Direct Approach to Counterpoint in 16th Century Style

Direct Approach to Counterpoint in 16th Century Style

Direct Approach to Counterpoint in 16th Century Style

Direct Approach to Counterpoint in 16th Century Style

Excerpt

The teaching of Counterpoint has for centuries past been confined to the system called Academic Counterpoint, embodied in the Five Species, first organized by Fux in his Gradus ad Parnassum (published 1725). The supposition by Fux that his system was based upon the contrapuntal practices of Palestrina cannot be maintained: the rigid adherence to a cantus firmus in even notes (already obsolete in the sixteenth century), and the exclusion, both of the ecclesiastical modes and of the rhythmical diversity of voice leading in the vocal polyphony, gives a highly artificial and stylistically misleading picture of the contrapuntal practice of the sixteenth century.

The homogeneous style found in the ecclesiastical compositions of the last half of the sixteenth century offers the best material for the study of contrapuntal practice, of which the treatment of dissonance is of especial importance. The greatest exponent of dissonance among the ecclesiastical composers may be found in Palestrina.

In this connection I refer, in grateful acknowledgment, toKnud Jeppesen The Style of Palestrina and the Dissonance, a work of profound and brilliant scholarship, which has served as guide and inspiration for the writing of the present treatise.

The desirability of a direct approach to the style from a pedagogical standpoint was uppermost in my mind in the planning of this work. The hearing and the analysis of the music itself has been made the basis of procedure throughout. During the past twelve years the courses of Counterpoint in the Eastman School of Music have been conducted along these lines, with special emphasis upon choral performance of selected works of the period as well as of compositions written by the students. It was essential, from the beginning, that a volume of music be published which would give the students easy access to suitable material for analysis as well as for performance. This volume, Examples of Gregorian Chant and Works by Orlandus Lassus, Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina and Marc Antonio Ingegneri is now the companion to Direct Approach to Counterpoint in Sixteenth-Century Style.

A debt of gratitude is due to the Director of the Eastman School of Music, Dr. Howard Hanson, whose sympathetic interest and suggestions made this work possible; to my graduate assistants for their most valuable help; to my colleagues in the Theory Department, Wayne Barlow, Allen I. McHose, Burrill Phillips, Donald White, for their interest and assistance in the teaching of the course. To Harold Gleason and Charles Warren Fox for helpful suggestions; to Rev. Benedict Ehman . . .

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