COUNTERPOINT (from Lat. punctum contra puncture, point against point) in music, is the art of combining melodies, or more cor rectly of adding melody to melody. The origin of the word is more nearly approached when to a given theme the melody added is called its counterpoint. In former times musical sounds were represented by dots or points placed on the lines, and the added part or parts were written by placing the proper points under or against each other — punctum contra punctum. Some authorities use the word counterpoint simply as an equivalent of harmony, by others it is employed to denote the art of composition generally. It is preferable to apply this term now to that branch of the art which, a musical thought being given, teaches the development of it, according to the laws of the art, by ex tension or' embellishment, by transposition, repetition or imitation throughout the different parts. Contrary motion, augmentation and diminution, the latter two referring to the time value of the notes, are also other devices of counterpoint. It thus stands related to har mony as literary composition stands to gram mar. Simple counterpoint is the art of adding a part or parts to a given melody in notes all of equal time value, as in plain-song or ecclesias tical style. Florid counterpoint is when the notes of the added parts are of less time value (say two crochets or four quavers against a minim) than those in the melody or subject, as it is called. In double counterpoint, the sub
ject may start in the bass and be repeated in the upper part, or vice-versa. It becomes triple or quadruple when two or three parts are added with the harmony inverted. Further, counter point is divided into the free and strict styles, the former, which is of the florid order, allow ing many licenses as to discords, etc., not per mitted in the dignified slow movement of the strict style. The fugue (q.v.) may be classed among the highest developed forms of the art of counterpoint. It has been said that the art was known as far back as the 4th or 5th century; others again ascribe its invention to Guido d'Arezzo in the 11th century, or Adam de la Hale two centuries later. It was not until the 17th or 18th century that the art attained its maturity under the fostering care of Palestrina, J. Sebastian and Emmanuel Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven's avowed aim in his later works to make every part sing, and not to be mere harmonic padding, well illustrates the object of counterpoint, while among the greatest contrapuntalists and inno vators of modern times are Wagner and Brahms who by their intensive utilization of overtones practically extended the field of counterpoint and harmony. Numerous treatises on counter point exist; among the best modern authorities are Prout, Richter, Riemann and Jadassohn.