Mental Counterpoint, 1500–1600

Colloquium: September 30th, 5:00–7:00pm - Cornell University, Lincoln Hall 101B
Workshop: October 1st, 9:30–11:30am - Syracuse University, Crouse Auditorium

Among other paradigm-changing contributions, Zarlino’s Istitutione Harmoniche (1558) codified practices of imitative counterpoint which stretched back to the end of the fourteenth century, formulating “rules” which would shape contrapuntal thought and practice well into the nineteenth century. Our first seminar and practicum will explore the stile antico tradition in the early period of its codification. Pervasive canonic imitation was, at first, not so much an end in itself as it was a pedagogical device whereby singers (and only later players) could learn to improvise counterpoint in an off-hand way. This was the tradition of mental counterpoint — cantare super librum, contrappunto alla mente, cifra nueva, etc. — whereby musicians improvised and taught counterpoint as an oral practice. In the seventeenth century, under the influence of Zarlino and other theorists, contrapuntal “strictness” began to be a literate conceit for which contrapuntists developed special techniques to achieve.

Colloquium: The Venetian School (Willaert, Zarlino, Gabrieli, Diruta, Sweelinck)
Giuseppe Fiorentino, “Con la ayuda de nuestro señor: Teaching Improvised Counterpoint in Sixteenth-Century Spain,” Iberian Early Music Studies 1: New Perspectives on Early Music in Spain, eds. Tess Knighton and Emilio Ros-Fábregas (Kassel, 2015): 356–79.

Peter Schubert, “From Improvisation to Composition,” Improvising Early Music, Collected Writings of the Orpheus Institute (Leuven, 2014): 93–130.

Edoardo Bellotti, Preface, L’Organo Suonarino by Adriano Banchieri (Venice, 1605; Il Levante Editrice: Latina, 2014), vii–xxix.

Further Reading:
Peter Schubert, “Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance,” The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Thomas Christensen (Cambridge, 2002), 503–33.

Jessie Ann Owens, “You Can Tell a Book by Its Cover: Reflections on Format in English Music ‘Theory,’” Music Education in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, eds. Russell E. Murray, Jr., Susan Forscher Weiss, and Cynthia J. Cyrus (Bloomington, 2010), 347–86.

Workshop: How to improvise a toccata; Contrapunto alla mente
Musica nova accommodata per cantar et sonar sopra organi, et altri stumenti (Venice, 1540); ed. Liuwe Tamminga (2001) [M7. M9775 2001]

Andrea e Giovanni Gabrieli, Intonationi d’organo composte sopra tutti li dodeci toni della musica (Venice, 1593; Bologna: Forni editori, 1972) [M7. G11 I6 1593a]

Additional repertoire: Cabezón, Byrd

*Campus locations and rooms subject to final confirmation. E-mail if you are interested in this session, and we will add you to the notifications e-list. Please also email us your questions and suggestions on repertoire and literature.