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Heterophony

Heterophony

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In music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, heterophony is a type of texture
Texture (music)
In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition , thus determining the overall quality of sound of a piece...

 characterized by the simultaneous variation
Variation (music)
In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

 of a single melodic
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 line. Such a texture can be regarded as a kind of complex monophony
Monophony
In music, monophony is the simplest of textures, consisting of melody without accompanying harmony. This may be realized as just one note at a time, or with the same note duplicated at the octave . If the entire melody is sung by two voices or a choir with an interval between the notes or in...

 in which there is only one basic melody, but realized at the same time in multiple voices, each of which plays the melody differently, either in a different rhythm
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

 or tempo
Tempo
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

, or with various embellishments and elaborations. The term (coined by Archilochus
Archilochus
Archilochus, or, Archilochos While these have been the generally accepted dates since Felix Jacoby, "The Date of Archilochus," Classical Quarterly 35 97-109, some scholars disagree; Robin Lane Fox, for instance, in Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer , p...

) was initially introduced into systematic musicology
Musicology
Musicology is the scholarly study of music. The word is used in narrow, broad and intermediate senses. In the narrow sense, musicology is confined to the music history of Western culture...

 to denote a subcategory of polyphonic
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 music, though is now regarded as a textural category in its own right.

Heterophony is often a characteristic feature of non-Western
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 traditional musics - for example Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese Gagaku
Gagaku
Gagaku is a type of Japanese classical music that has been performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for several centuries. It consists of three primary repertoires:#Native Shinto religious music and folk songs and dance, called kuniburi no utamai...

, the gamelan music of Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, kulintang
Kulintang
Kulintang is a modern term for an ancient instrumental form of music composed on a row of small, horizontally-laid gongs that function melodically, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums...

 ensembles of the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

  and the traditional music of Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

. A remarkably vigorous Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an tradition of heterophonic music exists, however, in the form of Outer Hebridean
Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides also known as the Western Isles and the Long Island, is an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. The islands are geographically contiguous with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland...

 Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic language
Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish....

 psalmody.

Thai music is nonharmonic, melodic, or linear, and as is the case with all musics of this genre, its fundamental organization is horizontal... Thai music in its horizontal complex is made up of a main melody played simultaneously with variants of it which progress in relatively slower and faster rhythmic units... Individual lines of melody and variants sound in unison or octaves only at specific structural points, and the simultaneity of different pitches does not follow the Western system of organized chord progressions. Between the structural points where the pitches coincide (unison or octaves) each individual line follows the style idiomatic for the instrument playing it. The vertical complex at any given intermediary point follows no set progression; the linear adherence to style regulates. Thus several pitches that often create a highly complex simultaneous structure may occur at any point between the structural pitches. The music 'breathes' by contracting to one pitch, then expanding to a wide variety of pitches, then contracting again to another structural pitch, and so on throughout. Though these complexes of pitches between structural points may strike the Western listener as arbitrary and inconsequential, the individual lines are highly consequential and logical linearly. The pattern of pitches occurring at these structural points is the basis of the modal aspect of Thai music. (Morton 1978, p.21)


This definition is however entirely misleading and although the above passage is intended to describe melodic features of Thai music it was not intended as a definition of Heterophany. The author Morton (as quoted), in the very next paragraph, on the very same page in the thesis from which this quote was taken says the following

'The technique of combining simultaneously one main melody and its variants is often incorrectly described as heterophany: polyphonic stratafication seems a more precise description, since each of the 'layers' is not just a close approximation of the main melody, but also has distinct characteristics and a style of its own (Morton 1964, p 39)

Heterophony is somewhat rare in Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 Classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 music prior to the twentieth century, but is frequently encountered in the music of early modernist
Modernism (music)
Modernism in music is characterized by a desire for or belief in progress and science, surrealism, anti-romanticism, political advocacy, general intellectualism, and/or a breaking with the past or common practice.- Defining musical modernism :...

 composers such as Debussy, Enescu and Stravinsky, who were directly influenced by non-Western (and largely heterophonic) musics. Heterophony is a standard technique in the music of the post-war avant garde, however - for example Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex ; harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations...

's Sept Haïkaï (1962), Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

's Rituel: In Memoriam Bruno Maderna
Rituel in Memoriam Bruno Maderna
Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna is a composition for large chamber ensemble in eight groups by the French composer Pierre Boulez. It was first performed in London, 2 April 1975, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Boulez....

(1974-75) and Harrison Birtwistle
Harrison Birtwistle
Sir Harrison Paul Birtwistle CH is a British contemporary composer.-Life:Birtwistle was born in Accrington, a mill town in Lancashire some 20 miles north of Manchester. His interest in music was encouraged by his mother, who bought him a clarinet when he was seven, and arranged for him to have...

's Pulse Shadows (1989-96). Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

 used it to great effect in many of his compositions, including parts of the War Requiem
War Requiem
The War Requiem, Op. 66 is a large-scale, non-liturgical setting of the Requiem Mass composed by Benjamin Britten mostly in 1961 and completed January 1962. Interspersed with the traditional Latin texts, in telling juxtaposition, are settings of Wilfred Owen poems...

and especially his three Church Parables: Curlew River
Curlew River
Curlew River — A Parable for Church Performance is the first of three Church Parables by Benjamin Britten. The work is based on the Japanese noh play Sumidagawa of Juro Motomasa , which Britten saw during a visit to Japan and the Far East in early 1956...

, The Burning Fiery Furnace
The Burning Fiery Furnace
The Burning Fiery Furnace is one of the three Parables for Church Performances composed by Benjamin Britten, dating from 1966, and is his Opus 77. The other two 'church parables' are Curlew River and The Prodigal Son . William Plomer was the librettist.The work was premiered at Orford Church,...

and The Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son (Britten)
The Prodigal Son is an opera by Benjamin Britten with a libretto by William Plomer. Based on the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, this was Britten's third "parable for church performance", after Curlew River and The Burning Fiery Furnace. Britten dedicated the score to Dmitri Shostakovich.The...

.

Sources

  • Morton, David (1976). The Traditional Music of Thailand. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01876-1.