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 …

Enjoy David at selected times at the Crab & Fin Resaurant

Musical Composition Fills a Span of Over 55 years for David Ohrenstein

Musical Composition: Golden Roads: Interview with Composer David OhrensteinDso Works (Press to Listen to Interview)

Musical Composition Fills a Life Span of Over 55 years for David Ohrenstein. For David, musical composition is a natural activity. He composes while awake. He dreams of music while he sleeps. Often he arises at 3 or 4 AM to jot down the theme given in a dream. If he doesn’t write it down, the theme haunts him until he does. What is the source of these melodies? Who knows? Melody has mostly been replaced by dominant rhythm for 50 or 60 years. In the past, melody and rhythm fought for dominance. Their cycles have lasted 10 years. In recent history we have been in a long rhythm period. Rock and Roll and Rap music are largely based on rhythm. Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll or rock ‘n’ roll) is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s,[1][2] from African-American musical styles such as gospel, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues,[3] with country.[4] While elements of rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s[5] and in country records of the 1930s,[4] the genre did not acquire its name until the 1950s.[6][7]

Musical Composition Has Been Dominated by Rock and Roll

1993 Elvis postage stamp

Elvis postage stamps are released by the U.S. Postal Service, 1992.

Elvis popularized Rock and Roll in the 1950’s. Music with dominant rhythm reflects good times. It has been in the forefront for half a century. This has greatly exceeded the 10 year cycle. For example:

  • In the 1920’s music with strong rhythm was dominant.
  • After Oct of 1929 (great depression) melody came back. Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust led the way in the 1930’s.

The point being:  Dominant melody is long overdue for re-emergence.

Enter the Musical Composition for the Musical Golden Roads

 Golden Roads is a musical about the life of Golda Meir. Sharon Ohrenstein wrote the book and lyrics. I wrote the music in melodic fashion. For the performance Sharon played multiple roles. I played the piano. The results was overwhelmingly positive. It had its world premier at the Saraolo Festival in Sarasota on Saturday January 28. It sold out twice over! On every level it was successful. This in no small part is due to our New York director, Carlo Thomas. Enjoy the youtube excerpt. Book our Golden Roads. Go ahead, feel good about life. Follow the Golden Roads of the staff of beautiful music once more.
Commemeration concert

Eightfold Noble Path is Paradise In Buddhism and Judaism

Eightfold Noble Path is Paradise In Buddhism and Judaism. In the featured picture, Rubinoff and I are working on the eightfold noble path of musical phrases. He made a fortune in the 1930’s playing the violin. He was also about beautiful melody.

Temple, Buddha, Buddhism, Religion, Spiritual
The Eight spokes on the wheel symbolize the eightfold noble path of Buddha.

The wives and sons of Abraham depicted on the 1630 Venice Haggadah. Keturah stands at far right with her six sons. She was Abrahman’s Wife after Sarah. ‘Katurah is referred to in Genesis 25:1. She named their 1st born son Joktan after her own father’s name.  Issac was Abraham’s 1st born son by Sarah.  The distant past is not documented. It is like a puzzle that must be pieced together. So, here I go:

The 8-fold Noble Path Leads to Paradise

I this blog I will point a out parallel between:

  • Tree of Life and the 8-fold noble path. תפארת is at the heart of the Tree of Life (see picture). Eight paths radiated from it. Its translation into numbers by Hebraic gematria is 1081. One was often added for the presence of the Creator. The number alludes to the octagon. An octagon has 1080 degrees. Count the paths. Eight issue from  תפארת.
  •  In the same manner Buddha has the eight fold noble path with 4 truths that lead to the central ideal state of mind, nirvana. The four truths are (1) Suffering is in the nature of things. (2) Suffering is caused by desire (3) The way to reid desire is the eight fold noble path. (4) With no desire there is no suffering.
  • The eight spokes of the 8 fold noble path represent the right (1) view (2) intentions (3) speech (4) action (5) livelihood (6) effort (7) concentration (8) mindfulness.
  • Finally, last but not least. Music places you on the path to Paradise. It is a system based on eights. We have the 8 bar phrase.  All the chromatic tones are found in the octave span. The primary overtone is an octave. Please, study music. Give yourself a piece of Paradise.

Now Why Does the Eight Fold Noble Path Lead to Paradise?

Think like an ancestors. Look to arithmetic for the answer. תפארת (Tifereth) is the Heart of the Tree of Life. Divide its number, 1081,  emanation by pi. You have a diameter of 344.0…The Hebrew word for Paradise is  . Its numerical equivalent is 344. Here is the religious parallel: The 8 fold noble path of Buddha leads to Nirvana. Eight emanations on the Tree of Life lead to Paradise. Here’s my take: It was a custom to send away sons that would rule. Such was the case with Abraham, Moses and Jacob. Sources, even in the Talmud, state that some of Abraham’s progeny went to the Far East. This parallel helps to affirm the connection that the: Eightfold Noble Path is Paradise In Buddhism and Judaism.




Music is Love: The French Troubadors

Music is Love: The French Troubadors spread their music to the trouveres in northern France, then to the minnesingers in Germany in the the Age of Chivalry:. What characterized the Age of Chivalry? Respect for the Virgin Mary in particular and for women in general. The Age of Chivalry was an acceptable counter statement against male dominance.  It began the practice, at least in recent times, of placing ladies on a pedestal. The French people not only gave birth to impressionism, but also to chivalry, in part, through the musical ballad first sung by their troubadours. The earliest known troubadour was Guilheim VII (1071-1127). The noble group flourished from the 12th to the 14th centuries.

Music is Love: The French Troubadors: Their themes for poetry included courtly love, praise of women, religious songs inspired by Mary, and extolling the the bravery of the Crusaders. Sometimes it was the husband who was treated with comic derision. Traditions die hard, if at all. The troubador style found its way, centuries later, into Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde as the basis of the 2nd act.  In northern France, the song of the troubador was developed into “Chanson de geste”. These songs were longer epics of great and noble deeds. Music of the French trouveres and troubadors  often used regular four bar phrases in the mode of the major key as to the more unstructured musical melissmas and modes that the church used.

In no uncertain terms, melody, in the above sense, signals the return of the goddess culture be it through (1) Virgin Mary or (2) elevation of  female in general. I believe it is time for it to reappear. In my blog entitled One Musical Hoagy Please!, I discuss how melody had been coming back to America, alternating with rhythmically oriented songs, in 10 year cycles.  Hoagy Carmichael’s success was impacted by this cycle. Before the depression, no one would publish his Stardust. After October of 1929, when the Depression began, it became a nationwide best seller. Just as ladies can console and make the men feel better, melody has the same affect on both men and women. In conclusion, Music is Love: The French Troubadors and their sentiment of poetry and music will return. We are in great need of this new Age of Chivalry. Let’s celebrate and encourage its return.

Related image
The Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo DaVinci around the year 1504. I believe it is an expression of the Age of Chivalry.


Aura Lea: Theme and Variations for piano

The original sheet music cover

One of my most popular piano arrangements, Aura Lea: Theme and Variations for piano, was composed in Toronto.  No matter where I play it – on the concert stage, for a private party or during the dinner hour – it always receives grand applause and some rather sizable tips.  The arrangement is heart rendering;  bringing back pleasant memories.  One variation combines the theme with “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”; bringing two great American songs together.  And, by the way, this composition has many showy virtuoso passages!

Aura Lea is one of the most beloved American songs and is arguably as popular as Amazing Grace.  Our generation heard it with the words that Elvis sang as Love Me Tender.  It has graced America over the last 150 years.  The music was written by W.W. Fosdick and words by George R. Poulton during the Civil War in 1861.  The sheet music cover is the original Confederate version, dated 1864.

Below is a partial list of where this melody can be found. I feel that it is a valuable addition to any serious piano player’s repertoire.

Other occurrences of the song

“Aura Lea” was memorably sung by Frances Farmer and a male chorus in the 1936 film Come and Get It, based on Edna Ferber‘s novel.   Diana Muldaur sings the song to David Carradine in the episode “The Elixir” of Kung Fu.  The Elvis Presley song “Love Me Tender” (lyric by Ken Darby) is a derivative adaptation of this song.  A later Presley recording for the film The Trouble with Girls entitled “Violet (Flower of N.Y.U.)” also used the melody of “Aura Lea”.

Jerry Lanning performed the song on an episode of “The Donna Reed Show” in 1962 entitled “Big Star”.  The television cavalry comedy F Troop used a variation of the song to welcome saloon singer Laura Lee in the episode “She’s Only a Build in a Girdled Cage” (cf. “She’s only a bird in a gilded cage“).  The television western The Young Riders used the song in its series finale, which took place in 1861 and showed how the American Civil War was affecting its characters’ lives.

There is also a version of “Aura Lea” called “Army Blue” associated with the U.S. Military Academy.   In “Army Blue,” lyrics specific to the academy, written by George T. Olmstead, an 1865 graduate of the academy, are sung to the original melody. It is the running theme music in the background of the 1954 John Ford film The Long Gray Line.

Allan Sherman topicalized the song with this polio-based version:

Every time you take vaccine, take it Aura Lea (pun on “orally”)
As you know the other way is more painfully!”


The 1983 film Trading Places includes Ivy League stockbrokers at their racquet club singing a sexual parody of this song about their college days and their fraternity’s conquest of various women on locations at campus, with the refrain changed to “Constance Frye.”

The television show How I Met Your Mother 2009 episode (season 5 episode 22) “Robots Versus Wrestlers“, features Ted Mosby at an upper-class party singing the Trading Places “Constance Fry” version along with film director Peter Bogdanovich and New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz.

In Revenge of the Nerds, Betty Childs and the other girls from her sorority sing a parody (though not the exact tune) to the Tri-Lambs.

Check out my performance of Aura Lea: Theme and Variations recorded live in concert at Scott’s Oquaga Lakehouse in Deposit, New York for a select audience, and played on an old and appropriate sounding piano.


One Musical Hoagy Please?




One Musical Hoagy Please?  This blog takes a look at the timing of American musical trends. It uses the songwriter, Hoagy Carmichael, to illustrate the point. In the past, dominant melody and then dominant rhythm have taken turns in ten year periods. Individual writers here and there have written melodic works in a rhythmic era and vice versa; but there has been a ten year rhythmic cycle in public taste.

Hoagy Carmichael’s Epoch Making Song-   Stardust
One Musical Hoagy Please?  Here’s the story.An effective way to gain some insight into these cycles involves the classic song, Stardust.  It was written in the late 1920’s by Hoagy Carmichael. Hoagy made a fortune with it because of the Great Depression which began in October of 1929.

Earlier, January of 1929, Joe walks downtown, he’s upbeat because “everything’s coming up roses.” He has plenty of money, a good looking dame and one of those new- fangled automobiles. He has a bounce in his gait and moves to the rhythm of the quick step song, “Five-Foot-Two”. The last thing he wants to hear is a long- winded beautiful melody. What a damper melody is!Continue reading