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homophony(hōmŏf`ənē), species of musical ensemble texture in which all voice parts move more or less to the same rhythm, in which a listener tends to hear the highest voice as the melody and the lower voices as its accompaniment. This term is also used for a texture comprising a melodic line with chordal accompaniment
a type of many-voiced music characterized by the division of voices into the main voice and accompanying voices. It is primarily in this respect that homophony is different from polyphony, which is based on the equality of voices. The flourishing of homophony, for which the humanist ideas of the Renaissance paved the way, took place in the 17th to 19th centuries. Individualized melody, accompanied by the remaining elementary voices, came to be regarded as the element of music which could most naturally and flexibly convey the richness of human feelings. Homophony became established primarily in the new musical genres (opera, oratorio, cantata, and solos with accompaniment) and in instrumental music. The wide dissemination of homophony in Western European music paralleled the rapid development of harmony in the modern meaning of the term. The development of homophony in the 17th through 19th centuries is conventionally divided into two periods. The first of these (1600–1750) is often designated as the period of the general bass (although the greatest polyphonist composers, J. S. Bach and G. F. Handel, lived and worked at this time). The first half (1750–1825) of the second period (1750–1900) is marked by the further development of homophony in the work of the classical Viennese composers. The developed and polyphonized “accompanying” voices in the symphonies and quartets of W. A. Mozart and L. van Beethoven, in their liveliness and thematic significance, often surpass the contrapuntal lines of the old polyphonists, thereby exceeding the confines of the homophonic style of music. In the early 20th century the development of harmony, fundamental to homophonic forms, attained a point beyond which the connective strength of harmonic relations lost its constructive significance. Therefore, together with the continuing development of homophony (S. S. Prokofiev, M. Ravel, and others), interest in the possibilities of polyphony is growing markedly (B. Bartok, P. Hindemith, I. F. Stravinsky, A. von Webern, D. D. Shostakovich, etc.).
IU. N. KHOLOPOV