Thursday, December 29, 2005

Convertible Counterpoint III

In the previous post I explained the phenomenon of vertical shifting conversions, but Taneiev also covers horizontal shifting conversions. This is inextricably linked to the technique of canon, but the melodies are not copies of each other, rather, they are different melodies. So, for instance, with Taneiev's techniques, a two-voice contrapuntal combination could be written wherein the two voices start out simultaneously, but they will also make correct counterpoint if one of the melodies starts out a measure later (Or any other time-delay you might want: He is again exhaustive in his treatment of the subject).

For the present study of this book, I am primarily interested in learning to a competent level of facility the two-voice vertical and horizontal shifting technologies. This means that I will be leaving out significant portions of the book. The book is divided into two parts - Part One and Part Two - and each part has two divisions - Division A, Division B, Division C, and Division D.

In Part One, Division A covers two-voice vertical-shifting counterpoint, so I will work through that, but Division B covers the same subject in three voices, so that will be skipped. In Part Two, Division C covers two-voice horizontal-shifting and double-shifting counterpoint, so I'll go through that, but Division D covers those subjects for three voices, so I'll leave that out too. I may skip over the double-shifting conversions as well, depending on how confident I feel at that point, but the book sort of mingles the two subjects, so that may not be practicable. So, it looks like I will cover about 190 of the book's circa 350 pages.

The reason I only want to deal with two-voice vertical and horizontal shifting combinations is manifold: That is the irreducible essence of the technology (So I want to master that first), the two-voice techniques will more readily be applicable to the guitar (So I can start using them in compositions I'll actually perform right away, especially considering that a third free voice will often be needed to make them effective), I am anxious to get to Dr. Grove's translation of Taniev's Doctorine of Canon - where I'll also restrict myself to the sections dealing with two voices at first - and finally, by grasping these techniques first, I'll be able to cement the three voice techniques easier during a future study through both books. There is also the consideration that this will be a long enough book-blog as it stands.

I really want to get this stuff down. In the worst possible way. Have for years, but now I have the basic contrapuntal chops to do it (I pray).


In studying the difficult and involved treatment of counterpoint - especially double counterpoint - as presented in the textbooks of ancient and modern theorists, I encountered various obsticles that seemed to result from faulty classifications, too many useless rules and not enough essential rules. [This is what got me to start thinking about the difference between rule-sets that describe a style and the underlying laws governing contrapuntal motion. - Ed.]

The system expounded in the present work appears to me to be simpler, more accurate and more accessible, as the result of applying the process of elementary algebra to contrapuntal combinations, and by restating certain essential rules in terms of the conventional symbols of mathematics. This enabled me to take into consideration a far greater number of relevant facts, and to bring them under control of a comparitively small number of general principles.

For many years I have used seperate parts of this theory in my classes in counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory, and I have tried to simplify the treatment at those places where experience has shown that difficulties were encountered by students.

The present book is an exposition, of the utmost comprehensiveness, of convertible counterpoint in the strict style. In using it as a textbook the teacher should select, from amid the detailed development of the subject, what is most necessary for the student.
[Exactly my goal in this autodidactic escapade. - Ed.]

I have dedicated this book to the memory of H. A. Laroche, whose articles (especially Thoughts on Musical Education in Russia) have had a profound influence on the trend of my musical activities.

Serge Taneiev

Klin, July 1, 1906

My musical activities ought to include more Country and Western dancing with partners who look like this.


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