12 Examples of Songs With Polyphonic Texture

Polyphonic texture or contrapuntal texture is what you get when independent melodic lines combine to form music. Music in polyphonic texture may be vocal, instrumental, or a combination of both; However, the important point to remember is that in polyphonic music, accidental The aspect of the melodies is emphasized. These melody lines are also made vertical That is, they harmoniously delight.

Polyphonic texture can be contrasted with monophonic texture, in which there is only one sound, and monophonic texture, in which there is one main sound and others that make harmonious notes (the vertical aspect is emphasized here).

To help you fully understand and understand what it is, in this blog post we will look at 12 examples of songs with a polyphonic texture. Let’s start going back 1,000 years with some Gregorian hymns.

1. Winchester Trooper, Versailles: Pascha Nostrum – Unknown

The Winchester Troper provides a window into the music of Winchester Cathedral in the 10th and 11th centuries.

It is said to have been composed by Cantor Cathedral, and most importantly it contains the largest collection of 11th century polyphony ever discovered.

The type of polyphony it contains is called “organic” and is a type of Gregorian chant. The organomes began singing “drone” singers below the melody into hymns.

It evolved into a “parallel organum,” where the second voice sings in fifths or quarters below the pre-existing hymn. By the time of the Winchester Troper, you also have a slasher movement.

The 174 organic pieces in the Corpus 473 from Winchester Proper contain only the organic sound.

The main voice or “steady cactus” would have been sung from memory or from another manuscript.

2. The princes sat, routin

The art of organic composition would grow in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the School of Notre Dame under the influence of Leonin and Perotin. Now, the third and fourth volume parts improve the melody of the pre-existing hymns.

Sederunt Principes by Pérotin is an example of four times members, written as four audio parts.

What is interesting is that the hymn melody, in which the content is sung, is itself altered.

The protein extends in time (magnification), and this allows more detailed sounds to be sung on it.

When stretched, the sound effect ends up creating the drone effect.

3. Like Hart, thanks GP

By the time of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in the sixteenth century, the art of corresponding writing had developed to an excellent degree.

Great Renaissance composers such as Guillaume Du Fay and Josquin des Prez made lasting contributions, and Palestrina music represents the European polyphony perfected in the Renaissance.

In Sicut Cervus, palistrina kicks off with a simple cactus hardiness sung by the tenor. Other sounds combine one by one imitated and perverted.

In fact, “imitative” polyphony would be a hallmark of this piece.

There is also space for drawing with words, for example, the word “aquarum” is set to a “flowing” melody.

The overall effect of the chord is impressive and great. However, the words are understandable, and this despite the rhythmic complexity and independence of sounds.

4. Sumer duplicate in, read dir

This song dates from the mid-13th century and was discovered in manuscript in Reading Abbey, England.

Its author may be W. D. Wycombe, but it is not known for certain. It’s called reading rota. ‘Rota’ is another term for the word ’round’.

The round is a kind of canon, where each sound follows the first. So, yes, every stat and every round—even simple ones like Frère Jacques—have a polyphonic texture.

Sumer is icumen, or “summer has come” written for six sounds.

Two voices sing constant bass melodies that repeat throughout the piece, while the four top vocals sing in rounds.

5. Fugue in G minor, BWV 578, JS Bach

Like canons and tours, fugue is a polyphonic texture.

Fugues are based on the point of imitation and flourished in the Baroque era (17th-18th centuries).

In fugue, several simulated parts appear at once as a coherent whole.

JS Bach is widely regarded as the preeminent composer of fugue, and his compositions display an astonishing amount of variety and depth.

In BWV 578, the main subject or theme begins in the soprano line and is then imitated with the voices of alto, tenor and bass.

As each sound enters with the melodic matter provided by the subject, the others continue in return.

6. Once in the City of Royal Davids, King’s College Choir and Sir Stephen Cleobury

Hymns are generally homogeneous in texture: you have a main melody sung by the sopranos and other voices that provide tones of harmony.

However, composers sometimes write a counter melody over the soprano part for more variety.

Since the human ear likes to pick out the loudest, you tend to hear the new melody sung by the “down” part.

However, since you are also familiar with the original melody, you also hear it within the melody.

Can you hear the tone of the original hymn under this wonderful pedigree written by Sir Stephen Cleobury?

For more examples of monolithic texture, check out our post here.

7. When the Saints Go on a Crawl, New Orleans Jazz Band

In the early 1900s, the “Dixieland” style of jazz emerged from a mixture of several musical styles including blues, ragtime, and band marches.

Front line instruments, generally the trumpet, clarinet, and trombone, improvise the melodies at the same time to imprint on the music a rich polyphonic texture.

In the video, right from the start, you’ll hear the trumpet with a clear melody, the clarinet improvising freely, and the trombone delivering major string notes while also venturing into its own melody.

8. The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Lion King (2019)

This fun song is a two-part polyphony. You have the ‘wimoweh’ bass that starts the song and later serves as a harmonizing basis for the melody that has the English lyrics.

The English texts were written by George David Weiss, while the song was originally composed as “Mbubi” in the Zulu language by Solomon Linda.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight has been recorded by many artists. Here, Pumbaa takes the song “a-weema-weh” while Timon sings the English texts.

9. Memories of the Alhambra, Francisco Tarija

Like keyboard instruments, guitars support music that has a polyphonic texture. This is especially true for fingerboard and classical guitar.

Consider Memories of the Alhambra by Francisco Tarija, for example.

The masterpiece can be mainly divided into a choppy sound part of which is superimposed.

The arpeggio has its own melody and is located on a lower register, while the tremolo rings at the top with a free melody.

Watch this magic show by Brandon Aker.

10. Scarborough Gallery, Simon & Garfunkel

Many musicians such as Mark Knopfler and John Mayer use the guitar as an independent sound that complements the main vocal part.

Simon & Garfunkel’s arrangement for the Scarborough Gallery begins this way.

Once you enter the main voice you have a polyphonic texture.

However, Simon & Garfunkel adds more “spice” by adding another independent sound from the second verse onwards, thus adding more depth to the polyphonic texture.

11. Lili, Baka the Woman

Regardless of European traditions, polyphonic music is found in cultures around the world.

For example, the Baka, the nomadic people of Cameroon and Gabon, create a polyphonic texture while singing, a singing technique in which you alternate the regular voice with a falsetto.

“Yelli” is a morning song sung by the Baka women to ensure luck in the hunt.

It can be said that their voices recreate the sound of the rainforest they inhabit.

Another tradition you may want to look out for is the polyphonic music of the Albanian people.

12. Papa Yeto, Christopher Ten and Andre van der Merwe

This version of Baba Yetu (Abana) blends African and European traditions, and is as exciting as it is rich in music.

Spaced apart after opening the chord, the male and female section sing counter-voices, creating a polyphonic texture.

The women’s section often sings a drone-like part hovering above a male’s voice.

The piece becomes more interesting with the introduction of soloists who enter with repetitive parts that enhance the polyphonic texture.

13. Bonus: the oldest known anthropomorphic piece written

The piece is credited to Giovanni Farelli, then a doctoral student at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and the British Library, the place where he discovered this gem.

It bears an early form of music notation, one that predated the 4 and 5 line sticks.

The unnamed piece dates, according to Varelli’s research, to 900 AD in northwestern Germany.

It consists of two vocal hymn lines and is an example of early “organum”, where the second voice was sung as an accompaniment.

At this point, it should be noted that the line between homogeneous texture and polyphonic texture can often get blurry.

Here, for example, one might say that the piece is essentially monolithic.

However, the piece is only two lines in length, and these have a reasonable degree of autonomy, veering into harmony and merging into unions, all while allowing occasional dissonance.

End on one note!

We hope you enjoyed the list of vintage and contemporary music that showcases a polyphonic texture.

When you listen to the music you love, you will probably now hear a mixture of polyphony and harmonious tones mixed in different pitches!

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