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A Brief Guide to Species Counterpoint (cont.)
Back to Counterpoint | First Species | Second Species | Third Species | Fourth Species | Fifth Species


Fifth Species (a combination of previous species)
This is the closest that the species counterpoint comes to free composition. Most of the same rules still apply and the student is encouraged achieve a balance between the various different species. As with the nota cambiata in third species there is another glimpse of the important concept of diminution - the decoration of a simple progression by a more complex one.

The basic progression in the last three bars below is the same one we encountered in the example of fourth species counterpoint - a a seventh resolving to a sixth twice followed by an octave (7-6-7-6-8). The important thing to understand is that, by being decorated by the intervening notes, the basic progression is what Schenkerian analysts call prolonged through time.


[numbers refer to the interval between the parts - 6 = 6th etc.]

The principles of species counterpoint are vital to Schenker's theory in a technical sense but also in an aesthetic sense. In the section on harmony, I discuss how Schenker understands music as the result of a balance struck between the Artist and Nature. Within the terms of this metaphor species counterpoint represents the artist exerting massive control over the forces of nature (the urge to expand and reproduce). But, writes Schenker,

'In the cantus firmus we encounter a spare melodic beauty burdened with the purpose of an exercise but a beauty nonetheless. The little organism, produced under the observance of so many restrictions, still has its animation.' (Schenker - Counterpoint, p. 95)

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