In music, heterophony is a type of texture characterized by the simultaneous variation of a single melodic line. Such a texture can be regarded as a kind of complex monophony 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 or tempo, or with various embellishments and elaborations. The term (coined by Archilochus) was initially introduced into systematic musicology to denote a subcategory of polyphonic music, though is now regarded as a textural category in its own right.

Heterophony is often a characteristic feature of non-Western traditional musics—for example Ottoman classical music, Arabic classical music, Japanese Gagaku, the gamelan music of Indonesia, kulintang ensembles of the Philippines and the traditional music of Thailand. In European traditions, there are also some examples of heterophony. One such example is dissonant heterophony of dinaric Ganga or "Ojkavica" traditions from southern Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro that is attributed to ancient Illyrian tradition. Another remarkably vigorous European tradition of heterophonic music exists, in the form of Outer Hebridean Gaelic 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.[1]

The term heterophony may not clearly describe the phenomena involved, and the term polyphonic stratification is suggested instead:

"The technique of combining simultaneously one main melody and its variants is often incorrectly described as heterophony: polyphonic stratification 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"[2]

Heterophony is somewhat rare in Western Classical music prior to the twentieth century. There are examples to be found the works of J.S.Bach:

J.S.Bach from Cantata BWV80 "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott", Aria for soprano with oboe obbligato
Ein Feste Burg 2
J.S.Bach from Cantata BWV 80 "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott", Aria for soprano with oboe obbligato.

- and Mozart :

Mozart K491 first movement, bars 211-14
Mozart K491 first movment, bars 211-14
Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, first movement, bars 211-214.

However, it is frequently encountered in the music of early modernist 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's Sept Haïkaï (1962), and Harrison Birtwistle's Pulse Shadows (1989-96). Other examples include Pierre Boulez's Rituel, Répons, and …explosante-fixe….[3] Benjamin Britten used it to great effect in many of his compositions, including parts of the War Requiem and especially in the instrumental interludes of his three Church Parables: Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace and The Prodigal Son. `”So unexpectedly stark were the sounds Britten drew from this group, and in particular so little dependent of his familiar harmonic propulsion, that listeners were ready to trace direct exotic influences in many features of the score.” [4]


  1. ^ Morton, David (1976). The Traditional Music of Thailand, p.21. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01876-1.
  2. ^ Morton (1964), p.39.
  3. ^ Campbell, Edward (2010). Boulez, Music and Philosophy, p.211&213. ISBN 978-0-521-86242-4.
  4. ^ Evans, P. 1979, p469) The Music of Benjamin Britten. London, Dent.

External links

  • The dictionary definition of heterophony at Wiktionary
Bistritsa Babi

Bistritsa Babi (Bulgarian: Бистришките баби, "The Bistritsa Grannies") are an elderly/multi-generational female vocal ensemble carrying on the traditional dances and polyphonic singing of the Shopluk region of Bulgaria. Founded in 1939, the group won the European Folk Art Award in 1978, and it was declared a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. Performing three-part polyphony with features "retained from the pre-Christian times," the group has toured Europe and the US. They are known for their use of Shopi polyphony, costuming, dancing in a ring (horo), and performing the lazarouvane (the girls' springtime initiation ritual). In 2005 they were included in UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage elements in Eastern Europe.

The Shopi genre is characterized by diaphony and parallel voicing. "Diaphony" is a type of polyphony where the melody is performed by one or two soloists, consisting of izvikava and buchi krivo or "to shout out" and "crooked rumbled roars", while the ensemble holds a doubled or trebled drone. Dance and music are asynchronous.

The group was formed by pairs of women recruited as vocal accompanists to the Bistritsa Chetvorka (Bulgarian: Bistritsa Foursome/Quartet), founded around 1935.

Daina (Lithuania)

Daina is the traditional name of vocal folk music in the Baltic languages, and is preserved in Lithuania and Latvia. Lithuanian dainos (literally, "songs") are often noted not only for their mythological content, but also for relating historical events.

Most Lithuanian folk music is based around various types of dainos, which include romantic songs, wedding songs, as well as work songs, and archaic war songs. These dainos are performed either solo, or in groups, and in parallel chords or unison. There are three ancient styles of singing in Lithuania connected with ethnographical regions: monophony, multi-voiced homophony, heterophony and polyphony. Monophony mostly occurs in southern (Dzūkija), southwest (Suvalkija) and eastern (Aukštaitija) parts of Lithuania. Multi-voiced homophony is widespread in the entire Lithuania; it is most archaic in the western part (Samogitia). Polyphonic songs are common in the renowned sutartinės tradition of Aukštaitija, occurring only sporadically in other regions. A large number of Lithuanian dainos are performed in the minor key.

Parts of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring are based on Lithuanian dainos, as are works by Lithuanian composer Juozas Naujalis.

Gideon Gee-Bum Kim

Gideon Gee-Bum Kim (Korean: 김기범, born September 12, 1964) is a Korean-Canadian classical music composer, conductor, and music educator and founder of the Toronto Messiaen Ensemble. His music draws on his Christian faith and shows a connection of the rich musical heritage of Korea and new compositional techniques, especially in the field of heterophony texture and all of this with live and emotional imagination.


Harmolodics is the musical philosophy and compositional/improvisational method of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, whose work following this philosophy during the late 1970s and 1980s inspired a style of free-thinking jazz funk known as harmolodic funk. It is associated with avant-garde jazz and free jazz, although its implications extend beyond these limits. Coleman also used the name "Harmolodic" for both his first website and his record label.

Hashkiveinu (Bernstein)

Hashkiveinu is a work for solo cantor (tenor), mixed chorus, and organ composed by Leonard Bernstein in 1945. The work is six minutes in length and uses the prayer text from the Jewish Sabbath evening service. The work is in Hebrew, and the transliterated score uses Ashkenazic pronunciation.

Heterography and homography

In linguistics, heterography is a property of a written language, such that it lacks a 1-to-1 correspondence between the written symbols and the sounds of the spoken language. Its opposite is homography, which is the property of a language such that written symbols of its written form and the sounds of its spoken form have a 1-to-1 correspondence.The orthography of the English language is, according to Larry Trask, a "spectacular example" of heterography. But most European languages exhibit it to some extent. Finnish is "very close" to being a systematically homographic language. A phonemic transcription (such as a transcription of phonemes that uses the International Phonetic Alphabet, for example) is, by its nature, homographic, also.The degree of heterography of a language is a factor in how difficult it is for person to learn to read that language, with highly heterographic orthographies being more difficult to learn than more homographic ones. Many people have espoused the point of view that the extreme heterographic nature of English is a disadvantage in several respects. These include, for example, Dr. Kiyoshi Makita writing in the July 1968 issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, who attributes the rarity of dyslexia amongst Japanese children to the fact that Japanese is highly homographic language.


In music, homophony (; Greek: ὁμόφωνος, homóphōnos, from ὁμός, homós, "same" and φωνή, phōnē, "sound, tone") is a texture in which a primary part is supported by one or more additional strands that flesh out the harmony and often provide rhythmic contrast. This differentiation of roles contrasts with equal-voice polyphony (in which similar lines move with rhythmic and melodic independence to form an even texture) and monophony (in which all parts move in unison or octaves). Historically, homophony and its differentiated roles for parts emerged in tandem with tonality, which gave distinct harmonic functions to the soprano, bass and inner voices.

A homophonic texture may be homorhythmic, which means that all parts have the same rhythm. Chorale texture is another variant of homophony. The most common type of homophony is melody-dominated homophony, in which one voice, often the highest, plays a distinct melody, and the accompanying voices work together to articulate an underlying harmony.Initially, in Ancient Greece, homophony indicated music in which a single melody is performed by two or more voices in unison or octaves, i.e. monophony with multiple voices. Homophony as a term first appeared in English with Charles Burney in 1776, emphasizing the concord of harmonized melody.

List of Japanese composers

This is a list of Japanese composers, ordered by birth date.

Mark Kopytman

Mark Kopytman (December 6, 1929 – December 16, 2011) (Hebrew: מרק קופיטמן) was a composer, musicologist and pedagogue. He was a professor and a rector of the Rubin Academy (Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), and a Laureate of the Serge Koussevitzky Prize for his composition Voices of Memory (1986). Awarded the title "People's Artist of Moldova" in (1992) by the Moldovan President for the creation of the first Moldovan National Opera «Casa mare» («The Great House»).


A melody (from Greek μελῳδία, melōidía, "singing, chanting"), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a composition in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape.

The true goal of music—its proper enterprise—is melody. All the parts of harmony have as their ultimate purpose only beautiful melody. Therefore, the question of which is the more significant, melody or harmony, is futile. Beyond doubt, the means is subordinate to the end.


In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody (or "tune"), typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player (e.g., a flute 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 (e.g., a choir) sings the same melody together at the unison (exactly the same pitch) or with the same melody notes duplicated at the octave (such as when men and women sing together). 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 (or "monophonic"). 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 (two or more independent lines).

In the Early Middle Ages, the earliest Christian songs, called plainchant (a well-known example is Gregorian chant), were monophonic. In the 2010s, songwriters often write songs that intersperse sections using monophony, heterophony (two singers or instrumentalists doing varied versions of the same melody together), polyphony (two or more singers or instrumentalists playing independent melodic lines at the same time), homophony (a melody accompanied by chords) or monody (a single melodic line with instrumental accompaniment) elements throughout the melody to create different atmospheres and styles. Monophony may not have underlying rhythmic textures, and must consist of only a single melodic line.

According to Ardis Butternuts (1997), monophony "is the dominant mode of the European vernacular genres as well as of Latin song ... in polyphonic works, it remains a central compositional principle."


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 (or bourdon) may be sung on the same text, the melody may be followed in parallel motion (parallel organum), 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 (the vox principalis), another singer—singing "by ear"—provided the unnotated second melody (the vox organalis). Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony.

Piano Quartet No. 1 (Enescu)

Piano Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 16, is a chamber-music composition by the Romanian composer George Enescu, written in 1909.

Prayer Bells

Prayer Bells is a choral concert piece by Tasmanian (Australian) composer Constantine Koukias featuring dozens of handbells cast for the celebration of Australia's 2001 Centenary of Federation (see below). Also comprising three solo cantors and a small male choir, the one-hour work premiered at the Federation Festival of Melbourne in 2001. Since then it has been performed in Australia in Launceston, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Wollongong and Sydney. It had its USA premiere at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Russian liturgical music

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.

The Building of the House

The Building of the House, op. 79 is an "overture with or without chorus" by Benjamin Britten written in 1967.

The overture is notable for the use of Asian-influenced heterophony.

Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony

This article discusses the music theory of Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony.

Sub-Saharan harmony is based on the principles of homophonic parallelism (chords based around a leading melody that follow its rhythm and contour), homophonic polyphony (independent parts moving together), counter melody (secondary melody) and ostinato-variation (variations based on a repeated theme). Polyphony (contrapuntal and ostinato variation) is common in African music and heterophony (the voices move at different times) is a common technique as well. Although these principles of traditional (precolonial and pre-Arab) African music are of pan-African validity, the degree to which they are used in one area over another (or in the same community) varies. Specific techniques that used to generate harmony in Africa are the "span process", "pedal notes" (a held note, typically in the bass, around which other parts move), "Rhythmic harmony", "harmony by imitation", and "scalar clusters" (see below for explanation of these terms).

Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (composer)

Vyacheslav Vladimirovich Kuznetsov (Belarusian: Вячаслаў Кузьняцоў; Russian: Вячеслав Владимирович Кузнецов; born 15 June 1955 in Vienna) is a Belarusian classical music composer.

Ștefan Niculescu

Ștefan Niculescu (July 31, 1927 – January 22, 2008) was a Romanian composer.

Niculescu was born in Moreni, Dâmbovita. He was credited with introducing his own brand of heterophony, a technique based on superimposing melodic material onto variations of itself in order to create textures that are propelled by thematic energy as well as by the more common textural factors of density and levels of activity. This creative approach bears similarities with György Ligeti's micropolyphony, but important aesthetic and stylistic differences set them apart.

Niculescu's work as a teacher made him a mentor to a whole generation of younger Romanian composers, among them Dan Dediu.

Niculescu's work Ison II for wind and percussion permutates simultaneous segments of a diatonic melody producing a reverberating complexity of sound which is held together by a strong sense of modal clarity. Opus Dacicum for orchestra applies similar textural explorations but with a stronger sense of harmonic movement, often with a Wagnerian lushness that lends this music a sensuous appeal a world apart from Ligeti's cluster-oriented sonorities.

Among his honors are many awards from the Romanian Academy and The Society of Romanian Composers. He also received awards from the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1972), the International Record Critics Award (1985), and the Herder Prize in Vienna (1994).

In the 1970s he contributed to the popularization of modern music by organizing public listenings in Bucharest together with Şerban Stănciulescu.

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