poly·​phon·​ic | \ ˌpä-lē-ˈfä-nik How to pronounce polyphonic (audio) \
variants: or polyphonous \ pə-​ˈli-​fə-​nəs How to pronounce polyphonic (audio) \

Definition of polyphonic

1 : of, relating to, or marked by polyphony
2 : being a polyphone

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Other Words from polyphonic

polyphonically \ ˌpä-​lē-​ˈfä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce polyphonic (audio) \ or polyphonously adverb

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Since poly- means "many", polyphonic music has "many voices". In polyphony, each part has its own melody, and they weave together in a web that may become very dense; a famous piece by Thomas Tallis, composed around 1570, has 40 separate voice parts. Polyphony reached its height during the 16th century with Italian madrigals and the sacred music of such composers as Tallis, Palestrina, and Byrd. Usually when we speak of polyphony we're talking about music of Bach's time and earlier; but the principles remain the same today, and songwriters such as the Beatles have sometimes used polyphony as well.

Examples of polyphonic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The novel those memories inspired is polyphonic, with circles of time and points of view that feel like the music. Danielle A. Jackson, Vulture, 21 May 2021 The brief orchestral fantasia mixes together snippets from three folk songs in a polyphonic blend. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, 16 Apr. 2021 The Berklee College of Music alum keenly combines dancehall vibes and a pop structure with the textures of her native island country, including Malagasy lyrics and polyphonic vocal layers. BostonGlobe.com, 14 Apr. 2021 Makhmalbaf lends the story a plainly polyphonic density, blending documentary footage with a true-crime drama, complete with denunciation, investigation, accusation, intervention, and the girls’ experience of liberation. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 19 Oct. 2020 Billops initially set out to document her niece Suzanne’s recovery from heroin addiction, but the film became a polyphonic account of domestic violence in a middle-class black household. Phoebe Chen, The New York Review of Books, 27 June 2020 While there is no singular formal style or narrative tactic, in response to racial violence, these filmmakers have crafted textured, polyphonic films that examine the social, political, and historical forces that precipitate moments of unrest. Samantha N. Sheppard, The Atlantic, 9 June 2020 For a classic do-it-all polyphonic synthesizer, Behringer’s new DeepMind 12 offers massive flexibility and a plethora of unmistakable sounds that harken back to the 80’s. Popular Science, 26 May 2020 The polyphonic storytelling enriches this amply populated novel, whose ambitions extend well beyond the Balkans. Ken Kalfus, New York Times, 28 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'polyphonic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of polyphonic

1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

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Last Updated

30 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Polyphonic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyphonic. Accessed 25 Jun. 2021.

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