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#1443502 - 05/25/10 04:13 PM Just-Add-Water Counterpoint
TheFool Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 155
Having just been reading about Thomas Campion and his condensed approach to counterpoint, I was wondering what general opinion would be. Is learning to arrange voices based on a chart of intervals and what should follow what likely to be restrictive in the long-run, (training in a mechanical approach, in other words, while neglecting the sensibility which _should_ be applied) or does it give you a feel for the progressions and interplay of voices which is useful?

To be clear, I think it's the best thing since Shostakovich. :P
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#1445198 - 05/28/10 01:58 AM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: TheFool]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Learning only one approach to anything in composition is restrictive, no matter what this approach is. To become a master, you should learn as many approaches as possible, as well as possible.

Learning a new approach to counterpoint is not restrictive, as long as you don't restrict yourself to using only this approach for the remainder of your life. I suggest you learn it and play around with it until you really feel you know how it works and how to use it, then start looking for fresh ideas by looking into other approaches.

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#1445528 - 05/28/10 04:03 PM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: RogerW]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Composing counterpoint is something I enjoy immensely. It is also something that sounds old fashioned and puts more challenge on the listener to follow. Thus composing strict counterpoint is less likely to be popular with audiences. Having said that it's enjoyable for me to write and listen to so I'm going to always seek to incorporate counterpoint in my pieces.

For me there are two aspects to composing counterpoint, the themes used and the voice leading. These two aspects are very closely tied together. Every composer who has ever composed contrapuntally has discovered that some themes just don't play together well. It's just part of the landscape. Strong themes with great voice leading and effective dramatic development makes a great contrapuntal piece. That takes practice, which is why I said every composer who's written contrapuntal music has discovered some these just don't play well together.

To the OP if your system allows you to write good music that's fine, but composition is one area where one size definitely doesn't fit all.


Edited by Steve Chandler (05/28/10 04:11 PM)

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#1445831 - 05/29/10 03:52 AM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: Steve Chandler]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5429
Loc: Europe
While studying harmony and counterpoint and fugue (yes, fugue), I was always considering the following (otherwise I couldn't find a reason to study them, since I was already interested in contemporary composition): Harmony teaches about the vertical voicing and chords, counterpoint teaches us about horizontal movement of voices, voicing, etc and fugue teaches us about (very strict) form.

All three were confined into a very specific stylistic environment, and I doubt I've used any of these with the accompanied 'rules' of that era. But still I've benefited immensly from these studies and the general way of thinking used to apply those tools.

One should also consider that, as there are the 20th century technique in composition, and aesthetics, the tools back then were... harmony, counterpoint, etc. You know fugue and counterpoint and harmony? You have the tools to write like Bach (and fail, but that's another issue, we shouldn't probably get into)...

Regardless, I think that music and the (any) math behind it, should always be judged also with an aesthetic side in mind. Not just math and interval counting.
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#1447228 - 05/31/10 10:53 AM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: Nikolas]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
In general I agree with Nikolas. A composer's bag of tricks is his/her palette. The more tricks the bigger the palette,and the more expressive and inventive a composer can be.

The one thing I would take issue with is fugue as a strict form. Perhaps the academic fugue is a strict form, but I find fugal form in general to be quite flexible. the only requirement is imitative counterpoint with the theme entering at the tonic and dominant. The key structure and development are left entirely to the composer's sense of invention.

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#1447275 - 05/31/10 12:15 PM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: Steve Chandler]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5429
Loc: Europe
Oh yes, definately, the fugue is quite flexible! But the studying of (scholar) fugue in Greece is based on very strict idioms and I have decided that it's there to teach your discipline and form...

There are some contemporary fugues which are STUNNING! Heck even Bach wrote 48 STUNNING fugues, non of which was completely strict or following the scholar sense of the fugue form! wink smile
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#1447679 - 05/31/10 09:23 PM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: Nikolas]
TheFool Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 155
+1. And +1000 for the Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue. grin

Also, I'd just like to qualify that I have no intention of abiding by Campion's handy little rule for ever.
My question was not so much whether it was self-sufficient grounding in counterpoint toute seule, but whether you think shortcuts/charts/tricks are constructive or counterproductive in the long term.

A similar example, I suppose, would be Hanon or Tankard exercises for beginners. I know some teachers swear by getting technique ingrained ASAP, and some who think it promotes nice tone but deadens the sensibility needed to apply it. (My first teacher was one of the latter, and preferred to give his students Bach inventions as finger-trainers.)

To extrapolate that to composition: any thoughts on the ideal balance of rules and rote versus aesthetic? Which should you prioritise with students, and how?

To turn it into a cheesy second-level-education essay: Outline your dream standardised composition curriculum. wink
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#1448673 - 06/02/10 09:26 AM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: TheFool]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: TheFool

To extrapolate that to composition: any thoughts on the ideal balance of rules and rote versus aesthetic? Which should you prioritise with students, and how?

Students learn the rules of music theory in theory class. Composition is about expanding thought processes. When learning the nuts and bolts it's all about what you can't do (usually for good reason). When learning composition the paradigm shifts to what you can do. In 21st century music that can be anything, there are no rules. Instead students learn about the techniques that have been used post functional tonality and they practice working with those techniques. Then turn them loose.

One last point. I've often suggested that those who have a grasp of compositional technique should try their hand at variations. After the first few obvious ones the challenge becomes one of being really creative. Anyone who can write a set with 10 variations or more has to dig deep to find new and interesting ways of treating a subject. That in itself is a great learning experience.

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#1448879 - 06/02/10 03:54 PM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: Steve Chandler]
TheFool Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
[
One last point. I've often suggested that those who have a grasp of compositional technique should try their hand at variations. After the first few obvious ones the challenge becomes one of being really creative. Anyone who can write a set with 10 variations or more has to dig deep to find new and interesting ways of treating a subject. That in itself is a great learning experience.


Dead good idea, cheers!
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#1449661 - 06/03/10 05:22 PM Re: Just-Add-Water Counterpoint [Re: TheFool]
sudoplatov Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Near Dallas Texas
Campion has summarized some of the rules of counterpoint into what's a bit like a transition-network. There's nothing wrong but there is no reason given for the rules.

The method will give the usual harmonization of a bass line (like La Folia), but one must still know the chord sequence. By itself, it would not reproduce the harmonies of Purcell's chromatic descending bass from Dido.

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