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Basic counterpoint and the basic way music makes meaningful points

Bradley Lehman
wrote (June 16, 2004):
< So, I'll take that as a "no" : i.e., you're unable and unwilling to do even the simplest contrapuntal exercise to demonstrate your musical competence. >
p.s. Another list member sent me the correct answers to those theoretical questions (the three situational questions about the notes that come next, having been set up by four melodic notes over a bass of C), less than half an hour after I posted them; confirming that the questions themselves are not difficult to answer if one has the basic musical acumen Bach expected of his teenaged pupils. The questions (copied again below) are not faulty. I'll post the answers sometime next week if anybody's interested.

As I said the first time, this exercise in toto is something like five minutes of allotment on a written ENTRANCE exam for graduate study in 18th century music, or three minutes to test out of basic keyboard skills with an examiner at the keyboard. These questions are about what's normal; the essential basis before one can know as a listener or a musician what any composer has done that is surprising, against the background. Meaning comes most deeply from surprises and irregularities, not from norms: the perceptible irregularities set the recipient's mind to scurrying to assign meaning and value, figuring out why the utterance has been one pattern and not another one. That's basic human communication, and the way music works. Any listener who doesn't understand the basic background first is going to miss at least some of the composer's meaning.

>>1. Over a bass note C a soprano melody goes C-D-E-(leap up)-Bb. On the next downbeat, what are the most likely bass and soprano notes, and why?

2. Over a bass note C the soprano melody goes D-Eb-D-F#. Now what are the next notes in bass and soprano, most likely, and why?

3. Over a bass note C the soprano goes A-G#-A-(leap up)-D; what two bass notes most likely come on the next two beats, with what soprano notes against them on those two beats...and why?<<

Jeremy Martin wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] May I ask what this conversation is about exactly? I missed the beginning being I just re-joined the mailing list.

Also, may I ask why these 3 questions are important? I would not be able to answer them yet I can write a 4 part Fugue on a given theme (that is if the theme is workable enough for 4) Naturally I know where the music is going. How much can having the knowledge of these 3 questions help someone in composition? I found after reading things like "The Study of Counterpoint" J.J.Fux helps somewhat, but for the most part within I know where the music is going without knowing why, where it is going appears in my mindseye. I know there are many with great musical theory knowledge and cannot compose very good at all, on the other hand I have found there are some composers with very little knowledge that compose some very good works without knowledge. So how important is it to know these 3 questions?

Brad, are you at the "University of Michigan"?

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Last update: June 19, 2004 12:33:30