Modal Counterpoint in Two Voices
Sacred music during the Counter-Reformation, as practiced by Palestrina, Lassus, and Victoria, was more strict regarding dissonance treatment than music has ever been before or since. This is one reason why it is advantageous for us to spend a fair amount of time learning to imitate it. If the style with the strictest dissonance treatment is mastered, there can be no problem in dealing with less strict styles. Our study of second-and fourth-species counterpoint has given us the opportunity to acquire some skill in the use of passing tones on weak beats and suspensions on strong beats. In fact, the most essential rule for dissonance treatment in the sacred style we are studying is this: dissonances on strong beats must be suspensions; dissonances on weak beats must be passing tones. All other dissonances occur exclusively on offbeats.