77 seconds of counterpoint chatter

When I teach freshmen theory, I like to spend quite a bit of time on two-part counterpoint. I print out copies of Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum and we read through the Platonic dialog in class. The whole thing is full of stuff like this:

Aloysius: I am happy to recognize your natural aptitude. There is only one matter that still troubles me. If this is removed I shall take you into the circle of my pupils.

Josephus: Please say what it is, revered master. Yet surely neither this nor any other reason will move me to give up my plan.

Aloysius: Perhaps the hope of future riches and possessions induces you to choose this life? If this is the case, believe me you must change your mind; not Plutus but Apollo rules Parnassus. Whoever wants riches must take another path.

Josephus: No, certainly not. Please be sure that I have no other object than to pursue my love of music, without any thought of gain. I remember also that my teacher often told me one should be content with a simple way of life and strive rather for proficiency and a good name than for wealth, for virtue is its own reward.

Aloysius: I am delighted to have found just such a young student as I should wish. But tell me, are you familiar with everything that has been said about the intervals, the difference between consonances and dissonances, about the different motions, and about the four rules in the preceding book?

It’s a lot of fun! (Well, at least I think so…)

In between overly dramatic readings of the text, I have the students break into small groups to work through Fux’s cantus firmi. Last fall, I was delighted to hear some very enthusiastic chatter when the students were working through a fifth-species exercise.