Species counterpoint, not harmony

February 3, 2011

Many of my students get confused thinking that my instructions in Species Counterpoint is “different” than what they learned in harmony. I remind them that this is not harmony, rather a systematic exploration of two-part contrapuntal textures. Two parts imply harmonies and are often harmonically ambiguous. We (UCLA) find that few schools in Southern California teach Species Counterpoint these days. I was at first skeptical of the method, but now I am convinced that it is a terrific tool for teaching hearing, performing and composing in two parts. Granted, it is in a stylistic language stuck in the 17th century, but it is like learning a language: things go a certain way because that’s just the way that it is.

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