Chapter 6 How Music Works, Part IV: Texture and Form Musical “characters” – notes, rhythms, melodies, patterns, and vocal and instrumental parts – are similar to how the characters in a novel relate and interact. Texture describes the kinds of relationships that emerge and evolve between these characters. Form is the element of music that pertains to large-scale dimensions of musical organization. Study of form is concerned with the development and shape of entire pieces, phrases, and sections. Texture There are many kinds of musical textures. Single-line textures are the simplest, and are also known as monophonic textures. One, two, five, or a thousand individuals can create a monophonic texture, so long as all are playing the same sequence of pitches with the same rhythm. Polyphonic textures include two or more distinct parts. This may result from the playing/singing of different parts on different instruments, or from a single instrument that can play more than one note at the same time. CD ex. #1-6 is an example of Mongolian khoomii, in which a single human voice creates polyphony. A drone accompanying a melody is a common and simple type of polyphonic texture. CD ex. #1-16 is an example of a Scottish bagpipe ensemble performing a melody over a sustained, long drone. Harmonized textures emerge when notes of different pitches occur together to form chords, or “harmonies.” CD ex. #1-11 (harmonized voices); CD ex. #1-27 (chords on guitar accompany melody on saxophone). Multiple-melody texture occurs in polyphonic music that features two or more essentially separate melodic lines being performed simultaneously. CD ex. #2-3—two groups of male vocalists generate multiple-melody texture. Javanese gamelan music, as in CD x. #1-7, provides rich multiple-melody textures. CD ex. #2-4 features a traditional BaMbuti elephant hunting song. The relative equality in the vocal parts reflects the egalitarian nature of the society. Polyrhythm describes music in which there are several different parts or layers, with each defined by its distinctive rhythmic character rather than by melodies or chords (CD ex. #2-5). When musical melodies and rhythmic lines are stacked upon each other, a single melody may be divided among two or more instruments. This is called interlocking parts. CD ex. #2-6 features folkloric music of the Andes mountains of Bolivia, South America. The melody is divided between two sets of instruments (panpipes), which rely upon one another to complete the musical scale. Call-and-response is also linked to musical texture. It involves back-and-forth alternation between different instrument or voice parts. This conversational approach to texture takes many forms, including: Between a lead singer and background singers, as in CD ex. #2-7 (a West African piece.) Between a singer and instrumentalist Between two groups of instrumentalists or two groups of singers Insights and Perspectives The Debate over Polyrhythms in West African Music Much West African music is described as polyrhythmic by Westerners, but some scholars and musicians believe that this does not reflect how West Africans conceptualize their music. Rather than perceiving it as “many rhythms” (i.e., polyrhythms), it it is possible instead to perceive it as music defined by a single, unified rhythmic expression with multiple manifestations. The technicalities of both sides of the argument are complex, but the controversy itself is a good example of how music as sound is difficult to separate from the study of music as culture. Form: The Designs of Musical Works Understanding the form of a piece involves understanding how it is laid out from beginning to end, with how the music unfolds and develops as it progresses. If there is no repetition and the music has a lack of distinct sections, it is said to be through-composed. More often, however, repetition, patterns, and sectional organization are present in music and define its forms. Forms Based on Repetition and Patterns Repetition and patterning are key features of most music. Elements including melodies, rhythms, chord progressions, metric cycles, and large sections of material may be presented and repeated in a performance – either once or many times. Repetitions may be exact, or may change through subsequent repetitions. This is known as varied repetition. Repetitions and patterns are often intuitive, even when one is not familiar with the musical style. For example, you can often tell when the catchy ‘hook’ of a song is about to arrive. Unexpected twists and turns are also key tools in keeping listeners engaged and interested. Some musical works are based upon the repetition or varied repetition of a single musical pattern or phrase. A short figure that is repeated multiple times is called an ostinato, and is normally the smallest unit of organization upon which musical forms are built. CD ex. #2-8 features “Xai” (Elephants). It is from the Qwii people of the Kalahari desert and repeats an ostinato roughly every two seconds. Layered ostinatos are achieved by stacking two or more ostinatos, creating a rich and complex texture. CD ex. #2-9, Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” features saxophone, trombone (0:15), and trumpet (0:31) ostinatos, creating a layered ostinato texture. Cyclic forms are similar to ostinato-based forms, but the repeated cycle is longer than an ostinato. An example is the 12-bar blues, a common cyclic form used for blues songs. Each cycle is 12 measures and has the same basic chord progression as the others. CD ex. #1-19, Charles Atkins’ “A Funny Way of Asking,” features the 12-bar blues form. Forms with Contrasting Sections Formal Sections are identifiably distinct sections found within a piece. The different sections often contrast with each other – for example, through a change of key, instrumentation, rhythm, or a combination of many changes. Verse-chorus form is a common formal design featuring contrasting sections. It alternates verses (A sections) and choruses (B sections), sometimes including other sections like an introduction, interludes, transitional passages, or instrumental solos. CD ex #2-10 features “Ingculaza (AIDS),” by Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo. It is a social commentary about the AIDS pandemic in Africa, the text of which may be found on page 81 of the textbook. The form includes two sung verses (the A sections) and three sung choruses (the B sections.) See page 82 for a full chart of the form.