On Sat, 7 Dec 1996, Jerome S. Colburn wrote:
> Polyphony goes back to the 11th century or so, when it was called
> organum; by 1300 the motet was a complex construction in which the
> different voices had melody lines that moved at different speeds and
> carried different words.
But this kind of polyphony involves no underlying harmonic structure and
often sounds very different from a modern countermelody. Do we know if
the harp was ever played in the polyphonic fashion? And even if it was,
did the technique survive into the 18th Century?
Harmony is a Western European invention, that is not found in most
traditional music or even the classical forms of other cultures. It
enters the tradition when chordal instruments (piano, guitar, etc & harp?)
are adopted as folk insruments. When this happens, the tunes change (more
obvious tonality, modulations, etc - eg contrast 18C broadside melodies
with Playford tunes).
Carolan tunes have this implied harmonic quality, which gives them their
"classical" sound and suggests that they were certainly not "folk" music
when they were written. The question is whether after 200+ years they
have earned their place in the tradition?