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Update, TLDR: given multiple semi-written lines of music, which line should be deemed the cantus firmus before working on the counterpoint of the other lines?

Given a "free" (?) soprano line (by this I mean not of any consistent rhythmic form, such as just half notes or just whole notes, etc) and a bass line in first species (whole notes only)--I believe, relative to one another, these linear structures would be called unaligned and not parallel--how should I go about filling in the alto and tenor voices using species counterpoint? I would like for the for the lines to be "two-against-one" with the bass line (second species)? I eventually want to include suspensions (fourth species), but i'll let that go for now.

Should my point of reference be the bass line or the soprano line? Do I need to simplify/reduce the soprano line so that it is easier to see/build intervals? Essentially, I would like to know the most logical way to develop my piece give a free-flowing melody and a bass line in first species.

For reference, here is the music as is:

enter image description here

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    How free-flowing is your soprano part? Does it fit 4/4 time? Is it syncopated? ...Is it a pure mixture of quarter notes and half notes?
    – Dekkadeci
    May 14 at 12:25
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    As written, this question doesn't really make sense. Species counterpoint isn't defined by individual lines — an entire line in whole notes does not make it first species. It's defined by the relationships between the parts and the types of movements allowed. It also relies on a cantus firmus, by which the other voices are determined. But OP doesn't have a cantus firmus (or, not one that adheres to the rules of species counterpoint).
    – Aaron
    May 17 at 16:22
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    Short of making any changes yet, can you give me a sense of your overall goal and why you are looking to use species counterpoint?
    – Aaron
    May 17 at 16:31
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    Is this a particular exercise from the Westergaard book? May 17 at 17:47
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    The Study of Counterpoint from Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. Translated by Alfred Mann.
    – Aaron
    May 19 at 14:27
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Given that you want two-against-one with the bass, it would make the most sense to use the bass as the cantus firmus. While you develop those voices, treat the soprano as a descant voice,1 which will help you keep everything in sync.

I do think it would be helpful to simplify the soprano so that notes fall (primarily) on the beat, then returning them to anticipations/suspensions once the other parts are in place.

You can have it both ways by simplifying the soprano for the purpose of interval-checking as you develop the inner parts, but then play it as written for evaluating the actual composition.


1 "Descant: an independent treble melody usually sung or played above a basic melody." (From Google search)

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  • Awesome--thanks, @aaron. I've never head this term "descant" before. Can you please clarify what you mean by that?
    – 286642
    Jun 22 at 3:37
  • Are you implying that I "don't worry" about that voice while working through the other voices?
    – 286642
    Jun 22 at 20:44
  • (assuming I don't I take your suggestion in paragraph 2 of your response)
    – 286642
    Jun 22 at 20:45
  • Which I likely will--im just wondering what liberties I should feel confident in taking with respect to the treatment of this "descant" melody
    – 286642
    Jun 22 at 20:46
  • Treat the simplified soprano like just another voice in your counterpoint.
    – Aaron
    Jun 22 at 20:47

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