II. Counterpoint and Galant Schemas

Punctum contra punctum… point against point… note against note.

This section explores the wonderful world of counterpoint. We can think of counterpoint as the combination of notes in general: although the term is sometimes used as the “horizontal” or “melodic” complement to harmony’s “vertical” aspect, the two are not so easily separated in practice. Yet we can perhaps distinguish the study of counterpoint through an increased attention to linear elements.

This section also places a prominent emphasis on “try it yourself” exercises in species counterpoint and pastiche composition in 16th- and 18th-century styles.

Prerequisites

This second part of Open Music Theory assumes knowledge of Fundamentals, but nothing from the later parts.

Organization

This section covers some of the main kinds of repertoires and techniques historically used in the teaching of counterpoint:

  • We begin with probably the best-known, so-called species counterpoint approach (after Fux).
  • Species counterpoint is sometimes conflated with the imitative polyphonic style of the 16th century, so after our chapters on species, we move on to a closer look at that repertoire in particular.
  • 16th-century polyphony can be viewed as a precursor to another imitative style: the fugue. Here, we take a look at the opening section of fugues in the early 18th century specifically.
  • Finally, staying in the 18th century, we take a step away from strict imitation to look at some other kinds of approaches relevant to the contrapuntal thinking, particularly the practice of Galant schemas: short pre-existing templates for combining voices that can be elaborated into “real” music (compositions or improvisation).

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OPEN MUSIC THEORY by Mark Gotham; Kyle Gullings; Chelsey Hamm; Bryn Hughes; Brian Jarvis; Megan Lavengood; and John Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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