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Section 14.1 Texture

We will consider texture in terms of vertical and horizontal elements. The vertical nature of texture relates to the number of notes occurring simultaneously as harmonies. It could also relate to the number of voices or instruments performing melodies simultaneously in a contrapuntal texture. The horizontal element of texture relates to rhythmic activity: is the most common rhythmic value in a passage a slow or fast one?

To illustrate, here is a texture with chords (vertical elements) containing five voices with a melody (a sixth voice) above. Notice that the texture has slow rhythmic values on the horizontal plane.

Figure 14.1.1. Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings (1936)

Our second example is an excerpt for four instruments—a string quartet. While this a four-voice texture, it is full of rhythmic activity. The most common rhythmic value is the sixteenth note, and the syncopated figures in measures 3–4 of the Violin I part and measures 5–6 of the Viola part add to the textural complexity.

Figure 14.1.2. Mozart, String Quartet K. 428, IV (1783)

In the following sections, we will examine fairly straightforward melody-and-accompaniment textures in classical and popular music. In later chapters we will explore more complex textures.