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Re: Alignment in figured bass

From: Lukas-Fabian Moser
Subject: Re: Alignment in figured bass
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2022 11:22:55 +0100
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Hi Jean-Julien,

It's seems to be a very «franco-french» notation but denoting a pretty important chord in tonal harmony: the dominant seventh. You can see it on the french wikipedia page (cfème_de_dominante_avec_fondamentale#Enchaînement_ordinaire_de_la_septième_de_dominante_avec_fondamentale <> examples A and B). The + sign stands for the leading-tone which accidental is never indicated (in french notation), it has to be deduced from the notation.

I also checked in my book « Théorie de la musique » by A. Danhauser (1994 version) where you can find the attached table (page 130) in which you will see the + appearing in other chords too (all related to the leading-tone)

Thanks for you examples. It would be interesting to see where this came up historically: The old French standard textbooks I have here (Dandrieu 1718, Rameau 1722 or 1726) do not seem to do this yet, although Rameau interestingly uses a different glyph for i) raising a note in staff notation and ii) raising a bass figure or a note name (1726, p. 44):

Charles Koechlin (1928) Vol 1, p. 65:

But I'm not yet convinced that your description of the accidental of a leading tone never being indicated holds true: Koechlin 1, p. 59:

So the + sign seems to be specially reserved for dominant seventh chords?

In Olivier Alain's harmony textbook (1969), the style you describe (+ vs. ♯) seems to be a matter of course (p. 11):

On the other hand, G. Lefèvre's Traité d'harmonie (1889) does not use bass figures at all.

As you can notice, I'm not an expert at all on the development of French music theory, but it seems the stabilisation towards the very standardised harmonic language my French students (at German/Austrian music universities) have seems to have taken place in the first daces of the 20th century? Maybe even by Koechlin's textbook (which I seem to remember was quite influential)?


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