A TREATISE ON COUNTERPOINT & FUGUE

Member of the French Institute; Director of the Conservatoire of Music;
Officer of the Legion of Honour, etc.

Translated, by Mrs. Cowden Clarke, from the original French, expressly for Novello's Library for the diffusion of Musical Knowledge. The musical portion has also been supervised by Mr. Josiah Pittman, Organist of Lincoln's Inn.

This work is adopted for the instruction of the classes at the Conservatoire, Paris; and of those at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

London: Novello, Ewer and Co.,
1854.

On The New Digital Edition

This digital edition is by Brian Bondari.

Much of what I wrote in the Preface to Counterpoint, by J. Frederick Bridge also applies to my work with Cherubini's monumental treatise. Unlike with Bridge's book on Counterpoint, with which I was unfamiliar until I stumbled across it in the summer of 2017, I had known about Cherubini's treatise since my days in graduate school.

Though both cover the subject of counterpoint, the two books are quite different. While Bridge's primer focuses almost exclusively on species counterpoint, Cherubini's work is a contrapuntal tour de force, moving beyond the species and covering nearly every imaginable type of counterpoint. Indeed, I've never seen a more comprehensive coverage of double counterpoint. What also sets apart Cherubini's treatise is the inclusion of ten full fugues, each of which has been analysed with annotations so that the student can follow the construction of the work.

This digital edition is far more than a digitally typeset version of the original. While a PDF of the 1854 book is available online under the public domain, I wanted a functional version of the book that I could use as a classroom textbook. The original PDF is a poor substitute for a textbook, for two main reasons: the formatting is rigid, and text search does not work. Creating a new digital edition of the work corrects these shortcomings, plus allows me to accomplish the following:

1. Updated formatting and vocabulary

Formatting: This new, digital edition should display beautifully on any computer, tablet, smartphone, or e-reader. The text should flow well, images automatically change size to fit the screen, and the contents are easy to search and bookmark.

Vocabulary: Cherubini originally wrote his treatise in French. My new digital edition is based on the English translation by Mary Cowden Clark. Given that I was working from a translation and not the original language, I decided not to treat the text as sacred. In particular, it seems that Clark's translation attempts to follow the original French as carefully as possible, leading to some long, tortured sentences full of numerous commas, semicolons, and colons. Indeed, I was surprised to discover many long paragraphs, which – upon closer inspection – contained ultimately only one grandiose sentence! To this end, I have worked to reduce the complexity of these sentences for the sake of clarity.

Since the translator was English, I have also taken the liberty to update some of the musical vocabulary to make the text more readable by American audiences. For instance, if you see a reference to a crotchet 1) or semibreve 2), I have added footnotes (as demonstrated here) that provide the American musical equivalent.

2. Updated musical examples, complete with media players

Updated musical examples: Here's the fun part. There are 580 musical examples in this book, many of which would thoroughly confound 21st Century music students. The simple reason for this is that nearly all of them utilize an alto clef, a tenor clef, or both. Rarely have I encountered a student who could comfortably sight-read a four-part musical example containing four different clefs: treble, alto, tenor, and bass. For better or worse (probably worse), this is a skill that has been lost over the centuries.

Every musical example in this new, digital edition now utilizes only treble and bass clefs. Ironically, by transcribing all of Cherubini's examples into these two “standard” clefs, my own familiarity and efficiency with the alto and tenor clefs has improved beyond my wildest dreams.

Digitizing all the musical examples also provided me the opportunity to clean up some issues with the original scan, such as notes that were difficult to read. Surprisingly to me, I was also able to fix dozens of typographical errors, both in the musical notation and in the prose.

The software that I used to engrave all the musical examples in this book is MuseScore. Though my students have been consistently using MuseScore for the last seven years or so, I've tended to cling to my beloved Finale™ for my own projects. So what, then, possessed me to switch to MuseScore for what at first seemed like an insurmountable number of musical examples in this book?

Primarily, I learned that MuseScore can harness command-line scripting options. Lest I delve down too far in the technical weeds here, suffice it to say that I was able to use MuseScore for the heavy lifting on all of tedious and repetitive tasks. With a little scripting magic, I could quickly accomplish the following for each musical example:

  • Create cropped images of the score (in the resolution of my choice)
  • Create MP3 and OGG audio files (for use in a variety of web browsers)
  • Upload all images and audio to my web-server (for sharing with the world)

Thanks to scripting, once I engraved each individual example, I could simply move on to the next. After I completed all the examples in a single chapter, then it was time to run my script to automate all the tedious aspects of turning the scores into audio and images.

Media players: The main advantage of this book is the addition of media players for each musical example. Textbooks on music, even so-called “modern” ones, lack the ability to play the musical examples straight from the page. Usually the process of hearing a musical example in a textbook involves fumbling with a CD/DVD, logging into a specific web portal from the publisher, or just giving up and searching the Internet.

Just as with Bridge's Counterpoint textbook, students can study an example and listen to it straight from the page. There's something satisfying about a 100+ year-old textbook in the public domain receiving a modern facelift, both in looks and in function. Indeed, this feature gives it a significant advantage over newer counterpoint texts, at least from a functional perspective.

How To Use This Book

The best way to access this book on a computer, tablet, or smartphone is to view the online version, which will automatically adjust to fit your screen. Start here with the Table of Contents.

You can also read this book by downloading an EPUB, which is viewable on an e-reader (Nook, Kobo, etc) or on any computer/smartphone/tablet with an e-book app. The EPUB format supports audio, but your individual e-reader may not, so I cannot make any guarantees as to the functionality of the e-reader version. I have personally tested it with Apple iBooks, and it works fine.

EPUB download: coming soon

Having now worked my way through all of Cherubini's treatise, I can say that I can't help but admire the abilities of the old contrapuntalist. Some of the examples that he gives simply fill me with awe, and I'm grateful to have gotten to know Cherubini's personal style more thoroughly through my work on this project. Of course, this new edition would never have been possible without the original book, so I offer my deepest thanks to Cherubini (the author), Clarke (the translator), and the countless other people whose work from the nineteenth century I am now continuing.

I also offer my gratitude to my employer, Trinity University, without whose salary support I would not be able offer this book to the music world for free.

And finally, and most importantly, I offer my undying thanks and appreciation to my wife, Katrina, who competently managed the antics (and theatrics) of three young children while I selfishly stole away to work like a man obsessed on this project.

~ B. B. B.

Trinity University,
San Antonio, Texas
September, 2018.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


1)
quarter note
2)
whole note
  • cherubini_counterpoint_and_fugue/title.txt
  • Last modified: 2019/04/10 14:22
  • by brian