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  • Writer's pictureTim Braithwaite

Adriano Banchieri on Cacophonous (!) Counterpoint

‘In Rome...while singing [extempore] counterpoint, in the mind (alla mente) above the bass, nobody does that which his partner sings, but everyone, with certain observations conferred among them, creates a very delightful (gustosissimo) sound, and this is a general custom, let a hundred different voices sing (as it were) consonantly above the bass, everything in accordance, and those few bad fifths and octaves, strangenesses (stravaganze) and dissonances (urtoni) are all the graces which make the true effect of improvised (alla mente) counterpoint...’

In Roma...mentre cantano il Contrapunto, alla mente sopra il Basso, niuno fa quello che cantar deve il compagno, ma tutti, con certe osservazioni tra di loro conferite rendono un udito gustosissimo, & è questa una Massima generale, cantino pure cento variate voci (per così dire) consonantemente sopra il Basso tutte accordano, & quelle cattive più Quinte ottave, stravaganze & urtoni sono tutte gratie che rendono il vero effetto del Contrapunto alla mente...

Adriano Banchieri, Cartella Musicale Nel Canto Figrato, Fermo, & Contrapunto., Third Edition (Venice: Giacomo Vincenti, 1614). My translation.

The example below is also from Banchieri’s Cartella Musicale, and is a four-voice canon by the Cistercian Monk Fulgentio Valesio, set to the text ‘Adrianus Banchierius Vivet Nomen Suum’ (‘Adriano Banchieri, long live his name.’) The instructions for its realisation are as follows:

The Tenor begins at an octave with the Soprano.

The Alto begins at a fifth with the Tenor.

The Bass begins at an octave with the Alto.

The singers should note that upon returning to the beginning, all four [voices] should raise the song one step, singing it as many times as they wish to and are able.

If anyone wanted to make my day, you’re welcome to post a realisation of the canon in the comments


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