Articulation in Early Music (Part 1)

There is a lot that we can learn about how to articulate Bach’s music by studying the violin slurs, also often referred to as articulation markings, in the Sonatas and Partitas.

The reason is that Bach himself wrote those slurs. Like everything did, these articulation marks are inherently practical, falling naturally under the hands and, at the same time, always fresh and sometimes unexpected—but never in a jarring way.

One important thing about articulating early music is that we need to approach it as speech. This video, part one, demonstrates how that came to be, and it is a fascinating story indeed.

It all started with Caccini, Monteverdi, and Galilei, who were composing in a time when the polyphony was so complex that it often obscured the words of the songs.

These composers took it upon themselves to change this. They were so influential that—even to this day—we do not question that the music must support the words. What followed was that instrumental music emulated the same formulae; and so, in that sense, also was written as being eloquent, articulate, and rhetorical.