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MUSIC 3CM3 Modal Counterpoint

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Ashot Ariyan



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Mon 3:30-4:30, Wed 9:30-10:30, 11:30-12:30

Course Objectives:

The Modal Counterpoint course combines an analysis of style and the works of Palestrina, Lasso and other composers of Renaissance era and the Middle Ages. It will develop writing skills through doing two- and three-part exercises in species, invertible, and free counterpoint. It will culminate in the composition of motets and/or mass movements. At the end of the course students will learn to control stylistic and technical elements of the 16th century polyphony, and be able to write two- three-part counterpoint on Latin text.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

1. OWEN, HAROLD; Modal and Tonal Counterpoint: from Josquin to Stravinsky (New York: Toronto: New York: Schirmer Books; 1992) MT 55. O97

2.  FUX, JOHANN JOSEPH, (Mann, Alfred; Edmunds, John);The study of counterpoint from Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum (New York : W.W. Norton, 1965) MT 40 .F83

3.  MERRIT A. TILLMAN; Sixteenth Century Polyphony: a basis for the study of Counterpoint (Harvard University Press, c1939, 1954 printing) MT 55 .M4 S5

Method of Assessment:

Assignments (6 x 7% each) 42%

Quizzes (2 x 15% each) 30%

Attendance and participation 8%

Final exam 20%

Total 100%

Date                                        Assignments # and Quizzes

12 Sept                                    #1 (due to 19 Sept)

19 Sept                                    #2 (due to 26 Sept)

3 Oct                                       Quiz #1

24 Oct                                     #3 (due to 31 Oct)

31 Oct                                     #4 (due to 7 Nov)

7 Nov                                       Quiz #2

21 Nov                                     #5 (due to 28 Nov)

28 Nov                                     #6 (due to 5 Dec)

5 Dec                                       Final Exam Prep

Final Exam Dec 9-22, TBA

Note: Written assignments will be due at the beginning of class on the assigned due date. Each assignment will be evaluated on the basis of content and presentation.  Always keep your marked assignments as a record of your work.



Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late assignments will receive a 10% reduction in grade.  After one week, late assignments will not be accepted, except in the case of a justifiable absence.

Early feedbacks are equal a minimum of 10% of the final grade which will be returned prior to March 10th.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

The following topics will be covered: 1. Introduction to Counterpoint 2. Church Modes 3. Writing music on a Latin text 4. Historic styles and types of polyphony 5. Six Rhythmic Modes 6. Isometric Motet 7. Stylistic system of ecclesiastical polyphony 8. First Species Counterpoint 9. Second Species Counterpoint 10. Rules for writing the Cantus firmus 11. Third Species Counterpoint 12. Three-part Counterpoint 13. Strophic form in music of Palestrina and Lasso 14. Fourth and Fifth Species Counterpoint 15. Consonances and dissonances and their status in the Palestrina strict-style polyphony 16. Index Verticalis. Invertible counterpoint 17. Techniques of imitation: free imitation, canon, imitation in inversion and retrograde, diminution and augmentation 18. Horizontal-shifting Counterpoint and Round Canon 19. Dramatic recitation and anticipation of baroque two-part form in works by Lasso. 20. Four-part Counterpoint and Free Counterpoint with the text.