Reflective Account 1


Specific reflections on my tutor’s formative feedback:

My tutors comment below is very interesting and something to keep referring to when learning counterpoint. It is an entirely new way of writing for me and I still struggle to fully understand, remember and stick to the rules. Often, in trying to stick to the rules I end up composing unattractive passages. Practice is probably the only way to improve this balancing act:

A. Q2 attempt 1 is less elegant than your response to Q1. The transition from the second to the third bar is unstylistic – two consecutive perfect intervals should move in contrary motion, the wide leap of a 5th should be ‘filled in’ with the subsequent notes (D E F#). The third, fourth, and fifth bar all begin with a D and the fact the third and fifth bar are identical means this portion of the melody feels aimless. The cadence is also not particularly convincing; the penultimate note should be an F# here. Attempt 2 suffers from many similar problems. (To answer your question, according to the rules presented in the course materials they are not parallel octaves, but regardless there are more elegant ways of negotiating these bars).

B. Although you do not need to answer the following question, it might be worth at least ruminating on; do you perceive there being any differences between the restrictions that are self-imposed (as is the case with Stravinsky), and that are imposed by stylistic convention (as is the case with species counterpoint)?’

This is an interesting question. In theory there should be no difference between self-imposed restrictions and external stylistic conventions. However, in my mind there are creative differences between the two. I am more innovative and flexible when I like a style. When I am trying to work within a stylistic framework which I don’t enjoy I tend to be more reluctant to stick to convention. I have been told by past teachers that many composers initially struggle to find their ‘own voice’. I am the reverse of this, I struggle to hide or erase my own idiosyncratic stylistic choices. This will become very evident in Assignments 3 and 4, where I completely failed to stick to rhythmical aspect of the Baroque style or mimic Debussy’s chord-progressions and developmental techniques. The problem is further compounded when I perceive the aspect of a style as boring or monotone, then I find it very difficult to resist the temptation to bend the rules.

C. One source for a 500-word essay is, probably, the minimum one could expect and this essay might have benefited with a more authoritative and detailed approach in places: “If I was to carry on my studies and seriously attempt to learn Renaissance counterpoint, I would analyse music from the Renaissance, such as Palestrina’s work.” With broader research, including more sources, you might have suggested more composers you could analyse and provide a small list of preexisting texts that deal with counterpoint (for example, Gradus ad Parnassum).

I will endeavour to widen the scope of my research in the future and include many more references. An increase in word count will also facilitate including more references.

D. I would recommend, however, listening to a wider range of music. From your biography/cv, it is clear you are familiar with a number of genres. You could have used your listening log to explore music (from a variety of musical periods of styles) that deal with counterpoint. You mention Radiohead – does the string writing in Faust Arp work as a contrapuntal line?

This was a misunderstanding on my part, I thought I had to limit myself to the era we were focusing on. It will be a relief to be able to include other eras and genres in the listening logs. I will add more listening log entries in the future and try to make them briefer and less detailed. I do struggle with brevity in general. It is one my personality traits to want to look at things in depth, sometimes at the expense of a broader overview.

General reflections on this module:

Counterpoint is a compositional technique which I have never previously attempted and I feel like I don’t yet have a firm grasp on it. It will take quite a bit of practise before I feel surer of myself. This has however served as an excellent introduction to this discipline. The question (labelled B above) posed by my tutor has also given me much food for thought.