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Thread: Is functional Harmony considered homophonic?

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    Default Is functional Harmony considered homophonic?

    Hello everyone! Sorry if this is an obvious question, but I just want to clear this up. As far as I understand about voice leading, there are essentially two main types. Homophony and polyphony. Functional harmony seems to fit homophony 100 percent since it’s all based on the chord progressions and tones within the chords. Am I understanding this correctly? Can you use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way?

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngcapone View Post
    Hello everyone! Sorry if this is an obvious question, but I just want to clear this up. As far as I understand about voice leading, there are essentially two main types. Homophony and polyphony. Functional harmony seems to fit homophony 100 percent since it’s all based on the chord progressions and tones within the chords. Am I understanding this correctly? Can you use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way?
    Watch out, this is a trick question.

    "Function" did not exist in old polyphony such as Bach. He used figured-bass. Rameau conceived of chords as harmonic entities, and Bach was opposed to this.

    Can you use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way?

    Are you CP or modern? No, in CP polyphony "major seventh" chords do not exist; the seventh is a passing tone. You need to make up your mind.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-08-2020 at 15:03.

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    I read homophobic I'm so dumb
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    me too tee hee Eddie said so

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngcapone View Post
    Hello everyone! Sorry if this is an obvious question, but I just want to clear this up. As far as I understand about voice leading, there are essentially two main types. Homophony and polyphony. Functional harmony seems to fit homophony 100 percent since it’s all based on the chord progressions and tones within the chords. Am I understanding this correctly? Can you use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way?
    No, there are not two types of voice leading. In common practice music the principles of voice-leading are the same whether one is creating a homophonic or a polyphonic texture. Functional harmonic progressions can underpin polyphonic as well as homphonic textures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngcapone View Post
    Hello everyone! Sorry if this is an obvious question, but I just want to clear this up. As far as I understand about voice leading, there are essentially two main types. Homophony and polyphony. Functional harmony seems to fit homophony 100 percent since it’s all based on the chord progressions and tones within the chords. Am I understanding this correctly? Can you use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way?
    Yes, of course. The texture of a musical passage may in fact be polyphonic, but the polyphony itself may be governed by harmonic progression. Analyze a Bach invention or fugue and you'll see what I mean. In other words, you might have 4-part counterpoint, each line with independent motion, independent rhythm and independent direction. But those 4 lines may be governed by a clear (or not-so-clear) harmonic progression.

    Jerry
    www.jerrygerber.com
    Last edited by Jerry Gerber; Apr-26-2020 at 01:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post
    Yes, of course. The texture of a musical passage may in fact be polyphonic, but the polyphony itself may be governed by harmonic progression. Analyze a Bach invention or fugue and you'll see what I mean. In other words, you might have 4-part counterpoint, each line with independent motion, independent rhythm and independent direction. But those 4 lines may be governed by a clear (or not-so-clear) harmonic progression.

    Jerry
    www.jerrygerber.com
    Well....hello Mr G....

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Well....hello Mr G....
    Hi Mike!

    I decided to try this forum. Glad to see you're here..

    I hope all is well with you...

    J

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post
    Yes, of course. The texture of a musical passage may in fact be polyphonic, but the polyphony itself may be governed by harmonic progression. Analyze a Bach invention or fugue and you'll see what I mean.
    What's "texture" mean? It sounds like a justification for polyphony being "harmonic."

    In other words, you might have 4-part counterpoint, each line with independent motion, independent rhythm and independent direction. But those 4 lines may be governed by a clear (or not-so-clear) harmonic progression.
    But isn't this an after-the fact assumption, since independent "chord function" did not exist in Bach's time? It seems to me there are too many variables. For instance, what might appear to be a "major seventh" chord (C-E-G-B) harmonically must relinquish its chordal status to polyphonic resolution of B to C, where B is a passing tone, not a harmonic or chordal element.
    So the answer is "no, you can't really freely use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way" unless you change the rules of what we know as "polyphony."

    Hello Mr. Gerber, I just read your interview. It's nice to have someone around like yourself.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-27-2020 at 15:31.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    What's "texture" mean? It sounds like a justification for polyphony being "harmonic."



    But isn't this an after-the fact assumption, since independent "chord function" did not exist in Bach's time? It seems to me there are too many variables. For instance, what might appear to be a "major seventh" chord (C-E-G-B) harmonically must relinquish its chordal status to polyphonic resolution of B to C, where B is a passing tone, not a harmonic or chordal element.
    So the answer is "no, you can't really freely use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way" unless you change the rules of what we know as "polyphony."

    Hello Mr. Gerber, I just read your interview. It's nice to have someone around like yourself.[/COLOR]
    Texture is a basic term in music and music theory. Look it up.

    The rest of your post is confused and, where its meaning is decipherable, doesn't support your conclusion (bold).

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    What's "texture" mean? It sounds like a justification for polyphony being "harmonic."



    But isn't this an after-the fact assumption, since independent "chord function" did not exist in Bach's time? It seems to me there are too many variables. For instance, what might appear to be a "major seventh" chord (C-E-G-B) harmonically must relinquish its chordal status to polyphonic resolution of B to C, where B is a passing tone, not a harmonic or chordal element.
    So the answer is "no, you can't really freely use functional harmony in a polyphonic type of way" unless you change the rules of what we know as "polyphony."

    Hello Mr. Gerber, I just read your interview. It's nice to have someone around like yourself.
    Texture refers to the the moment-by-moment elements of a composition. if you have a copy of Piston's book on Orchestration or Harmony, he writes about the different orchestral textures. When not considering an orchestra, music still has texture; one moment it may be homophonic or heterophonic, another moment it may be polyphonic or chordal. Of course if a composer chooses to work in one texture, i.e. a 4-part fugue or a 4-part choral, the texture remains fairly constant. But in many pieces, particularly larger works, the texture is in flux. Chord Function, it's true, didn't technically exist in Bach's time, it wasn't until the French composer Rameau codified chord structures in his Treatise on Harmony in 1722 (Bach was still alive, but I don't know whether he was aware of this treatise) that musicians began to think, at least more consciously, about chords and chord progressions. When I was a student, and as a teacher, we'd spend much time analyzing Bach inventions for their harmonic movement. Either I don't understand what you are trying to say, or you don't understand what I am trying to say, or both.

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    My last post didn't complete. It automatically got sent to a moderator before I had even finished it. Weird.
    Counterpoint may be written with little or no concern for functional harmony, listen to a Bartok string quartet or a work by Schoenberg, or the Piano Concerto by Samuel Barber. Counterpoint can also be very much governed by harmonic progression, if you analyze work by Bach you should see that for yourself. If not, well, nothing I can say or explain will be of much help to you.

    Listen to, or play, some Bach Chorals. The line between polyphony and homophony is not black and white, it is more diffuse than that. One can see the more or less simple polyphony in a choral (simple compared to a fugue!) without the strettos, imitation and other contrapuntal techniques like sequential fragmentation, yet still recognize that each line has at least some rhythmic and contour variation (high points occur at different times).

    If we go back earlier, to a motet by Palestrina, the harmonies are pretty clear to my ear but they were not thinking ii6/3, V7 I or anything like that.

    Theory is derived from practice. Good composers and songwriters don't sit around making up theories and then writing to that theory. Music must have heart, soul, intention, it must express itself in a way that gives the listener the feeling that there's meaning here, there's purpose. Composers understand that studying all the theory in the world is useful, but when one sits down to compose, its really only about listening and choosing what sound you want to achieve. If composers followed rules music would never change, we'd all be writing the same way as composers did centuries ago. That's obviously absurd, music is constantly changing, reacting to all kind of influences including instrument technology, social, economic and political currents, the evolving taste of the composers themselves, other music, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Texture is a basic term in music and music theory. Look it up.

    The rest of your post is confused and, where its meaning is decipherable, doesn't support your conclusion (bold).
    I wasn't questioning the term "texture," just the use of it in describing polyphony as opposed to "polyphony itself." It doesn't really clarify anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post

    Theory is derived from practice. Good composers and songwriters don't sit around making up theories and then writing to that theory. Music must have heart, soul, intention, it must express itself in a way that gives the listener the feeling that there's meaning here, there's purpose. Composers understand that studying all the theory in the world is useful, but when one sits down to compose, its really only about listening and choosing what sound you want to achieve. If composers followed rules music would never change, we'd all be writing the same way as composers did centuries ago. That's obviously absurd, music is constantly changing, reacting to all kind of influences including instrument technology, social, economic and political currents, the evolving taste of the composers themselves, other music, etc.
    That's understandable, yet Bach seemed to think that theory was important, as he opposed Rameau's theories of chord inversion in favor of his old figured bass method. Perhaps Bach should have changed with the times, as his figured bass method proved unwieldy as harmony progressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Gerber View Post
    Theory is derived from practice.
    This is the heart of it, millionrainbows, and it seems to be your stumbling block in every one of these threads. When Rameau wrote his treatise he was proposing a theory about how already existing music worked.

    As always, my suggestion is to spend less time playing games with words and more looking at actual music if you want to understand what's going on. If you look at the music you will find functional harmony in Bach (and earlier).

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