Asked • 05/24/19

Polyphony vs Homophony in Hymns?

I understand that polyphony is multiple melodies, while homophony is a single melody with chordal accompaniment (in my own words). I've read that hymns are generally homophonic, yet I find that hymns don't follow a pattern of chordal accompaniment very closely. Specifically, the alto and tenor parts tend to move around considerably, though they generally wouldn't stand alone very well as a single melody. It seems for a piece of music to be considered polyphonic, the lyrics usually need to be independent for each "voice", but this is not a definition I've read anywhere and it wouldn't fit for a piece of music that is without lyrics. How can I distinguish polyphony from homophony? Are there some pieces of music that have characteristics of both and cannot be easily distinguished?

1 Expert Answer


David W. answered • 05/27/19

5.0 (116)

Music Theory Professor and Composer with 5+ Years Teaching Experience

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