Four-Part Counterpoint

Besides the established rules for syncopation in two-part and three-part counterpoint, and which should serve as a guide in the present order, there are other precepts and injunctions to be added to those which have been heretofore laid down with regard to syncopation.

Rule 62

In the first place, the chord should always be complete in a bar, either when the syncopation forms a discord 1), or a concord 2); in the latter case, if the chord be not complete on the accented part of the bar, it must necessarily be so on the unaccented portion.

Rule 63

All the discords 3) may be employed; in what manner is here seen:

Employment of the 4-3 suspension

Employment of the 7-6 suspension

Employment of the 9-8 suspension

Employment of the 2-1 suspension

Observation – It was said in Rule 62 that the chord should be complete, when the syncopation forms a discord 4); and upon examining the preceding examples, it will appear at first that the chords are not complete at the moment of the occurrence of the discord 5); nevertheless, they are so, if it be remembered that discords are merely suspensions of concords 6). According to that, the discord 7) need only be left out, and the resolution substituted, in order to make it clear that the chord is complete upon the accented part of each bar.
Extension of the rule – It has just been said in what manner discords 8) should be introduced into four parts, by letting there be but one chord in a bar; there will now be shown another manner of accompanying them, which necessarily produces two chords in a bar, and which sometimes alters the resolution of the discord 9) by causing it to descend upon another interval than that upon which it is usually resolved.

These examples include two kinds of discords 10): one of which is always suspensions, but the concord 11) upon which the suspension is resolved forms a new harmony that differs from that which occurs with the suspended note, as in the examples marked 1 and 2. The others are not suspensions, they are discords 12) introduced into the chord, and which form part of it, as in examples A, B, and C. Thus those composite chords are obtained, called chord of the dominant seventh, of the seventh, of the second, etc.

By these different examples, it is seen, that the discord 13) of the fourth may resolved upon the fifth, or upon the sixth; that the seventh may be resolved upon the sixth, or upon the third and the fifth conjointly; that the discord of the ninth is resolved upon the octave or upon the third, or upon the sixth; and that, lastly, the discord of the second may be accompanied either by the fourth alone, either perfect of superfluous, or by the fourth and sixth at the same time.

It should be remembered what has been said in Rule 54, respecting the manner of introducing discords upon a sustained sound in the under part called a Pedal. It shall be reverted to here, as a reminder that they may be introduced nearly in the same way in four parts; the fourth part which supervenes, occasioning no difference, in what has been said.

Former example

Latter example

By leaving out the pedal from these two examples, it will be seen that what takes place upon the pedal in the former example, is, in fact, no other than a succession of discords of the seventh, resolved upon the sixth; and that what takes place upon that in the latter example, is a succession of seconds.

Other examples are here shown of different ways of introducing discords upon a pedal. These examples are quoted from the works of Palestrina, by which it will be seen that this classic has used the discord of the fourth without preparation, in order that it may become its own preparation.

Quoted from Palestrina

The use of the imperfect fifth is also permitted, provided it be introduced thus:

It might be thought, at first sight, that all these combinations are inadmissible in the present order, since, in imitation of the same order in two-part and three-part counterpoint, minims 14) should not be employed here excepting in the part where the syncopations occur, while the other three parts should have but one semibreve (whole-note)) in each bar; but in this order of four-part counterpoint, it is allowed, when the case requires it, to substitute occasionally two minims 15) for the semibreve 16), in the parts which do not form the given cantus firmus. This method may be employed for dissonant syncopations, as well as for consonant syncopations, therefore, by the help of this permissions, it is possible to introduce discords 17) whenever they may occur, in the manner pointed out in the preceding examples, and thus easily escape from some embarrassing passages. These means should be employed with reserve, and without abusing the permission. The example of a given cantus firmus, accompanied by three other parts, will show the proper mode of operation as regards the present order.

Quoted from Fuchs 18)

As may be seen by this example, the two minims 19) substituted for a semibreve 20), are not prodigally used; and this must be observed, in order to become accustomed to overcome the difficulties of having only semibreves 21) in all the parts, excepting in that which contains the syncopations. See the following examples:

These examples present some unisons, upon the unaccented parts of the bar, between the two middle parts; these unisons are, in some sort, tolerated in this order, on account of the restraint which arises from the obligation to have all the syncopations in the same part. At the same time I would recommend much discretion in the use of these unisons, which should only be introduced after all means of avoiding them have been fruitlessly tried.

After having gone through all the exercises sufficiently, in the way denoted in this order, the orders of two minims 22) and of four crotchets 23) may be mingled with syncopation; giving, alternately, to each part, one of these orders:

Example from Fuchs 24)

The crotchet 25) part may be commenced by a rest, thus–

and the minim 26) part, by a bar-and-a-half rest, in order to give more elegance to the introduction of each part:


1) , 4) , 5) , 7) , 9) , 13)
dissonance
2) , 11)
consonance
3) , 8) , 10) , 12) , 17)
dissonances
6)
consonances
14) , 15) , 19) , 22)
half-notes
16) , 20)
whole-note
18) , 24)
Fux
21)
whole-notes
23)
quarter notes
25)
quarter note
26)
half-note
  • cherubini_counterpoint_and_fugue/four_part_counterpoint/fourth_order.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/07/19 23:29
  • by brian