Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Art of Counterpoint, Part Six

Zarlino has shifted gears now, and is going through several subjects with breakneck speed that I'm just not ready to address yet: Immitation, fugue, and canon; counterpoint that is invertable at the tenth and twelveth; and cadential formulas. Since I want to go through Fux as well, I have decided to finish up Zarlino without further comment and allow Fux to address those subjects for me. We'll get into counterpoint with more than two voices with Fux as well.

One last thing about accented and unaccented beats needs to be addressed, and that is the pattern found in strict 3:1 two voice counterpoint: Strong where there are simultaneous attacks followed by two weak beats. Everything else explained in the reduced rule sets for 1:1 and 2:1 counterpoint can be used in this idiom, and besides the potential for two dissonances over a single note in the lower voice, 3:1 is just like 2:1. The main reason for bringing it up is to complete the accent set possibilities: Every possible accent - or strong beat versus weak beat - scenario is going to be some combination of the possibilities found between the 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1 ratios. For instance, 4:1 is normally thought of as strong, weak, strong, weak, which is just two 2:1 accent sets. Similarly, 5:1 would be a 2:1 accent set followed by a 3:1 accent set, or vice versa.

In the next Miscelaneous Musings post that I am preparing, I will introduce some concepts found in Schillinger's "The Theory of Melody" which I have found to be of nearly priceless value in writing countrapuntal music. Since the natural way to begin to learn this subject is by writing a cantus prius factus and then adding counterpoint to it, it makes sense that the quality of the intital melody will determine the potential for the quality of the resultant piece. So, in order to write two complimentary melodies that make a good contrapuntal relationship, it will first be necessary to understand how to write a single melodic trajectory that is effective and has the potential to have counterpoint added to it.

See you tomorrow.


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