contrapuntal universe

Contrapuntal Universe Combines Melody with Conterpoint

Contrapuntal Universe is a Paradox. First, what is musical counterpoint? In musiccounterpoint is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony).  Yet they are  independent in rhythm and contour.[1] It has been most commonly identified in the European classical tradition.  Counterpoint was strongly developing during the Renaissance. It became common practice period  in the Baroque. The term originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum. That means “point against point”.

Melodic Universe V. Contrapuntal Universe

Counterpoint focuses on melodic interaction—only secondarily on the harmonies produced by that interaction.  John Rahn contrasts melody with counterpoint quite adeptly. He states:

It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung together, sound more beautiful as a polyphonic whole. The internal structures that create each must contribute to the the polyphony. Vice versa, the combination in turn must comment on the the individual voices. In this way the contrapuntal universe combines the singular with the plural. The way that is accomplished in detail is … ‘counterpoint’.[3]

contrapuntal universe
This is the 1st volume of the Bible of counterpoint.


Patra Workshop
Three female musicians. Used by permission from the Egyptian art gallery: “From Cairo with Love”and artist, Kadir.

Patra Workshop to debut New York this September

Patra Workshop to debut in New York. Patra is the shorter name for Cleopatra. Queen of Egypt, she was one of the most famous women in history. Her full name was Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (69 BC – 12 August 30 BC). She was the last of the Pharaohs set up in Egypt by Alexander the Great. By descent, she was a Macedonian Princess. It will appear off book in  the workshop. Our singers will literally be top notch.  My wife, Sharon is the librettist and a co-composer of Patra.  I, husband David, am also a composer. Before going to NY, it will have a staged concert presentation. This will be in Sarasota Fl at the newly built Sarasota West Coast Black Theater.  Our casts in both NY and Fla are busy rehearsing.  Here’s the gist:

Cleopatra had stopped the onslaught of two invading Roman generals through love. She thus neutralized the worst effects of their invasions by marrying the generals. Patra had children with each.  The generals were, first,  Julius Caesar; and then, Marc Antony. Was there any possibility of love with the 3rd invading general, Octavian? That is the subject of our new opera comique.

`How does this tie together melody and counterpoint?  By the beautiful vocal lines. Also, the piano provides additional counterpoint. Don’t miss our New York workshop on September 7, 2019.  See our website, for details.


Musical Quaternity with the Four Elements

Musical Quaternity is Analogous to the Four Elements

Musical Quaternity is analogous to the Four Elements.  Here are the players:

  1. The musical quaternity for this blog includes melody, harmony, rhythm and counterpoint.
  2. The four elements are alchemical.  They comprise earth, air fire and water. On the wheel of the zodiac they each occur in rotation three times. This covers the 12 zodiac signs.
  3. Analogy (from Greek ἀναλογία, analogia, “proportion”[1][2]) is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject – the analog or source, to another.  It has been argued that analogy is “the core of cognition”.[3]

Musical Quaternity with Alchemy: The Analogy


Alchemist Heating a Pot, by David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690), oil on canvas.
Harmony is more like the combined, unified yet undifferentiated background. Harmony is the vertical aspect or sound of musical. It represents the combination of sounds at any given moment. Those qualities parallel water. Counterpoint is the horizontal direction of various lines the harmony holds. The two are  thus interconneted. horizontal axis.
Melody is tied to rhythm. You cannot have melody without rhythm. In alchemy, fire represents maximum molecular activity. Earth is minimum activity. It is grounded. With the vertical axis, fire rise. Rhythm gives melody shape and purpose. It provides the substance of melody. They are interconnected as the vertical axis.
Johannes Brahms Arch Romanticist

Johannes Brahms Arch Romanticist, not Richard Wagner

Johannes Brahms Arch Romanticist, not Richard Wagner. I am in awe of Johannes Brahms. I have been religiously practicing the six numbers of his opus 118. I hope to eventually make a post playing all six. The key to the romantic era is fusion of  melody with counterpoint. Counterpoint is so rare nowadays that I will define it.

Image result for Wiki Commons picture of composer Richard Wagner

Ludwig II (GermanLudwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm; English: Louis Otto Frederick William; 25 August 1845 – 13 June 1886)[1] was King of Bavaria from 1864 until his death in 1886. He stands next to Richard Wagner who is seated at the piano. 

Why Johannes Brahms Arch Romanticist Peaked the Romantic Era, not  Richard Wagner

Brahms is the master. Wagner is dramatic, exciting and on a grand scale. Brahms, however,  is the scholarly master of counterpoint. The romantic era revived counterpoint. One era contrasts another. Melody with accompaniment mostly characterized the rococo period and the classical. To be different, the romantics revived counterpoint as an art form. My opinion is that Brahms is better at counterpoint that Wagner. The collection of Opus 118 is filled with masterpieces of this genre. No. 4 is mostly a continuous “round.” The right hand plays one bar of music. In the next measure the left hand plays the same.  In that same measure,  the right plays a new aspect of the melody. In the next measure, the left hand plays the same… I think that Tal-Haim Samnon in the youtube video has an excellent approach.

Conclusion: Melody and counterpoint fused together are hallmarks of the Romantic era. In my opinion, Brahms is its outstanding representative.

Brahms – intermezzo op. 118 no. 4 – Samnon – YouTube

Apr 1, 2011 – Uploaded by Tal-Haim Samnon

Brahms– intermezzo op118 no. 4 in f minor- Samnon. Tal-Haim Samnon was born in Tel Aviv in …

Revival: J.S. Bach is a symbol of a new revival.

Revival of J.S. Bach by the Romantics Will Re-occur Soon

Revival of J.S. Bach by the Romantics Will Re-occur once more. A new era comes in opposition to an old. Such was the newer classical era to the baroque.  The counterpoint of the baroque was replaced by melody-accompaniment of the classical era. Time passes. The next era sought to revive the baroque. J.S. Bach culminated the baroque era. He was the idol of the newer Romantics.  The Romantic era lasted approx. 1820-1920.  Off course,  there are always cross currents in any era. These can be called, “avant- garde.” Almost every Romantic composer had a relationship to the music of Bach.

  • Here is a key and interesting fact: BACH, the name was taken by romantics as 4 musical tones: They were b,a,c, and “h” (which was thought of as Bb). They place these tones into their music.
Image result for Picture of of textbook on counterpoint summarizes the enduring significance of the revival of counterpoint by Bach.
Counterpoint: Its revival and enduring qualities are part of Musical Training at major musical programs anywhere.

Specific Baroque Revival Techniques of the Romantics

  • J.S. Bach was uprooted from the church. He was transplanted in the concert hall.
  • Only Berlioz and a few other composers were not influenced by Bach. He used counterpoint for parody purposes.  This is found in his “Amen Fugue”. The Fugue is in the 2nd part of his The Damnation of Faust.
 A Skimpy revival of counterpoint in Berlioz: Damnation De Faust (La) (The Damnation Of Faust)
Even Berlioz had a revival of counterpoint in his Amen Fugue in the Damnation of Faust.
  • Felix Mendelssohn wrote Six Preludes and Fugues in 1837.
  • Schumann wrote a cycle of 6 fugues on the name BACH for organ
  • Franz Liszt wrote a Prelude and Fugue on BACH for organ in 1855.
  • Brahms used counterpoint in a more subtle way. He would hide the melody among other tones. My piano teacher, Mischa Kottler, studied under Emil von Sauer. Sauer edited the complete works of Brahms. He insisted that I use the von Sauer editions of Brahms. What is most interesting is: Kottler circled every note that Brahms wished for counterpoint. Without his guidance, I never would have found them. Kottler has a few youtube recordings. Hear for yourself what an amazing virtuoso Kottler was. In my off season I am offering piano lessons in Sarasota. Be amazed by Mischa’s “Minute”.
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The Zodiac Sign of Pisces and Their Music

The Zodiac Sign of Pisces and Their Music: What you are reading here are excerpts from my upcoming book, Music Under the Zodiac. I copyrighted it  in 1995, Library of Congress Txu 724-061. If you quote me, please give credit. The main goal of the book is to present a novel way to help students and musicians to interpret music. This is done in the light of the 12 signs of the zodiac. I use the zodiac as a  system to aid in  artistic interpretation. I do not work with prophetic aspects of the zodiac or astrology. What you will  read here is me simply having fun applying musical ability to the zodiac signs. In writing these blogs I consider each sign in two ways: As a listener and as a performer.  Keep watching for my ground breaking book,  Music Under the Zodiac under the products heading on All kinds of goodies are starting to show up there.

The Music Preferred for Listening to by Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Pisces are inclined to listen to music that will stimulate their imagination. For this sign, sound is closely associated with visual images. Music expands their awareness as the eyes and ears connect. Pisces likes music that has a mystical feel to it. Compared to the other signs, preferred music can have a slower pace and be more lyrical. Pisces also enjoys counterpoint. Baroque music is high on the classical list. After all, the symbol of Pisces are fish swimming in opposite directions. Counterpoint is one line against another.

The Musical Performing Personality of Pisces

When playing in a group this sign needs to keep feelings under control. Remember, make the instrument laugh or cry. Not yourself. Playing a solo instrument like the piano is great. Guard against tendencies to play music under tempo. Use a metronome to set and keep the pace. As a soloist, keep building your self-confidence, By nature, they can belittle their talents. This is most often totally erroneous:  This 12th zodiac sign has tremendous artistic gifts. Preferred musical instruments include piano, cello, violin, and viola.