Assuming Fux's counterpoint was written in 1752, why are there some references to the modal system and none to tonality? I mean... 1752 is way beyond the end of modality! Composers already had the notion of tonality in 1700: or am I wrong? If not, why did Fux didn't reference tonality but just write about the modal system?

  • If 1752 is way beyond the end of modality, why is 1970's fusion chock full of it ... :)
    – Kaz
    Jan 27, 2014 at 19:52
  • @Kaz because hey man, it's like cool can you dig.
    – BobRodes
    Feb 6, 2014 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


First, Gradus ad Parnassum was completed in 1725 (not 1752), so it's a bit earlier than you think, although still in the time frame when tonality was becoming common.

Second, Fux was intentionally looking back to earlier styles of music, explicitly the music of Palestrina (who died 1594), and was, in a sense, taking a historical view even when it first published. In his introduction he even indicates that Aloysious, the teacher in the dialog, is his surrogate for Palestrina.

  • 4
    Agreed with Dave here - functional harmony and roman numerals wouldn't really take hold for a few more decades. When Fux published, it was 25 years before JS Bach passed. Back then, people thought linearly; vertical sonorities were the result of careful voice leading and treatment of dissonance. Also keep in mind that secular music developed out of sacred, and modality held a stranglehold on music for quite a number of years. Jan 27, 2014 at 8:15
  • @jjmusicnotes "people thought linearly" is an oversimplification. Functional harmonic analysis hadn't yet caught on, but it certainly existed (Rameau first published in 1722, three years before Gradus ad Parnassum) and the vertical thinking enabling it had existed to some degree at least since the late 1500s, as shown by figured bass and by the idea that the figures describe chords. The large leaps sometimes seen in inner voices in Bach's chorales, for example, make sense only as a means of covering all the chord tones--as an example of putting vertical considerations above horizontal.
    – phoog
    Apr 16, 2023 at 8:57
  • @phoog - on a comment I made 9 years ago? My comment's simplification is subjective, as you yourself stated "functional harmonic analysis hadn't yet caught on"; essentially just re-explaining my original comment. Apr 17, 2023 at 17:17
  • @jjmusicnotes sorry for reviving the zombie; I was doing some research on Gradus and stumbled on it. My point is that vertical thinking was well established long before Bach's day even if functional harmonic analysis was not. Rameau's innovation was to consider e.g. CEG and EGC as different inversions of the same chord. Those who rejected his theory, including Bach, continued to think of them as different chords, which means that they thought of them as chords -- vertically. See for example the figured bass rules in the music book for Anna Magdalena, which start off talking about chords.
    – phoog
    Apr 17, 2023 at 21:57

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