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Advanced Rules for the Treatment of

Perfect Intervals in Counterpoint


Excerpts from Treatises by Albrechtsberger, Berardi, Dressler, Diruta, Fux, Tigrini, Tinctoris, and
Zarlino, plus excerpts from Salzer and Schachter and the PhD Dissertation of William Clemmons

Preliminaries: Diruta

Moving from one perfect consonance (always contrary motion not oblique!) is understood differently
than moving to a perfect consonance from an imperfect one (contrary and by semitone in one voice).

Preliminaries: Salzer and Schachter

Unisons only to be used at beginning or end of exercise, or as diminution. On off-beats, should be left
by step in the opposite direction to the approach.

Directly consecutive perfect intervals of same type are forbidden; use on consecutive accented beats are
best avoided, but sometimes permissible (when the melody does not imply polyphonic melody / when
the second perfect note in the contrapunctus is the second note of 3+ notes moving in the opposite
direction to the approach from the previous perfect consonance? 5-6 technique?)

Battuta octaves (not clearly defined) worst case scenario: leap in upper voice + weak to strong beat.
Note that this may also include Battuta fifths.

Minimize Perfect Intervals: Zarlino

Avoid unisons altogether; use very few octaves.

I do not mean that they should not be used, only that they should be used sparingly. [] He
should separate them, however, by other consonances, and he should prefer the octave to the
unison (Institutione Harmoniche, III:41)

Hidden Perfect Intervals: Fux

Perfect intervals approached by similar motion imply parallel perfect intervals through diminution by
supposition.

Hidden Perfect Intervals: Clemmons

Side notes: Unisons and octaves discouraged on downbeats except cadences.

Repetition of perfect interval by voice-exchange (a la Zarlino) considered amateurish.

Same explanation as Salzer & Schachter above, but notes that Fux was early to suggest this manner of
explanation, where other theorists gave explanations from speculative theory. Diruta and Tigrini use the
same explanation.
Hidden Perfect Intervals: Diruta

Explanation is as given by Fux and Schachter. However, Diruta gives the example twice, because it
corresponds to each of two rules: movement between two perfect intervals (even of different kinds)
and movement from imperfect to perfect.

Hidden Perfect Intervals: Tigrini

Explanation is again as given above. However, the chart over the following two pages provides several
exceptions; these exceptions are not clearly explained.

Consecutive Unlike Perfect Intervals: Zarlino

In general, follow a perfect consonance by an imperfect consonance (that is, avoid moving directly from
one perfect consonance to another, as from an octave to a fifth, even in contrary motion).

What about the 2-1 / 5-1 in a PAC? What about 2-1 / 7-6-8 in a Landini Cadence?

What about Dirutas rule, which describes the use of contrary motion between perfect cadences

Also, no mention in any of the sources about counter-parallel perfect intervals.

Battuta Octaves: Fux

Mann Fig. 15, Showing Battuta Octaves in m.11

Fux observes that the octaves are approached by contrary motion by step from the outside, and does
not know why it is a problem. He contrasts it to Fig. 16, which is allowed, though Fux feels that it
shouldnt be.

Good Bad

However, compare the same figures from the original Latin edition:
Fux allows his student to make up his own mind about the case in question, but argues that the skip into
an octave (or unison) should never be used (except in a bass part). A skip from a unison is also not good.

Battuta Octaves: Clemmons

Octava Battuta = Beaten Octaves = Downbeat Octaves.

Sixteenth-century Italian theorists viewed even note-against-note counterpoint against a


duple background of two semibreves to the bar, in which octaves were allowed only on the
second, or upbeat semibreve (Clemmons, PhD Dissertation, 128).

Without this distinction, the idea of Battuta octaves makes no sense in first species.

Fuxs sample error (figure 17) comes from Berardi (see below). The Berardi example is ambiguously
written; Clemmons suggests that the real problem is that both voices move by whole (neither by
semitone), hence also violating the rule given by Diruta (above). Therefore, in spite of Berardis casual
mention of the downbeat, this is not actually a case of Battuta octaves (though it is still an error); on
these terms, fig. 16 (as given by Mann) would also be an error (no semitone).

Fuxs counter-example (in the original edition) relates to an example by Bononcini, which permits
expanding from a fifth to an octave (similar to Diruta rule requiring contrary motion between perfect
consonances, but in violation of Zarlino); Fux disagrees with it due to the skip into/from a perfect
interval (but not concerned about semitones, which he only worries about at cadences).

Battuta Octaves: Berardi

Passage quoted by Clemmons above; translation disagrees as regards the position of the downbeat
stressing that this is not Battuta octaves, but rather an inappropriate approach (lacking a semitone).

Battuta Octaves: Albrechtsberger

Battuta octaves formerly never permitted; Albrechtsberger allows it in three or more parts.

Occurs when an octave is approached on an accented beat, especially when the upper part descends by
skip of fourth or greater (while lower ascends by step).

Perfect Intervals and Modes: Fux

A counterpoint below the cantus cannot begin a fifth below, because this contradicts the mode.
Perfect Intervals and Modes: Tinctoris

A perfection (perfect interval? Cadence? Same thing?) should not be allowed that contradicts the
mode.

Perfect Intervals by Mode: Dressler

Chart of allowable cadence tones by mode:

MODE Allowed Scale Degrees


Dorian 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
Hypodorian 1, 2, 3, (5), low 5
Phrygian 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
Hypophrygian 1, 3, 4, low 6
Lydian 1, 3, 5, low 5
Hypolydian 1, 3, 5, low 5
Mixolydian 1, 4, 5, low 5
Hypomixolydian 1, 4, 5, low 5