MUS 311 Counterpoint
O. Fugue, Chapter 15
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There is no such thing as "fugue form," rather, it is a
compositional procedure. Yet, a ternary (ABA) plan is
frequently (not always) encountered.
Fugues tend to be laid out as follows:
Exposition, where the subject is announced in
Development Section, which contains "free"
material, and generally avoids the tonic key
Recapitulation, containing some reference to the
subject in the tonic key.
Subjects vary in length, from one bar to eight or
- The subject should be long enough to give the feeling of an
identifiable line, and not just a figure.
- Soggetto--the subject of a fugue or other contrapuntal
piece which is short (2-3 bars) and relatively simple.
- Andamento--a fugue subject of substantial length, which
often falls naturally into two contrasting sections.
- A fugue subject should have some striking feature--melodic and/or
rhythmic--so that it is recognizable when restated.
Fugue Subject Characteristics:
- It will have an interesting contour, including a climax.
- Subjects should not use period construction.
- It will usually begin on the tonic, sometimes dominant, note to
- It may begin either on or off the beat.
- If a subject happens to begin on the leading tone or supertonic,
it will be an anacrusis.
- Usually does not exceed the range of an octave--is often much
- May be used in stretto fashion, presenting interesting
possibilities for development.
Answer--the second appearance of the subject announced at the dominant.
- Typically following is a third announcement at the tonic, referred
to as "subject form."
- If the fugue has four voices, the fourth announcement will usually
be a second answer.
- The answer in a fugue may be real or tonal.
- In 3-voice fugues, the pattern of keys in the exposition is
always: I V I (subject, answer, subject).
Three-Voice Fugue Exposition:
Exposition--the initial statement of the subject and answer in
all voices. (There are usually as many announcements in the
exposition as there are voices in the fugue.)
Countersubject--a melodic idea that appears consistently along
with the subject in the exposition from the second announcement
- A countersubject and its subject must be invertible, i.e., work
as an upper or lower voice.
- Some fugues do not use a countersubject, only free counterpoint
to accompany the subject.
- When an exposition is extended by the addition of an announcement
or by sequential extension, the cadence at the end of it often
occurs in a key other than tonic.
- For entries to be considered "regular," the first two
must occur in adjacent voices:
- Most common: 1-2-3, 2-1-3.
Four-voice texture allows for the simultaneous sounding of all four
notes of a seventh chord.
- Although linear considerations should govern doubling to a large
extent, an effort should be made to avoid doubling certain chord
members, e.g., a chromatically altered tone, or the third of a
- Rhythmic activity may be evenly distributed, or not. Two
voices may be evenly paired, etc.
- In general, at least one of the four voices in a contrapuntal
fabric is likely to be subordinate at any given point.
- In most 4-voice contrapuntal works, all four voices are not
involved continuously. One or two drop out from time to time,
introducing a variety of textures.
- Short rests help to define the segments of musical thought, and
make re-entries more obvious.
The exposition in a four-voice fugue simply carries one step
further the pattern of three-voice fugues: S.-I, A.-V, S.-I,
- The use of tonal imitation is common.
- Frequently, but not always, a bridge passage will occur between
the second and third announcements of the subject.
- In 4-part, an (entry) order is considered "regular" if
the first two announcements are in adjacent voices, and if odd- and
even-numbered voices alternate.
- Orders such as 1-3-2-4 and 2-4-3-1 are not used because entries
are not adjacent, and odd- and even-numbered voices do not
- Bach, in five fugues, used 2134 or 3241, but the first two voices
are adjacent, which is the most important consideration.
Subject as Related to Material that Follows:
- In most fugues, the point at which the subject ends and the
countersubject or free material begins is quite clear.
- It may be marked by a mild cadential "feeling," or
- It may be marked by some new melodic or rhythmic element.
- As in 3-part inventions, the end of the subject is sometimes
followed by a "link" that keeps the rhythm going and leads
smoothly to the first note of the countersubject or free material.
Subject as Related to Answer:
Stretto fugue--when the answer is begun before the subject
has been completed.
- Rarely appearing in fugue expositions are: augmentation, diminution, contrary
Counterfugue--when subsequent subject announcements are made
in contrary motion.
Counterexposition--when, after a short episodic passage, a
second exposition follows the first. (Entry of voices is usually
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