Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint

Second Species: Analysis of Sample Solutions

Before attempting Exercise 1.3, the course provides two sample solutions for the second species of counterpoint, which we are tasked to analyze, while keeping in mind the rules for this species given on page 24.

Here is the sample solution 1, with the cantus firmus in the lower voice:

solution 3

First, I’ve marked the intervals, many are above the octave – 10ths being 3rds an octave higher, 9ths being 2nds an octave higher, and 12ths being 5ths an octave higher. Just as the bullet points on the second species suggest, the solution begins with a rest to establish the pulse of two notes against one, at an octave – the interval that also closes this example. Secondly, the strong beats are all consonances, more specifically, they are all the preferred 3rds (10ths) and 6ths, as usual from the 2nd until the penultimate bar. As permitted by the rules, all dissonances, in this case 9ths, are controlled carefully, occupying the weak beats, all being passing notes that link two consonances. With this, the consecutive 5ths and octaves are avoided in the downbeats. The melody of the upper part is very wavy and smooth, although it starts with a jump to the 4th, its gap is instantly filled with the step-wise motion in the opposite direction. Other than another smaller jump to the 3rd in bar 5, the melody is flowing in the predominantly step-by-step movement.

Next is the sample solution 2, where cantus firmus is in the higher voice:

solution 4

Once again, the intervals are larger than the octave – 10th being the 3rd above the octave, and similarly 11th being the 2nd, 13th the 6th, and 15 the octave above. This example also starts with the rest to establish the pulse of two notes against one note, characteristic of the second species counterpoint. It begins and ends, just like the previous solution, with the octave, while the thirds (10ths) and sixths (13ths) fill the strong beats from the 2nd to the penultimate bar, resulting in no consecutive 5ths or octaves. As the rules state, the weak beats contain either the carefully controlled dissonances, such as the fourth (11th) in the second bar, as a passing note between consonances, or a jump to the consonances. The lower minim melody is once again flowy, moving predominantly in step-wise and wave-like motion. Instead of the climax on the higher note, it contains a climax in the bottom note – A in bar 3.

In summary, as in the analysis of sample solutions for the first species, this was quite a beneficial exercise, which I will use to evaluate my own solutions to the contrapuntal exercises. Click here to see my solution for Exercise 1.3.

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