Jeremiah Lawson wrote:jack_cat, I was away for a few months because of stuff that came up in the offline world. I never read Fux because I got the distinct impression Fux wouldn't really help me understand actual Renaissance polyphonic practice more readily than I could if I just stayed immersed in Dowland and Byrd and look at what those two actually did. Neither would Fux explicate counterpoint as practice by Bachs or by Haydn, let alone Hindemith or Stravinsky. So I've managed to go decades loving contrapuntal music and having written a few fugues for solo guitar having never bothered to read Fux. I've often wondered whether or not studying Fux would hurt a musician's odds of really understanding polyphonic music as it's actually been practiced. A similar textbook-defeats-attention-to-practice seems to have happened with that other musical thought process that peaked in the 18th century, sonata form(s). It's like we've had scholars having to go back to the drawing board discussing sonata and fugue because the textbook traditions have seemingly steered so many wrong.
Fux, though regaled by many, doesn't really teach "practical" music beyond a certain set of base elements. However, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all studied it (the latter two under Haydn's tutelage I believe though I could be wrong about one or both) - and adapted it to Classical style.
It was written in either 1720 or 1725 and was one of the first "theory" books at the flourishing of "how to" texts ushering in and resulting from "the Enlightenment". Another example is Rameau's Harmony Treatise (the other date of the former two) as well as playing books by CPE Bach, Leopold Mozart, JJ Quantz etc.
So the book would have been relatively "new" at that time, and known by the fathers and teachers of the Classical composers.
Alfred Mann's book on Fugue is great for a historical overview.
If one is interested in writing Counterpoint in general though, I would highly recommend Robert Gauldin's two texts, "A Practical Approach to 18th Century Counterpoint" and it's companion - same title bu 16th century.
16th century counterpoint is more like Palestrina (and Jeppesen's book is really the bible on that) but if you're thinking more like Bach Fugues and other similar contrapuntal styles, the 18th century book is great - it really is a PRACTICAL approach.
IOW, it goes beyond "Species Counterpoint" and actually uses real examples of real music in various forms. And I dare say, most "composers" who are interested in these forms are more interested in the instrumental versions rather than the Vocal versions Fux focuses on (if he focuses on "real" pieces much at all).
BTW, there's also a great text called something like "Counterpoint from Josquin to Stravinsky" which goes through the principles of counterpoint and how they were adapted for various styles, which again is far more practical to me than the overly prescriptive nature of a single style (and Fux's is really a blending of 16th and 18th century principles).