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Schenker's Theory of Counterpoint (cont.)
Back to Guide | Introduction | Consonance & Dissonance | 2 Part Counterpoint | Species Counterpoint

Two part counterpoint
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Species counterpoint teaches students how the very simple progressions of first species can expanded until they form the basis for the much more complex counterpoint of fifth species. Schenker proposed that actual music is also based on the same simple progressions as species counterpoint exercises.

Unlike students of species counterpoint, composers do not have to write according to strict rules (although most tonal composers would have known them). Even without knowing anything about Schenkerian analysis it is obvious that this excerpt from Mozart's G Minor Symphony KV 550 is somehow a decoration of the simple progression highlighted in red.

This two-voice contrapuntal structure could be found in many species counterpoint exercises and Schenker's theory eventually explains how most tonal music can be understood to follow the the same sorts of rules introduced in species counterpoint.

The numbers between the staves refer to the intervals between the two outer parts - a compound third followed by a descending pair of sixths.