Discovering music through listening
Discovering music through listening

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Discovering music through listening

1.2 Monophonic, polyphonic and homophonic textures

In describing texture as musical lines or layers woven together vertically or horizontally, we might think about how these qualities are evident in three broad types of texture: monophonic (one sound), polyphonic (many sounds) and homophonic (the same sound). The distinction between monophonic and homophonic lies in the number of pitches sounded at any one time. In music where all instruments play the same pitch (even if this occurs at different registers), this could be described as monophonic. The ‘same sound’ of homophonic music lies in the harmony where the notes of the melody and accompaniment will emerge from chords. A polyphonic texture has ‘many sounds’; independent melodies that weave together while observing the rules of harmony. The three textures might be represented visually as follows:

A single line representing monophony (horizontal texture)
Figure 2 A single line representing monophony (horizontal texture)
Two lines representing polyphony (horizontal texture)
Figure 3 Two lines representing polyphony (horizontal texture)
Colourful blocks representing homophony (vertical texture)
Figure 4 Colourful blocks representing homophony (vertical texture)

Activity 2

Listen to the three audio extracts and decide whether these are monophonic, polyphonic or homophonic. Looking at the images in Figures 2, 3 and 4 may help while listening to the extracts to determine the texture.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Audio 4: Howard Goodall, The Lord is my Shepherd, 00:39–01:09
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Audio 5: The Beatles, Getting Better, 00:07–00:37
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Audio 31: Hildegard von Bingen, O pastor animarum, 00:00–00:30
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Audio 4 was homophonic. Each type of singer (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) sang a different pitch which formed the harmony. This moved together with the melody and created block chords. Audio 5 was polyphonic. The singers sang different melodies which interwove to form a pleasing harmony. Audio 31 was an example of a monophonic texture with a single, unaccompanied singer.

DMTL_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371