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  • Holly Mead

Composing Music by William Russo: Chapter 10

Counterpoint


Counterpoint is the relationship between two or more melody lines that are played simultaneously, and the study of counterpoint is a tried and true method of developing a deeper understanding of harmony and voice leading.


Species Counterpoint requiresadherents to abide by a set of strict rules that specify how the melody lines can move and interact.


Let's start with a few pertinent definitions:


Consonant intervals: perfect unisons, octaves, fourths, fifths, and major/minor thirds and sixths.


Dissonant intervals: tritones, major/minor seconds and sevenths.


Parallel motion: both voices move in the same direction by the same interval.


Similar motion: both voices move in the same direction but not by the same interval.


Oblique motion: one voice moves and the other voice remains on the same tone.


Contrary motion: both voices move in opposite directions.


Intervals are labeled with a number 1-8, and it is not necessary to specific whether they are major or minor. Intervals larger than an octave are often abbreviated, e.g. a 10th would be labeled as a 3rd; a 12th as a 5th, etc.


Similar or parallel motion to a unison or octave should be avoided, except to the last interval.

The following piece is an example of first species counterpoint that follows is composed entirely with consonant intervals. Form: abac

And this next piece is another example of 1:1 counterpoint that utilizes identical rhythms, consonant intervals, and bitonality, i.e. the top voice is uses the tones from the E Phrygian scale, and the bottom voice uses the tones of the C "Lixian" scale (lydian + mixolydian).