Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Counterpoint pedagogy

I am teaching Modal Counterpoint for the first time. I've taught species counterpoint within general theory courses, but never as a separate class. I'm using Bob Gauldin's A Practical Approach to Sixteenth-Century Counterpoint, mostly because he was such an influence on me at Eastman. But his non-species approach is a little foreign to me. I learned the species from Miguel Roig-Francoli, and still have his course packet that I could have used. I was afraid his packet was too complex for an undergraduate course, though. I used Salzer and Schachter's Counterpoint in Composition within theory courses, taking the species as a springboard to Schenkerian Theory. Overall I agree with Gauldin's pedagogy, I just need to prepare more for each class.

How do you teach counterpoint, or how were you taught?


Daniel Wolf said...

Counterpoint is basically the only subject I ever teach, and although I was taught myself with a strict Fuxian species approach, I've come 'round to teaching it based upon observations from repertoire. For modal counterpoint, I stick with pre-Palestina models, as (a) the issues of Major/minor tonality become accute in Palestrina, and (b) I simply like the music of Ockeghem, Dufay and Josquin better. As to textbooks, I cannot praise de la Motte's _Kontrapunkt_ too highly. It's a remarkable, practical, book, the standard textbook in German -speaking countries, and not having it available in English is unfortunate. I also make my students read from Morley and, for tonal counterpoint, Purcell's treatise on descant and Attwood's notebooks from his study with Mozart.

paul bailey said...

i have three sources that i use. fux, jeppesen, and swindale. the jeppesen is an "edited" version of the fux that i summarize and use for examples and the swindale has some good descriptions and examples. i think the jeppesen is the gold standard as a resource, but not great as an undergraduate text.

hope this helps,


Terminaldegree said...

No suggestions on the text, but here's one thing I've learned: I think it's important to actually explain what counterpoint IS. Students hear the tearm in theory class and in music lit, but they may not have absorbed it. If they're not keyboardists, this may truly be their first in-depth exposure to counterpoint.

In an upper division class yesterday, I asked my students to define a few terms, including counterpoint, and they really couldn't do it.

Then I remembered: as an undergrad, I couldn't, either. I walked into counterpoint on my first day having no clue what I was going to study. The prof, for some reason, decided to begin with a sort of Schenker For Dummies, and for two weeks, most of us that that Schenkarian Analysis was counterpoint!

Steve Hicken said...

I was taught from an anthology as an undergraduate. It was the most important class I ever had. You have a tremendous responsibility in this course, Scott. Don't blow it.

Have fun.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Daniel, the pre-Palestrina suggestion is interesting. I was taught using a wide variety of 16th century composers, including Palestrina. I will look at the Morley.

Paul, I have been thinking about using Fux in small doses. As I'm not going strictly species, I can't follow exactly in his footsteps. I've never looked at the Jeppesen or Swindale, I will check them out.

TD, we spent the first day talking about what counterpoint is. It is funny that the prof started with Schenker before counterpoint, as standard Schenker pedagogy starts with species counterpoint!

Steve, thanks for the pressure!

Steve Hicken said...

Glad to help, Scott.

Your plan sounds like a good one to me.

paul bailey said...

i also agree with using the anthology as you get going, a little peek at palestrina or josquin never hurt anybody.

i also started out with the salzer/schacter. it is a well written book with great clear examples, but if i remember correctly it falls into the trap of teaching tonal counterpoint, which leads to much of the limitations of the 4-part pedagogy we are currently strapped with.

with a class that going well i'll give them the first chapter of the fux for some interesting reading.