Originating from the aurally transmitted activities in the 16th century, chaconnes and passacaglias came to encompass a broad spectrum of social and cultural meanings within the tradition of Western-European music. Popular during the baroque era, chaconnes and passacaglias have several shared characteristics—including an intrinsic tie to dance, improvisation, and display of virtuosity. At the same time, the simple structural rules of the two forms allow even the untrained ear to learn to hear the creative process of variation, which occurs over repeating short harmonic and melodic formulae. This uncomplicated framework provides a degree of transparency and familiarity for the experienced and amateur audiences alike. The study of chaconnes and passacaglias; therefore, allows us to gain access to rather complex improvisation-inspired compositions without the necessity of rigorous formal training in music.
Mary Ann Wilson
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