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On the Interplay of Harmony and Counterpoint

by Lee Duane FitzSimmons

One of the more interesting aspects of musical composition is the ability of contrapuntal lines to manipulate the harmonic structure of a piece. By weaving in and out of various chordal textures, one or more lines of counterpoint can either drastically or subtly alter the various harmonic textures in a composition. This feat is accomplished because contrapuntal textures provide a sense of unification between different chordal centers by creating continuous and unbroken lines of melodic substance. This type of compositional technique is especially useful for weaving together chordal centers that may not be directly related to each other in a more diatonic sense but still share related common tones. Of course, these types of contrapuntal lines can also be used for many other purposes as well.

By subtly altering the harmonic texture, a contrapuntal line can also serve as a type of harbinger signaling an upcoming change in a composition. This change could be a harmonic modulation, a change in meter, or both. The change signaled by a different type of rhythmic pattern in a line of counterpoint could not only signal an upcoming alteration of meter, but could also signal a different melodic development that will soon occur. The possibilities are endless.

A Melody by John William Godward (1904)

It would also be prudent to point out that these types of creative tools used for musical composition can also be directly related to philosophical notions. Of course, any aspect of music can be compared to many different kinds of philosophical ideas, but the idea of contrapuntal lines connecting two sections of a composition that might have little in common has some very interesting possibilities. One of these possibilities would be the skill of a capable diplomat finding common ground with two differing types of ideologies and being able to weave them together, so they can exist side by side in peace. All that would be needed is to find some type of mutual affinity that is shared by both sides. Once this commonality is found, then all that is needed is a strengthening of this common bond.

These common bonds are more numerous than the sands in the desert and the stars in the sky; however, there is one bond that all of humanity shares...

and his name is Adam.

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Copyright 2014 by Lee Fitzsimmons