‘La Folia’: The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ of Baroque Music

“La Folia” is an interesting piece of music. It’s a short chord progression that’s been handed down from generation to generation and just about every composer of note has put his own stamp on it. Is there anything comparable to it today?

Maybe. Think of what “Wipeout” is to drummers or the opening riff of “Stairway to Heaven” is to guitarists. In both of these cases, you have a piece of music that’s almost like a musical currency, a way for musicians to size up one another instantly to get a sense of where they are as players. Only a piece that’s universally recognized can serve that role, and “La Folia” certainly seems to be that piece historically.

In any case, you can learn more about the origins of La Folia on Wikipedia, but there’s also an entire website devoted to it. That’s something not even “Wipeout” and “Stairway to Heaven” have. But give it time. They’ve only been around for a few decades; “La Folia” has been around for a few hundred years.

You can see how Vivaldi, Bach, Corelli, Marais, and Geminiani have each put their own stamp on “La Folia” in the 90-second video above.—Nabob, On Baroque 


The ‘La Folia’ chord progression

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