In music, polyphony is one type of musical texture, where a texture is, generally speaking, the way that melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic aspects of a musical composition are combined to shape the overall sound and quality of the work. In particular, polyphony consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony, or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords, which is called homophony.
Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.
In music, texture is how the tempo, melodic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition, thus determining the overall quality of the sound in a piece. Texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width, between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. For example, a thick texture contains many 'layers' of instruments. One of these layers could be a string section, or another brass. The thickness also is changed by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be changed by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used. The types categorized by number and relationship of parts are analyzed and determined through the labeling of primary textural elements: primary melody (PM), secondary melody (SM), parallel supporting melody (PSM), static support (SS), harmonic support (HS), rhythmic support (RS), and harmonic and rhythmic support (HRS).
In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody, typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player without accompanying harmony or chords. Many folk songs and traditional songs are monophonic. A melody is also considered to be monophonic if a group of singers sings the same melody together at the unison or with the same melody notes duplicated at the octave. If an entire melody is played by two or more instruments or sung by a choir with a fixed interval, such as a perfect fifth, it is also said to be monophony. The musical texture of a song or musical piece is determined by assessing whether varying components are used, such as an accompaniment part or polyphonic melody lines.
Within the context of the Western musical tradition, the term polyphony is usually used to refer to music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Baroque forms such as fugue, which might be called polyphonic, are usually described instead as contrapuntal. Also, as opposed to the species terminology of counterpoint,[ clarification needed ] polyphony was generally either "pitch-against-pitch" / "point-against-point" or "sustained-pitch" in one part with melismas of varying lengths in another. In all cases the conception was probably what Margaret Bent (1999) calls "dyadic counterpoint", with each part being written generally against one other part, with all parts modified if needed in the end. This point-against-point conception is opposed to "successive composition", where voices were written in an order with each new voice fitting into the whole so far constructed, which was previously assumed.
Medieval music consists of songs, instrumental pieces, and liturgical music from about 500 A.D. to 1400. Medieval music was an era of Western music, including liturgical music used for the church, and secular music, non-religious music. Medieval music includes solely vocal music, such as Gregorian chant and choral music, solely instrumental music, and music that uses both voices and instruments. Gregorian chant was sung by monks during Catholic Mass. The Mass is a reenactment of Christ's Last Supper, intended to provide a spiritual connection between man and God. Part of this connection was established through music. This era begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century and ends sometime in the early fifteenth century. Establishing the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance music era is difficult, since the trends started at different times in different regions. The date range in this article is the one usually adopted by musicologists.
Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with the end of the medieval era, and to close it around 1600, with the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.
Baroque music is a period or style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance music era, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. Baroque music forms a major portion of the "classical music" canon, and is now widely studied, performed, and listened to. Key composers of the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni, François Couperin, Giuseppe Tartini, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Pachelbel.
The term polyphony is also sometimes used more broadly, to describe any musical texture that is not monophonic. Such a perspective considers homophony as a sub-type of polyphony.
Traditional (non-professional) polyphony has a wide, if uneven, distribution among the peoples of the world.[ citation needed ] Most polyphonic regions of the world are in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Oceania. It is believed that the origins of polyphony in traditional music vastly predate the emergence of polyphony in European professional music. Currently there are two contradictory approaches to the problem of the origins of vocal polyphony: the Cultural Model, and the Evolutionary Model. According to the Cultural Model, the origins of polyphony are connected to the development of human musical culture; polyphony came as the natural development of the primordial monophonic singing; therefore polyphonic traditions are bound to gradually replace monophonic traditions. According to the Evolutionary Model, the origins of polyphonic singing are much deeper, and are connected to the earlier stages of human evolution; polyphony was an important part of a defence system of the hominids, and traditions of polyphony are gradually disappearing all over the world. :198–210
This article discusses the music theory of Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony.
Although the exact origins of polyphony in the Western church traditions are unknown, the treatises Musica enchiriadis and Scolica enchiriadis , both dating from c. 900, are usually considered the oldest extant written examples of polyphony. These treatises provided examples of two-voice note-against-note embellishments of chants using parallel octaves, fifths, and fourths. Rather than being fixed works, they indicated ways of improvising polyphony during performance. The Winchester Troper , from c. 1000, is the oldest extant example of notated polyphony for chant performance, although the notation does not indicate precise pitch levels or durations.
Musica enchiriadis is an anonymous musical treatise of the 9th century. It is the first surviving attempt to set up a system of rules for polyphony in western art music. The treatise was once attributed to Hucbald, but this is no longer accepted. Some historians once attributed it to Odo of Cluny (879-942). It has also been attributed to Abbot Hoger.
Scolica enchiriadis is an anonymous ninth-century music theory treatise and commentary on its companion work, the Musica enchiriadis. These treatises were once attributed to Hucbald, but this is no longer accepted.
The Winchester Troper includes perhaps the oldest large collections of two-part music in Europe, along with the Chartres Manuscript, which is approximately contemporaneous or a little later.
European polyphony rose out of melismatic organum, the earliest harmonization of the chant. Twelfth-century composers, such as Léonin and Pérotin developed the organum that was introduced centuries earlier, and also added a third and fourth voice to the now homophonic chant. In the thirteenth century, the chant-based tenor was becoming altered, fragmented, and hidden beneath secular tunes, obscuring the sacred texts as composers continued to play with this new invention called polyphony. The lyrics of love poems might be sung above sacred texts in the form of a trope, or the sacred text might be placed within a familiar secular melody. The oldest surviving piece of six-part music is the English rota Sumer is icumen in (c. 1240).
Organum is, in general, a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages. Depending on the mode and form of the chant, a supporting bass line may be sung on the same text, the melody may be followed in parallel motion, or a combination of both of these techniques may be employed. As no real independent second voice exists, this is a form of heterophony. In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth. In these cases the composition often began and ended on a unison, the added voice keeping to the initial tone until the first part has reached a fifth or fourth, from where both voices proceeded in parallel harmony, with the reverse process at the end. Organum was originally improvised; while one singer performed a notated melody, another singer—singing "by ear"—provided the unnotated second melody. Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony.
Léonin was the first known significant composer of polyphonic organum. He was probably French, probably lived and worked in Paris at the Notre Dame Cathedral and was the earliest member of the Notre Dame school of polyphony and the ars antiqua style who is known by name. The name Léonin is derived from "Leoninus," which is the Latin diminutive of the name Leo; therefore it is likely that Léonin's given French name was Léo.
Perotinus Magnus, was a composer from around the late 12th century, associated with the Notre Dame school of polyphony in Paris and the ars antiqua musical style. The title Magister Perotinus, means that he was licensed to teach. The only information on his life with any degree of certainty comes from an anonymous English student at Notre Dame known as Anonymous IV. It is assumed that he was French and named Pérotin, a diminutive of Peter, but attempts to match him with persons in other documents remain speculative.
These musical innovations appeared in a greater context of societal change. After the first millennium, European monks decided to start translating the works of Greek philosophers into the vernacular. Western Europeans were aware of Plato, Socrates, and Hippocrates during the Middle Ages. However they had largely lost touch with the content of their surviving works because the use of Greek as a living language was restricted to the lands of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). Once these ancient works started being translated thus becoming accessible, the philosophies had a great impact on the mind of Western Europe. This sparked a number of innovations in medicine, science, art, and music.
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the Reformation era
European polyphony rose prior to, and during the period of the Western Schism. Avignon, the seat of the antipopes, was a vigorous center of secular music-making, much of which influenced sacred polyphony.
It was not merely polyphony that offended the medieval ears, but the notion of secular music merging with the sacred and making its way into the papal court. It gave church music more of a jocular performance quality removing the solemn worship they were accustomed to. The use of and attitude toward polyphony varied widely in the Avignon court from the beginning to the end of its religious importance in the fourteenth century. Harmony was not only considered frivolous, impious, and lascivious, but an obstruction to the audibility of the words. Instruments, as well as certain modes, were actually forbidden in the church because of their association with secular music and pagan rites. Dissonant clashes of notes give a creepy feeling that was labeled as evil, fueling their argument against polyphony as being the devil’s music. After banishing polyphony from the Liturgy in 1322, Pope John XXII spoke in his 1324 bull Docta Sanctorum Patrum warning against the unbecoming elements of this musical innovation.Pope Clement VI, however, indulged in it.
The oldest extant polyphonic setting of the mass attributable to one composer is Guillaume de Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame, dated to 1364, during the pontificate of Pope Urban V.
More recently, the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) stated: "Gregorian chant, other things being equal, should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded.... Religious singing by the people is to be skillfully fostered, so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out”.
English Protestant west gallery music included polyphonic multi-melodic harmony, including fuguing tunes, by the mid-18th century. This tradition passed with emigrants to North America, where it was proliferated in tunebooks, including shape-note books like The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp . While this style of singing has largely disappeared from British and North American sacred music, it survived in the rural Southern United States, until it again began to grow a following throughout the United States and even in places such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia and New Zealand, among others.[ citation needed ]
Polyphonic singing in the Balkans is traditional folk singing of this part of southern Europe. It is also called ancient, archaic or old-style singing.
Incipient polyphony (previously primitive polyphony) includes antiphony and call and response, drones, and parallel intervals.
Balkan drone music is described as polyphonic due to Balkan musicians using a literal translation of the Greek polyphōnos ('many voices'). In terms of Western classical music, it is not strictly polyphonic, due to the drone parts having no melodic role, and can better be described as multipart.
The polyphonic singing tradition of Epirus is a form of traditional folk polyphony practiced among Aromanians, Albanians, Greeks, and Macedonian Slavs in southern Albania and northwestern Greece.This type of folk vocal tradition is also found in North Macedonia and Bulgaria. Albanian polyphonic singing can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Tosks and Labs of southern Albania. The drone is performed in two ways: among the Tosks, it is always continuous and sung on the syllable ‘e’, using staggered breathing; while among the Labs, the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. It can be differentiated between two-, three- and four-voice polyphony.
The phenomenon of Albanian folk iso-polyphony (Albanian iso-polyphony) has been proclaimed by UNESCO a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". The term iso refers to the drone, which accompanies the iso-polyphonic singing and is related to the ison of Byzantine church music, where the drone group accompanies the song.
The French island Corsica has a unique style of music called Paghjella that is known for its polyphony. Traditionally, Paghjella contains a staggered entrance and continues with the three singers carrying independent melodies. This music tends to contain lots of melisma and is sung in a nasally temperament. Additionally, many paghjella songs contain a picardy third. After paghjella's revival in the 1970s, it experienced some changes. In the 1980s it had moved away from some of its more traditional features as it became much more heavily produced and tailored towards western tastes. There were now 4 singers, significantly less melisma, it was much more structured, and it exemplified more homophony. To the people of Corsica, the polyphony of paghjella represented freedom; it had been a source of cultural pride in Corsica and many felt that this movement away from the polyphonic style meant a movement away from paghjella's cultural ties. This resulted in a transition in the 1990s. Paghjella again had a strong polyphonic style and had a less structured meter.
Cantu a tenore is a traditional style of polyphonic singing in Sardinia.
Polyphony in the Republic of Georgia is arguably the oldest polyphony in the Christian world. Georgian polyphony is traditionally sung in three parts with strong dissonances, parallel fifths, and a unique tuning system based on perfect fifths. Georgian polyphonic singing has been proclaimed by UNESCO an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 8 Abkhazian two and three-part polyphony is based on a drone (sometimes a double drone). Two part drone songs are considered by Abkhazian and Georgian scholars the most important indigenous style of Abkhazian polyphony. Two-part drone songs are dominating in Gudauta district, the core region of ethnic Abkhazians. Millennia of cultural, social and economic interactions between Abkhazians and Georgians on this territory resulted in reciprocal influences, and in particular, creation of a new, so-called “Georgian style” of three-part singing in Abkhazia, unknown among Adyghes. This style is based on two leading melodic lines (performed by soloists - akhkizkhuo) singing together with the drone or ostinato base (argizra). Indigenous Abkhazian style of three-part polyphony uses double drones (in fourths, fifths, or octaves) and one leading melodic line at one time. Abkhazians use a very specific cadence: tetrachordal downward movement, ending on the interval of a fourth. :55Polyphony plays a crucial role in Abkhazian traditional music. Polyphony is present in all genres where the social environment provides more than one singer to support the melodic line. The ethnomusicologist Izaly Zemtsovsky reported witnessing an example of such an incident, in which an Abkhazian dozing at a bus stop started singing a drone to support a singer unknown to him. :
Both Chechen and Ingush traditional music could be very much defined by their tradition of vocal polyphony. As in other North Caucasian musical cultures, Chechen and Ingush polyphony is based on a drone. Unlike most of the other North Caucasian polyphonic traditions (where two-part polyphony is the leading type), Chechen and Ingush polyphony is mostly three-part. Middle part, the carrier of the main melody of songs, is accompanied by the double drone, holding the interval of the fifth “around” the main melody. Intervals and chords, used in Chechen and Ingush polyphony, are often dissonances (sevenths, seconds, fourths). This is quite usual in all North Caucasian traditions of polyphony as well, but in Chechen and Ingush traditional songs more sharp dissonances are used. In particular, a specific cadence, where the final chord is a dissonant three-part chord, consisting of fourth and the second on top (c-f-g), is quite unique for North Caucasia. Only on the other side of Caucasian mountains, in western Georgia, there are only few songs that finish on the same dissonant chord (c-f-g). 60–61:
Parts of Oceania maintain rich polyphonic traditions.
The peoples of New Guinea Highlands including the Moni, Dani, and Yali use vocal polyphony, as do the people of Manus Island. Many of these styles are drone-based or feature close, secondal harmonies dissonant to western ears. Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands are host to instrumental polyphony, in the form of bamboo panpipe ensembles.
Early European encounters with Polynesians were surprised to find polyphonic singing there, which was likely drone-based and dissonant, like Melanesian polyphony. However, Polynesian traditions became strongly influenced by Western choral church music, which brought counterpoint into Polynesian musical practice.
See Also Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony
Numerous Sub-Saharan African music traditions host polyphonic singing, typically moving in parallel motion.
While the Maasai people traditionally sing with drone polyphony, other East African groups use more elaborate techniques. The Dorze people, for example, sing with as many as six parts, and the Wagogo use counterpoint.
The music of African Pygmies (e.g. that of the Aka people) is typically ostinato and contrapuntal, featuring yodeling. Other Central African peoples tend to sing with parallel lines rather than counterpoint.
The singing of the San people, like that of the pygmies, features melodic repetition, yodeling, and counterpoint. The singing of neighboring Bantu peoples, like the Zulu, is more typically parallel.
The peoples of tropical West Africa traditionally use parallel harmonies rather than counterpoint.
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour. It has been most commonly identified in the European classical tradition, strongly developing during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period, especially in the Baroque. The term originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum meaning "point against point".
A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.
Plainsong is a body of chants used in the liturgies of the Western Church. Though the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches did not split until long after the origin of plainsong, Byzantine chants are generally not classified as plainsong.
Music is found in every known culture, past and present, varying widely between times and places. Since all people of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have a form of music, it may be concluded that music is likely to have been present in the ancestral population prior to the dispersal of humans around the world. Consequently, the first music may have been invented in Africa and then evolved to become a fundamental constituent of human life.
Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, with later additions and redactions. Although popular legend credits Pope Gregory I with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Roman chant and Gallican chant.
The Music of Albania is associated with the country of Albania and Albanian communities. Music has a long tradition in the country and is known for its regional diversity, from the Ghegs in the North to the Tosks in the South. It is an integral part of the national identity, strongly influenced by the country's long and turbulent history, which forced Albanians to protect their culture from their overlords by living in rural and remote mountains.
Georgia has rich and still vibrant traditional music, which is primarily known as arguably the earliest polyphonic tradition of the Christian world. Situated on the border of Europe and Asia, Georgia is also the home of a variety of urban singing styles with a mixture of native polyphony, Middle Eastern monophony and late European harmonic languages. Georgian performers are well represented in the world's leading opera troupes and concert stages. Famous rock band Черные Залупы is from Georgia.
Outside France the island of Corsica is perhaps best known musically for its polyphonic choral tradition. The rebirth of this genre was linked with the rise of Corsican nationalism in the 1970s. The anthem of Corsica is "Dio vi Salvi Regina".
In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also any part of a musical instrument that is used to produce such an effect, as is the archaic term burden such as a "drone [pipe] of a bagpipe", the pedal point in an organ, or the lowest course of a lute. Α burden is also part of a song that is repeated at the end of each stanza, such as the chorus or refrain.
The modern state of Italy did not come into being until 1861, though the roots of music on the Italian Peninsula can be traced back to the music of Ancient Rome. However, the underpinnings of much modern Italian music come from the Middle Ages.
The polyphonic song of Epirus is a form of traditional folk polyphony practiced among Albanians, Aromanians, Greeks and Macedonian Slavs in southern Albania and northwestern Greece. The polyphonic song of Epirus is not to be confused with other varieties of polyphonic singing, such as the yodeling songs of the region of Muotatal, or the Cantu a tenore of Sardinia.
A part generally refers to a single strand or melody or harmony of music within a larger ensemble or a polyphonic musical composition. There are several senses in which the word is often used:
Joseph Jordania is an Australian–Georgian ethnomusicologist and evolutionary musicologist and professor. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at the University of Melbourne and the Head of the Foreign Department of the International Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony at Tbilisi State Conservatory. Jordania is known for his model of the origins of human choral singing in the wide context of human evolution and was one of founders of the International Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony in Georgia.
The International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony is an academic organization focused on the study of the phenomenon of traditional vocal polyphony. It is a part of Tbilisi Vano Sarajishvili State Conservatory. Establishment of IRCTP was announced during the First International Symposium of Traditional Polyphony in 2002, and it was logistically established by the order of the Rector of Tbilisi State Conservatory in February 2003. Its director is Rusudan Tsurtsumia. The head of its International Bureau is Joseph Jordania. Central activity of the Polyphonic Center is organizing biannual symposia, with subsequent publication of the presented papers, fostering dissemination of the knowledge on human musical cultures and establishing close professional contacts between ethnomusicologists interested in study of the phenomenon of traditional choral singing.
Ison is a drone note, or a slow-moving lower vocal part, used in Byzantine chant and some related musical traditions to accompany the melody, thus enriching the singing, at the same time not transforming it into a harmonized or polyphonic piece.
Russian Liturgical Music is the musical tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church. This tradition began with the importation of the Byzantine Empire's religious music when the Kievan Rus' converted to Orthodoxy in 988.
Albanian iso-polyphony is a traditional part of Albanian folk music and, as such, is included in UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.
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