SOUND PATTERNS

A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music

by PHILLIP MAGNUSON

BASIC RULES FOR SPECIES COUNTERPOINT

Chapter 6. Species I in Two Voices

.
Chapter 7. Species II in Two Voices
Chapter 8. Species III in Two Voices
Chapter 9. Species IV in Two Voices
Chapter 10. Species V in Two Voices
Chapter 11. Species I in Three Voices

6.1 MELODIC PRINCIPLES FOR SPECIES I

  1. The line must be an independent and individual line; it must have a good contour (with an unrepeated "high" or "low" point). The cantus firmi are examples of good lines. It will be written entirely in whole-notes, each equal to two beats.

  2. Conjunct motion (steps) prevails. Disjunct motion (leaps) can be used to provide variety, but they must be handled carefully. These leaps are 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves; a 6th may be used only if it is minor (m6), and only if ascending.

  3. A distance no greater than a 6th may be covered in one direction (with the exception of the leap of an octave) with any combination of steps and/or leaps.

    This example is correct.

    This example covers too great a distance.

  4. Only two consecutive leaps in one direction may be used.

    This example shows correct use of leaps.

    This example shows that more than two leaps will travel too far a distance.


    INTERLUDE 1

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error.

    A

    B

    C


  5. Large intervals (5ths and larger) must be counterbalanced (a change of melodic direction), both before and after. 4ths need only be counterbalanced on one side.

    This example treats the leap of a P5 correctly, with a change of direction both before and after the leap.


    This example does NOT counterbalance the leap of a P5.

  6. Do not repeat notes in adjacent measures.

  7. Do not leap tritones (A4ths and d5ths), and do not outline A4ths. A tritone was traditonally known as the diabolus in musica (the "devil in music") and was actually considered evil. It was a religious imperative to avoid them in music.

    This example both leaps a tritone, and outlines an A4.


    INTERLUDE 2

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error..

    A

    B

    C

    Learn more about species I melodies


6.2 CONTRAPUNTAL PRINCIPLES FOR SPECIES I

The unique characteristic of counterpoint is the juxtaposition of two or more independent melodic lines moving against each other. As presented in Chapter 3, there are four contrapuntal motions:

Good counterpoint is the successful mixture of these four motions.

  1. All intervals must be consonant, either perfect (P1, P5, P8, or P12) or imperfect (M3, m3, M6, m6, M10, m10). P4ths are considered to be dissonant.

    Always check intervals formed with the counterpoint and label between the two lines.

  2. Keep the distance between voices a 12th or less.

    This example stays within the correct distance.

  3. Voices may not cross (voices actually change position) or overlap (one voice entering the territory of another in adjacent measures).


    INTERLUDE 3

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error.

    A

    B

    C


  4. Imperfect consonances are preferable to perfect consonances for the interior, but use no more than three 3rds or three 6ths in succession.

  5. The first interval must be a perfect consonance. When writing below the cantus firmus, the first interval must be a unison or octave (a P5 below would change the tonal center of the exercise). When writing above a cantus firmus, any perfect consonance may be used.

  6. Unisons may be used in the first and last bars only. A unison is so consonant sounding that the counterpoint appears to stop momentarily when one is used.

    INTERLUDE 4

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error.

    A

    B

    C


  7. Never use parallel perfect consonances.

    Here are some examples of parallel perfect consonances:

  8. Do not use direct perfect consonances (perfect intervals approached in similar motion).

    Here are three perfect consonances which are approached in the same direction.

  9. Do not leap simultaneously to perfect consonances.

    This must be avoided even though it is contrary motion.

    Summary of the previous three contrapuntal principles (g-i):

    IN SHORT, A PERFECT CONSONANCE MUST BE APPROACHED IN CONTRARY MOTION AND AT LEAST ONE VOICE MUST STEP INTO IT.


    INTERLUDE 5

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error.

    A

    B

    C


  10. Do not leap simultaneously in the same direction more than once per exercise.

    Both lines leaping at the same time takes away from the independence of each line.

  11. Provide a cadence, called a clausula vera, at the end of the exercise. A clausula vera consists of a ^7 - ^8 motion (Ti - Do) in counterpoint to a ^2 - ^1 motion (Re - Do). The ^2 - ^1 motion is found in the cantus firmus, and this, in fact, defines the tonality of the counterpoint by ending on "tonic".

    Only the Lydian and Ionian modes have natural leading tones. The other modes do not have one, so an accidental (called musica ficta) must be used to create a leading tone at the clausula vera. Do not leap into leading tones, and do not move chromatically (two versions of the same line or space) into musica ficta.

    This is an example of a cadence on the tonal center of A.


    INTERLUDE 6

    Click on the letter of the counterpoint that contains an error.

    A

    B

    C


    Learn more about species I counterpoint

6.3 EXAMPLE OF COUNTERPOINT IN SPECIES I

Note the inclusion of intervallic analysis. Always include this to check the accuracy of your work.

6.4 HOW TO WRITE IN SPECIES I

The three big questions to ask yourself when writing species I counterpoint:

  1. Is this note good for the line? You need to have good knowledge of all the melodic principles to answer this.
  2. If it is a perfect consonance, how has it been approached?
  3. Is the cadence a clausula vera?

There are some extra conditions that need to be examined, but they involve lesser questions. These include issues about

  1. Beginning the counterpoint
  2. Distance between voices
  3. Use of unisons

ASSIGNMENTS:

SYNTHESIS

Using an assigned cantus firmus, write a soprano counterpoint above, and a bass counterpoint below, in Species I.

Be careful to pay attention to all the principles of Species I, especially while writing the melodic line.

This must be written as two separate pieces, one with a treble clef and alto clef, and a second with alto clef and bass clef. Follow the exact format of the example above, including the labels for the counterpoint and the cantus firmus.

To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester I.

ANALYSIS

Find the errors in the following example. Put a number with a box around it near the mistake and briefly explain by the corresponding number below.


Cantus firmi

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.


Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 7. Species II in Two Voices
Chapter 8. Species III in Two Voices
Chapter 9. Species IV in Two Voices
Chapter 10. Species V in Two Voices
Chapter 11. Species I in Three Voices

Link to previous unit: FUNDAMENTALS

Link to next unit: DIATONIC PROCEDURES I: Harmonic Dimensions


Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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