I am learning rules of counterpoint. One of the rules states:

Do not make stepwise concordant movements longer than a fifth.

As far as I understand stepwise movement is either 2nd minor or second major. So, it is either one semi-tone or one tone. Both are dissonant. So, they are discordant (not concordant).

So, how can stepwise movement be concordant?

Here is the source of the rules that I am using.

  • 2
    Can you give the source of that rule? It seem like it means 5 consecutive consonant intervals where one voice is always moving stepwise, like 5 consecutive thirds. May 2 '19 at 15:38

I think the rule would result in examples like these...

enter image description here

...where the rules says to avoid movement like the first two examples.

The third is OK - by the rule - because there is at least one dissonance.

I haven't seen a rule with the specific wording, but the general principle is...

  • use a variety of intervals and motion types to create interesting counterpoint
  • use dissonance as a dynamic force to move the music forward.

...do not understand how a concordant movement can be longer than fifth. The only allowed intervals that are larger than 5th are minor 6th and octave.

I think the misunderstanding comes from the rule being poorly worded. Maybe they should use range. "...stepwise movement ranging more than a fifth..." Such movement would be the parts I circled in red. I don't think they mean the size of a melodic leap.

The "concordant" part could refer to melodic intervals like the tritone F leaping up to B which is often avoided. That that melodic concord meaning doesn't make sense to specify when the movement is already described as step-wise. I can only assume the concords are those formed in counterpoint with another line.

I'm still not sure where you got this rule. If you don't have a copy of Fux's species counterpoint, you should try to get one. It's one of the seminal counterpoint books. Personally, I have more faith in "rules" when they come from the most authoritative sources... or from real scores.

  • this are computer rules for cantus firmus and counter point: the general rules with MR (majority rules) mean that not all writers and theorists share the same opinion. That means: also the rules by Fux are opinion based. This is my opinion ;) May 2 '19 at 17:24
  • Sure, "rules" in art aren't really rules. I had a feeling the paper was about computer programming. I only skimmed the abstract. May 2 '19 at 17:28
  • @MichaelCurtis, thanks for the answer. I still do not get what "concordant" refers to in the rule that I have cited. Is it about the total interval spanned by the compound motion (the one that is not allowed to be "longer than 5th")? I tend to think that the author of the rule meant that each move is concordant and the sum of those moves cannot be larger than 5th.
    – Roman
    May 3 '19 at 11:44
  • Concordant mean consonant. They are synonymous terms. Concord and discord being the same as consonance and dissonance. May 3 '19 at 13:08

I suspect that your source for that rule is this paper, and I note that the authors appear to be Italian. The English awkward in many places, not least in the phrase "longer than a fifth," and I suspect that stepwise is a mistranslation from some Italian word. It is clear from the context that the word should instead be consecutive.

  • I also found this source (that I've accidentally downloaded the other day). MR means: not all the autors share the same opinion. I'll add the picture to my answer. May 2 '19 at 16:10
  • @phoog, thanks for the answer. I sill do not understand how a concordant movement can be longer than fifth. The only allowed intervals that are larger than 5th are minor 6th and octave. Both of them are note concordant (they are consonant).
    – Roman
    May 2 '19 at 16:44
  • @Roman isn't "concordant" synonymous with "consonant"? You implied as much in your question.
    – phoog
    May 2 '19 at 16:52

It means what Michael assumes:

Do not make longer passages with parallel thirds or sixths (maximum four episodes)

(as four steps will be a fifth)

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