Pasar por la calle - Passacaglia

Pasacalle - "to walk on the street"

It is really fascinating to find out from where some common musical forms actually originate.


Passacalle literally means 'to walk down the street', and it describes a practice documented in Spain in the late 16th century where guitar players improvised interludes between verses of a song while walking amidst the audience. The variation form that this practice probably gave rise to is known under different names in different places. The triple-time ciaccona and passacalle both come from Spain and probably stemmed from the same tradition.


The first mention of a ciaccona is found in Italy in the early 17th century. Its name is derived from an old Italian verb, ciaccare, meaning 'to smash' - in fact the term acciaccatura has the same origin. The French version of the name, on the other hand, goes back to the Moorish history of Spain, as does the sarabande, šāh being the Persian word for 'king' and also the origin of the name for the game of chess. The chaconne and passacaglia both typically have a repeated bass line of four or eight bars over which variations are played. A heavy second beat as in the sarabande is also common. The form of both music and dance usually consists of a gradual, persistent increase in complexity, finally coming to a high point and then diminishing to a quiet ending.

Copyright Timo Korhonen 2014. Home page slide photos Heikki Tuuli.