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The "Texture" of a piece of music is generally how the different parts of it interact. There are different kinds of Texture, such as "Monophonic", "Polyphonic", and "Homophonic".
• If we have only a single Melody, then the Texture of that piece of music is considered "Monophonic".
• "Polyphonic" Texture (or "Polyphony" for short) is having two or more distinct Melodies occurring at the same time. They may be sung by several different people, or played on separate instruments. "Counterpoint" is a set of principles used when Composing. They help us to keep these Melodies distinct from one another, instead of say, having two instruments just playing the exact same thing in parallel (which would still be considered Monophonic).
• When we have a single Melody with some kind of Accompaniment (such as a Chord Progression being played underneath it), then that piece is considered "Homophonic" in Texture. We have mostly been considering music with a Homophonic Texture so far...
Whenever we are dealing with Polyphony, we can think of it as simply two Melodies layered on top of one another, one higher and one lower. The higher Melody we will refer to as the "Lead Melody", and the lower Melody we will refer to as the "Backing Melody".
Again, the principles of Counterpoint tell us how these two Melodies have to relate to one another if we want them to be interpreted as separate. All of these principles have to do with their movement...
Principle #1: If the Lead Melody is Ascending, then the Backing Melody stays the same. It is like the former is gliding on top of the latter. This is called "Oblique Motion".
Principle #2: If the Lead Melody is Ascending, then the Backing Melody should be Descending, or vice versa. This is called "Contrary Motion" (as opposed to "Parallel Motion", which is when both Melodies are going in the same direction). To reiterate, Parallel Motion produces a Monophonic Texture. We want to avoid this if we are trying to create Polyphony.
These movements, Oblique, Contrary, and Parallel, are called "Contrapuntal Motion".
Principle #3: If the Lead Melody moves by a Leap, then the Backing Melody moves by a Step, or vice versa. In other words, when the Melodic Intervals are large in one Melody, then they should be small in the other Melody. This will give each of them a different Contour.
To create Polyphony with more than two Melodies, repeat this process with as many Melodies you want, taking each of them in pairs until all of them are unique.
Thank you for reading! ♥