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Heterophony

A musical texture in which a single melody played by multiple voices, each of which perform the melody slightly differently. The variations can include a different rhythm or tempo, different embellishments and figures, or stylistic differences. The term was invented to differentiate between European polyphonic music of separate melodies; however, it can also be seen as a type of polyphony. Heterophony is different from unison. The term was coined by Plato and literally means “different voices.”

A good example of heterophony is the Gaelic band The Chieftans’ tune: The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Each instrument plays the same melody, but embellishes it slightly with grace notes, vibrato, etc. Other examples include traditional Thai music and the gamelan music of Bali.

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