Sunday, September 6, 2009

JOHANN JOSEPH FUX/The Study of Counterpoint

This is the definitive text on learning 16th Century counterpoint, a term you non-composers may not be familiar with. Basically, it's a strict style of composition with lots of sometimes conflicting rules that make you wonder about the sanity of the people who developed it.

But once you master the rules, the process actually becomes meditative and kind of fun in a very, very geeky way. After all, this is a text meant more to be used than read. And Fux really simplifies things, which is why I suspect so many people use this text. (It was used by the greats: Haydn, Beethoven, etc.)

But . . . I've docked it a star. Why? Fux uses A DIALOGUE BETWEEN A TEACHER AND HIS STUDENT to introduce the rules. I'll sit here for a moment while you let that sink in. A dialogue? Between the teacher and student? In the 16th Century?

Seriously, how hokey is that?? I'll give you an example:

Josephus: I come to you, venerable master, in order to be introduced to the rules and principles of music.
Aloysius: You want, then, to learn the art of composition?
Joseph: Yes.

. . .

Aloys: I am happy to recognize your natural aptitude. There is only one matter that still troubles me. If this is removed I shall take you into the circle of my pupils.
Joseph: Please say what it is, revered master. Yet surely neither this nor any other reason will move me to give up my plan.

You know, after typing these exchanges I realize this dialogue sounds vaguely sexual. Not quite the image I was going for, but now I think I'll be re-reading this in a whole new light.


Lydia Sharp said...

In my experience, pretty much anything can be viewed as "vaguely sexual."

That dialogue was still rather odd. Even in the 16th century, I doubt they were that formal with each other in that particular setting. I'm of the notion that it was "made proper" by the author because, even though they didn't truly talk like that, it wouldn't have been appropriate to publish something too casual.

Just my thoughts. Not based on any facts whatsoever.

Leigh Russell said...

. . . I don't get the sexual reference . . . ?

stacy said...

It's probably just the way it sounded in my mind after picking these lines out, Leigh. They're just too complimentary of each other to not be attracted to one another. Although it could have sounded that way to me because I was tired and a little giggly. It happens.

I agree the dialogue is odd, Lydia, which is why it felt so hokey to me. The whole book is like that! But like I said, it's a good text for learning this type of composition, so I probably shouldn't complain. Musicians aren't always known for their writing prowess.