In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition, 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. 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) (Isaac & Russell 2003, p. 136).
In musical terms, particularly in the fields of music history and music analysis, some common terms for different types of texture are:
|Monophonic||Monophonic texture includes a single melodic line with no accompaniment. (Benward & Saker 2003, 136). PSMs often double or parallel the PM they support (Benward & Saker 2003, p. 137).||
|Biphonic||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).||
|Polyphonic or Counterpoint||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).||
|Homophonic||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).||
|Homorhythmic||Multiple voices with similar rhythmic material in all parts. Also known as "chordal". May be considered a condition of homophony or distinguished from it.||see above|
|Heterophonic||Two or more voices simultaneously performing variations of the same melody.|
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’. In other words, each independent sounds contributes to the synthesis of the holos (whole). Thus, "holophony" is the synthesis of simultaneous sound streams into a coherent whole with internal components and focal points.
- Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I. Seventh Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
- Copland, Aaron. What to Listen for in Music. Published by Signet Classic, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY.
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- 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.
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