Monday, November 28, 2011

A Journey Through Counterpoint VI

And now we come to the big "So what?"  These are nice little ideas - you're a melody, I'm a melody, and together we make a cute couple, right?  Not entirely...  It turns out you're full of stylistic assumptions, contour, motives, accent, neutral lines, voice leading and ornamentation (and you thought your life was boring!)

This is where counterpoint really starts to get fun.  There are different types of counterpoint:  species counterpoint, linear counterpoint, dissonant counterpoint and imitative counterpoint (which includes melodic inversion, retrograde, retrograde inversion, augmentation and diminution).  It sounds scary, but I hope to have you laughing by the end.  I'll try to explain each one but be thinking about the stories they tell and see if you can find parallels to human relationships.

Species Counterpoint
Species counterpoint is the oldest and "strictest" form of counterpoint (originating in the 16th century).  It was actually developed as a pedagogical tool to teach students how to write counterpoint by taking them through different "species" that increased in complexity.  It doesn't allow for much freedom because it always consists of a Cantus Firmus (Latin for "fixed melody").
Our protagonist, Cantus Firmus, doesn't change.  Se doesn't like change, refuses to change, and doesn't even see the purpose of change.  She is fine just the way she is.  In fact, if anyone needs to change it's YOU.  And so you do.

You sing a melody in an effort to engage Cantus, but she doesn't move.  You try another melody, but still, she won't budge.  After a third and fourth melody, you pause for a moment and reconsider.  Maybe if you try the first melody again, she'll respond differently this time?  You try all of the melodies you know but Cantus Firmus is a solid wall of immutability.

Sixth application: You can pull and stretch against the constraints, resist and even complain, but that will probably just add more dissonance. So what must you do?  Must you find a way to be content with the melody as it is, look for those harmonic pillars and accept the confines?  Or must you walk away to find a melody that's more homologous and reciprocal? 

1 comment:

wakeupcowboys said...

Often we're the most creative within confines...