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Contrapuntal Variation as a Composition Tool


A fugue is a type of work from the Baroque Period that consists of multiple voices, i.e. polyphony, that are developed using counterpoint.Usually a subject melody is presented in the exposition period, along





with an answer, an imitation that follows and responds to the subject.The development section uses a variety of techniques to work with the melodic material and create suspense, tension, and other musical events.It is these techniques that can be of value for composing not just fugues, but any type of work.Below are some of the main contrapuntal techniques for variation and development.


Augmentation and Diminution - the durations of the notes in the melody are augmented/lengthened or diminished/shortened.For example, the value of each note could be doubled, or halved.


Inversion - intervals move in the opposite direction than in the original melody, i.e. a leap downward becomes an upward movement.


Sequence - the identical melody is repeated at a different pitch.


Pedal Point - one pitch is sustained, often in the bass, while the melody and harmonies continue to change.


Stretto - a second voice enters before the first voice has finished its subject; in other words the voices overlap.


Modulation - repeating the melody in another key.


Fragmentation - quoting only a part of the melody.


Retrograde - the melody is played forward and backward at the same time.

Information in this article was adapted in part from Counterpoint in Composition by Felix Salzer and Carl Schachter.



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