Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint

Exercise 1.5

The final exercise of Project 3 is about completing two examples given from the Renaissance repertoire in imitative counterpoint. The two examples are adapted so that the exact imitation of the given voice will lead to harmony and texture falling into place. I will not give any analysis, since this exercise is quite straight-forward.

Here is my solution for example 1 from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, the beginning of Sanctus movement:

exercise 1.5 a.png

Finally, here my solution for example 2, also from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, this time the opening of Benedictus movement:

exercise 1.5 b.png

In conclusion, I really enjoyed all the exercises for Project 3, which brought me a great refreshment of my old knowledge about the counterpoint species devised by Fux. I should mention that it is this exercise that I found particularly interesting, since the examples are based on the actual pieces from the repertoire, which I never had the experience of working with before, but would only write counterpoint for the melodies written by my teachers for the purpose of practicing. Finally, take a look at my assignment solutions and the listening log, where I list the mass music I’ve listened to.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint

Exercise 1.4

As the course material denoted, although this exercise is under the fourth species of Fux’s counterpoint, it is actually about the use of suspensions instead.

The suspensions with a three-part pattern, including preparation – the consonant note on the weak beat of the bar, tied to the note of the next bar, which is the dissonance, and finally the step-wise, downward resolution to the consonant note on the weak beat. I have marked all three with their starting letters – P, D and R, also noting their intervals, which is why there is no need for further analysis and clarification. Below are my solutions to the two given exercises. Here is the first:

exercise 1.4 a.png

Finally, here is the second exercise:

exercise 1.4 b.png

To close off, like I’ve mentioned before, I already studied the suspensions and similar musical devices from the counterpoint by Fux. Nonetheless, this exercise was a good way to refresh my old knowledge.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint

Third Species: Analysis of Sample Solutions

Regarding the third species of counterpoint by Fux, there is a task to analyze the two sample solutions given for two different examples of cantus firmus, comparing them with the rules and tips from page 25-26 in the course-book.

Both examples have their cantus firmus in the lower part. Here is the sample solution 1:

solution 5

To begin with, I have marked all the intervals. In third species, there are now four notes against one in cantus, and to establish this pulse, the example opens with a rest. The intervals on the strong beats are all consonances, with opening and ending bars containing the usual octave, while the strong beats from the 2nd to the penultimate bar carry the preferred sonorities of 3rds (10ths) and 6ths. In this way, the consecutive fifths and octaves have been avoided. The dissonances are carefully controlled, approached and quitted by the step-wise motion, mostly as passing notes between consonances. I have to go back again to the dissonance rule I mentioned in Exercise 1.3, which has been given to me in the previous studies, in this case it concerns with the transition from 7th to 10th from bar 4 to bar 5, although by step in the upper voice, there is a jump in the lower voice. This is something I have been told by my teachers to avoid, but might have been their preference rather than the actual rule by Fux. The melody of counterpoint is very smooth, moving mostly step-by-step in wave-like motion, with minimal jumps, all to the consonant notes, and within the bar, rather than across the bar line, as favored by the advices. Also, the octaves that appear on the 3rd beat (downbeat, but slightly lighter than the first beat of the bar) are the only ones in the bar.

Next is the sample solution 2, with cantus firmus also in the lower voice:

solution 6

Many things are similar as in the previous example. The rest at the beginning establishes the pulse of four notes against one, with the octaves closing and opening the counterpoint. As preferred, the sonorities of the 3rds (10ths) and 6ths occupy the strong beats from the 2nd until the penultimate bar, avoiding the consecutive fifths and octaves. The dissonances are all very carefully controlled, but these aren’t only the passing notes, as in the first solution, but there is also the nota cambiata in bar 2 and the double neighbor pattern in the penultimate bar, the new dissonances allowed for the third species. As such, the melody is slightly jumpier than in the previous example, however, the step-wise, smooth and flowy motion still dominate, and all the leaps are controlled within the bar, rather than across the barline.

Once again, it was very useful analyzing the sample solutions, since this type of exercise could serve not only for the better understanding of counterpoint, but also as an evaluative tool for my own solutions to practicing it. Lastly, there is no exercise for third species, but instead for the suspensions of the fourth species. Click here to see the Exercise 1.4.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint

Exercise 1.3

This exercise is about writing counterpoint in Fux’s second species to the given cantus firmus in the lower voice, while following the rules and advices listed in the course book.

Here is my solution with the intervals marked, and below it is the analysis comparing to the criteria of second species, given on page 24:

exercise 1.3

As the guidelines advise, I started the counterpoint with a rest, in order to establish the pulsation of two minims (half notes) against one semibreve (whole note), which the second species is based on. The interval opening and ending the solution is the octave, with the strong beats containing the preferred sonorities – the 3rds and 6ths, from the 2nd up to the penultimate bar, avoiding the consecutive octaves and 5ths. As permitted, the weak beats either contain carefully controlled dissonances that move step-wise, passing from one consonance to the next, or the jumps to the consonances. Personally, I feel my melody isn’t as flowy as the sample solutions I’ve analyzed, however, I still feel it is quite calm. There are only two jumps, although slightly larger (4ths – C-F and G-D), while the rest is stepwise motion that fills in the missing notes of the gap, and the melody is still quite wave-like. However, there is one thing that I really don’t like – the resolution of the 7th in bar 4. I was taught that when there is a dissonance, it should be resolved not only by the step-wise motion in that voice-part, but also the step-wise motion in the other voice. In this case, the cantus firmus jumps from G to Bb. Technically, I do end up in a consonant interval, and there is nothing like this mentioned on page 24, but I did learn this in my previous studies, which is why I am not entirely happy with my example. In the lack of better solution though, I decided this was the best option.

Generally, I quite enjoyed the exercise. As I mentioned, I did study Fux before, but this was still a great refresher. What I found interesting is that the rule which I was taught in my previous studies, the one I mentioned above about dissonance, doesn’t appear in the bullet points. This makes me wonder if it was just my previous teacher’s preference, or an actual rule from Fux. I guess this is one of the reasons it’s good to return to the fields you think you already know – you can never conquer all the rules and there are always places to further develop. Now, off to the next species.

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.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint, Uncategorized

Exercises 1.2: First species

The task of this exercise is to compose a voice part to go with the pre-composed cantus firmus given in the course-book, based on the rules of first species of counterpoint by Fux.

Here is the finished exercise with the intervals marked (cantus is in the lower voice), while the analysis is below, in which I try to go over my process and the choices I made:

exercise 1.2

Following the rules and advices from page 21, I open and end on the octave (I could have opened on the 5th, but I chose to use the octave instead), while using the 3rds (10ths) and 6ths from bar 2 until the penultimate bar, thus no consecutive or exposed 5ths or octaves. I tried to make the melody of the upper line as smooth as possible in a wave-like motion, moving mostly in step-wise movement. The motion between the parts is mostly contrary, except the consecutive 3rds and 6ths. For example, I could have avoided the thirds by having the melody climb in bar 4 to F, instead of descending to C, but I feel like the melody wouldn’t be as smooth with the jump back and forth from D to F, so I decided that to conserve the flowy, step-wise movement instead as the final version of the melody instead of similar jumps. I don’t really like that the climax of the upper melody is in the penultimate bar – in my previous studies, my teachers advised the climax to be somewhere towards the middle, but I don’t think that is too big of a problem, since this is only a brief exercise. However, if I was creating a full piece, I would definitely watch out for the positioning of the climax of the melody.

Overall, I found the exercise quite engaging, although I did study Fux’s counterpoint before. Also, I quite liked the idea of working backwards from the final note, for the last two or three bars – I don’t think I have ever consciously done that before. Off to the second species.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint, Uncategorized

First species: Analysis of Sample Solutions

Before Exercise 1.2, the course book asks for the analysis of the cantus firmus and its given solutions for the first species counterpoint, which I will tackle here.

This is the given cantus firmus:

cantus 1

The melody is formed of 8 whole notes, each lasting a bar, and starts and ends on the tonic – F. The range of the melody is only up to the 4th – the note Bb, which is also the climax of the melody. It is mostly calm and wave-like, in a way circling and revolving around the same notes that move in step-wise motion, except the one small jump to the 3rd – the climax note, which is then ‘filled’, with the melody coming back the opposite direction.

Next task is analyzing the solutions, while following the first species points given on page 21. In solution 1, the cantus firmus is places in the lower voice-part:

solution 1

As advised, the interval beginning and ending the counterpoint exercise is the octave, while the thirds and sixths fill out the rest, from the 2nd until the penultimate bar. The dominating motion between the parts is the contrary motion, which as the points indicate, represents a good way of asserting the independence of each melodic line. The only consecutive intervals are the 6ths near the end,  with no prohibited consecutive or exposed fifths or octaves. Like the cantus firmus, the upper melody is also flowy and wave-like, revolving around the same pitches, with two small jumps of 3rds that aren’t in a row. Similarly, the range of the upper part is also the 4th.

Finally, here is the cantus firmus in the upper voice, while the added voice of solution 2 is in the lower part:

solution 2

The aim here is to answer why I think the whole setting and sound is different when cantus firmus is in the lower part, while also going through the bullet points. First of all, when cantus firmus is in the upper voice, in order not to blur the modality, the lower part must start on the same degree, an octave lower. In order to achieve the contrary motion and the more calm, step-wise flow of melody, as the one in the solution, this means the intervals will be larger (I have marked them with their real gap, while in parentheses put the intervals they would be if they were without the octave distance, but unison as the beginning). All these could influence the sound, but there may also be another thing in question. For me personally, as I was trained to listened to both melodic lines, but for those that weren’t, the cantus melody in solution 2 could seem more recognizable in a sense, because of its placement in the higher voice, which tends to be more noticeable for people. I should also mention that there is one fifth (or 12th actually) in the 3rd bar, which is not as sonorous as the third or sixth that are usually preferred at a place like this (between 2nd and penultimate bars), however, it does provide the continuation of the contrary movement between the voices.

Overall, it was nice analyzing the given solutions before attempting the exercise, as this presented me with a kind of critical tool to evaluate my own future solutions. I think this is a very important aspect to keep in mind when practicing counterpoint.