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This usage is not entirely appropriate, for such instances as the singing of a single melody at parallel intervals e. Finally, contemporary theorists generally use the word counterpoint in a narrow sense for musical styles resembling those of Palestrina or Bach and emphasizing clear melodic relationships e. Counterpoint can be considered more broadly, however, as an essential element in many styles within Western music.

Composers in different periods have used counterpoint differently: The earliest examples of actual written counterpoint appear in the late 9th-century treatise Musica enchiriadis. Such music was called organum , probably because it resembled the sound of contemporary organs. In the early 11th century the teacher and theorist Guido of Arezzo in his Micrologus described a variety of organum in which the accompanying or organal voice had become more individualized.

In addition to moving parallel to the main voice, it included oblique diverging or converging motion and contrary opposite motion. In this era the organal voice remains melodically awkward and subservient to the chant voice, as though it were composed one note at a time simply to colour or ornament each note of the chant. Early organum is thus not far removed from heterophony. Until the end of the 11th century organum was written entirely in note-against-note style, described, in , as punctus contra punctum point against point— i. In the 12th century true polyphony comes into being; the melodic lines become individualized mostly by being given different rhythms.

There emerges a hierarchy between the voice parts. The emphasis is upon the chant voice, which now becomes the lower part. The contrapuntal genius of the Middle Ages realizes itself mostly through the use of rhythmic contrasts between the different voice parts, and such contrasts gradually increase in complexity from c.

In his three-part Alleluia Nativitas , the voices are in different rhythmic modes, and they are also distinguished by different phrase lengths, consisting of more or fewer repetitions of the rhythmic pattern. During the 13th century such contrasts were carried still further in the motet , a musical form usually in three voice parts, each in a different rhythmic mode. The theorist Franco of Cologne advocated the use of consonance at the beginning of each measure; such consonances usually a chord made up of the unison, fifth, and octave, such as C—G—C served as fixed pillars in terms of which the horizontal extensions of different rhythmic lengths were like soaring arches of sound.

The tenor voice part in the motets of the 14th and early 15th centuries was organized by huge rhythmic recurrences known as isorhythm i. During the 14th century, particularly in the works of Guillaume de Machaut , the upper voice part was sometimes displaced by a beat or more in respect to the other parts, giving it further rhythmic independence.

In the late 14th century complicated syncopations displaced accents and the simultaneous use of different metres characterized some of the most complex counterpoint in history. If the medieval composer explored mostly the possibilities of rhythmic counterpoint, the Renaissance composer was concerned primarily with melodic relationships between the voice parts. The predominant technique used was that of imitation; i. Imitation had appeared earlier in the Italian caccia and French chace , roundlike vocal forms of the 14th century, and in England in the 13th-century round , Sumer is icumen in.

These compositions anticipate the Renaissance and also emphasize the rhythmic relationships typical of medieval counterpoint.

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During the Renaissance the technique of imitation contributed to a new unity between the voices, as opposed to the hierarchy found in medieval counterpoint. Renaissance composers strove also for clear melodic relationships between voices; consequently imitations usually began on the same beat of a measure and were separated in pitch by simple intervals such as the fifth as, C—G or octave as, C—C.

The Renaissance theorists, among them Johannes Tinctoris and Gioseffo Zarlino , categorized dissonances according to type and governed each type by definite rhythmic and melodic restrictions. The northern composers in particular showed a penchant for complex melodic relationships. In a canon , one melody is derived from another. It may be identical, as in a round, or it may be given various alterations, as of speed, or metre or omission of certain notes.

The most versatile craftsman of the Renaissance was Josquin, whose music displays a continual variety of contrapuntal ingenuities, including melodic imitation. The imitative style came to its fullest flowering in the late 16th century not only in the masses and motets of di Lasso and Palestrina but also in secular songs such as the French chanson and Italian madrigal.

It also flourished in instrumental music in such contrapuntal forms as fantasias, canzonas, and ricercari. During the 17th and early 18th centuries the pure linear— i. This latter type was characterized by a freer treatment of dissonances and a richer employment of tone colour.

The new liberties with dissonance disturbed the conservative theorists of the time; but they were justified by their proponents on the ground that they allowed a more expressive treatment of the text. Still more distinct was a new use of tone colour. Although the individual melodic lines often resembled those of the Renaissance, they were intensified and made to stand out through differences of scoring or instrumentation.

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In figured bass compositions in which a keyboard instrument improvised the harmonies over a given bass melody the counterpoint was between the upper melody and the bass line. These stood out clearly from one another because of their differences of instrumental or vocal tone colour.

Also significant at this time was the development of concerto-like scoring. In a concerto a soloist or group of instruments is contrasted with the entire orchestra.

Hence concerto style emphasized contrasts between the numbers of performers, the high and low registers, and the tone colours of two or more performing groups. This was anticipated in some of the madrigals Italian part-songs of the late Renaissance, especially those of Luca Marenzio and Don Carlo Gesualdo, in which two or three voice parts in a high or low register were immediately answered by parts in a contrasting register.

Giovanni Gabrieli of Venice expanded this principle in his Symphoniae Sacrae Sacred Symphonies by setting off choirs of voices or instruments, thus achieving a counterpoint of contrasting sonorities. Such concerto-like effects became an essential part of the later madrigals and operas of Claudio Monteverdi. In his madrigal Lament of the Nymph , a single soprano voice is pitted against three male voices, and both in turn against an instrumental continuo figured bass played, for example, by cello and harpsichord in the background.

This type of counterpoint was ideal for emphasizing dramatic contrasts in the new forms of the opera and the oratorio. In the late Baroque Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi added this style of dramatic contrasts to the purely instrumental contrasts of the concerto.

The Baroque concerto culminated in the Brandenburg Concertos of J. Bach , which are characterized by a remarkable fusion of contrapuntal lines and instrumental colours. A similar melodic, rather than tone-colour, approach occurs in works such as the Inventions and in the canons of the Musical Offering.

The turn from the Baroque to the Classical period in music was marked by the change from a luxuriant polyphonic to a relatively simple homophonic texture— i.

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Composers of the early Classical period c. Many of the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , despite a basically homophonic approach, reveal a skillful interplay between the main melody and accompaniment. In the late Classical period c. This counterpoint in turn was tempered by the Classical style and musical forms. For example, although combined melodic lines are heard as counterpoint, together they can also be heard as a series of harmonies.

In this way they form unified phrases in the homophonic style.


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This satisfied demands for symmetrical phrase lengths and clear-cut cadences , or stopping points, necessary to mark the sections of Classical forms such as the sonata. The ensembles of the operas— e. And at one point in his Jupiter Symphony five different themes are stated simultaneously, singly, or in combination.

Each voice is also governed by an underlying phrase structure applied to all of them, so that the combined parts form unified musical phrases. Beethoven began his career in Vienna under the tutelage of the noted contrapuntal theorist Johann Albrechtsberger , and this, coupled with his admiration for Handel, probably accounts for his lifetime interest in counterpoint.

He drew upon counterpoint to create musical intensity, especially in the development section of sonata form the form prominent in Classical symphonies and chamber music , as in the first movement of the Razumovsky Quartet , Opus 59, No.

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In his late sonatas and quartets, except for obvious fugal works such as the first movement of Opus , or the Great Fugue , Opus , almost every movement shows the interpenetration of the principles of counterpoint, which deals with melodic lines, and tonality, which deals with harmonies. Counterpoint in the 19th century had a retrospective side in addition to a characteristically Romantic style. Richard Wagner admired the counterpoint of Palestrina, and Johannes Brahms revered the Baroque masters. Yet the true bent of Romantic composers was toward combinations of motives small melodic fragments , use of motivic accompaniments against themes, and, later, of the combination of leitmotifs, or motives with significance beyond the music itself.

The lieder songs of Franz Schubert were highly innovative because of their motivic accompaniments, which balance in interest the vocal part itself and contrapuntally interact with it.

Counterpoint - Wikipedia

This technique is still more pronounced in the songs of Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf. The dissonant interval of a fourth would proceed into a diminished fifth and the next note would resolve at the interval of a sixth. In fourth species counterpoint, some notes are sustained or suspended in an added part while notes move against them in the given part, often creating a dissonance on the beat, followed by the suspended note then changing and "catching up" to create a subsequent consonance with the note in the given part as it continues to sound.

As before, fourth species counterpoint is called expanded when the added-part notes vary in length among themselves. The technique requires chains of notes sustained across the boundaries determined by beat, and so creates syncopation. Also it is important to note that a dissonant interval is allowed on beat 1 because of the syncopation created by the suspension.

In fifth species counterpoint, sometimes called florid counterpoint , the other four species of counterpoint are combined within the added parts. In the example, the first and second bars are second species, the third bar is third species, the fourth and fifth bars are third and embellished fourth species, and the final bar is first species.

Since the Renaissance period in European music, much contrapuntal music has been written in imitative counterpoint. In imitative counterpoint, two or more voices enter at different times, and especially when entering each voice repeats some version of the same melodic element. The fantasia , the ricercar , and later, the canon and fugue the contrapuntal form par excellence all feature imitative counterpoint, which also frequently appears in choral works such as motets and madrigals. Imitative counterpoint spawned a number of devices, including:.

Broadly speaking, due to the development of harmony, from the Baroque period on, most contrapuntal compositions were written in the style of free counterpoint. This means that the general focus of the composer had shifted away from how the intervals of added melodies related to a cantus firmus , and more toward how they related to each other.

Nonetheless, according to Kent Kennan: Linear counterpoint is "a purely horizontal technique in which the integrity of the individual melodic lines is not sacrificed to harmonic considerations. Associated with neoclassicism , [11] the first work to use the technique is Igor Stravinsky 's Octet , [10] inspired by J. Bach and Giovanni Palestrina. However, according to Knud Jeppesen: Palestrina starts out from lines and arrives at chords; Bach's music grows out of an ideally harmonic background, against which the voices develop with a bold independence that is often breath-taking.

According to Cunningham, linear harmony is "a frequent approach in the 20th century Dissonant counterpoint was originally theorized by Charles Seeger as "at first purely a school-room discipline," consisting of species counterpoint but with all the traditional rules reversed. First species counterpoint must be all dissonances, establishing "dissonance, rather than consonance, as the rule," and consonances are "resolved" through a skip, not step.

He wrote that "the effect of this discipline" was "one of purification. Seeger was not the first to employ dissonant counterpoint, but was the first to theorize and promote it. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Counterpoint disambiguation. This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. Learn how and when to remove these template messages.

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