Discussion:
Question about Steps to Parnassus
(too old to reply)
i***@yahoo.com
2005-04-15 20:26:24 UTC
Permalink
I've begun reading the Alfred Mann translation of Fux's "Steps to
Parnassus". No later than the second page, there is dialogue between
Palestrina and Fux, as follows:

Aloys. - "...the four rules in the preceding book?"
Joseph. - "I believe I know all of this."

[Ed. - ("I insert here the conclusion of the First Book, to which Fux
refers:")]

What is this first book? Who authored it?

I know that Gradus ad Parnassum lays down some exceptionally strict
rules about counterpoint. Did Palestrina write similarly prescriptive
rules for creating melodies, or Cantus Firmus?
Matthew Fields
2005-04-15 21:12:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I've begun reading the Alfred Mann translation of Fux's "Steps to
Parnassus". No later than the second page, there is dialogue between
Aloys. - "...the four rules in the preceding book?"
Joseph. - "I believe I know all of this."
[Ed. - ("I insert here the conclusion of the First Book, to which Fux
refers:")]
What is this first book? Who authored it?
I know that Gradus ad Parnassum lays down some exceptionally strict
rules about counterpoint. Did Palestrina write similarly prescriptive
rules for creating melodies, or Cantus Firmus?
You might check the bibliography of the Mann to see what he's referring to.
--
Matthew H. Fields http://personal.www.umich.edu/~fields
Music: Splendor in Sound
To be great, do things better and better. Don't wait for talent: no such thing.
Brights have a naturalistic world-view. http://www.the-brights.net/
Steve Latham
2005-04-15 21:32:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I've begun reading the Alfred Mann translation of Fux's "Steps to
Parnassus". No later than the second page, there is dialogue between
Aloys. - "...the four rules in the preceding book?"
Joseph. - "I believe I know all of this."
[Ed. - ("I insert here the conclusion of the First Book, to which Fux
refers:")]
What is this first book? Who authored it?
IIRC the Fux book is in multiple parts, and the first part dealt with
rudmimentary stuff - here's a C, this is the doraian mode, etc. Mann assumed
the reader would know all of that stuff if they were at all interested in
this and picks up basically where the basics end and the "rules" begin.
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I know that Gradus ad Parnassum lays down some exceptionally strict
rules about counterpoint. Did Palestrina write similarly prescriptive
rules for creating melodies, or Cantus Firmus?
Fux is like 1722 or 1725 (whichever is not, is the date for Rameau's text).
He was "laying down rules" after the fact, like most theory texts. I don't
know that Palestrina wrote any such teaching methods. One thing you might
want to look at is Knud Jeppesen's Counterpoint. It not only is a manual on
counterpoint (in the style of Palestrina) but is a virtual compendium of
what Mr. P would and would not use.

Remember too that many C.F. that Palestrina used had existed for hundreds of
years already (although by his time, people were starting to compose their
own a little more freely). They used the "rules" of all those existing
melodies when writing their own. It wasn't like it was prescriptive as you
say, it was more like "hey, this is how it's done, so this is how I'll do
it". Kind of like modern players who are going to write a pop song assume
it's going to be for guitar bass and drums (and maybe keys and vocals of
course). There's no "rule" that says a "rock group" must be this ensemble,
but if some aliens came down and looked at all the "rock" songs from the
50's through now, they'd notice that oboes aren't a core member of the
ensemble. So in retrospect, if they wanted to write a how to write earthling
rock music text, they'd say - write for Guitar Bass Drums and Vox, etc.

Steve
Margo Schulter
2005-04-16 01:14:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I've begun reading the Alfred Mann translation of Fux's "Steps to
Parnassus". No later than the second page, there is dialogue between
Aloys. - "...the four rules in the preceding book?"
Joseph. - "I believe I know all of this."
[Ed. - ("I insert here the conclusion of the First Book, to which Fux
refers:")]
What is this first book? Who authored it?
Hello, there, and this book is indeed a quick set of rudiments
including some rules for progressing from one consonance to
another. As I recall:

(1) One progresses from a perfect to another perfect concord by
contrary motion (or sometimes oblique motion) rather than parallel or
similar motion.

(2) One progresses freely from perfect to imperfect concord, with all
varieties of motion available.

(3) One progresses freely from imperfect to imperfect concord.

(4) One progresses from imperfect to perfect concord by contrary (or
sometimes oblique) motion, at least as a general norm.

[A check of a text suggests that these are substantially what Fux says]

Anyway, these are general guidelines applying most consistently to
two-voice writing.
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I know that Gradus ad Parnassum lays down some exceptionally strict
rules about counterpoint. Did Palestrina write similarly prescriptive
rules for creating melodies, or Cantus Firmus?
Actually, I'm not sure about "exceptionally strict" -- Fux gives a
kind of early 18th-century perspective on what he regards as "the best
of 16th-century technique" for developing techniques that can be
applied to current styles (c. 1725), also. In Fux's view -- and this
is important, and a big controversy in early 18th-century German music
theory -- modern music of the time is still based on the system of
modes, albeit with some innovations and licenses. Other people are
arguing that a system of 24 major and minor keys is the basis for
modern technique, with quite a lot of excitement in the 1710's on this
topic.

The modern developments are emphasized in Fux's later sections of
_Gradus ad Parnassum_, where he discusses liberties with the taking of
dissonances, for example, and the technique of fugue.

As for Palestrina himself, he seems to teach mostly be example, indeed
setting a standard for a "severe style" where dissonance is ever so
finely regulated, in comparison with lots of 16th-century practice
(sacred and secular). There is an interesting letter he wrote, in one
of Jeppesen's books, to a noble and student of his about certain
points of counterpoint, which Jeppesen takes in one passage to counsel
a preference for avoding certain progressions where a sixth moves to a
fifth by similar motion (something that sort of ties in with Fux's
general guidelines for moving between consonances).

There are lots of 16th-century counterpoint manuals, and these show
how the rules were being viewed at the time. Gioseffo Zarlino's
_Musical Institutions_ of 1558, and more specifically the Third Book
on counterpoint, is probably the most important text, with lots of
people borrowing or quoting from him.

Some of the rules and methods found in Fux seem to come from the epoch
around 1600, with Girolamo Diruta and Adriano Banchieri presenting
things like certain types of counterpoint (note against note, two
notes against one, consonant or dissonant suspensions, four notes
against one, florid combinations of these) that become a basis for the
species approach, and axioms about how to move from a perfect to
another perfect consonance, or imperfect to perfect, etc.

Of course, some of the rules of counterpoint are much older: the term
"counterpoint" (or _contrapunctus_, originally meaning a simple
two-voice style with "point against point" or note against note) seems
to date around 1300.

Diruta makes an interesting distinction between "observant"
counterpoint, a stricter variety about thing like approaching perfect
consonances by contrary or oblique rather than similar motion, and
"common" counterpoint, which allows licenses like similar motion to a
perfect consonance as long as direct parallel perfect consonances are
avoided (a standard rule holding consistently in "serious"
compositions starting by around 1450). The idea is that observant
counterpoint is most elegant to compose, but "common" counterpoint is
easier to improvise at a keyboard, for example.

People like Thomas Morley (1597), the author of a fine treatise called
_A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music_ with large portions
devoted to counterpoint (also known as descant) and composition, note
certain liberties like the practice in some Italian styles of "hitting
an octave on its face" -- that is, approaching an octave by similar
motion. Morley disapproves it, and cautions his students not to
imitate this kind of "less observant" style, as Diruta might call it,
but his criticism illustrates how tastes or degrees of "contrapuntal
correctness" could vary.

Most appreciatively,

Margo Schulter
***@calweb.com
Bob Pease
2005-04-16 01:48:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Margo Schulter
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I've begun reading the Alfred Mann translation of Fux's "Steps to
Parnassus". No later than the second page, there is dialogue between
Aloys. - "...the four rules in the preceding book?"
Joseph. - "I believe I know all of this."
[Ed. - ("I insert here the conclusion of the First Book, to which Fux
refers:")]
What is this first book? Who authored it?
Hello, there, and this book is indeed a quick set of rudiments
including some rules for progressing from one consonance to
(1) One progresses from a perfect to another perfect concord by
contrary motion (or sometimes oblique motion) rather than parallel or
similar motion.
(2) One progresses freely from perfect to imperfect concord, with all
varieties of motion available.
(3) One progresses freely from imperfect to imperfect concord.
(4) One progresses from imperfect to perfect concord by contrary (or
sometimes oblique) motion, at least as a general norm.
[A check of a text suggests that these are substantially what Fux says]
Anyway, these are general guidelines applying most consistently to
two-voice writing.
Post by i***@yahoo.com
I know that Gradus ad Parnassum lays down some exceptionally strict
rules about counterpoint. Did Palestrina write similarly prescriptive
rules for creating melodies, or Cantus Firmus?
Actually, I'm not sure about "exceptionally strict" -- Fux gives a
kind of early 18th-century perspective on what he regards as "the best
of 16th-century technique" for developing techniques that can be
applied to current styles (c. 1725), also.
OK
I tried Fux some years ago but his general approach drove me nutz..
Maybe I'll work through a few with a different perspective.

The main problem is that he gives an exercise,
and the reader and the "Student" in the text think it has been done
correctly. ( which it HAS, by the rules given so far) but then we get

"Well, normally, that would be cool, but There's something here we didn't
tell you about..so here's a SURPRISING NEW RULE to cover this situation."
It just seems to be peculiar psychology to do this, but maybe they were used
to it in those days.
If I did it in Math Class, students would be standing in line at the Dean's
Office.

Sic transit??

RJ Pease
Steve Latham
2005-04-16 20:59:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bob Pease
OK
I tried Fux some years ago but his general approach drove me nutz..
Maybe I'll work through a few with a different perspective.
The main problem is that he gives an exercise,
and the reader and the "Student" in the text think it has been done
correctly. ( which it HAS, by the rules given so far) but then we get
"Well, normally, that would be cool, but There's something here we didn't
tell you about..so here's a SURPRISING NEW RULE to cover this situation."
It just seems to be peculiar psychology to do this, but maybe they were used
to it in those days.
Bob, I can't remember any of my fancy book learnin, but I think this (and
please correct me someone if I'm wrong) is called the Socratic method,
versus whatever the "normal" way (Aristotlean?) would be. The basic premise
is:
Bob write a melody.
Bob writes melody.
Very nice Bob, but this, this, this, this, and this is wrong.
Oh great master forgive me, but how will I know how to do it right when you
haven't told me.
Patience my son, you will learn (after I make you feel totally incompetent
by frustrating you).

I think our modern psychology prefers a less demoralizing approach! I've
always hated this aspect of the text too. But after getting used to it (or
in fact, ignoring it) I was able to get the info out.

If you want to work through something, you might try Robert Gauldin's
Practical Approach to 16th Century Cpt (there's an 18th cent too) - it's a
little more, well, practical, and MUCH more modern! (there's a lot of
incongruities within the text,but I still found it valuable).
Post by Bob Pease
If I did it in Math Class, students would be standing in line at the Dean's
Office.
LOL

Steve
Margo Schulter
2005-04-18 22:21:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Latham
Post by Bob Pease
"Well, normally, that would be cool, but There's something here we didn't
tell you about..so here's a SURPRISING NEW RULE to cover this situation."
It just seems to be peculiar psychology to do this, but maybe they were used
to it in those days.
Hi, everyone, and here I consider a very important factor in Fux the
affectionate trust between teacher and student, so that the "surprise"
is presented in a friendly way, not an attempt to put down the
student.

In fact, I find the trial and error a very natural approach reflecting
what happens when one sets out to learn a complex set of stylistic
conventions -- as long as the corrections are friendly and encouraging.
Post by Steve Latham
Bob, I can't remember any of my fancy book learnin, but I think this (and
please correct me someone if I'm wrong) is called the Socratic method,
versus whatever the "normal" way (Aristotlean?) would be. The basic premise
Bob write a melody.
Bob writes melody.
Very nice Bob, but this, this, this, this, and this is wrong.
Oh great master forgive me, but how will I know how to do it right when you
haven't told me.
Patience my son, you will learn (after I make you feel totally incompetent
by frustrating you).
While learning through mistakes might install a degree of humility
(the kind of thing I experience, for example, when I find that I'm
playing a passage on keyboard and concluding on the wrong note, or at
least an unintended finger for the intended note), it needn't make
someone feel "totally incompetent" -- this is where the tone of the
teacher, or the text, can in my view make a difference.

This isn't to say that there hasn't been a lot of abusive teaching of
music, neatly satirized around 1700 by Niedt in an entertaining
introduction to his treatise on thoroughbass (a favorite from the
original _Source Readings in Music History_).
Post by Steve Latham
If you want to work through something, you might try Robert Gauldin's
Practical Approach to 16th Century Cpt (there's an 18th cent too) - it's a
little more, well, practical, and MUCH more modern! (there's a lot of
incongruities within the text,but I still found it valuable).
Apart from the question of style here discussed, I would agree that
Fux is presenting only one method, and that there's a lot to be said
for a "direct approach" to 16th-century counterpoint following the
texts of that period, and some modern presentations like Gauldin's.

One difference is that both the 16th-century sources and these modern
approaches tend to do a bit of note-against-note counterpoint and then
move to "diminished counterpoint" with a variety of note values. Some
modern texts also give a lot of early attention to the patterns of
16th-century _melody_ and rhythm.

Also, modern texts tend to be based on a thorough stylistic analysis
of 16th-century compositions.

Thus I enjoy Fux both as an interesting approach and as great musical
literature, but would tend to rely more on 16th-century and modern
"direct" approaches as a primary strategy.

Most appreciatively,

Margo Schulter
***@bestii.com

Continue reading on narkive:
Loading...