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"Oh sacred Head sore wounded," Homopnonic or contrapuntal?

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  • "Oh sacred Head sore wounded," Homopnonic or contrapuntal?

    Is the hymn, "Oh Sacred Head sore wounded" homophonic or contrapuntal. I notice that it has more countermelodies in the Bass, Tenor and Alto lines than normal homophonic hymns. but does that mean that it's contrapuntal?

  • #2
    You ask a complicated question. For the non-musician, the terms contrapuntal and polyphonic are interchangeable. Generally, the subject matter is reserved for a musician's junior or senior year of college, or even graduate school. Therefore, the specifics of the nuances and nature of polyphony and counterpoint are the subject of many texts.

    Try reading this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Sacr...d,_Now_Wounded. I don't know if I would classify every setting of the tune, or even the traditional hymn setting as necessarily polyphonic, but the hymn certainly has elements of what one may classify as polyphonic.

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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    • #3
      You are correct Michael, but the o.p. as I read him is trying to make a case for "O Sacred Head" being somewhat different from 'other Bach Chorales' and this I do not think is the case. Any observance of more counter melodies in "O Sacred Head" is surely coincidental. As with all chorale hymns the main melody line in "O Sacred Head" is the soprano and the other lines harmonize with it but never have any melodic interest of their own. They are entirely subsidiary to the soprano melody.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
        As with all chorale hymns the main melody line in "O Sacred Head" is the soprano and the other lines harmonize with it but never have any melodic interest of their own. They are entirely subsidiary to the soprano melody.
        Leisesturm,

        Agreed, unless you find it nice to sing one of the other parts rather than a straight I, IV, V7, I Alto, Tenor, or Bass part commonly found in homophonic hymns. You make a good point, though.

        While the Alto, Tenor, or Bass parts are not melodic in nature (i.e. polyphonic), they couldn't be considered homophonic either. That's where understanding of basic music theory comes in handy (i.e. passing tones, upper and lower auxillaries, etc.).

        Michael
        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
        • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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        • #5
          HOMOPHONIC vocal/choral music - Everyone says their syllables at the same time. They start together and end together.
          POLYPHONIC vocal/choral music - Voices enter and finish at different times; They can have different note lengths for the same syllable. Each voice part can have its own melodic profile, though this is not necessary, cf imitative counterpoint.
          - Any typical hymnal arrangement of this German chorale will be homophonic.

          CONTRAPUNTAL - Implies that the melodic material in each voice is different from the others, but works well with the others, regardless of whether the music is homophonic or polyphonic.
          - Any typical arrangement of a hymn for congregational singing will be contrapuntal, as long as it is not in unison. Even then, if there is an accompaniment, it will exhibit contrapuntal characteristics. (There may be polyphonic elements added for interest, even in gospel hymns and children's choruses - think of all those pieces where the melody holds a long note while one or more of the supporting voices repeats words to help mark time.)
          - Said counterpoint may be simple or complex, but the hymn will remain homophonic. First species counterpoint is not "less" contrapuntal than fifth species; it's just simpler.

          The ERROR is in the question when the Original Poster asked "homophonic or contrapuntal". It's the same error as asking "Is this particular apple red or is it a fruit?" Neither term excludes the possibility of the other. The question itself demonstrates a misunderstanding of the meaning of those two words. The o.p. needs to explain what he understands by those two words. If that can be clarified, we may be able to help.

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          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            The ERROR is in the question when the Original Poster asked "homophonic or contrapuntal". It's the same error as asking "Is this particular apple red or is it a fruit?" Neither term excludes the possibility of the other. The question itself demonstrates a misunderstanding of the meaning of those two words. The o.p. needs to explain what he understands by those two words. If that can be clarified, we may be able to help.
            Regeron,

            Thank you for so eloquently stating what I was trying to avoid (having read MANY past entries by the OP). Knowing the level of understanding wasn't there, I tried to avoid any more detailed explanations, however, your description is an excellent analogy of the issue with the original question.

            My other thought is that the OP could find a copy of the Orgelb├╝chlein (Sp?) and compare Bach's arrangements there. It is so helpful with developing an understanding of Bach's chorale settings and the variants involved.

            Thank you for being so clear where I was struggling to find words. I was trying to keep it brief! :-|

            Michael

        • #6
          Originally posted by regeron View Post
          HOMOPHONIC vocal/choral music

          First species counterpoint is not "less" contrapuntal than fifth species; it's just simpler.
          I agree with all you say. Some music is polyphonic/contrapuntal and some is homophonic, but a lot of music is homophonic with contrapuntal aspects. Mind you, I would describe "O sacred head" as homophonic.

          I'm interested, though, that you say "first species counterpoint" is contrapuntal? I don't see how it can be - although it's purely an academic exercise anyway. (Hasn't been taught here in the UK for about 60 years, I would think.) In that case, what about if you were to play the top and bottom parts of a hymn tune, e.g. "Abide with me": would that be any less contrapuntal than first species?

          Would you describe the opening of Bach's "Wachet Auf" (Schubler Chorale) - before the chorale melody appears - as contrapuntal or homophonic?

          And what about "Tallis's Canon", as printed in a hymn book) if you have that tune on the other side of the Atlantic? It's a canon, so must be contrapuntal? But it's also firmly homophonic.

          I'm not trying to give answers - just musing on a Monday morning!

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          • regeron
            regeron commented
            Editing a comment
            To answer your questions more easily, it will help to have your own definitions or understanding of polyphony, homophony, counterpoint and contrapuntal,

        • #7
          Why?

          For the record, I'd say that polyphony/counterpoint is horizontal rather that vertical, whereas homophonic music is the opposite. (Well, it's a starting point anyway.)

          When I was still at school (1960s) the local organist introduced me to species counterpoint, but I never heard of it again! Okay, I suppose 1st species counterpoint IS counterpoint, but I never saw any that was of any value other than academic; the beginning of "counterpoint" in the 9th to 11th centuries was "note for note" - I don't find that very interesting either!

          Another question: if you add enough passing notes to a 4-part homophonic hymn tune, does it become counterpoint?

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          • #8
            Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post
            I'm interested, though, that you say "first species counterpoint" is contrapuntal? I don't see how it can be
            To me, this comment makes no sense. How can any kind of counterpoint not be contrapuntal?

            "Counterpoint" comes from the Latin "punctus contra punctum" which, in musical terms, translates to note against note. This allows for the simplest version, described as 'first species counterpoint' whether you were taught it or not.

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            • #9
              Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post
              For the record, I'd say that polyphony/counterpoint is horizontal rather that vertical, whereas homophonic music is the opposite. (Well, it's a starting point anyway.)
              The 'H' word you're looking for is "Harmonic" Harmonic music is usually referred to as vertical.

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              • #10
                Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post
                Another question: if you add enough passing notes to a 4-part homophonic hymn tune, does it become counterpoint?
                If such a hymn tune is not in unison, it is already contrapuntal without the passing notes. See my comments in post #5.

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                • #11
                  Originally posted by regeron View Post
                  To me, this comment makes no sense. How can any kind of counterpoint not be contrapuntal?

                  "Counterpoint" comes from the Latin "punctus contra punctum" which, in musical terms, translates to note against note. This allows for the simplest version, described as 'first species counterpoint' whether you were taught it or not.
                  Gosh: 3 posts to answer! Did you not read my earlier post? I wrote:
                  "Okay, I suppose 1st species counterpoint IS counterpoint, but I never saw any that was of any value other than academic; the beginning of "counterpoint" in the 9th to 11th centuries was "note for note" - I don't find that very interesting either!"

                  As far as I'm concerned "species" counterpoint is just an academic exercise. It was formulated by Fux in the early 18th century - long after the era of Palestrina and his contemporaries, whose style it relates to. I know that it was used by composers in the 2nd half of the 18th century and the very early years of the 19th. I don't think it's been used in the UK for generations (although I could be wrong). I accept that the method may well help give people a grounding in contrapuntal basics - but in my university we learned by studying actual music. Just another approach, I suppose.

                  Anyway, although, as I'd already conceded,1st species counterpoint must be counterpoint, I'd be interested to see any music that's worth actually performing that's purely note for note. It seems to me to be just a dry academic exercise.

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by regeron View Post
                    The 'H' word you're looking for is "Harmonic" Harmonic music is usually referred to as vertical.
                    No. Homophonic is the word I meant.

                    Homophony, musical texture based primarily on chords, in contrast to polyphony, which results from combinations of relatively independent melodies. In homophony, one part, usually the highest, tends to predominate and there is little rhythmic differentiation between the parts (https://www.britannica.com)

                    I don't know the term "harmonic music" though I can guess what you mean by it. I would suppose it just to mean music that has some form of harmony.

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by regeron View Post
                      If such a hymn tune is not in unison, it is already contrapuntal without the passing notes. See my comments in post #5.
                      Actually, I think we're using contrapuntal to mean different things. I think the parts in counterpoint must be independent, not just harmonizing. So a standard 4-part hymn tune which is homophonic is not contrapuntal. It is probably just tune and lower parts to harmonize. If that is counterpoint, what music which is in more than one part is then NOT contrapuntal?

                      Personally I think counterpoint needs to have parts which are melodically distinct and have some rhythmic independence. I suppose it's semantics, really. I don't think these terms have such fixed meanings as some theorists would have us believe.
                      Last edited by Peterboroughdiapason; 04-16-2019, 10:30 AM.

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