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  Polyphony (Greek ‘having many voices’) is a term used to refer to music for two or more instruments or voices, in which most or all of the musical parts move to some degree independently. The antitheses of polyphony are monophony (music that is in one line only) and homophony (music for a single line plus accompaniment). The term tends to be associated with the evolution of European art music from the 13th to 16th centuries, and in particular during the Renaissance when the development of vocal polyphony reached its height. The term can also be applied to various techniques of composition that emerged in subsequent periods of European music, such as ‘counterpoint’, ‘fugue’ and, in this century, serialism (see serial music) or ‘twelve-note composition’. All of these techniques involved strict procedural laws, which determined how the musical parts should be melodically and rhythmically related.

When Western musicology widened its objectives to include traditional folk and non-Western art music, the understanding of polyphony was extended beyond the European concept. This had emphasized a conscious ordering of the musical parts into a unified and law-abiding whole, but was broadened to embrace any music that involved the coexistence of independent contrasting or complementary musical parts, without the necessity of a single organizational principle. Much non-Western music reveals a polyphonic texture, comprising layers, or strata, of homogeneous groups of instruments and voices, each layer possessing its own melodic, rhythmic and timbral identity, and each performing its own musical function. Such polyphonic stratification is a predominant feature in many Southeast Asian orchestral forms, such as Balinese gamelan, and in African drum ensembles. It has also been an influential factor in the compositions of so-called minimalist or process music composers.

There are numerous ways in which the musical parts of polyphonic music may be organized, some according to hierarchical principles and others where they are given equal status. The enormous diversity in polyphonic practice, throughout the world, has prompted musical anthropologists to speculate on whether a society\'s musical structure is a reflection of its social structure. SSt



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