The concept of counterpoint, which derives from the Latin contrapunctus, is used in the field of music to name the harmonious combination established by opposing voices or different melodies.
As a compositional technique, counterpoint studies the link between different voices to achieve a harmonic balance. The trend began to develop in the fifteenth century and prevailed in most of the compositions made in the Western world, extending to the present.
It can be said that counterpoint is committed to combining musical lines that have a very different sound but that, when played simultaneously, achieve harmony. The musical writing according to the counterpoint requires that certain rules be respected to achieve the intended harmony.
According to abbreviationfinder.org, chamber music, for example, typically employs four voices: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. By means of the rules of counterpoint, these voices maintain an independence although, at the same time, they sound in harmony.
From a historical point of view, counterpoint is of incalculable importance in the music of the West, which began in the Middle Ages. Throughout the Renaissance, it underwent a particularly strong development, and came to play a predominant role during the Baroque, Classicism and Romanticism, although little by little it lost relevance compared to other compositional techniques.
We can say that over time composers crowned harmony as the most important organizing principle. Broadly speaking, harmony is associated with the linking of notes simultaneously to form chords, and this is reflected in a “vertical” writing (on the staff the notes are placed one on top of the other), as opposed to what happens with the melody, which develops in a “horizontal” direction.
During the Renaissance, two of the composers worth noting when looking for examples of counterpoint are Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso ; the former was originally from Italy and is considered the master of counterpoint, while the latter, Franco-Flemish, was the leader of the Roman school.
It was at the end of the Baroque that, according to experts, counterpoint approached perfection, especially through the works of the acclaimed Johann Sebastian Bach, among which the Musical Offering, The Art of the Fugue and The Well-Tempered Clavier stand out.
Bach’s influence can be seen in so-called illustrated counterpoint, particularly in the legacy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who took advantage of this compositional technique in many of his later creations, such as his Haydian quartets, composed between 1782 and 1785. Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Joseph Haydn are also notable for their use of counterpoint.
Already in romanticism we have the works of Johannes Brahms, who is said to have turned to counterpoint to combat boredom. His Deutsches Requiem of him is a clear example of his use of the fugue ; It is a work for soprano, baritone, choir and orchestra that meditates on life and death based on biblical scriptures.
In some South American countries, the challenge or confrontation of two or more popular poets or singers is called counterpoint. Counterpoints are common among payadores, to cite one case.
For colloquial language, a counterpoint is a contrast or an opposition that arises between two elements that exist or occur simultaneously: “The bill generated a counterpoint between rural producers and the government”, “The action of the local group provoked a counterpoint of emotions in the public”, “Counterpoint between the president’s sayings and the declarations of the economy minister”.
“Counterpoint”, finally, is the title with which the novel “Point Counter Point” by the Englishman Aldous Huxley was published in our language.