Purcell’s Three Parts Upon A Ground – What’s A Ground Bass Anyway?

What do Green Day and Henry Purcell have in common? Read on.(Photo: Anirudh Koul)
What do Green Day and Henry Purcell have in common? Read on.(Photo: Anirudh Koul)

After playing Henry Purcell’s Three Parts Upon a Ground, I began to wonder if there was a way to easily explain what a ground is? In short: it’s a melodic pattern in the lowest voice that repeats throughout an entire composition and provides the harmonic foundation for the work.

So, is it only early music aficionados who know what one is, or even need to?

No!  It shows up in a lot of modern music. The American punk rock band Green Day’s American Idiot is a perfect example:

As is Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi:

Now compare those two pop songs with Henry Purcell’s Three Affections Upon a Ground:

So, next time someone accuses you of listening to outdated music that has no relevance today, you can toss out a couple of names that’ll show just how cool you really are.

I’m sure Purcell would approve!

 

 

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