Contemporary study of counterpoint is centered around two distinct idioms—16th-century vocal polyphony and functional tonal counterpoint—and the two composers considered as their highest incarnations: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Johann Sebastian Bach, respectively. Like most composers still to this day, Bach studied the music of Palestrina, referred to already back then as stile antico, the “ancient style.” There is an obvious continuum from Renaissance to Baroque polyphony, but underneath the surface, Bach’s music has a more complicated—and recursive—relationship to its predecessors. One type of counterpoint gave rise to a novel way of treating chords, and from the resulting harmonic language, a wholly new kind of counterpoint emerged— one which seems, on its surface, deceptively similar to the older kind, but turns out to be more akin to a familiar shape emerging when one zooms into fractal.
Ilari Kaila is a Finnish-American composer who works as Composer-in-Residence/Lecturer at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, School of Humanities. His recent works have been presented at the 2015 Chelsea Music Festival in New York City and Taipei as the festival’s Composer-in-Residence; at the Metropolis Festival in Australia by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; on the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra’s tour of Japan; in Finland by the Joensuu Symphony Orchestra; in Hong Kong as one of six young Composer Fellows featured in the “Intimacy of Creativity 2014” program; at the Banff Centre Summer Arts Festival in Canada; at the MATA Festival in New York City; and the New York International Fringe Festival; among others.