Complete Encyclopaedia of Music/B/Bass, base
Bass, base, or BASSO. All have the same meaning ; the lowest or deepest part. Bass is thus written in imitation of the Italian basso, which is the English base, low, or, substantively, basis, foundation ; yet with the pronunciation of base and plural bases. The bass, or lowest part, is, with sound musicians, the most important of all the parts. It is, indeed, the foundation of the harmony - the support of the whole superstructure of the composition. The word bass is technically used in various connections ; as, Thorough Bass, Fundamental Bass, Ground Bass, Figured Bass, &c., all of which will be noticed. A Figured Bass is a bass with figures written over or under each note, to indicate the accompanying harmonies. The term Figured Bass is also used as synonymous with Figurative Bass, meaning a bass not confined to the plain canto-fermo style, but moving with more freedom, and with a melody of its own. For instance, the Bass in Bach's arrangement of "Old Hundred." (See ALTERATIONS.) Fundamental Bass is that bass which forms the tone, ca natural foundation, of the incumbent harmony, and from which, as a lawful source, that harmony is derived. To explain this by an example : If the harmony consists of the common chord of C, C will be its fundamental bass, because from that note the harmony is deduced; and if, while that 'harmony is continued, the bass be changed to any other note, it ceases to be fundamental, because it is no longer the note from which that harmony results, and is calculated. Ground Bass is used sometimes as synonymous with Fundamental Bass, and sometimes as a bass which starts with some subject of its own, and continues to be repeated throughout the movement, while the upper part, or parts, of the composition pursue a separate air, and supply the harmony. This kind of bass was greatly in fashion about half a century since, but has for some time been rejected as an unnatural restraint upon the imagination, and productive of a monotonous melody. Thorough Bass is the art by which harmony is superadded to any proposed bass, and includes the fundamental rules of composition. This branch of the musical science is twofold, theoretical and practical. Theoretical Thorough Bass comprehends the knowledge of the connection and disposition of all the several chords, harmonious and dissonant, and includes all the established laws by which they are formed and regulated. Practical Thorough Bass is conversant with the manner of taking the several chords on an instrument, as prescribed by the figures placed over or under the bass part of a composition, and supposes a familiar acquaintance with the powers of these figures, a facility in taking the chords they indicate, and judgment in the various applications and effects of those chords in accompaniment. The Bass is that part of a concert which is the most heard ; which consists of the gravest and largest sounds, or which is played on the longest pipes or strings of a common instrument, or on instruments larger than common for the purpose.