Friday, August 27, 2004


Polyphonic is music that combines several distinct melodic lines simultaneaously, and in the style in which all or several of the parts move to some extent independently. It's used in contrast with monophonic which consists of a single melodic line, and homophonic music which consists of several lines moving at the same time in the same rhythm. Few pieces belong exclusively to one category. Certain music forms often depend on alternating between sections of monophony, homophony, and polyphony.
Not to confuse you but there are two important categories of polyphonic music...equal and unequal voice polyphony. In equal voice, the individual lines present the same thematic material, but they are staggered in time. You may know these as example would be Canon in D by Pachelbel. In unequal voice, one or more voices are assumed to have a structural priority over the others. The most important polyphonic voice is usually the tenor, because it is the one that projects the preexisting melody.

Source: The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, 4th ed.