Accent shifts in triple meter in Johann Sebastian Bach’s music

by Reitze Smits | Het ORGEL | Year 117 | (2021) | Issue 2

Buste van Bach in de Nicolaikerk te Leipzig. Foto: Jan Smelik

Classical music is usually notated in regular time signatures.  Closer study shows that the accents sometimes diverge from this regularity.  The harmonic pulse can change from half to whole measures, and if the measures are short sometimes even to groups of four measures.  In triple meter there are more possibilities for irregular accents which composers love to use.  They might change the division at a certain point from triple to duple.  Instead of the normal division of a 6/4 measure as 2×3 notes (123.456), the division becomes 3×2 notes (12.34.56).  This gives an interesting shift of accent.  The author demonstrates this with examples from various works of Bach.