Musical Counterpoint In The Baroque And Classical Eras

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Musical Counterpoint in the Baroque and Classical Eras Counterpoint, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, is the “art of combining different melodic lines in a musical composition. It is among the characteristic elements of Western musical practice” (Jackson). Counterpoint is very prevalent in Western music, from around the Renaissance Era to modern times, and has been common practice until the twentieth century (“Counterpoint”). From the Renaissance era to the Classical era, counterpoint has had the same general principles and structures, been utilized by great composers, such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and resulted in some of the most beautiful music. The guidelines of counterpoint, while having increased in freeness over …show more content…

Irene Girton states, “In the first species, each note in the underlying melody is accompanied by a single note in the new contrapuntal line with consonant harmonic intervals” (Girton). Essentially, the second line must match the rhythm of the first line and avoid dissonances. The second species, according to Girton, introduces harmonic dissonance in the form of a passing tone of the second line, so for every note of the original line, there are two notes in the new line (Girton). Next, the third species permits four notes contrapuntal notes against one, and “presents more complicated and challenging problems” (Girton). For example, a four quarter note line against a whole note will be difficult to reach a goal because of the increased possibility of dissonance. For the fourth species, Girton explains, “the Fourth species, like second species, permits two notes against one, but with a suspension figure” (Girton). This means that there can be a dissonance on the first beat that resolves on the second contrapuntal note. The last species to master before allowing free counterpoint encourages mixed rhythmic values in the contrapuntal line, with possible embellishment (ornamentation) or other elaborations (Girton). As one masters each species, the created contrapuntal lines become more dissonant and complex, thus increasing both the complication of the music

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