• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 11 1234 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 106

Topic: Counterpoint - missing the point?

Share/Bookmark
  1. #1

    Counterpoint - missing the point?

    I have been studying counterpoint using Fux's text and this link:

    http://www.listeningarts.com/music/g...ecies/menu.htm

    I have just about understood the concept of a cantus firma and am delving into the first species.

    So far it seems to be a lot of arcane rules that I break all the time when improvising on sax or (limited) keyboard.

    Basically is it a kind of pentatonic harmony which avoids naughty notes like sharp 4 or major 7?

    Is it worth pursuing further I wonder? Or is formal counterpoint a dead fish?

    If I am already thinking 'chromatically' - do I need counterpoint - I wonder?

    I should like the opinions of this venerable group

    Zero
    Core i7 920, Win 7 RC 64, Cubase 5 64, Omnisphere, Trilogy, RMX, EWQLSO Plat EW Choirs, GPO, Stradivari, Gofrilla, Absynth 4, Halion 3, Kontakt3, BFD2, VSL Strings, JBridge running all 32 bit apps well.

  2. #2

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    Thanks Neo but I think I need a bit more detailed answer.

    Example rule:

    The penultimate note of the line of counterpoint must be the leading tone (or the 7th degree of the mode), and the final note must be the tonic whether it is above or below the cantus firmus. Thus, the final two intervals will always be 6th - 8ve when the counterpoint is in the upper voice, and 3rd - P1 or 10th - 8ve when the counterpoint is in the lower voice

    There's reams of stuff like this. It would take a long while to piece it all together
    Core i7 920, Win 7 RC 64, Cubase 5 64, Omnisphere, Trilogy, RMX, EWQLSO Plat EW Choirs, GPO, Stradivari, Gofrilla, Absynth 4, Halion 3, Kontakt3, BFD2, VSL Strings, JBridge running all 32 bit apps well.

  3. #3

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    Keep in mind that Fux's Counterpoint is a graded study, and more importantly, your studies are for the purpose of learning counterpoint, not making music.
    I remain solely responsible for the content of my messages, and agree to indemnify and hold harmless northern sound source, and their agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of my message(s). Rock on.

  4. #4

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    OK so its a graded study so lets take an initial rule. The rules say that you must start your melody line (cantus firmus) on the tonic of the mode you are using. We all know that you can start a melody in many other ways (e.g. Star Spangled Banner).

    What gives here? In this example rule..

    All the rules seem like this to me distinctly dodgy

    Why?

    Perplexed
    Core i7 920, Win 7 RC 64, Cubase 5 64, Omnisphere, Trilogy, RMX, EWQLSO Plat EW Choirs, GPO, Stradivari, Gofrilla, Absynth 4, Halion 3, Kontakt3, BFD2, VSL Strings, JBridge running all 32 bit apps well.

  5. #5
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    California Redwoods
    Posts
    2,933

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZeroZero
    I have been studying counterpoint using Fux's text and this link:

    http://www.listeningarts.com/music/g...ecies/menu.htm

    I have just about understood the concept of a cantus firma and am delving into the first species.

    So far it seems to be a lot of arcane rules that I break all the time when improvising on sax or (limited) keyboard.

    Basically is it a kind of pentatonic harmony which avoids naughty notes like sharp 4 or major 7?

    Is it worth pursuing further I wonder? Or is formal counterpoint a dead fish?

    If I am already thinking 'chromatically' - do I need counterpoint - I wonder?

    I should like the opinions of this venerable group

    Zero

    Bear in mind that the rules were developed from practice. Not the same as rules of science discovered by Newton et al. My main rule is to write as it seems good to me, and let the musicologists analyze it if they can. Practice, since Fux and friends has evolved, and will continue to do so. No piece should ever be judged on the basis of the rules. It is quite possible to write strictly according to rules and produce a boring piece of trash! A somewhat more current book on the subject is Walter Piston's "Counterpoint". The only sensible way to judge a musical work is by it's sound and effect. Rules may be helpful, in achieving your musical goals, but they are not infallible. If they get in your way, ignore them. Just be concerned with the effect.

    Certainly I am commenting with a strong personal bias here. However, the bias is based on 60 or so years of music, including performance and composing (but almost totally unkonwn), and a little teaching and vocal coaching. One of my students achieved some fame, but I gave him some piano lessons after he left the group.

    If you want some examples of results I have achieved by this outlook, I can give you some links to plenty of my organ works, which are mostly contrapuntal, and composed with little regard to rules. The pieces have received favorable comment, and might be useful to you. Some will be on Christopher Duncan's GPO Radio, but I have forgotten which.

    One of my contrapuntal pieces demolishes a big tabu. It is a fugue with voices separated by a tritone.

    That's a mountain of verbiage, but did it say anything helpful to you?

    Richard

  6. #6

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZeroZero
    I have been studying counterpoint using Fux's text and this link:

    http://www.listeningarts.com/music/g...ecies/menu.htm

    I have just about understood the concept of a cantus firma and am delving into the first species.

    So far it seems to be a lot of arcane rules that I break all the time when improvising on sax or (limited) keyboard.

    Basically is it a kind of pentatonic harmony which avoids naughty notes like sharp 4 or major 7?

    Is it worth pursuing further I wonder? Or is formal counterpoint a dead fish?

    If I am already thinking 'chromatically' - do I need counterpoint - I wonder?

    I should like the opinions of this venerable group

    Zero
    I'm Peter Alexander and I've revised Gradus ad parnassum into Counterpoint by Fux which covers counterpoint through three parts. We've just completed engraving four part counterpoint which I plan to have available this summer along with a new Living Music Book for two-part Counterpoint. Here's the link to the existing book:

    http://www.truespec.com/store/books/...nt/index.shtml

    While it may be true that he who puns would pick a pocket, I think you have missed the "point."

    First, the linear "rules" of counterpoint, as I've laid them out in my book, are all about the kinds of melodic combinations that the average person can and can't sing. Take the rules and "apply" them to a book of top 100 Billboard songs, and most of the time, you'll see them in action. Not always, but often. So the point of these "rules" is giving you guidelines on how to create effective singable melodies.

    Second, you have to realize that Fux is teaching you counterpoint in each of the modes. So you're learning to write in Dorian through Aeolian. Lydian is more like F in this style, but you can "cheat" and use the raised fourth to give yourself technique in either venue.

    Third, to start, you're writing within the key. However, to expand, consider that Dorian is ii MIN, Phrygian iii MIN, etc. As you work with tunes with more contemporary chord progressions, apply Fux's concepts as you would with applying chord scales to each chord.

    Fourth, consider the cantus firmus as what it is - the melody. Here your objective is to learn to write counterlines above and below the melody. Also, when following Fux's guidelines, you come up with very interesting reharmonizations.

    Fifth, by the time you get to florid counterpoint, the objective is to have sufficient technique to generate a composition on the spot, just as you would improvise on the spot.

    Hope this puts you in a direction.
    Peter L. Alexander
    www.professionalorchestration.com
    www.alexanderpublishing.com
    Learn it right the first time.

  7. #7

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    ZeroZero,

    The traditional rules of counterpoint were codified well after Western harmony was already established, though they were also coincident with and embellished in parallel with the fullest flowering of that particular genre (or at least its mainstream).

    The validity of and adherence to such rules vary in time, place, taste, and function. At best, rules are simply optional guidelines and at worst onerous impediments to creativity. The rules of traditional counterpoint can be thought of as a methodology, of which it has been said: “methodology is the last refuge of a sterile mind”. In short, if one cannot come up with anything new, including how or what to compose, as a last resort one can follow a set of “rules” instead of going to the trouble of thinking creatively.

    If one wants to write music that sounds like 16th or 17th century “classical” music, one generally must follow its “rules” of counterpoint (though I once attended a class in harmony that had numerous examples drawn from the works of Handel that did not follow traditional counterpoint at all). But beyond that, there are several principles laid out in traditional counterpoint that can give one something to think about when working in other potential harmonic systems, including parallelism, voice leading, suspension, etc. In fact, if one really wanted to write music that is nothing like the 17th century classics, it would help to have a catalogue of “what not to do” in that genre in order to do it, and thus achieve one’s aim.

    That said, some self-imposed limitations (rules) are frequently helpful when trying to compose. I think Stravinsky was a big fan of this approach. Having rules and limitations quickly narrows down one’s choices in a given context. Similarly, rules and limitations can also help lend consistent character to a section or entire work. It’s just that these rules and limitations can be anything—scale selection, instrumentation, melodic contour, dynamics, etc., as well as the operative harmonic vocabulary. The harmony could be conventional diatonic counterpoint, but it could just as easily be a quartal system that uses clear voice-leading or parallel pandiatonicism that arbitrarily leaps registers.

    Luckily, we live in a time where most anything goes, so “it”—what rules to use, if any—really boils down to what one is trying to say.

  8. #8

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    If you're interested -- either in writing period-style counterpoint or just as a historical curiosity -- I've got a facsimile of Thomas Campion's On Counterpoint on my Web site.

    It pretty much only covers first-species counterpoint, but it's got an angle I'd never seen before: he compares the four voice parts to the four elements, and (as "Earth" is the most important element in his view), instructs that the bass line should be written first, and the three upper parts are derived from it by application of a numeric formula.

    It doesn't sound like it should produce anything interesting, but if you're familiar enough with madrigals to write a bass line in that style, it actually results in music that sounds "right".
    -- Jeff Lee
    Etiam singula minima maximi momenti est - Even the smallest detail is of the utmost importance

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Wilton, NH
    Posts
    2,450

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    I’m studying Fux right now and sometimes take the approach that it is the background I need to be able to go on to the more complex types of counterpoint (i.e., canon and fugue). I know learning archaic rules doesn’t always help, but I tend to think of these type of exercises in the same light as playing scales or doing finger exercises – let’s say finger exercises for the brain.

    What I think it does is force you to look at the relationships between the notes. As the complexity grows (in the Fux book you get up 4 part florid counterpoint) so do the relationships. You need to think in all lines and continually look several measures ahead. If you are able to do that with these very strict rules, think how easy it will be once you get to set your own rules and are no longer restricted to following a cantus firmus.

    In the past I always wrote in the improvisation, what sounds good mode. Lately I’ve been writing out all of the parts I found that I think much more about note relationships and take the every note should serve a purpose approach. I think the exercises in Fux help me in this style of composition.
    Trent P. McDonald

  10. #10

    Re: Counterpoint - missing the point?

    I studied counterpoint for yet another reason. Other than just the "You need to walk before you can run" rule, I believe to be a great composer one must study the great masters and work ones way to the modern style. If one is studying the Mozarts and Beethovens, they better study Fux because those guys used it as the basis for everything they composed. A strong base in musical theory after that is a must. I would also recommend stufying the books on Fugue because it will also make you a better composer.
    Composing purely by ear will only get a person so far in life. After studying traditional harmony, I then took a class on 20th century music and studied some of the modern types of writing like Hindemith's Twelve Note Tonal Counterpoint, Scoenberg's Twelve Tone System, and Pitch Set Theory. There are many other methods of writing and I use parts of all of this in my composition... especially that base in counterpoint.
    Work through the entire Fux book and the rewards will be worth it. As for the rules you mentioned, I'm not sure what is dodgy because if you analyze works at the time you will find them to follow the rules especially carefully. This is true from Fux to Beethoven, who begins to stretch the rules, but not quite break them.
    Don't forget the other important thing that counterpoint teaches: good contrupunal writing and avoiding a lot of parallel harmonies. Of course parallel fifths and octaves are strictly forbiddon and were not used until Debussy.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

Go Back to forum

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •