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This is a musical composition from an Indian movie in the late 80s. Please excuse my ignorance of musical theory in general here but I am curious to know if this is an effective display of counterpoint? The song is approximately 5 minutes.

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The term counterpoint comes from the Latin for punctus contra punctum, which literally means "note against note." Thus counterpoint really just means that there are at least two lines playing together that are related in some defined way. (This definition changes throughout history; counterpoint in the Baroque is very different from counterpoint in Richard Strauss!) For tonal music, counterpointed lines are typically related harmonically but differ rhythmically and melodically.

The opening 12 seconds, then, is a good example of counterpoint. The voices are independent, part of the same harmonic progression, and capable of existing on their own.

The section starting around 0:24, however, would not be a good example of counterpoint. This is mostly just melody with some rhythmic accompaniment (the bass is a pedal).

A common misconception is that counterpoint must be a fugue; this is actually not true! While it's true that a fugue is counterpoint (the adjectival form is "contrapuntal"), not all counterpoint is fugue. Indeed, not all counterpoint is imitative (by "imitative," think of Bach's fugues, inventions, sinfonia, etc.).

Thus "counterpoint," in its strictest sense, can be applied to any music with at least two independent moving lines.

  • I'm not even sure the intro would classify as counterpoint, the 'second voice' (the one that starts first) consists of a repeating figure which in my opinion merely serves as accompaniment for the melody. – Johannes Jul 31 '16 at 11:51
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    I would agree for the opening two measures, but once the harmonic rhythm increases in the third measure I think it becomes a bit more contrapuntal. It's not the greatest example of counterpoint, obviously, but I think it can definitely be viewed as contrapuntal. – Richard Jul 31 '16 at 11:54
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    Indeed, it's a pretty clear 5:1 counterpoint at that point, which could easily be reduced to a first species skeleton. – Richard Jul 31 '16 at 11:55
  • Thank you @Richard. I don't know enough about music theory to engage in a meaningful discussion but thanks for setting me on that path :-) – ForeverLearning Jul 31 '16 at 13:20
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    @Richard, ah. I'm not sure I'd call that very contrapuntal either: seems to be monody with an accompaniment that verges on articulated drone on the one hand, and heterophony on the other. Counterpoint is a mating of melodic ideas: a point is a melodic subject (see youtube.com/watch?v=hJItXrXRQvI), – user16935 Aug 1 '16 at 16:43

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