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Counterpoint Dictionary

Counterpoint. This a translation of the Latin contra punctum literally "against the point." Notes were called points, and when a part was added to a theme, it was said to be set "against the point."
Cantus. The song or theme.
Cantus firmus. the "firm song." In ancient times C.P. was always written against a well-known theme, generally a "Gregorian" melody. This being inalterable (in theory) was called the "firm" or "fixed song."
Canon. (A Greek word, meaning a law.) This name is given to two widely different forms of composition. Its proper application is to a composition in which each voice repeats, note for note, everything that the preceding voice or voices have had. It is loosely applied to a composition in which one voice leads with a complete melody, which is sung by the remaining voices in turn, while the voices that have already had the melody sing an accompaniment. One of the finest examples is the trio in the first act of "Fidelio."
Fugue.A composition in which a given theme is heard repeatedly in verious related keys, the repetitions being connected by what are called Episodes.
Species. This term is used to indicate the kind of C.P. that is written against a theme. In Strict Counterpoint five species are given:
  • 1st: One note of C.P. to each note of theme.
  • 2nd: Two notes of C.P. to each note of theme.
  • 3rd: Four notes of C.P. to each note of theme.
  • 4th: Tno notes with Suspensions, to each note of theme.
  • 5th: What is called Florid Counterpoint, which is a mixture of all the precedingt species.
In this work Modern Counterpoint is divided into two species only:
1st: Note against note.
2nd: C.P. with unessential dissonances, i.e., with Suspensions, Retardations, Changing-notes, and Passing-notes. The rules being almost the same for the use of this class of dissonances, any further subdivision is unnecessary. All species may be written in any number of parts from two upwards. Any two, or all species, may be written together with the same theme.

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