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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-21-2003, 01:51 AM Thread Starter
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What is "Counter Melody"?

I read this somewhere and was wondering what it meant. Ideas? Info?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2003, 04:27 PM
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Counter Melody is also known as Counterpoint. Its origin is in polyphonic Renaissance music. It is basicaly two (or more) completely seperate and stand-alone melodies that intertwine together, like a puzzle actually. I really enjoy writing counterpoint, although i've only just gotten to the fourth species of counterpoint (there are five in all, 1) note for note 2) two notes for one 3)three or four notes to one 4) Syncopation. 5) all of the above together)
hope that helps!
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2003, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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So it's polyrhythmic in nature? At least for the species 2 through 5?
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-23-2003, 07:35 PM
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Actually there is a really amazing song called "Counterpoint" that is all polyphonic melodies..I forget the guys name though, its amazing...the melodies are almost percussive.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2003, 07:06 PM
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Countermelody not the same as counterpoint. It is more of a generic term that classical musicians use. Yes it is derived from counterpoint but it is not the same thing.

Counterpoint is a specific technical compositional technique based on note values and interval rules. The different forms of counterpoint are called "species". Here they are again (already mentioned by Ash)

Species One: note against note - for each Cantus Firmus (melodic line - CF) note there is one note composed in counterpoint (second line)

Species Two: Two notes in the counterpoint against one CF note

Species Three: 4 notes in the counterpoint against each CF note

Species Four: Often called Syncopation but it's purpose is to provide suspensions and really the syncopation "feel" that makes you want to move cannot be felt due to the slow tempo

Species Five: All of the above.

It's not as simple as that though because there are many many many intervallic and harmony rules and conventions that apply to the different species concerning dissonances allowed on certain beats or fractions of a beat, rising and falling lines, starting intervals, preparation and resolution of dissonances and suspensions, parallel oblique and contrary movement, etc......

So that's Counterpoint. Countermelody is a different thing - it is a term applied to a second (and subordinate) melody. The counterpoint you might write can be a countermelody, but in most cases isn't - it's usually not a singular melody line in it's own right. (a harmonically fitting series of notes and values does not automatically equal a countermelody).
In basic terms, the countermelody is a second tune that goes along with the main tune but isn't as important or strong as the main melody.

As far as counterpoint species being polyrhythmic in nature - no they are most definitely not. In fact they are by their definitions restricted from producing polyrhythms. To be truely polyrhythmic, the two superimposed ryhthms must be relatively prime to one another - they have no common divisor other than 1 (semiquavers against triplet quavers or triplet crotchets for example). In species counterpoint, all rhythms are strictly related to each other with the counterpoint note values being a divisor of the Cantus Firmus (that's the whole basis and point of species counterpoint!) Minims against Semibreves (species 2), Crotchets against Semibreves (Species 3), Semibreves against Semibreves (albeit offest by 2 beats - Species 4) and any mixture of those are all euqlly divisible - they "fit" with each other.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-24-2003, 08:28 PM
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Interesting stuff Spagbol.

Can you recommend any good books on the subject(s) ?
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 03:36 PM
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Ok, my mistake Spagbol! But wow, the way you make Counterpoint look like a difficult thing...
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 04:34 PM
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No real mistake Ash, the 2 words are quite often used when meaning the other - much like code and cypher.

Just to clarify, Species counterpoint is a very specific thing and is often used as a way of teaching what was/is considered 'good' writing. The point of studying species counterpoint is to develop knowledge and use of the rules of good counterpoint writing. Because of that, the rules must be strictly adhered to or the exercise of doing species counterpoint is pointless.

It can become quite complex purely because the more notes in the counterpoint, the more rules there are to follow because many more situations can arise. Therefore sticking to the rules can become a little tricky!

For a very brief introduciton into just some of the rules you must follow for strict species counterpoint, try here:
http://www.schenkerguide.com/species1.html (and the other species links)

For examples of more in depth rules for species counterpoint see here:
http://www.unh.edu/music/Counterpoint/2_2_Rules.htm (2nd species 2 part)
http://www.unh.edu/music/Counterpoint/2_3_Rules.htm (2nd species 3 part)
http://www.unh.edu/music/Counterpoint/3_2_Rules.htm (3rd species 2 part)

As far as books go, "Counterpoint in Composition - the study of voice leading" by Felix Salzer and Carl Schachter is very thorough. Here's the book index:
Part 1. The Techniques of Elementary Counterpoint
1. Cantus Firmus and First Species
1. Cantus Firmus
2. Two-part Counterpoint, First Species
3. Three-part Counterpoint, First Species
2. Second Species
1. Two-part Counterpoint
2. Three-point Counterpoint
3. Third Species
1. Two-part Counterpoint
2. Three-part Counterpoint
3. Three Notes against One
4. Fourth Species
1. Two-part Counterpoint
2. Three-part Counterpoint
5. Fifth Species
1. Two-part Counterpoint
2. Three-part Counterpoint
Part 2. The Techniques of Prolonged Counterpoint
6. Counterpoint in Composition, I
1. The Direct Application of Species Counterpoint
2. Two Major Influences on Contrapuntal Texture
7. Counterpoint in Composition, II
1. Melodic-contrapuntal Prolongations
2. Counterpoint within Prolonged Chords
3. The Evolution of Dissonance
4. Repetition and Articulation
5. Harmonic Influences on Voice Leading
6. Chromaticism; Contrapuntal Leading-tone Chords
7. Octaves and Fifths
8. The Chorale
1. The Elements of Chorale Writing
2. Setting a Single Phrase
3. Setting Groups of Two or More Phrases
4. The Complete Chorale
9. Combined Species
1. Combination of Two Second Species
2. Combination of Second and Third Species
3. Combination of Second and Fourth Species
4. Combination of Third and Fourth Species
5. Combination of Two Fifth Species
6. Progressions from Combined Species in Composition
10. Voice-Leading Techniques in Historical Perspective (ca. 1450-ca. 1900)

Heinrich Schenker also wrote 2 books on Counterpoint which are very good but fairly hard to get hold of.
I was quite lucky because my history of music professor at music college was a singer with a special interest in counterpoint! Made it alot easier than learning it by myself out of a book
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 04:42 PM
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Wow! i didn't realize... of course though! of course there are 3 and more part counterpoints, and chromatics and key changes... i haven't started studying chords, yet (starting sometime in a couple of weeks), so all i've been doing is adding one voice to the CF! i guess that could get a little complicated...
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 05:00 PM
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"Vai the God of sound" I think the piece you're refering to is Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich? It has some lovely bits in it!

He also wrote a piece called New York Counterpoint for clarinet and Vermont Counterpoint for Flute. For each piece, each part is prerecorded by the performer who plays the last part (11 parts in total for New York Counterpoint for example) along with the tape for the performance.

Pat Metheney did a recording of Electric Counterpoint which is easy to get hold of. Every now and then an enterprising musician at a music college will attempt a performance in a recital, usually recording each part in front of the audience and gradually building it up.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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Head...... hurt...........well, thanks for trying to get me to understand. I'll leave this stuff til later.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-26-2003, 09:38 PM
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Thanks for the references Spagbol.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-04-2003, 01:42 PM
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Great Spagbol!

I know this stuff, but I didn't connect with the english expressions before I read most of your first post. This is what makes music fun! (Seriously!)

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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2010, 04:36 PM
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Wink recommendation

if you want to listen to pieces that have counterpoints in them, i would recommend electric counterpoint, by Steve Reich.
its a really amazing song, i have studied it in my music gcse.
its one of my favorite pieces, its played with ten guitars, one live, four electric, three strummed and two bass. the resultant melody is amazing. its well worth listening to
hope you enjoy it
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2010, 06:06 PM
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Re: What is "Counter Melody"?

Wow, random thread revival!

Interesting stuff on counterpoint posted.

A counter melody can be a really short phrase or last a whole section, and adds interest to the main melody of the piece.

A counter melody is a distinct melody in itself, and can stand alone without the main melody and still sound musical, whereas a harmony part can often sound dull in isolation.

A great example of counter melody is in the famous march, Colonol Bogey. The main tune for the second time is supported by a long, winding melody.
In the Trio there is another awesome counter melody.
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