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Micropolyphony is a type of 20th century musical texture involving the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time. According to David Cope (1997), "a simultaneity of different lines, rhythms, and timbres." The technique was developed by György Ligeti, who explained it as follows: "The complex polyphony of the individual parts is embodied in a harmonic-musical flow, in which the harmonies do not change suddenly, but merge into one another; one clearly discernible interval combination is gradually blurred, and from this cloudiness it is possible to discern a new interval combination taking shape." Again Cope: "Micropolyphony resembles cluster chords, but differs in its use of moving rather than static lines."
An example of the application of micropolyphony is Ligeti's composition Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Mixed Choir, and Orchestra, a piece which became more widely known through the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The technique is easier with larger ensembles or polyphonic instruments such as the piano (Cope, 1997). Many of Ligeti's piano pieces are examples of micropolyphony applied to complex "minimalist" Steve Reich and Pygmy music derived rhythmic schemes.
- Cope, David (1997). Techniques of the Contemporary Composer, p.101. New York, New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0028647378.
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