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Demistyfying Bach's Lute Suite II BWV 997

Prelude: Bach uses the scales Major, Harmonic minor, Melodic, Harmonic Major, Hungarian minor, Neapolitan minor, Locrian natural 7, Persian, Harmonic Major b5 and Neapolitan Major. There are four sequences of interest in this movement.

Sequence 1: Bars 8 - 12: A Harmonic minor - A Melodic - A Harmonic minor - C Major - G Major - E Harmonic minor - E Melodic - E Major - E Harmonic Major - E Harmonic minor - E Hungarian minor - E Harmonic minor. This sequence fluctuates between Harmonic minor and Melodic before modulating up a fifth and repeating but with a variation including Major, Harmonic Major and Hungarian minor scales.

Sequence 2: Bars 31 - 32: D Harmonic minor - D Neapolitan minor - D Locrian natural 7 - D Neapolitan minor - G Hungarian minor - D Persian - D Harmonic Major b5 - D Harmonic Major - D Harmonic minor. This sequence has the fluctuation again, this time using Neapolitan minor.

Sequence 3: Bars 39 - 40: C Major - E Neapolitan minor - E Neapolitan Major - E Neapolitan minor - E Harmonic minor - E Harmonic Major - A Hungarian minor - A Harmonic minor. Here, this sequence begins with the fluctuation between Neapolitan minor and Major scales. The sequence can be thought of simply as an elaborate way of modulating from the Major scale to its relative minor.

Sequence 4: Bars 41 - 45: (A Harmonic Major - D Hungarian minor - D Harmonic minor) - (D Harmonic Major G Hungarian minor - G Harmonic minor) - (G Harmonic Major - C Hungarian minor - C Harmonic minor) - (C Harmonic Major - F Hungarian minor - F Harmonic minor) - (F Harmonic Major - D Harmonic minor - D Melodic - A Harmonic Major - A Harmonic minor).

In this final sequence, it is easy to see what Bach intends. A short sequence of scales, Harmonic Major, Hungarian minor, Harmonic minor. Modulate back a fifth and repeat 4 times, with an elaboration on the last. Much like the technique in rhetoric, which Bach obviously studied in his youth.

I explain in detail my method for understanding and composing complex music in my book The Modal Method of Music available at

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