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Saturday, 17 August 2013


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The general term would be counterpoint.


Polyphony? Harmony? Duet?

Mike, are you thinking of counterpoint?

Mike, is polyphony the word you're looking for?


Hi, Mike. Biphonic says this web page.

I think it might be polyphony


1. Put this into the big G search engine:
two melodies sung at same time

2. Decide whether polyphony is your thought.

"Round" is canon

Mike, one more http://www.potsdam.edu/academics/Crane/MusicTheory/Musical-Terms-and-Concepts.cfm


I may have forgotten the link the first time, so here are two links to explore. Polyphonic or Biphonic?

Point counter point (Kontrapunkt, if you prefer it in German)



Perhaps you're talking of a fugue, it may be of two, three or more voices...



harmonies perhaps?

Hi Mike,


"In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony)."

Were you referring to counterpoint?

Polyphony. Polytextual.

Interpolation? I could be wrong.

Partner Song as per:


Perhaps there's a more technical term you're looking for?



Yep, I was wrong. But I bet Charles Cramer would know.

Could you be looking for the counterpoint?


Are you searching for "counterpoint"?

How about " Rhythm Sync "...

"Counterpoint" is the closest that I can think of, although as with "descant" the two tunes are not usually heard apart.

I can think of one brilliant example of this idea, from JS Bach's "Art of the Fugue" - "Canon in Hypodiapason". Two quite long, related but varying tunes are first played through separately, in sequence... both of them rather spiky and odd. Then they are combined, in a most satisfying way.

(It's not the familiar kind of canon, because there are multiple tunes commencing at the same time; instead of mutiple copies of one tune commencing at different times.)

I hesitate to suggest anything so simple, but I would think "harmony" should do it. Or "counterpoint", if the relation between the two melodies is more complex.

Two or more concurrent melodies or themes are often called counterpoint -- J.S. Bach being the undisputed master of this idiom. I suppose a round might be called proto-counterpoint.

As you'd expect counterpoint has its own thick and tangled weeds -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint -- which seem to exist to torment the student of music, composition in particular.

Sorta counterpoint but you don't generally sing the melodies alone. But Motown records...the melodies are good but you could just listen to James Jamersons bass lines and be happy.

Hmmm; the example that comes to mind is "The Art of the Ground Round", from The Intimate PDQ Bach. But he does call it a round, and like you I think there's another, more specific, term.



David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir perform all over the world


I think you're talking about counterpoint. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint

Music that has a multiple independent voices that are strong in and of themselves while also compatible with each other is called contrapuntal.


In the (classical) music world, That's typically called 'counterpoint'; two 'separate' tunes that, played together, will harmonize; while (possibly) having different melodic contours and rhythms, they obviously must have a related harmonic structure otherwise they wouldn't harmonize together. The two tunes can be played at the same time, or the second may have to start at a particular point after the beginning of the first tune. Sometimes, or perhaps more typically, counterpoint is not the interaction of two tunes, but the interaction of the one tune with itself (as in a round, or a fugue). After the initial presentation, the original tune may be varied in various harmonic, rhythmical or structural ways, e.g. the iterations is in a different key, the size of the intervals may be expanded or contracted, the rhythm may be altered, the notes lengthened or shortened, the melodic contour may be altered (instead of going up, go down). There are huge treatises on counterpoint, so this is not a comprehensive description nor perhaps even an adequate definition.

In many great photographs and certainly in most classical fine art, there may be a visual counterpoint -- the recurrence and variation of single theme, form or shape; or the interaction of multiple themes or shapes.

Serious appreciation of music seems to be a significant attribute of many of our greatest photographers.

Polyphony when the melody is sung and played with the same rhythm, counterpoint with different rhythms.

Mike, I'm begging you. Please don't sing. Singing one song let alone two simultaneously would be more than we need to hear. Stick to photography and writing. Be happy justlistening to music. :-) (Tongue planted firmly in cheek...)

I'd go along with fugue

Cacophony! :-)

Quodlibet or mash-up. Might also simply be called "two songs in counterpoint".

A popular one at Christmas time is a combination of William Dix's "What Child Is This"(Greensleeves) and Scott Soper's "Child of the Poor"

Mitklingen would be a german word
The two songs resonate with each other?

Mike, what you are thinking of is a quodlibet. A "simultaneous quodlibet", to be precise. It's an old musical technique - two or more pre-existing melodies are combined and performed at the same time; often together with a new original tune. Johann Sebastian Bach did this, but quodlibets were in use even in the Renaissance. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quodlibet


No idea what it is called, but this is these Aussie comics give what has to be one of the the funniest examples ever! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zan7LcKawc

This may be the answer.

con•tra•pun•tal (ˌkɒn trəˈpʌn tl)

1. of or involving musical counterpoint.
2. composed of two or more relatively independent melodies sounded together.
[1835–45; < Italian contrappunt(o) (< Medieval Latin contrāpūnctus) + -al1. See counterpoint]

The first thing that came to mind was Charles Ives and two marching bands playing two different songs starting at opposite ends of a football field. This may not be what you had in mind, given that we're now talking about two compositions, each with their own attendant harmonies, rather than two stand alone melodies.

Maybe a quodlibet?


Noise ?

Ken Rahaim got it right: the term is "Partner Song," on the authority of my wife, Carolyn, lyric soprano and voice teacher at the New England Conservatory of Music for 29 years. She says she has whole books of them that she uses with students.

I should know this, having a Master's in music. I think the term you're looking for is being over thought. I did once work with a conductor who could whistle "humoresque" while humming "Swanee River." Craziest thing. I like the term siphonic though. Carol Burnett did it a lot on her show and it's done a lot in Broadway shows.

Kontrapunkt, of which J S Bach is still the master. May I recommend Der Kunst der Fugue (The Art of Fugue), BWV 1080, as the ultimate example of the Kontrapunkt.


Pick a Little plus Goodnight Ladies from The Music Man immediately comes to mind.


It begins to happen about the 2:20 mark...



a mash-up

A more contemporary example of two simultaneous melodies can be found in r.e.m.'s "fall on me"

And this when sung in rounds gives me goosebumps every time: "carol of the bells"

I got nothin'.

I have nothing to add that's useful here, but wanted to make two asides: 1. Your readers are fun:) and 2. Whatever you call it, when the melodies hit and mix juuuuuust right, there's precious little that can match that moment.

" I did once work with a conductor who could whistle "humoresque" while humming "Swanee River." Craziest thing." - Warren M.

I do know the term for that. Whistling and humming counterpoint is called "whumzling." Harry Parker, a family friend and Harvard professor, demonstrated it for me back in the 50s. Maybe he coined the term??

In my house we called it a cacophony

In Argentina we call that a 'canon', quite appropiate for your site!

Mike, the word you're looking for may be "quodlibet." An example: Simon & Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Bach wrote several of them and there are lots of other examples.

I don't know much about classical music, but I do own a copy of Random House Word Menu. Besides "counterpoint," which everyone else has mentioned, it also turns up "countermelody" and "obbligato." The definition for "countermelody" reads "secondary melody sounded simultaneously with primary melody."

I don't know if this is an example or not ... A performance by Glee of two Adele songs: Rumour has it + Someone like you:


[Unfortunately, the image quality is so-so]

One of the Charles Ives symphonies (he didn't like the term I understand) requires 2 conductors, one for each stream.

What came to my mind was the once popular "Moonglow and the Theme From Picnic" which despite its use of simultaneity many web sources call a "medley"

Beethoven's only opera 'Fidelio' . Google "Mir ist so wunderbar"
Watch on YouTube. The music is sublime.


(In the choir I used to sing in ... )

CANON, NO, not the camera but the contrapuntal compositional technique.
This technique was used in the Renaissance by the Franco-Flemish School's polyphonic vocal music (15-16 Th. century). Great Flemish style Music Masters like Dufay, Ockeghem, Obrecht, Gombert, Lassus, de Monte, des Prez etc... have written marvelous examples in the CANON technique!
In the Capilla Flamenca of the Habsburgs court, this chant was performed regularly.
In the 'Missa L'homme armé', by Ockeghem, a nice example can be heard.

In the earlier Gregorian Chant, the Canon technique was used too, then, it sometimes was called "chasing" (poursuite) meaning that the second voice was chasing the first one with a slight décalage in time.

Sometimes, even in more recent compositions, this décalage, but applied with a somewhat longer time lapse, was used to create an impression of echo.

The ancient Greeks already knew that technique, they might have invented it.

P.S.: please do forgive me my rather 'Barbarian' English!

I'd wait for the next version, Mike. Rumour is it will let you sing three melodies at the same time and add a little faded border so it fits better on Facebook.


Are you singing both parts at the same time? If so, it's called a miracle.

Crab Canon.....Das Musikalische Opfer by Johan Sebastian Bach contains some. It is mentioned in Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas.R. Hofstädter....

Greets, Ed.

It's called a canon, if two or more people sing (exactly) the same notes with a delay:

Once at a high school jazz competition I sat through an amazing demonstration. One of the judges was a local hot shot trombone player and that day he opened my world up to microphonics. It works something like this: you play the note as you would normally play it. Then you hum an interval of that note. The two note's wavelengths collide and create overtones of a third note. While microphonics isn't the word you're looking for, I figured you already had that by now and your love of tube amps might get you to look up microphonics in a different context.

Quodlibet might fit, it means that you take two existing melodies and play them together (carefully chosen so that they work together). It's usually seen as a musical "trick", commonly with humourous intention.

Obbligato is another option, more suitable if the melodies are not taken but newly composed. The term originally (18th century) meant obligatory, i.e. a part of a score (we're talking classical music here) that must always be played and exactly as written. But later the meaning was often reversed, i.e. an obbligato part is instead optional and the music works without it too. Today that use is more common, though the term is rare (most often used in discussions of older music). The obbligato part in this later sense is often marked "ad libitum" instead (though "ad libitum" as a general term is wider and doesn't fit the bill here).

Ken: funny, I thought of Music Man as well, but it was "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You" that I came up with. After Sondheim's "Now/Soon/Later." :) Tried to backwards search it that way, but only came up with "Counterpoint duet", and like DDB , I think there's a one-word term for this. (Or maybe it's just me having read Sentimental Tommy too many times: "I wanted ONE word!")

Countertpoint/contrapuntal or non-imitative polyphony are probably the "most correct", but it's not satisfying the tip-of-the-tongue/one-word thing for me.

Ok i just wasted 5 minutes on this, particularly the cute but totally wrongheaded answers.

I know this is no answer, but it is fun - Gilligan's Island theme song / Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven


I like partner song, although I don't know if that is the correct term. None of the other suggestions seem right to me. The example that comes to my mind is "The Sidewalks of New York" and "In the Good Old Summertime."

Counterpoint if it's two different melodies at once as part of the same piece of music - a very common technique in jazz - rather than just slamming two songs together. (I suppose that would still just fit the definition, but only in part). One definition I found reads:

'counterpoint (adj: contrapuntal) - two or more melodic lines of equal importance (i.e., polyphonic texture), especially when composed.' I guess that covers it!

It's a canon if it's the same melody with a delay, which is not what you asked for. It's a round if it's a canon with a longer delay and in the presence of primary/elementary school kids or a campfire.

Just one more answer for the pile. I think you've noticed by now (just by counting answers) that it's counterpoint. There's nothing like a frequent common answer to satisfy a query.

hi Mike,
I wouldn't normally respond to a music question but came across the following interesting site while looking up the 5 tones in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind;


best wishes

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