Persona Classical Persona Digital

Classical Music

Counterpoint for Genius

My Counterpoint for Genius series is a collection of four albums that has evolved over several years though experimentation with a number of transcriptions of Bach pieces, many from the religious Cantatas, mixed with different voicing and, different tempos and transpositions. Mozart has received the most attention as the composer of smart music. Bach excels. I realized that many of the Bach pieces I recorded were among the best examples of contrapuntal composition and that counterpoint was the perfect brain exercise

I am often amazed by how many notes in interweaving layers my brain is willing to decipher. If the notes form interesting patterns and move in space, then they remain fresh and invigorating. I the early days of my experimentation with synthesizers, I encountered patterns of sound that produce meditative experiences, acoustic illusions, mind clearing, and some very annoying experiences. At the same time I was experimenting with brain biofeedback using sound to reveal brain waves. The basic idea was that amplified brain waves could be evaluated by frequency and amplitude, desirable goals established and a sound signal would inform the subject when his or her brain waves were in the desired range. The most common goal was to achieve slow, symmetrical sine waves from each cerebral hemisphere; the frequency range of about 8 to 12 hertz was called alpha.

While repetition is good, too much can become annoying. Small variations in a repeating pattern will avoid habituation and annoyance. The occasional, surprising sound will awaken new interest. Complex staccato passages with precise but low amplitude sounds are followed closely by the temporal cortex.

JS BachMy Bach project shifted toward brain exercises for Geniuses (Counterpoint for Genius). I now believe that the textured complexity of counterpoint can be a delight for a receptive listener and also a useful way to exercise some of the more complex computational centers in the brain. My strategy is to keep the individual voices clear so the layered, interwoven texture of the music is as distinct as possible. I also pay much attention to leaving silent spaces in the interstices since I discovered many years ago that increased sound density was harmful rather than helpful.

Cantatas are long pieces with many distinct sections. Only some sections display counterpoint, others employ melody and harmony without the formal dynamics of counterpoint.

The Counterpoint for Genius series is a collection of four albums.

Digital Bach for the 21 Century A Persona Digital Studio Production

Here are two pieces from the Counterpoint for Genius Series

BWV 1043-3

Cantata BWV26-2

Stephen Gislason Arranger & Performer