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Section 30.1 Species Counterpoint

The seminal composition text, Gradus ad Parnassum (1725), by Johann Joseph Fux, teaches contrapuntal composition through “species counterpoint.” Species counterpoint uses simple rhythmic values and teaches composers how to write one, two, three, or four notes against a larger value, usually a whole note. In this text, we will focus on writing for two voices. In a semester-long college course in counterpoint, one typically learns to write for up to four voices.

Counterpoint can be thought of as the simultaneous sounding of two or more melodic lines. An example is shown below.

Figure 30.1.1. Bach, J.S., Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, Fugue 3 in C-sharp major, BWV 848

Textures made of counterpoint are called “contrapuntal” and can be contrasted with melody-accompaniment textures, which are called “homophonic.”