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#1047093 - 05/22/08 07:06 AM Examples Of Counterpoint
Jamie147 Offline
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Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 212
Loc: England, UK
I've started learning Mozart's K576 1st movement and have not had too much trouble learning the first 30 seconds but the sections I'm approaching which gives me the most exitement I feel will be the most demanding yet. I've been mentally preparing myself for this 'mission' by getting to grips with compound time signatures in particular 6/8 time and reading up on counterpoint. I assume this piece contains examples of counterpoint but I may be wrong. My dictionary definitions of counterpoint are simply:

1. Music. the art of combining melodies.
2. Music. the texture resulting from the combining of individual melodic lines.
3. a melody composed to be combined with another melody.
4. Also called counterpoint rhythm. Prosody. syncopation (def. 2).
5. any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another.
–verb (used with object)
6. to emphasize or clarify by contrast or juxtaposition.

These seem quite straight forward but the Wikipedia entry goes in to great detail about criteria that needs to be fulfilled before counterpoint is achieved which is beyond me.

My query is what basic example of counterpoint is there? Is it present in K545 or K576? Is a long time player yet untrained and ungraded person like myself foolish to attempt a grade 8 piece? After playing K545 in to the ground I feel up to the task but know it will be a hard slog and my hands will be playing more independantly than ever. My understanding is that independant playing is the basis of counterpoint. What are the nuts and bolts of counterpoint?

Kind Regards,

Jamie
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#1047094 - 05/22/08 09:08 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Ilia20 Offline
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Registered: 05/19/08
Posts: 53
Loc: Paris
Hello Jamie,

Interserting thread, I'm very much interestd in conterpoint.


Again I feel very limited by my apprximate english to speak freely about the subject.

Basically, the conterpoint is "the juxtaposition of melodic lines" but it has a lot of other rules, these rules vary a lot from a period to another and are principally about consonance, non-harmonic relation and melodic lines motion...These rules are very numerous but you can have a good approach in the wiki article.

As for the Mozart sonatas, the K545 sonata is almost the exact OPPOsite of a contrapuntal writing by its heavy use of a bass (alberti bass in this case for the left hand, 1-2-3-2-1...you see ?)

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#1047095 - 05/22/08 09:19 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
Hi Jamie,

You might get a lot more information by posting this in the Pianists Corner or the Teacher's Forum. Be sure to "knock" if you post in the later. ;\) JK

I'm not an expert, but here is what I know. When I think of counterpoint, I tend to think of Bach. For examples, I'd probably start looking at the Inventions, Sinfonias (aka Three Part Inventions) and the Fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier.

After searching online, I came across the following page, which has more information on counterpoint than I feel ready to start digging into:

http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory33.htm

Which contains the table of contents to this page:

http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/personnel/Belkin/bk.C/0.html

(hmmmmm. Lot's of good information on this site. I think I need to go through his pages.)

Hope this helps.
Rich
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#1047096 - 05/22/08 09:39 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Studio Joe Offline
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I have no formal training in music theory, but from reading and self study, I see counterpoint as separate melodies that when played together form the chords of the song. Just like in a hymn book; soprano, alto, tenor, and bass each have their own melodies and when sang together form the same chords that you would use if strumming along with a guitar.
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#1047097 - 05/22/08 09:40 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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I got a small porthole view of what counterpoint is about when I was invited to the composer's lounge to participate in an exercise called "Fux Species 1". I got the impression from this, that the best way to understand counterpoint might be to work on counterpoint in theory.

My very limited understanding of counterpoint is that essentially you have two melodies, but that are related to each other, which are happening at the same time, and this is the horizontal movement. At the same time the melodies will be different intervals apart (example top line may go AB, bottom line goes FF, so the first two notes are FA which are a third apart, the next two notes are FB which are a fourth apart).

My Oxford concludes by saying "..the percetion of the horizontal and vertical relationship simultaneously is the perception of counterpoint."

The exercise in the composer's lounge made that clear to me, and you can even see different people's attempts in various stages. I don't know if this could help at all when playing a piece.

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#1047098 - 05/22/08 11:25 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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Registered: 12/12/06
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Just a thought here -

I'm not sure if you are familiar with Barbershop Quartets, but to me this is a contemporary example of a counterpuntal type of music.

Rich
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#1047099 - 05/22/08 01:28 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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Jamie147 - here are some very basic guidelines for counterpoint or countermelody:

Countermelody can be set up as a "harmony line" where it essentially parallels the main melody at a given interval (say a 3rd below) and more or less duplicates the rhythmic pattern of the main melody.

Countermelody can also be used in a "call-and response" approach where the countermelody "answers" the main melody, basically following the pattern of the main melody and serving to fill in gaps in that main melody.

Countermelody can be completely independent of the main melody - not paralleling it at a set interval, nor following it's rhythmic patterns, nor "answering" it, but weaving in and around with a logic and design of it's own.

All three of the above techniques for countermelodies can be combined in one composition.

The countermelody should not "clash" (be dissonant) with the main melody (except rarely and by specific ddesign).

The notes in the countermelody should be at least [/b] an interval of a 3rd distant from the main melody.

The countermelody should not cross the main melody (except rarely and by specific design).

The countermelody should be strong or good enough to stand on it's own, but still never (or seldom) overwhelm the main melody. This is a tough one.

There's alot more to it than this, but this should give yoy something to work with for starters.

Regards, JF
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#1047100 - 05/22/08 01:50 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
Countermelody can be set up as a "harmony line" where it essentially parallels the main melody at a given interval (say a 3rd below) and more or less duplicates the rhythmic pattern of the main melody.
Am I right that countermelody and counterpoint are not the same thing, but may share some similarities (more than one melody)? For example, I think that parallels going along a given interval is something that is forbidden in counterpoint except for rare occasions. Are you saying, Frank, that working with countermelody is a good way to start, before venturing into counterpoint?

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#1047101 - 05/22/08 05:19 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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Keystring - my understanding is that Countermelody [/b] and Counterpoint [/b] are essentially the same thing, and I use the terms interchangeably. When one arranges in counterpoint one is fundamentally creating a melody line that run concurrently with but "counter" to the main melody. In three and four part counterpoint you will have multiple melodies running counter to the main melody.

While you are completely correct that one of the basic rules of counterpoint is to aviod overusing parallel intervals, when one uses a countermelody to provide essentially a "harmony line" (as opposed to a separate, unique "countermelody" line) then one of the easiest ways to do this is to hold a constant (or fairly constant) interval of, say, a 3rd or a 6th for extended sections of the piece (although you may want to vary the interval from section to section). So, here it's basically serving a dual function - countermelody and simple harmony. The duplication of the rhythmic pattern between the main and countermelodies also adds to the overall effect of this.

Regards, JF
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#1047102 - 05/22/08 05:39 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
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 Quote:
Keystring - my understanding is that Countermelody and Counterpoint are essentially the same thing, and I use the terms interchangeably
Let me check up on that for my own understanding as well.

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#1047103 - 05/22/08 07:31 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Music Major Offline
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A somewhat comprehensive overview of the Theory of counterpoint would be to do a study of Fux.

As keystrings mentioned...

Fux: species 1, and up through species 5.

There are many specific rules for movement in both the vertical(intervals) and horizontal(timewise) directions. There are progressively more freedoms allowed as the species increases, but lessons are clearer in the earlier species.
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#1047104 - 05/22/08 11:29 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
currawong Offline
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Some brief observations:

I would distinguish between "counterpoint" and a "countermelody" - counterpoint is combining two or more melodic lines; the countermelody to be strictly accurate is one of those lines. So, you write a melody. You add a countermelody, and voila! You have counterpoint \:\) .

Back to the OP's question on counterpoint in Mozart K576 - the challenging passage in this first movement is the section 5 bars or so into the development (ie after the repeat sign), and here the main theme is treated contrapuntally - both hands play it, but offset (like singing a round in two parts). K545, on the other hand, is more melody with chordal (or broken chord) accompaniment.

By the way, Jamie, I think your avatar is cute \:D
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#1047105 - 05/23/08 12:39 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:
In three and four part counterpoint you will have multiple melodies running counter to the main melody. [/b]
in 3, 4 and however many parts you will still typically have only the subject and counter subject not one melody each line. In opera it sometimes makes sense and it's clever to have multiple characters singing at the same time with different tunes.

Re: parallels - 5ths and 8ths are out because the lines merge and become one, so your texture disappears. 3rds and 6ths are fine. 4ths just sound weird.
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#1047106 - 05/23/08 04:45 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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When the statement was made that counterpoint and countermelody are the same thing, and that the terms can be used interchangeably, I begged the question because if a basic concept is misdefined, it leads to subsequent confusion. The OP is trying to learn about counterpoint for the first time and definitions are important. Actually, since I'm at the beginning of my knowledge, I don't want to get confused either. ;\)

My "Harvard Concise" has a separate definition for counterpoint and countermelody.

"Countermelody: In a piece whose texture consists clearly of a melody with accompaniment, an accompanying part with distinct, though subordinate, melodic interest."

In other words there is a second melody that is subordinate to the first, and in John Frank's description it often simply follows along a few notes below so that it will sound harmonious. This is not the nature of counterpoint.

The definition of counterpoint has already been mentioned further up. The actual definition runs two pages and 5 columns in the dictionary.

The main idea in counterpoint is that you may have two or more distinct melodies which are related along themes, but you also have things happening along the intervals of the various voices. The movement along the intervals is a component of the music and it probably affects us aesthetically even if we don't understand it. You're listening to two things. I don't think it can be counterpoint without that element. And, if I understand correctly, there is no subordinate voice - all voices are equal. I invite correction if I have misunderstood anything.

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#1047107 - 05/23/08 05:21 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3550
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by currawong:

I would distinguish between "counterpoint" and a "countermelody" - counterpoint is combining two or more melodic lines; the countermelody to be strictly accurate is one of those lines. So, you write a melody. You add a countermelody, and voila! You have counterpoint \:\) .

[/b]
Hi Keystring - please note that currawong makes a nice distinction between countermelody and counterpoint - a distinction that is often taken for granted or overlooked when the two terms are frequently used interchangeably. that is, counterpoint is the general "concept" or process or practice while countermelody is the means of realizing of affecting that process. As stated: you write a melody, add a countermelody(ies), and thus have created counterpoint. This accurate distinction doesn't change the fact the the two terms are commonly used interchageably.

When I illustrated the use of a countermelody in my first example (among several) to create a basic "harmony line" to a main melody (following the rhythmic pattern of the main melody at a more or less constant interval) it was to show one fundamental use of an elementary form of counterpoint - the added countermelody in this one case is, as I said, serving a dual function - adding harmony to the main melody and supplying the piece with a 2nd melody (a countermelody) - this 2nd role of the countermelody (acting as a 2nd melody line) exists and is real and functional no matter how much it parallels the main melody and no matter how much harmony it provides. In general, counterpoint countermelodies provide harmony to the main melody at many points (otherwise they would be constantly dissonant). My simple example was just one easy way (among many) to do this.

But we are in real danger now of hijacking this thread to Jamie147's possible chagrin \:\)

Regards, JF
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#1047108 - 05/23/08 05:25 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Late Beginner Offline
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Hi KS,

I think you've missed the point. If I understand it correctly, "Counter-melody" isn't some sort of rival style, it's a way of describing an essential element of Counterpoint, which is that it has one or more counter-melodies running alongside the main melody. They aren't two different things - one is part of the other, and they both refer to the same thing, which is another way of looking at polyphony - or the art of making several noises at once, and getting away with it. ;\)

Chris

EDIT: OOPS! beaten to the post. \:o
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#1047109 - 05/23/08 06:07 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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#1047110 - 05/23/08 06:15 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
... think you've missed the point
I think I got the point, and I don't know if the point is correct. That is what I want to have clarified. The point is that counterpoint has a main melody and subordinate countering melodies. My sense is that this is not true, and will lead to a misunderstanding of the essential nature of counterpoint.

I would like an expert who has studied this in sufficient depth to clarify because I think it's important.

Namely, is there countermelody in counterpoint? Can the two terms be used synonymously?

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#1047111 - 05/23/08 06:50 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:

I would like an expert who has studied this in sufficient depth to clarify because I think it's important. [/b]

Keystring - are you implying that because my definition of counterpoint doesn't agree with yours that I am thus not an expert and that I haven't studied counerpoint in sufficient depth? Isn't this just a tad presumptious on your part (not to mention potentially insulting)? Will this "expert" only be considered an expert if he/she agrees with you? How many such "expert" opinions will it take to settle the question? Maybe we should do a poll ;\) .

Namely, is there countermelody in counterpoint? Can the two terms be used synonymously? [/b]
If there isn't a countermelody (a 2nd melody, at least) in counterpoint then I don't know what else there would be in counterpoint. It's the whole idea, point and purpose.

Regards (and with apologies to Jamie for the rude hijacking - hope you're finding at least some of this interesting and/or informative and/or amusing \:\) , JF
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#1047112 - 05/23/08 06:56 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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John Frank, I have no idea of your expertise, or what you have studied. I know that **I** have no expertise. At this moment I am confused, because up to now I have understood that countermelody and counterpoint are distinct, and that there is no subordinate melody in counterpoint. I have also understood that you would not have continual parallel motion. You have proposed both things as elements of counterpoint. At this point, your explanation has confused me since it runs contrary to what I have understood so far. \:\(

I did not know that you have done formal studies in music, and I have no way of knowing who is an expert in this forum, and who is not. My apologies for seeming to call your knowledge into question. That was not my intention.

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#1047113 - 05/23/08 06:57 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
If there isn't a countermelody (a 2nd melody, at least) in counterpoint then I don't know what else there would be in counterpoint. It's the whole idea, point and purpose.
I understand that countermelody is a subordinate melody. I thought that all melodies were equal in counterpoint. Would you clarify both points? They are the source of my confusion.

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#1047114 - 05/23/08 07:35 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:
The countermelody should not "clash" (be dissonant) with the main melody (except rarely and by specific design).

The notes in the countermelody should be at least [/b] an interval of a 3rd distant from the main melody.

The countermelody should not cross the main melody (except rarely and by specific design).

The countermelody should be strong or good enough to stand on it's own, but still never (or seldom) overwhelm the main melody. This is a tough one.

[/b]
Keysring - above I quote my original post in this thread where I discuss just a few of the most basic guidelines for establishing counterpoint.

Notice the last (4th) one - it's always been my understanding of counterpoint that the counterpoint melody(ies) - which is to say the countermelody(ies) - should predominately be subordinate to the main melody. The main melody is called that precisely because it is intended to stand out, or dominate, while the countermelody (or 2nd, 3rd, etc. melodies) should support and supplement the main melody but seldom dominate or overwhelm it. However, that being said, the countermelody should be and usually is complex and melodic enough to stand on it's own as a very strong, independent line - strong enough to have it's own countermelody!

This does not rule out the possiblity that in some pieces (or sections of pieces) the countermelody will be roughly equal in complexity and prominence to the main melody. But most of the time it is (and probably should be) subordinate to thye main melody.

Perhaps the problem is in my use of the term "countermelody" to refer to tese subordinate, secondary melodies (instead of just simply calling them the 2nd, 3rd, etc. melody). But the interchangeable use of the terms counterpoint and countermelody is fairly common, although to say it again, the first refers to the process and the second to the technique of actualizing that process.

BTW - I was only kidding about being insulted by you not considering me an expert \:\)

regards, JF
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

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#1047115 - 05/23/08 07:43 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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Thank you for the clarifications, John Frank. \:\)

Is it possible, then, that "countermelody" can also be used to refer to something done in simpler music which has nothing to do with counterpoint?

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#1047116 - 05/23/08 07:46 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
ROMagister Offline
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Older pop example: "Patricia" by Damasio Perez Prado's band. Two melodies, one on organ, one of the brass guys. Then they meld well, then the roles shift (a sort of canon form ?) adding a third theme.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=JA6VBp4VT_A

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#1047117 - 05/23/08 08:53 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Music Major Offline
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Here is a link which will talk very clearly about Counterpoint

CF refers to cantus firmus

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th are the links for proper form and examples of 1st through 5th species form. If you go though the site you will see that countermelody is not really in the discussion (but melody as a counterpoint to the cantus firmus is discussed in species 1)

Discusion of Fux - Gradus ad Parnassum
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#1047118 - 05/23/08 12:14 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Harmosis Offline
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Hi everyone,

I think you all brought up some very good points. The concept of counterpoint can be confusing because of all the different aspects of it. When the term (contrapunctus) first appeared in writing c.1350, it simply meant "note against note." However, it should be understood that, at the time, it was taken for granted that all the concurrent melodic lines in a composition were independent.[/b] Composers had already been writing in true polyphony, but now the harmonic (vertical) aspect was getting more attention. So really, one important aspect of counterpoint is line independence.

A true countermelody would be one that is melodically and rhythmically independent. So, simply adding parallel 3rd's (or 6th's, etc) to an existing melody does not constitute a countermelody. It is merely adding magnitude to the existing melody. They will both be heard as a single line. This is why treatises like Fux's mandate the avoidance of too many parallel imperfect consonances, and prohibit altogether the use of parallel perfect consonances.

Equality of voices is an important aspect of polyphony. If you a have a two-voice texture, and one voice is clearly dominant (and one voice is supportive), you have a homophonic texture, not polyphonic. This is not to say that there aren't some grey areas, since harmony is a result of polyphony.

Strict counterpoint has many rules governing melodic and harmonic motion (see Fux), which results in independent melodic curves, carefully prepared and resolved dissonances, more-or-less pleasing harmony (if not functional), and well-defined cadences. In general, the term, "counterpoint," would certainly refer to simultaneous independent lines and good voice-leading. In reference to the original poster, I would recommend listening to any of Bach's fugues for good examples of counterpoint/polyphony.

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#1047119 - 05/23/08 02:52 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Betty Patnude Offline
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In my opinion, counterpoint and counter melodies, and anything intricate, can not be understood just by reading about them.

One should start the journey to understanding these very high level "executions" through their mind and body working to bring them into sound. It is hard work. It must start simply with an introduction, and gradually brought to complexity through working with the music and the human. It is about movement.

Also, keystring, it is quite a disadvantage to partipate where experts - musicians who have mastered the process - can talk, write, and do the challenges with great perception of the requirements at hand and expertise to get through the complications of preparing such music.

This I believe to be an acquired skill one step at a time, well instructed from a master teacher, and well learned by an accomplished student on the instrument.

Definitions in theory books can be misleading to anyone who has not been traveling on the past of music development in a sequential way.

It is not helpful to you to jump into this level of conversation about something so difficult. Arrival here, I think, is for the musician who climbed the mountain every step of the way and is very well prepared for this next step.

Forgive me if my philosophy about this seems to be negatively stated - I see it as a fact of life.

No matter how well someone would "want to be" informed, this is a troublesome area, like the 2 against 3 in another topic, which is perplexing and aggravating to many learning it for the first time.

I also consider that I would have no reason to discuss this with a piano student if they were not ready for it.

I would feel as a experienced piano teacher that I would need to say "Trust Me" as in another column, and that too, caused a problem for some who just want to ask any question that comes to mind, put the teachers to the test, and take conversations in directions they are not meant to go in.

This is my opinion. My opinions seem to get me in a lot of trouble. I will state this one anyway. No one ever wants to hear that they are not ready for a particular piece because they don't have the preparation steps to their credit.

Bungee jumping from the piano bench, so to speak!

Betty

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#1047120 - 05/23/08 07:15 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
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Hi again,

Harmosis nails it in the post above.

In my opinion, it's also probably worth remembering that the origins of counterpoint were firmly entwined with the long tradition of church choral music where the "gold standard" was the human voice (which is great at singing a single melody line but isn't that good at singing chords. ;\) )

It seems that there were many variations on what was seen as 'true counterpoint' and which was 'polyphony' - e.g. arguing about how different each melody had to be, and to what degree one could directly reflect another. Some styles specified a main melody that the other melodies in some ways deferred to (a "cantus firmus" or fixed song) whereas others didn't. The point is that it's a different, and trickier, business than just writing a single melody and filling it out with a bunch of directly related chords, which is what we are probably more familiar with today.

The best choral music of the day was, and still is, sublimely beautiful. And, much as we instrumentalists might not like it, the human voice still is the musical gold standard. \:\)

One way to get a feel for what it's like is to listen to choral music by composers like Palestrina (whose style Fux was trying to pin down with his guide book) Tallis, Josquin, Byrd etc sung by somebody like the Tallis Scholars. It's relatively easy to hear the concept of various different melodies in action, because the individual melody lines are carried by distinctive voices - soprano, tenor, bass, alto, etc - so are easier to follow.

I'm listening to some as I type now, and it's meltingly, exquisitely lovely....

Chris
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#1047121 - 05/23/08 08:09 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:

Also, keystring, it is quite a disadvantage to partipate where experts - musicians who have mastered the process - can talk, write, and do the challenges with great perception of the requirements at hand and expertise to get through the complications of preparing such music.

Betty, have you carefully read this thread from beginning to end. Are you aware of what dialogues I have had and for which purpose? Can you be so certain of my approach and the reason for my participation?

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#1047122 - 05/23/08 08:21 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
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Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Harmosis:
A true countermelody would be one that is melodically and rhythmically independent. So, simply adding parallel 3rd's (or 6th's, etc) to an existing melody does not constitute a countermelody. It is merely adding magnitude to the existing melody. They will both be heard as a single line. This is why treatises like Fux's mandate the avoidance of too many parallel imperfect consonances, and prohibit altogether the use of parallel perfect consonances.
[/b]
Well, granted a 2nd melody line paralleling the main melody at a constant interval of, say, a 3rd below is certainly not a very complex or sophisticated or advanced or classic or even "true" countermelody in the time-honored textbook sense as defined and mandated by Fux (and other authorities), And beyond that in actual practice it is far too simple or easy or basic or trite or boring or tedious or monotonous.

But fundamentally it is a countermelody. And it's use in this regard does constitute counterpoint, of sorts. While in this context it serves probably more of a harmonic function than a counterpoint function, nevertheless - as simple and basic and tedious as it is - it is a separate and unique and independent melody line, whether it is played in the LH or as two-part writing for the RH, and this is correct even if it duplicated the rhythm of the main melody exactly. Obviously, it can be played by itself and will more than likely sound fairly good (assuming the main melody sonds good) - in fact it may sound alot like the main melody played in a different key.

I'm not sure about it increasing the "magnitude" of the main melody (if by magnitude you mean strength or volume) but this 2nd melody certainly can be heard as a separate, independent melody line even with perfect synchronization of the rhythmic content of each melody line. As I said, it's not sophisticated but it is counterpoint simply by the mere fact of two separate, independent melodies being played simultaneously, no matter how crude and basic.

Which begs the question: How much variation must there be rhythmically, afterall, before melodies are considered "true" counterpoint? What does Mr. Fux mandate here?

Regards, JF
_________________________
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#1047123 - 05/23/08 08:53 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Keystring,

There is quite a picture painted through what has been said by the participants. I can't imagine anyone who is not an accomplished musician with all the stratas to having reached this level tucked carefully in their brains and hands could decipher from just reading about it.

It is complexity to the highest complexity - it is precision in playing flently. I would also think that most who would approach this level would be able to sightread through it, but the precision and voicing would be the absolutely most challenging and difficult task to conquer.

I don't know anyone myself, who reads through music literature or listens to recordings while identifying what is going on in the music who can't also do the requirements on the instrument.

The disadvantage I talk about is that it is a very, very big leap and perhaps an erroneous one to hang so much learning from a written theory document ABOUT such things WITHOUT the personal application of what the printed page is describing being duplicated on the piano.

I would caution anyone the same. Learning must be accurate we must avoid error and misconceptions. I feel secure in saying this because I think music is "brought out" of us both in the instruments performance with us at the "controls" and also in the study of theory and techniques which brought us to our present place in music.

It is not stuffed into us" through theory study for regurgitation. It is for the understanding and application of what we NEED to know as capable musicians.

I don't think it makes sense to take it into consideration if you don't need it and aren't ready for it. And, I think the test of knowing it is to be able to put it into action on the piano.

Only you can state your purposes and approach and I know you say over and over that you are an adult student and piano is your second instrument.

A pianist needs excellant, well developed skills and stamina for this, they would be classified as a musician, not an an adult student or any kind of a student, except those in college, and most likely as a piano performance student. This takes years and years of development until you are ready for it.

I just wonder why it is so important to you at this time when so many other things come first? I don't understand this path and I could not recommend it for any student unless it made the most of sense which to me is, because it's as being ready the next step in your music education.

This simply represents my opinion on the who, what, where, when, and why of selecting the next step.

To me a brick wall needs to be placed with measurements and precision and a craftsman does the work, as do tall building. Architecture is an art, as is music. Structure is important to building brick walls, tall buildings, and musicians.

Betty

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#1047124 - 05/23/08 08:56 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Harmosis Offline
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Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
Double post.

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#1047125 - 05/23/08 08:57 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:

Well, granted a 2nd melody line paralleling the main melody at a constant interval of, say, a 3rd below is certainly not a very complex or sophisticated or advanced or classic or even "true" countermelody in the time-honored textbook sense as defined and mandated by Fux (and other authorities), And beyond that in actual practice it is far too simple or easy or basic or trite or boring or tedious or monotonous.

But fundamentally it is a countermelody. And it's use in this regard does constitute counterpoint, of sorts. While in this context it serves probably more of a harmonic function than a counterpoint function, nevertheless - as simple and basic and tedious as it is - it is a separate and unique and independent melody line, whether it is played in the LH or as two-part writing for the RH, and this is correct even if it duplicated the rhythm of the main melody exactly. Obviously, it can be played by itself and will more than likely sound fairly good (assuming the main melody sonds good) - in fact it may sound alot like the main melody played in a different key.[/b]
No, it is not. It merely augements the original line. It is not independent or unique. You have homework to do John.

 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:

I'm not sure about it increasing the "magnitude" of the main melody (if by magnitude you mean strength or volume) but this 2nd melody certainly can be heard as a separate, independent melody line even with perfect synchronization of the rhythmic content of each melody line. As I said, it's not sophisticated but it is counterpoint simply by the mere fact of two separate, independent melodies being played simultaneously, no matter how crude and basic.[/b]
No, that is incorrect. What I mean by "magnitude...etc," is that a parallel line will simply augment the original melody.

 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:

Which begs the question: How much variation must there be rhythmically, afterall, before melodies are considered "true" counterpoint? What does Mr. Fux mandate here?

Regards, JF [/b]
There must be enough variation for it to be a separate, independent line.

John, if you had actually studied counterpoint, you would not be taking this position. Again, do your homework.

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#1047126 - 05/23/08 10:23 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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Betty,
You have written a long post advising how musical studies should proceed. In that post you also advise against doing certain things. It is quite good advice, and I am sure well appreciated.

Unfortunately you have addressed it to me personally. You advise me against what and how I am studying now, describing these studies as though you knew what they were and how I am proceeding. Thank you for your concern.

Please be assured that I am under the guidance of an excellent teacher who knows my musical strengths and weaknesses very well, and my studies are governed by his instructions and advice. I only study what he sanctions and I am under his tutelage. They are not as you seem to be describing them. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding.

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#1047127 - 05/23/08 10:29 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Semper Bösendorfer Offline
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Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 98
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Worth a poignant read in book or other media is how Anton Bruckner of all people felt his knowledge was so inadequate in counterpoint - when it was plainly not!

(O.T. - IMHO its also time well spent listening to Bruckner's modest output of piano works too!)

All the best from Oz,

ILH
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#1047128 - 05/24/08 05:35 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
btb Offline
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Walter Piston might be a great luminary on the subject of counterpoint but any length of study of his book "COUNTERPOINT" is guaranteed to
induce a headache ... I’ve just taken an aspirin after trying to come to terms with his heavy going literary style ... the chappie has the habit of wanting to repeat his bleat with a pernickety (but confusing) codicil.

However, he does kick off with a best foot forward ... which might help the present search for an understanding of the core of counterpoint ... (snatches from the opening "Introduction")

" The art of counterpoint is the art of combining melodic lines. The contrapuntal essence, as an ingredient of inner vitality in music is , however, something deeper than a process of manipulation and combination, and it is to be found in nearly all music.

Implicit in the term contrapuntal, by origin, is the idea of DISAGREEMENT. The interplay of agreement and disagreement between the various factors of the musical texture constitutes the contrapuntal element in music.

On the other hand, independence, or disagreement, is obtained by the use of DISSONANCES AND NON-HARMONIC tones; by AVOIDING coincidences of rhythmic stress and rhythmic patterns; by OPPOSITION of the melodic curves, making use of OBLIQUE AND CONTRARY motion.”

Anybody for tennis?

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#1047129 - 05/24/08 03:04 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
ROMagister Offline
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Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
I'm curious what my favorite thinking guy, Douglas R. Hofstadter, would think about this. He started as "Artificial Intelligence" researcher, then figured the original program was unsound (from heaps of rigid rules to subtler fluid analogies) and now considers himself a Cognitive scientist, with a bit of philosophy and art (music and graphic design).

- Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
- Metamagical Themas [wide collection of essays from his column continuing Martin Gardner's games]
- Le ton beau de Marot [mainly about subtler points of translation, esp. of poetry]

He concentrates on form vs function, structure vs essence, and his current research tries to do a computer assisted (with human voting added ?) classification of melodies and music, fluid analogies and expansions (What is to X that A is to B ? etc) at multiple levels.

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#1047130 - 05/24/08 10:17 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3550
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Harmosis:
John, if you had actually studied counterpoint, you would not be taking this position. Again, do your homework. [/b]
While agreeing with you on 99% of what you had to say about counterpoint, the contested position I took was that a separate, independent melodic line is, in fact, a countermelody, and therefore constitutes an elementary form of counterpoint - no matter what it's relationship to the main melody in terms of it's harmonic or rhythmic derivation or structure.

This is either true or not and needs to be rejected as fact based on explanatory statements directly related to the assertion. Telling me that I wouldn't take this postion if I had studied counterpoint and that I need to do my homework means absolutely nothing, is an evasion of your responsibility to provide these explanatory statements, and is disappointing in it's abject dismissal of the arguement in question.

I expected better.

Regards, JF
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#1047131 - 05/25/08 03:20 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Harmosis Offline
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Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
The position you took was this:

 Quote:
Originally posted by John Frank:

"Well, granted a 2nd melody line paralleling the main melody at a constant interval of, say, a 3rd below is certainly not a very complex or sophisticated or advanced or classic or even "true" countermelody in the time-honored textbook sense as defined and mandated by Fux (and other authorities), And beyond that in actual practice it is far too simple or easy or basic or trite or boring or tedious or monotonous.

But fundamentally it is a countermelody. And it's use in this regard does constitute counterpoint, of sorts. While in this context it serves probably more of a harmonic function than a counterpoint function, nevertheless - as simple and basic and tedious as it is - it is a separate and unique and independent melody line..."[/b]
I thought I was clear about why your statement is wrong, but I'll try to elaborate (although, this is a very simple matter). A concurrent secondary melody which merely duplicates the primary melody, sounding parallel at a fixed interval (or interval class), has the effect of simply augmenting the primary melody that it is concurrently sounding with. This secondary melody is completely dependent on the melody that it runs parallel to, as it is running parallel to it (isn't this obvious?). This secondary melody is not at all unique because it is simply duplicating the primary melody in parallel motion. It will be heard as one line with harmonic coloring.

Anyone should be able to hear this, but hey don't take my word for it - since btb brought in Piston, let's hear what he has to say about it:

"Voices moving in thirds and sixths are almost as dependent as those moving in octaves and fifths. The parts are not strictly parallel since there is some alteration between major and minor intervals. This procedure is a very common one but the effect is rather that of a single voice with harmonic doubling than that of a combination of contrapuntal lines." [ Counterpoint, p. 85]

Do these explanatory statements work for you?

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#1047132 - 05/25/08 05:38 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keyboardklutz Offline
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Oh please..., can I quote Piston too?
 Quote:
It is worth repeating that virtually all music has some contrapuntal quality, and that no music is entirely contrapuntal, to our ears. We have seen that, in the historical periods we have been considering, the harmonic element, popularly conceived as the opposite of contrapuntal, makes important contributions to counterpoint, that is, in fact, itself a contrapuntal element.
Let me know when we're on to Prout.
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#1047133 - 05/25/08 09:16 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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John Frank, there were certain elements in your initial definition that caused me confusion, because if they were true, it meant my basic understanding of what counterpoint is about was false. It was not about having separate melodies. Rather, I understood that counterpoint has independent melodic lines, and that the movement along intervals was an essential part. I understood you to be saying that there was main and subordinate melodies, and that interval movement was not a part of it (since you proposed the possibilty of parallel lines).

I needed to have this part clarified (independence etc.) because my basic first understanding was at risk. That has now been clarified.

If "countermelody" is to mean that there are separate melodies, as opposed to music that moves along chord progressions with only one melody, then I am comfortable with that.

I was looking for clarification on that one point, because it seemed an essential one.

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#1047134 - 05/25/08 10:28 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
ROMagister Offline
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Registered: 04/26/08
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Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
OK, it's clear from the viewpoint of Information theory (Shannon's entropy and "mutual information"). That's the basis of data compressors (ZIP etc.)

Counterpoint is considered when the two melodic lines are less than independent (unpredictable from one another, new information like they were random) but more unpredictability than just a simple rule (e.g. follow by diatonic 3rds below).

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#1047135 - 05/27/08 10:26 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Jamie147 Offline
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Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 212
Loc: England, UK
Some very interesting views which I have read with great interest and which has increased my desire to learn more about it. I know a key signature can change during a piece but can both hands playing at different time signatures even momentarilly be considered counterpoint or is it just the differences in sound or lack of sound assuming rests play a part that define it? Are pieces that shift time signature between the hands common or unheard of? K576 has caused some old hand ailmets to surface again which throws a spanner in the works. I've not overdone it so it must be all the 8th notes. I broke my right wrist years ago which didn't heal properly and have a chipped knuckle bone on the same hand which is causing all the pain. Usually I can ignore it and it passes but not this time. I've not played since Friday and the pain has subsided. I used to crack my knuckles all the time too which I bitterly regret. Playing Knuckles in Bugsy Malone didn't help! \:D

I've been thinking for a while a physio session might be of benefit but now its essential.
_________________________
We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.

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#1047136 - 05/29/08 10:47 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Jamie147 Offline
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Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 212
Loc: England, UK
Betty, I'm surprised by your responses because you make it clear Counterpoint is not something for a beginner and I agree with you although I consider myself to be a beginner but I embrace many academic subjects including areas that are beyond my expertise. Its just one method of learning and the only method in the absence of a teacher. What you say makes perfect sense but I feel only in the context of a young beginner student with little or no music theory knowledge and with many years of tuition ahead of them. The older I get the more 'urgent' reading up on areas of interest becomes. \:D If a teacher said to me at my age "your not ready for that" I would question why and it would become a priority to understand in my own time. This should not cause conflict between student and teacher because how can anyone know too much? If anything it should show commitment and enthusiasm. Its just a shame instead of voicing your concerns you didn't put the same effort in to sharing your thoughts on the mechanics of Counterpoint as I know they will be enlightening and useful for anyone who reads them. Even young beginners! ;\)
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We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.

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#1047137 - 05/29/08 11:38 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Jamie,

I'm of the opinion that counterpoint comes to us from the best of the masters and is so very complex that no one should go it alone, but have capable instruction and listening ears from a person who has mastered counterpoint.

It's like unraveling a ball of yarn that the cat has tangled - physically and mentally. You don't want to begin this without having a set of skills in place that have prepared you for it. It's better to prevent the ball of yarn from getting tangled in the first place.

At least that's my rule about approaching counterpoint.

On the opposite end, the steady beats with hands together of a beginner, let's say child, they so much want to know and do it correctly, take a lot of work.

My students are all ears at entry point - a good habit to have - they listen to what I say and they make corrections if they need to. They pursue progress.

Their independance at the piano comes because they earned it.

I am concerned about laying out answers for adult students here in the forum - I'm finding my work of creating teaching materials (Piano Power)to be not used and understood in the way they are formatted. Again, I am thinking, two heads are better than one - one who knows the material forward and back and the person seeking the information.

It's not good enough to "understand" it you must be able to use it and work it with the brain and the hand hand in correct response to the demand.

Dedicated supervised study will get you there, all else may be dabbling. And, forbid, it could be placed erroneously into your playing mechanism - forever and a day.

Could you PM me and tell me about your music background and your pieces? I will comment personally to you. Your words commitment and enthusiasm are what interests me.

And about voicing my concerns, that's one of my responsibilities as a teacher too. Just as I help pave the way to understanding and good habits in music, I let someone know when they are "off" and "what to do about it".

Piano teaching works best when a teacher has a live student on the bench who 1) wants to be there, 2) listens to instuction, 3) prepares for the next lesson well, 4) and who trusts you and works agreeably with you building a relationship.

Betty

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#1047138 - 05/29/08 12:40 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
ROMagister Offline
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Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
I'm the kind of ageless kid who wonders at all sort of patterns and understanding WHY, WHAT, HOW ? both in a scientific and 'feel' sense.

But my ability to DO music in real time, with my fingers' control is limited (relatively to those aspirations of understanding), and slow/hard work to improve.

Please, Mrs. Betty, would you recommend for someone like me too against trying to ever understand Counterpoint ? I sort of 'get' all sort of glimpses by listening to Bach etc. and also some good rock, metal etc. but still eager to fill the theoretical foundations to make understanding solid.

If nothing else, I may shift from the basic attempt at classical musicianship to computer-aided 'sequencing' and other forms of off-line arangement, where patterns matter just as much, and accuracy at tempo is less critical. And of course I would like to understand counterpoint for that...

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#1047139 - 05/29/08 03:25 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
ROMagister:

I'm reading from your profile -
Occupation: teaching economics, book editing
Interests: history, ecology, systems analysis

You've convinced me that you can handle anything! Your occupation and interest describe a learn-ed mind with science, math and systems of discernment.

I still think a very rewarding way to learn it is to do it though the study of piano and composers and to rise to that level of your own physical and mental connections that you have put into place. Man's brain is the original computer.

Remember that the computer out put is only as good as the data entry and the programming. "Garbage In - Garbage Out".

You seem like a capable mind that can do anything he wants. It all just takes time.

Betty

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#1047140 - 05/30/08 02:45 PM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11559
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 Quote:
And about voicing my concerns, that's one of my responsibilities as a teacher too. Just as I help pave the way to understanding and good habits in music, I let someone know when they are "off" and "what to do about it".
I am glad to see you inviting students to give you a background of their music studies. This is very necessary for getting the real picture before advising. This avoids confusion for all concerned and needless stress for a student. Postings on the Internet alone can be incomplete or misleading in that respect.

A teacher's voice can have a powerful impact on a student: it carries authority and expertise. I would hate to carry that responsibility, and admire your courage for speaking out when you believe you see the need. So many don't bother.

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#1047141 - 05/31/08 09:48 AM Re: Examples Of Counterpoint
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11559
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Betty, I'm surprised by your responses because you make it clear Counterpoint is not something for a beginner and I agree with you although I consider myself to be a beginner but I embrace many academic subjects
Jamie, I understand Betty's caution, and I feel comfortable with what she has set out. I especially would not want to study counterpoint initially like an academic subject.

A misunderstanding has occurred in regards to what was addressed to me, because I have never seen fit to describe my background. Thus it was assumed that I am a self-teaching beginner dabbling in advanced theory trying to learn through this thread and academic books. This may have some bearing in discussing what to do when. As a student I claim no expertise, and can only share my experiences and personal decisions.

I have been shaped musically by one teacher for TEN YEARS. Most of that time consisted of practical guided musical experiences and only relatively recently have we moved into formal theory. That theory always has a musical link. I have been distraught to see this beautiful teaching described as "stuff and regurgitate". Perhaps I am at fault for never making my background clear.

Even at this point, personally, I would not want to read about counterpoint, studying it as one would an academic subject. I sought and found a dictionary definition that would summarize what I understood from my practical experience, and this is what I quoted.

Having returned to piano after a 30 year absence, I have only been able to play simple music of that nature: a Pachelbel fughetta with only two voices, which my teacher had me develop very much in the manner described by John Brook in the "Bach 2 hands" thread. As a singer, the idea of two voices trading off in the telling of a story came naturally, almost like being a puppeteer conducting a conversation through my hands.

However, I have have also sung in a semi-professional choir, sharing this music with my teacher to deepen my understanding. When you sing this music, you are one of the voices that a piano would play otherwise. You listen for your cue, as it were, hearing the subject being carried from voice to voice to voice so that you know when to come in, and how. THEN when you go to theory, it holds meaning. I have found musical experience to be invaluable. However, I also found that to sing contrapunctal music I needed to understand it at an elementary level. (Which I think Betty is saying.) Many of the singers around seemed to memorize everything from a CD; I could not work like that. For me the music must hold meaning.
-------------------------
On the side of pure theory, several people have suggested the exercises called Fux Species Counterpoint. I took part in one exercise and found that the process gave me an understanding that reading about it abstractly would not have. This was after a solid grounding in theory. It may be interesting to get an inside view of how people worked, how their concepts changed. Mine gets corrected four times - the process of correction and feedback is in itself important. It has been up to my teacher whether I continue with this since he has the picture of where I am at, as well as what this is about.

The exercise consists of being given a bottom melody called the cantus, and building a melody above it following a host of rules about intervals, and ending up with something that follows the rules while being musical and a separate, independent melody that ends correctly.

Any example that meets approval should probably sound like counterpoint if you play it.

Fux Species 1 attempts

These exercises help in composition, but I don't know how much of a role they have for learning to play counterpoint music.

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