Preliminary Propositions

The ancient composers, since Guido Aretino's 1) time, have admitted only two perfect concords 2): the octave and the perfect fifth; and two imperfect concords 3): the third and the sixth.

The first are called perfect because they are immutable. The second are called imperfect because they admit of being altered, and may be either major or minor.

The discords 4) are: the second, the fourth, the seventh, and the ninth. These discords 5) can only be employed when prepared by a concord 6), and resolved by another, unless they are used “passingly”, of which we shall hereafter speak.

The imperfect fifth, and the augmented fourth, or tritone, were rejected by the ancients; they should, therefore, only be employed in strict counterpoint, as passing discords 7).

Observation – I here state, once for all, that in speaking of modern strict counterpoint, I merely use the word “modern” in reference to the tonal system; but, as regards the chords themselves, I have invariably used those met with in the ancient authors, – viz: the chord of the third and fifth, the chord of the third and sixth, and the discords 8) above mentioned. It is only in treating fugue, that the pupil can allow himself more latitude.

By the word “movement”, the progression of one sound to another, is understood; either melodically, in a single part, or harmonically, where there are several parts at once. Melodically, conjunct movement is the name given to a succession of sounds proceeding gradually, thus: –

Disjunct movement is the name given to sounds succeeding each other by intervals: –

Harmonically, “direct”, “right”, or similar movement is the name given to the progression of two or more parts ascending or descending in the same direction: –

Direct movement in two parts

Direct movement in three parts

Contrary movement takes place where one part ascends, while the other descends: –

When one or more parts ascend or descend, while one or more other parts remain unmoved, it is called oblique movement: –

Oblique movement in two parts

Oblique movement in three parts

Oblique movement in four parts

The most elegant of these three movements is contrary movement; oblique movement holds the second rank; of direct movement sparing use should be made, because it gives rise to defects which will hereafter be pointed out.

It may be added, that in all species of counterpoint here treated of, as well as in fugue, the pupil should write for voices and not for instruments. It will therefore be necessary that he should conform to the natural compass of the different kinds of voices. He will find therein the advantage of learning to produce effects with voices alone, a study not only difficult, but too much neglected; and he will afterwards find himself much more at ease, in writing for instruments, when he will no longer be obliged to restrain himself within the limits of the voice.

Guido d'Arezzo
2) , 3)
4) , 5) , 7) , 8)
  • cherubini_counterpoint_and_fugue/preliminary_propositions.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/06/13 10:42
  • by brian