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polyphony

polyphony (pəlĬf´ənē), music whose texture is formed by the interweaving of several melodic lines. The lines are independent but sound together harmonically. Contrasting terms are homophony, wherein one part dominates while the others form a basically chordal accompaniment, and monophony, wherein there is but a single melodic line (e.g., plainsong). Polyphony grew out of the practice of organum, in which a plainsong melody is paralleled by another melody at the interval of a fourth or a fifth. This practice, first described in the Musica enchiriadis (late 9th cent.), developed into freer forms of countermelody, culminating in the great age of polyphony in the 15th and 16th cent. In the music of this period, harmonies seem to be generated by the melodic lines sung simultaneously. The gradual ascendancy of harmonic relationships over melodic considerations and the resultant development of major and minor tonalities led in the baroque era to a polyphony controlled by harmony. The fugues and chorale settings of J. S. Bach are the epitome of this type. Homophonic texture is more characteristic of the music of the classical and romantic eras, but in the 20th cent. there has been renewed interest in polyphonic aspects of musical texture and structure. See counterpoint.

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polyphony

po·lyph·o·ny / pəˈlifənē/ • n. (pl. -nies) Mus. the style of simultaneously combining a number of parts, each forming an individual melody and harmonizing with each other. ∎  a composition written, played, or sung in this style. ∎  (on an electronic keyboard or synthesizer) the number of notes or voices that can be played simultaneously without loss. DERIVATIVES: pol·y·pho·nist / -fənist/ n. pol·y·pho·nous / -fənəs/ adj.

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polyphony

polyphony Vocal or instrumental part music in which the compositional interest centres on the ‘horizontal’ aspect of each moving part rather than on the ‘vertical’ structure of chords. The golden age of polyphonic music was the 16th century, and masters of that time included Giovanni Palestrina and William Byrd.

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polyphony

polyphony (Gr.). Many sounds. Mus. in which several simultaneous v. or instr. parts are combined contrapuntally, as opposed to monophonic mus. (single melody) or homophonic mus. (one melodic line, the other parts acting as acc.). In historical terms, polyphonic era is defined as 13th–16th cents., but polyphony survived beyond 1700.

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polyphony

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