In music, counterpoint is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour. It has been most commonly identified in the European classical tradition, strongly developing during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period, especially in the Baroque. The term originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum meaning "point against point".
Counterpoint has been used to designate a voice or even an entire composition. Counterpoint focuses on melodic interaction—only secondarily on the harmonies produced by that interaction. In the words of John Rahn:
It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung simultaneously, sound as a more beautiful polyphonic whole. The internal structures that create each of the voices separately must contribute to the emergent structure of the polyphony, which in turn must reinforce and comment on the structures of the individual voices. The way that is accomplished in detail is ... 'counterpoint'.
Counterpoint theory has been given a mathematical foundation in the work initiated by Guerino Mazzola. In particular, his model gives a structural (and not psychological) foundation of forbidden parallels of fifths and the dissonant fourth. The model has also been extended to microtonal contexts by Octavio Agustin.
Some examples of related compositional techniques include: the round (familiar in folk traditions), the canon, and perhaps the most complex contrapuntal convention: the fugue. All of these are examples of imitative counterpoint.
Species counterpoint was developed as a pedagogical tool in which students progress through several "species" of increasing complexity, with a very simple part that remains constant known as the cantus firmus (Latin for "fixed melody"). Species counterpoint generally offers less freedom to the composer than other types of counterpoint and therefore is called a "strict" counterpoint. The student gradually attains the ability to write free counterpoint (that is, less rigorously constrained counterpoint, usually without a cantus firmus) according to the given rules at the time. The idea is at least as old as 1532, when Giovanni Maria Lanfranco described a similar concept in his Scintille di musica (Brescia, 1533). The 16th-century Venetian theorist Zarlino elaborated on the idea in his influential Le institutioni harmoniche, and it was first presented in a codified form in 1619 by Lodovico Zacconi in his Prattica di musica. Zacconi, unlike later theorists, included a few extra contrapuntal techniques, such as invertible counterpoint.
A succession of later theorists quite closely imitated Fux's seminal work, often with some small and idiosyncratic modifications in the rules. Many of Fux's rules concerning the purely linear construction of melodies have their origin in solfeggi. Concerning the common practice era, alterations to the melodic rules were introduced to enable the function of certain harmonic forms. The combination of these melodies produced the basic harmonic structure; the figured bass.
The following rules apply to melodic writing in each species, for each part:
And, in all species, the following rules govern the combination of the parts:
In first species counterpoint, each note in every added part (parts being also referred to as lines or voices) sounds against one note in the cantus firmus. Notes in all parts are sounded simultaneously, and move against each other simultaneously. Since all notes in First species counterpoint are whole notes, rhythmic independence is not available.
In the present context, a "step" is a melodic interval of a half or whole step. A "skip" is an interval of a third or fourth. (See Steps and skips.) An interval of a fifth or larger is referred to as a "leap".
A few further rules given by Fux, by study of the Palestrina style, and usually given in the works of later counterpoint pedagogues, are as follows.
In the adjacent example in two parts, the cantus firmus is the lower part. (The same cantus firmus is used for later examples also. Each is in the Dorian mode.)
In second species counterpoint, two notes in each of the added parts work against each longer note in the given part.
Additional considerations in second species counterpoint are as follows, and are in addition to the considerations for first species:
Short example of "Second Species" counterpoint
In third species counterpoint, four (or three, etc.) notes move against each longer note in the given part.
Short example of "Third Species" counterpoint
Three special figures are introduced into third species and later added to fifth species, and ultimately outside the restrictions of species writing. There are three figures to consider: The nota cambiata, double neighbor tones, and double passing tones. Double neighbor tones: the figure is prolonged over four beats and allows special dissonances. The upper and lower tones are prepared on beat 1 and resolved on beat 4. The fifth note or downbeat of the next measure should move by step in the same direction as the last two notes of the double neighbor figure. Lastly a double passing tone allows two dissonant passing tones in a row. The figure would consist of 4 notes moving in the same direction by step. The two notes that allow dissonance would be beat 2 and 3 or 3 and 4. The dissonant interval of a fourth would proceed into a diminished fifth and the next note would resolve at the interval of a sixth.
In fourth species counterpoint, some notes are sustained or suspended in an added part while notes move against them in the given part, often creating a dissonance on the beat, followed by the suspended note then changing (and "catching up") to create a subsequent consonance with the note in the given part as it continues to sound. As before, fourth species counterpoint is called expanded when the added-part notes vary in length among themselves. The technique requires chains of notes sustained across the boundaries determined by beat, and so creates syncopation. Also it is important to note that a dissonant interval is allowed on beat 1 because of the syncopation created by the suspension.
Short example of "Fourth Species" counterpoint
In fifth species counterpoint, sometimes called florid counterpoint, the other four species of counterpoint are combined within the added parts. In the example, the first and second bars are second species, the third bar is third species, the fourth and fifth bars are third and embellished fourth species, and the final bar is first species.
Short example of "Florid" counterpoint
Since the Renaissance period in European music, much contrapuntal music has been written in imitative counterpoint. In imitative counterpoint, two or more voices enter at different times, and (especially when entering) each voice repeats some version of the same melodic element. The fantasia, the ricercar, and later, the canon and fugue (the contrapuntal form par excellence) all feature imitative counterpoint, which also frequently appears in choral works such as motets and madrigals. Imitative counterpoint spawned a number of devices, including:
Broadly speaking, due to the development of harmony, from the Baroque period on, most contrapuntal compositions were written in the style of free counterpoint. This means that the general focus of the composer had shifted away from how the intervals of added melodies related to a cantus firmus, and more toward how they related to each other.
Nonetheless, according to Kent Kennan: "....actual teaching in that fashion (free counterpoint) did not become widespread until the late nineteenth century." Young composers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, were still educated in the style of "strict" counterpoint, but in practice, they would look for ways to expand on the traditional concepts of the subject.
Main features of free counterpoint:
Linear counterpoint is "a purely horizontal technique in which the integrity of the individual melodic lines is not sacrificed to harmonic considerations. "Its distinctive feature is rather the concept of melody, which served as the starting-point for the adherents of the ‘new objectivity’ when they set up linear counterpoint as an anti-type to the Romantic harmony."  The voice parts move freely, irrespective of the effects their combined motions may create." In other words, either "the domination of the horizontal (linear) aspects over the vertical" is featured or the "harmonic control of lines is rejected."
Associated with neoclassicism, the first work to use the technique is Igor Stravinsky's Octet (1923), inspired by J. S. Bach and Giovanni Palestrina. However, according to Knud Jeppesen: "Bach's and Palestrina's points of departure are antipodal. Palestrina starts out from lines and arrives at chords; Bach's music grows out of an ideally harmonic background, against which the voices develop with a bold independence that is often breath-taking."
According to Cunningham, linear harmony is "a frequent approach in the 20th century...[in which lines] are combined with almost careless abandon in the hopes that new 'chords' and 'progressions,'...will result." It is possible with "any kind of line, diatonic or duodecuple."
Dissonant counterpoint was originally theorized by Charles Seeger as "at first purely a school-room discipline," consisting of species counterpoint but with all the traditional rules reversed. First species counterpoint must be all dissonances, establishing "dissonance, rather than consonance, as the rule," and consonances are "resolved" through a skip, not step. He wrote that "the effect of this discipline" was "one of purification." Other aspects of composition, such as rhythm, could be "dissonated" by applying the same principle (Charles Seeger, "On Dissonant Counterpoint," Modern Music 7, no. 4 (June–July 1930): 25–26).
Seeger was not the first to employ dissonant counterpoint, but was the first to theorize and promote it. Other composers who have used dissonant counterpoint, if not in the exact manner prescribed by Charles Seeger, include Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Carl Ruggles, Henry Cowell, Henry Brant, Dane Rudhyar, Lou Harrison, Fartein Valen, and Arnold Schoenberg.
60 Minutes is an American news magazine and television program that is broadcast on the CBS television network. Debuting in 1968, the program was created by Don Hewitt, who chose to set it apart from other news programs by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation. In 2002, 60 Minutes was ranked at No. 6 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked #24 on TV Guide's 60 Best Series of All Time. The New York Times has called it "one of the most esteemed news magazines on American television".Season 50 debuted on September 24, 2017. It has been renewed for a record 51st.Basic Books
Basic Books is a book publisher founded in 1952 and located in New York, now an imprint of Hachette Books. It publishes books in the fields of psychology, philosophy, economics, science, politics, sociology, current affairs, and history. Basic Books publishes new works in African and African-American studies under the Basic Civitas imprint.Cello Counterpoint
Cello Counterpoint is a composition for cello and pre-recorded tape by the American composer Steve Reich. The work was jointly commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and Leiden University for the cellist Maya Beiser. It was given its world premiere by Beiser on October 18, 2003 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The piece was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music.Counterpoint (1968 film)
Counterpoint (also known as The Battle Horns or The General) is a 1968 epic war film starring Charlton Heston, Maximilian Schell, Kathryn Hays and Leslie Nielsen. It is based on the novel The General by Alan Sillitoe. In the United States the film was released as a double feature with Sergeant Ryker a 1963 television film starring Lee Marvin.Counterpoint (horse)
Counterpoint (1948–1969) was an American ChampionThoroughbred racehorse. He was sired by 1943 U.S. Triple Crown champion Count Fleet.Counterpoint (publisher)
Counterpoint LLC was a publishing company distributed by Perseus Books Group launched in 2007. It was formed from the consolidation of three presses: Perseus' Counterpoint Press, Avalon Publishing Group's Shoemaker & Hoard and the independent Soft Skull Press. The company published books under the Counterpoint Press and Soft Skull Press imprints. Counterpoint also entered into an agreement for the production, marketing and distribution of approximately eight Sierra Club book titles each year. Both Wendell Berry and poet Gary Snyder were investors in Counterpoint, with both of their works currently being published by the Counterpoint imprint. Jack Shoemaker, Vice-president and editorial director of Counterpoint, had worked with both authors in other companies for more than thirty years.
Counterpoint merged into fellow publisher Catapult in 2016.Counterpoint (radio programme)
Counterpoint is a BBC Radio 4 quiz. Described in the show's introduction as "The general knowledge music quiz", the questions are about music, from classical, jazz, pop, musicals, and all other forms of music. It was originally hosted by Ned Sherrin (1986–2006). In the chair for the 2007 series was Edward Seckerson with Paul Gambaccini taking over in 2008, following the death of Ned Sherrin in 2007. Russell Davies took over temporarily in 2013 following allegations made against Gambaccini, who returned to the show in November 2014 after being cleared of the allegations.Electric Counterpoint
Electric Counterpoint is a minimalist composition by the American composer Steve Reich. The piece consists of three movements, "Fast," "Slow", and "Fast". Reich has offered two versions of the piece: one for electric guitar and tape (the tape part featuring two electric bass guitars and up to ten electric guitars), the other for an ensemble of guitars.Fugue
In music, a fugue ( fewg) is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. It is not to be confused with a fuguing tune, which is a style of song popularized by and mostly limited to early American (i.e. shape note or "Sacred Harp") music and West Gallery music. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.In the Middle Ages, the term was widely used to denote any works in canonic style; by the Renaissance, it had come to denote specifically imitative works. Since the 17th century, the term fugue has described what is commonly regarded as the most fully developed procedure of imitative counterpoint.Most fugues open with a short main theme, the subject, which then sounds successively in each voice (after the first voice is finished stating the subject, a second voice repeats the subject at a different pitch, and other voices repeat in the same way); when each voice has entered, the exposition is complete. This is often followed by a connecting passage, or episode, developed from previously heard material; further "entries" of the subject then are heard in related keys. Episodes (if applicable) and entries are usually alternated until the "final entry" of the subject, by which point the music has returned to the opening key, or tonic, which is often followed by closing material, the coda. In this sense, a fugue is a style of composition, rather than a fixed structure.
The form evolved during the 18th century from several earlier types of contrapuntal compositions, such as imitative ricercars, capriccios, canzonas, and fantasias. The famous fugue composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) shaped his own works after those of Johann Jakob Froberger (1616–1667), Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706), Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643), Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707) and others. With the decline of sophisticated styles at the end of the baroque period, the fugue's central role waned, eventually giving way as sonata form and the symphony orchestra rose to a dominant position. Nevertheless, composers continued to write and study fugues for various purposes; they appear in the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), as well as modern composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975).Inversion (music)
In music theory, the word inversion has distinct, but related, meanings when applied to intervals, chords, voices (in counterpoint), and melodies. The concept of inversion also plays an important role in musical set theory.Johann Joseph Fux
Johann Joseph Fux (German: [ˈfʊks]; c. 1660 – 13 February 1741) was an Austrian composer, music theorist and pedagogue of the late Baroque era. He is most famous as the author of Gradus ad Parnassum, a treatise on counterpoint, which has become the single most influential book on the Palestrinian style of Renaissance polyphony. Almost all modern courses on Renaissance counterpoint, a mainstay of college music curricula, are indebted in some degree to this work by Fux.List of programs broadcast by Bravo
This is a list of programs broadcast by Bravo, an American cable and satellite television network owned by NBCUniversal that originated as a premium channel, when it launched in December 1980. The channel largely relies on reality television, with some feature films and syndicated programming.Point Counter Point
Point Counter Point is a novel by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1928. It is Huxley's longest novel, and was notably more complex and serious than his earlier fiction.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Point Counter Point 44th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.Polyphony
In music, polyphony is one type of musical texture, where a texture is, generally speaking, the way that melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic aspects of a musical composition are combined to shape the overall sound and quality of the work. In particular, polyphony consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony, or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords, which is called homophony.
Within the context of the Western musical tradition, the term polyphony is usually used to refer to music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Baroque forms such as fugue, which might be called polyphonic, are usually described instead as contrapuntal. Also, as opposed to the species terminology of counterpoint, polyphony was generally either "pitch-against-pitch" / "point-against-point" or "sustained-pitch" in one part with melismas of varying lengths in another. In all cases the conception was probably what Margaret Bent (1999) calls "dyadic counterpoint", with each part being written generally against one other part, with all parts modified if needed in the end. This point-against-point conception is opposed to "successive composition", where voices were written in an order with each new voice fitting into the whole so far constructed, which was previously assumed.
The term polyphony is also sometimes used more broadly, to describe any musical texture that is not monophonic. Such a perspective considers homophony as a sub-type of polyphony.Soft Skull Press
Soft Skull Press is an independent book publisher founded by Sander Hicks in 1992, and run by Richard Eoin Nash from 2001 to 2009, and Denise Oswald from 2009 to 2010. In 2007, Nash sold Soft Skull to Counterpoint LLC, who closed Soft Skull's New York operation in 2010. Counterpoint merged into fellow publisher Catapult in 2016; subsequently, Soft Skull reopened its New York office. It is distributed to the book trade by Publishers Group West.Steak au poivre
Steak au poivre (French pronunciation: [stɛk‿o pwavʁ], Quebec French pronunciation : [stei̯k‿o pwɑːvʁ]) or pepper steak is a French dish that consists of a steak, traditionally a filet mignon, coated with coarsely cracked peppercorns and then cooked. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked and provide a pungent but complementary counterpoint to the rich flavor of the high-quality beef.Wendell Berry
Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. He is also a 2013 Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Berry was named the recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. On January 28, 2015, he became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.You're Just in Love
"You're Just in Love" is a popular song by Irving Berlin. It was published in 1950 and was first performed by Ethel Merman and Russell Nype in Call Me Madam, a musical comedy that made its debut at the Imperial Theatre in New York City on October 12 that year. The show ran for 644 performances. Ethel Merman also later starred in the 1953 film version. Theatre lore has it that Berlin wrote the song one night after Call Me Madam was not doing well in tryouts. The second act of the show was lacking. "What I'd like to do is a song with the kid (Russell Nype)," Merman said. So, Berlin went to his room and later produced the counterpoint song. When Berlin played the song for Merman, she said, "We'll never get off the stage." Reportedly, Berlin played the song for Russell Nype first, but admonished him not to admit he did so because it would infuriate Merman.Several recorded versions made the charts in 1950-51: Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres' and His Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney and Guy Mitchell, and Ethel Merman and Dick Haymes.
The Perry Como/Fontane Sisters version was recorded on September 26, 1950 and released by RCA Victor as catalog number 20-3945 (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10221. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on December 22, 1950 and lasted 17 weeks on the chart, peaking at #5.The Rosemary Clooney/Guy Mitchell version was recorded on October 21, 1950 and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 39052. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on February 23, 1951 and lasted 2 weeks on the chart, peaking at #29.The Ethel Merman/Dick Haymes version was recorded on October 17, 1950 and released by Decca Records as catalog number 27317. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on March 30, 1951 and lasted 1 week on the chart, at #30. Although the lowest charting of the three, it got a considerable amount of airplay in subsequent years.
Semprini, piano with Rhythm accompaniment recorded it in London on January 25, 1951 as the first song of the medley "Dancing to the Piano (No. 12) - Part 2. Hit Medley of Foxtrots from 'Call Me Madam'" along with "The Best Thing for You" and "It's Lovely Day Today". The medley was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10231.
Musically, the song is one of Irving Berlin's three well-known songs that use true counterpoint—two equal and contrasting melodies running at the same time, both with independent lyrics - his two other best-known counterpoint songs being "Play a Simple Melody" and "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" (see the 1966 revival of Annie Get Your Gun). Berlin also made brilliant use of counterpoint in "Pack Up Your Sins (And Go To The Devil)," a song composed for the Music Box Revue of 1922. Berlin's two-melody counterpoint songs (along with some non-Berlin counterpoint songs) is parodied in Rick Besoyan's 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine. Besoyan has three harmonizing songs sung simultaneously: "Playing Croquet", "Swinging", and "How Do You Do". (The non-Berlin counterpoint songs include Meredith Willson's "Lida Rose" + "Will I Ever Tell You" from Willson's 1957 musical, The Music Man.)
This song was also covered by Chet Atkins in 1957, Jimmy Clanton in 1960, Louis Prima, Kay Starr, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. Ewan McGregor/Jane Horrocks also covered the song in a 2007 released album of further Little Voice songs.In April 2016, businessperson Carly Fiorina attracted media attention for singing her own lyrics to this tune, during a rally where Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced her as his choice for running mate.