What is orchestral texture?

As I slowly start to understand instrumentation within the orchestral setting, I am becoming more and more aware of texture. Having an understanding and appreciation of the roles and capabilities of every instrument is a huge undertaking but really important.

When talking of orchestral texture, you can think of it in similar terms to that of a painting:

Foreground: the most prominent voice and/or melody line
Middleground: supporting countermelodies
Background: accompaniment and harmonies which include bass voices
Rhythmic: percussive parts

Texture in the musical sense is to describe how the different parts play together; how they interact.  It is also thought of in terms of which instrument/voice sounds more prominently, a musical hierarchy if you will.

Four different types of musical texture:
1) Monophonic: meaning ‘one sound’ it describes music containing a single line, whether played or sung by one or a group; the notes and the rhythm stay exactly the same.
2) Polyphonic: meaning ‘many sounds’ this describes music of more than two melodic lines of equal importance playing together. Fairly complex in style, this needs to be played by a group of musicians, although polyphonic texture can be performed on the piano, organ and guitar by a single player.
3) Homophonic: this is a very common texture, typified by a prominent melody and an accompaniment of chords; these chords can move with the melody line but also in counterpoint to it (independent line).
4) Heterophonic: this is quite rare in Western music and is made up of a single melody, played by two or more musicians, with almost identical parts, differentiated only by slight variations and the addition of ornamentation played spontaneously by the performers.  This texture is more commonly founding music from Native America, the Middle East and South Africa – this may in fact be a texture I need to consider researching and aiming for with my section about the Hookah-smoking caterpillar!

Artemus. (Unknown). Orchestral Texture & Unison Composition.Available: http://www.guitarmasterclass.net/guitar_forum/index.php?act=attach&type=post&id=21833. Last accessed 04 July 2015

Unknown. (Unknown). Musical Texture. Available: http://learn.midsouthcc.edu/learningObjects/music/musicaltexture/Musical_Texture.html. Last accessed 05 July 2015


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s