Organ point

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In music, an organ point is the name for a sustained note or a repeated note in a certain rhythm, to which other voices move freely in harmony.

The term has its origin in the organum , in which the vox principalis moves freely over a longer stop tone, the vox organalis . Later the voices exchange the organ point. The organ point can appear in different voices and in different parts of a piece. It is often found in the bass at the end of a piece as the bass note of the dominant , which is then resolved into the final tonic , or as the fundamental note of the tonic. The fact that the term “organ point” is often associated with the organ is not only due to the term itself, but also to the fact that there are often conspicuous organ points in compositions for organ.

On the piano , and even more so on the harpsichord , due to the short decay time of these instruments, a long sustained note has to be dissolved by rhythmization. With long held chords this is usually done by arpeggios (“broken” chords ).


Organ points can be found in early baroque battle music "alla battaglia" (especially extensive in Heinrich Schütz , Es ist Gott auf , SWV 356, and Claudio Monteverdi , Altri canti di Marte , SV 155).

The organ point can also be at the beginning of a piece, for example in the opening chorus of the St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach , BWV 244. Here, an organ point over five bars is composed for the basso continuo from the beginning, which repeatedly changes over the course of the movement Steps is repeated. Due to the instrument technology of the violone and organ , it would not be a problem to play a sustained note. Bach composed tone repetitions in 12/8 rhythm.

In the aria Sleep, My Love , which JS Bach set to music first in the secular cantata Herkules am Scheidewege and later in the Christmas Oratorio , both possibilities of an organ point are compared. The organ point with tone repetitions in octave jumps symbolizes the cradling of the child, the held organ point symbolizes the rest of sleep.

JS Bach's Toccata and Fugue in F major BWV 540 and the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV 561 each begin with an organ point of many bars.

Interesting examples from recent music history are the long organ points at the beginning of Richard Wagner's stage drama Das Rheingold or Richard Strauss ' tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra (op. 30, 1896) and in the Intrada of Witold Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra (1954).

The organ point also occurs in pop , rhythm and blues , rock 'n' roll , musical or other popular cultural music. An example of this is Michael Jackson's megahit thriller , the majority of which is based on a four-note, organ point-like ostinato.

Organ points are also very common in jazz , especially in its improvisational styles (e.g. bebop ), as well as in film music .

Individual evidence

  1. Gerald Drebes: Schütz, Monteverdi and the "Perfection of Music" - "God stands up" from the "Symphoniae sacrae" II (1647). In: Schütz yearbook. Vol. 14, 1992, ISSN  0174-2345 , pp. 25–55, here pp. 37–40, online ( memento of the original from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /

See also