Author Topic: Counterpoint in Composition  (Read 12560 times)

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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2013, 12:55:54 PM »
yes, I think that to actively "seek out" books on applying counterpoint to contemporary harmony mare, in the end, be less productive than simply soaking it all in in its "old fashioned" manner.

It's possible that such a book, if it exists, could be an interesting read -- not necessarily for instructional purposes, but more of an insight into someone's individual processes. Of course that depends entirely on who's doing the writing.

For curiousity, at what (exceedingly general) point do you think you started feeling somewhat comfortable in your study, Michel, Jamie, and others?  I don't mean that you had mastered it, but that you felt like you at least knew enough about what you were doing that you could actually learn.

I began studying counterpoint on my own probably at about age 14. I was enrolled in a school of the arts high school and was intensely hungry for anything I could learn about music. I was way ahead of the lesson plan and got a small amount of guidance from a wonderful theory teacher, but most of the work I did from borrowed texts. My teacher would sometimes look at my work on her own time, but the focus of the school was heavily on performance rather than theory. It was also a very small school that had only recently been converted to an arts school, so courses were sometimes dictated by the interests of the few students in each year. It was in my senior year when that same teacher began teaching a few of us harmony, voice-leading, and dictation.

I'm not sure exactly when it "clicked," but I'd say I was at it intensely for a few years before it all started to feel more natural. When I got to conservatory, I re-enforced my understanding by taking a class on Renaissance counterpoint (which has many of its own, stricter rules). It wasn't until after that semester that I started to feel like I might actually know something, as opposed to having memorized something.

winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2013, 01:01:52 PM »
Thank you all for your valuable input so far.  I do realize it's going to be a long road and perhaps longer for me if I try to "go it alone".  However I've felt for some time that it's something I need to do if I want to become a better composer.  It's a gaping hole in my technique and training that needs to be filled. 

I also understand what you're saying about immersing yourself in the study rather than just reading about it.  As I read Prof. Belkin's paper along with what's been written here I'm quickly getting the idea that I have to do exercises and solve these problems myself to better understand the principles. 

I have to say that combining Prof. Belkin's paper (what I've read so far) and Michel's posts I have a much better high level understanding of the species.  Anyway it's a daunting but exciting journey to embark on. 
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Ron

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2013, 01:48:42 PM »
You could do worse than check out Walter Piston's book on Counterpoint (New York, Norton, 1947). A bit old fashioned, but it should get you started.
Ron
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winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2013, 05:34:11 PM »
You could do worse than check out Walter Piston's book on Counterpoint (New York, Norton, 1947). A bit old fashioned, but it should get you started.

I was leaning toward getting this book.  I really do understand you can't read your way into practicing this skill/art but it would help to get a better understanding of the principles.  I think I need to find someone to study with for a while to help me go over exercises and help guide me.  Thank you for the book recommendation though.  I'll likely get it. 
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2013, 08:28:26 PM »
we could always post exercises here.
I don't know if we're really equipped to deal with dozens of counterpoint exercises a day, but it would certainly be a resource.

of course, there are also minor differences in the different approaches of what is permitted and what is not by different teachers.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Ron

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2013, 06:52:44 AM »
I really should be hung out to dry for not mentioning Alan Belkin's short e-book:

https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html

and our former member, Hal Owen's book:  Modal and Tonal Counterpoint: From Josquin to Stravinsky (available on Amazon). The only drawback to Hal's book is that I have never been able to afford it. (It's listed at Amazon for $166.00 right now. I have seen it listed for more than $200. in the past.)
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winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2013, 07:08:05 AM »
I really should be hung out to dry for not mentioning Alan Belkin's short e-book:

https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html

and our former member, Hal Owen's book:  Modal and Tonal Counterpoint: From Josquin to Stravinsky (available on Amazon). The only drawback to Hal's book is that I have never been able to afford it. (It's listed at Amazon for $166.00 right now. I have seen it listed for more than $200. in the past.)

I saw Hal's book and didn't realize it was the same Hal.  That one looked interesting as well, but as you say it's pricey.  There are some used copies for around $100 USD. 
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2013, 07:10:39 AM »
if I recall, I DID buy Hal's book (it got lost in the move to the new house here, it's around somewhere, in the bottom of a box, I'm sure)... but I honestly didn't find it all that useful.

without a solid grounding in counterpoint, it was next to impossible to understand.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2013, 07:28:46 AM »
I ended up ordering this book.  It seemed to be pretty basic but perhaps a more modern presentation of the Fux book.  It's really just to get started and doesn't have any examples to work on. 

I'm also reading through Prof. Belkin's book which is pretty rich with information. 
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2013, 07:34:51 AM »
by the way, may I suggest to those who will be undertaking the grand journey of learning counterpoint:

do NOT try and write your own Cantus Firmus. please find a source from which to take them.
most C.F. are designed in such a manner as to already create a satisfying potential harmonic framework.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #25 on: January 09, 2013, 07:40:24 AM »
by the way, may I suggest to those who will be undertaking the grand journey of learning counterpoint:

do NOT try and write your own Cantus Firmus. please find a source from which to take them.
most C.F. are designed in such a manner as to already create a satisfying potential harmonic framework.

That brings up a question though.  Reading Alan's paper, he complains of methods that avoid letting the student write their own or simply stick with C.F. in 4/4 time exclusively, not letting the student try to solve other problems.  I realize writing your own cantus firmus is something to be done later, but at what point should one be doing that?  In other words when would you know enough to know how to construct a complete framework?  And is writing a cantus firmus like writing a subject?  Is that the skill required? 
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winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #26 on: January 09, 2013, 07:54:53 AM »
Here are some cantus firmi for anyone interested in doing some exercises. 



These are from a website I found called listening arts
Steve Winkler
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #27 on: January 09, 2013, 07:56:17 AM »
a cantus has to follow certain rules.
once you have really fully assimilated those rules, then sure, I don't see an issue with writing one.

my thinking, from an educational point of view however, is that if the student writes his own C.F. then the student MIGHT be avoiding specific implicit difficulties within the framework of the C.F., and surprise difficulties are obviously out of the question.

it's a bit like letting the student decide which topics will be on the exam... he can still get some of the answers wrong, but the student will specifically avoid including topics which he does not fully master.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

winknotes

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #28 on: January 09, 2013, 08:21:27 AM »
a cantus has to follow certain rules.
once you have really fully assimilated those rules, then sure, I don't see an issue with writing one.

my thinking, from an educational point of view however, is that if the student writes his own C.F. then the student MIGHT be avoiding specific implicit difficulties within the framework of the C.F., and surprise difficulties are obviously out of the question.

it's a bit like letting the student decide which topics will be on the exam... he can still get some of the answers wrong, but the student will specifically avoid including topics which he does not fully master.

Got it. 

This evening I will type out those cantus firmi in Finale as two-part, three-part and 4-part, zip them up and post it here for anyone who's interested. 
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Counterpoint in Composition
« Reply #29 on: January 09, 2013, 09:52:25 AM »
I'd suggest to anyone wanting to start on this, start with just 2 voices.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"