- Published: 28 December 2008
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Fran Mayer, age 13, of Barre, Vt., for her question:
WHAT IS COUNTERPOINT?
Counterpoint is the combination of several musical melodies at once.
Usually music is written with a single melody and supporting chords. With counterpoint, several melodies form chords when they are played together.
When two songs are played together, they create a quodlibet. Any harmonies in it are purely accidental, but the harmonies in counterpoint are intentional.
Counterpoint is also called polyphony, from the Greek words poly, or many, and phony, or voices. It developed about 1100 with the chanting of monks.
Counterpoint reached a high in the 1500s with the music of Giovanni Palestrina and William Byrd, and in the 1700s with the fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach.