical image and the embodiment of a single mood. The basso ostinato was used as the lowest voice in the accompaniment in arias and choral works in the 17th and 18th centuries (H. Purcell and J. S. Bach’s “Crucifixus” from the Mass in B minor). It was also used in instrumental forms such as the passacaglia and chaconne, which are still used (D. D. Shostakovich, P. Hindemith, and others). In the music of the 19th and 20th centuries the ostinato technique has gone beyond the basso ostinato and has become one of the basic formative principles in various elements of musical language (melody, rhythm, harmony, and so forth).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.