In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition (Benward & Saker 2003, 131), 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 (see types of texture below) (Benward & Saker 2003, 131). For example, a thick texture contains several different "layers" of instruments. One layer could be a string section, another a brass. This would be a reasonably light texture, with not too many layers. The thickness also is affected 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 affected 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) (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 136).
Two distinct lines, the lower sustaining a drone (constant pitch) while the other line creates a more elaborate melody above it. Pedal tones or ostinati would be an example of a SS (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 137).
Pedal tone in Bach's Prelude no. 6 in D Minor, BWV 851, from The Well Tempered Clavier, Book I, m.1-2. All pedal tone notes are consonant except for the last three of the first measure.(Benward & Saker 2003, p.99)
Multiple melodic voices which are to a considerable extent independent from or in imitation with one another. Characteristic texture of the Renaissance music, also prevalent during the Baroque period (Benward & Saker 2003,1999,199,158,137, 136,129,110,90,59,35,11,9,0). Polyphonic textures may contain several PMs (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 137).
The most common texture in Western music: melody and accompaniment. Multiple voices of which one, the melody, stands out prominently and the others form a background of harmonic accompaniment. If all the parts have much the same rhythm, the homophonic texture can also be described as homorhythmic. Characteristic texture of the Classical period and continued to predominate in Romantic music while in the 20th century, "popular music is nearly all homophonic," and, "much of jazz is also" though, "the simultaneous improvisations of some jazz musicians creates a true polyphony" (Benward & Saker 2003, 136). Homophonic textures usually contain only one PM (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 137). HS and RS are often combined, thus labeled HRS (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 137).
Homophony in Tallis' "If ye love me," composed in 1549. The voices move together using the same rhythm, and the relationship between them creates chords: the excerpt begins and ends with an F major triad.
Although in music instruction certain styles or repertoires of music are often identified with one of these descriptions this is basically added music. (for example, Gregorian chant is described as monophonic, Bach Chorales are described as homophonic and fugues as polyphonic), many composers use more than one type of texture in the same piece of music.
A simultaneity is more than one complete musical texture occurring at the same time, rather than in succession.
A more recent type of texture first used by György Ligeti is micropolyphony. Other textures include polythematic, polyrhythmic, onomatopoeic, compound, and mixed or composite textures (Corozine 2002, p. 34).
Composer Panayiotis Kokoras coined the term Holophonic Musical Texture (Kokoras, 2004). According to the author, this is considered as the next stage in the evolution of musical texture following the paradigms of Monophony, Polyphony and Homophony. The word Holophony is derived from the Greek word holos, which means ‘whole, entire’, and the word phone, which means ‘sound/ voice’. In other words, each independent phone (sound) contributes to the synthesis of the holos (whole). Thus, Holophonic musical texture is best perceived as the synthesis of simultaneous sound streams into a coherent whole with internal components and focal points. This musical texture aims to create a musical context with various morphoplastic qualities through the process of morphopoiesis.
Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, p. 270-301. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.