Hemiola

Alxmrphi

Senior Member
UK English
Hey, I'm looking to write something about one of my compositions for my Italian teacher and I was thinking of a few specialist words I might need to know, knowing that a lot of musical terms are Italian to begin with I am not sure if this is or not, if not, how is it translated, in a sentence like "The use of the hemiola brings about a feeling of......".

Any help appreciated:)
 
  • gabrigabri

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy (Torino)
    I found "emiola":

    DeMauro

    e|mi|ò|lia
    s.f.
    TS mus., rapporto di 3|2 intercorrente tra i valori di durata di due parti polifoniche | mutamento nella scansione ritmica che consiste nel passaggio da una suddivisione in due minime puntate a una in tre minime senza punto o viceversa

    Is it ok?
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yeah, it looks like a complicated Italian explanation but I can from the words I can understand it would be representing the same thing as a hemiola, I mean the words are so similar anyway

    Where did you find this? Can you send me the link to it please?
     

    Arcadia33

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If you have a piece of music in three-four time, a waltz perhaps, and place accents every other beat: one three two one three two and so on, it gives a feeling of three against two. That is one meaning of hemiola. It can create a type of pleasant confusion for the listener.

    I hope this helps.

    Arcadia
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Paul, if I didn't know what the word was how would I know what to search for in Italian?
    I could barely understand the Italian that gabrigabri posted!

    If I wanted to exhaust all posibilities before coming here for a final last-try at a translation, maybe I should have gone
    to Wiki first, but I don't like doing that:p
     

    Arcadia33

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "I was thinking of a few specialist words I might need to know..."

    How about madrigal? Same root as "mother, madrelingua" etc. I would guess, and maybe you can work that in.

    Another one you might consider is "loco" used in music to indicate a return to the original position. Other meanings inherent in the word may also apply. :D

    Moderator note: guys, let's try to stay on topic, please: "hemiola", not "music terminology". Thanks
     

    MarcoMac

    Senior Member
    Italian
    There's not a definitive spelling in Italian. It can be "Emiolia", "Emiola" or "Hemiola". (accents: emiolìa, emìola)
    As I recall from the times I played baroque and renaissance music I've always heard "emiolìa". But it may well be a local habit (here in Rome-Center Italy).

    You can use any of the 3 (hemiola is a bit ancienne regime as it clearly comes from Latin). The meaning is that one the others gave you.

    If of interest, emiolia is also used in poetry (as well as "shift of accents")
     

    Arcadia33

    Senior Member
    English - US
    MarcoMac,

    In the poetical context, how is it applied? Would it simply be the accents of the spoken sounds shifting in meter or is there a more specific meaning, used in a specific manner in particular meters that retains the 2 vs 3 relationship? Any source for examples would be of interest. Thanks.

    (Sorry about the off-topic post.)

    Arcadia
     

    MarcoMac

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In the poetical context, how is it applied? (Sorry about the off-topic post.)
    Don't know, exactly. Music manuals do always remind you when there's a connection between rythm (music) and metrics (literature/poetry), but they don't give you practical examples.

    I know it is/was used but not how.

    Sorry
    [edit] If can help:
    I recall I was given the info that the Greeks say "Hemiola", the Romans called it "sesquisomething"... maybe it was used in ancient classical poems and now is no longer in use!? :confused: It could explain why you don't find references...
     

    Arcadia33

    Senior Member
    English - US
    ... maybe it was used in ancient classical poems and now is no longer in use!? :confused: It could explain why you don't find references...

    I do find a reference to "pæon" from the Greek, "a solemn song", and also the phrase 'half as much again' which I rather like. This from a very old and large dictionary.

    The original post from Alex_Murphy came up while I was working on a small project that contains elements of 'hemiola' and it caught my interest. I had not thought about that word for a long time though I often use it in practice.

    As for the poetical usage, you are correct, it seems to have a specific and ancient meaning.

    Regards,

    Arcadia
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I do find a reference to "pæon" from the Greek, "a solemn song", and also the phrase 'half as much again' which I rather like. This from a very old and large dictionary.

    The original post from Alex_Murphy came up while I was working on a small project that contains elements of 'hemiola' and it caught my interest. I had not thought about that word for a long time though I often use it in practice.

    As for the poetical usage, you are correct, it seems to have a specific and ancient meaning.

    Regards,

    Arcadia

    Well good timing! I only posted the questin about 15 hours ago!
    Ok, well I know the word now so thanks all for the contributions! :)
     

    Salegrosso

    Senior Member
    Verona (Italy)
    Caro Alex,
    if the composer is our dear Georgy Ligeti, you can be sure: I've just read a book about his music and composition technique, where hemiola was the most repeated word!
    The book is written in Italian by an Italian mother tongue author, graduated in Italian Literature, writing rather good.
    The word hemiola was written in the form emiolia, but you can left hemiola as well.
    In case of Ligeti's technique, hemiola are not only 3 vs 2, but also 3 vs 4, 3 vs 5, 5 vs 7, etc. (also Fibonacci series, and other ratios).
    Indeed, in his Piano Etudes Ligeti was thinking to Nancarrow, the Mexican composer constructing an hemiolia of ratio greek pi! And in all these cases the word remains hemiola.

    As usual, technical words which are difficult to explain, are the most simple to translate.


    Is Ligeti your composer?
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    No I am the composer:) I used a hemiola in one of my compositions, I have to state to anyone who doesn't know about hemiolas that it isn't "one specific" way to do it, like if you see "3 vs 2" beats in a bar.

    hemiola are not only 3 vs 2, but also 3 vs 4, 3 vs 5, 5 vs 7, etc. (also Fibonacci series, and other ratios).

    With this you have cast some doubt into my mind, you cannot have a "hemiola series" - because one hemiola needs to rest into a pattern of at least a few bars, of one specific hemiola, you can have a "series of hemiolas" - how they would work in the Fibonacci sequence I think might be interesting, but I doubt that could be pulled off smoothly, like Stravinsky in the Rite of Spring, he changes time signature all the time, these aren't hemiolas, just changing of rhythm, this is what a series of time signature changes would be called, not hemiolas.

    A hemiola in 4/4...

    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four One Two Three Four One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four

    It has a noticable pattern of 4/4, and inbetween, a noticable pattern of 3/4 and then returns, a completed hemiola.

    Just to clarify:p
     

    Salegrosso

    Senior Member
    Verona (Italy)
    you cannot have a "hemiola series" - because one hemiola needs to rest into a pattern of at least a few bars, of one specific hemiola, you can have a "series of hemiolas" - how they would work in the Fibonacci sequence I think might be interesting, but I doubt that could be pulled off smoothly, like Stravinsky in the Rite of Spring, he changes time signature all the time, these aren't hemiolas, just changing of rhythm, this is what a series of time signature changes would be called, not hemiolas.

    I agree.

    I was meaning: Ligeti uses hemiola in which the ratio is not only the simple 3 vs 2 (like already Haydn, for example), but also other ratios, for example 5 vs 8, where the numbers 5 and 8 are extracted from the Fibonacci sequence (it's only an example). The ratio 5 vs 8 remains fixed during the hemiolia, of course. If not, it is no hemiolia, I agree with you!

    Also in the african music there are a lot of hemiolia, with several voices.

    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four One Two Three Four One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four
    One Two Three Four

    I agree. This is what I call a hemiola of ratio 3 vs 4.

    I'd like to explain what I was meaning about complex hemiola in Ligeti's piano music.
    A hemiola of ratio 16 vs 17, for example.
    The score is in 16 subunits (I mean, every bar contains 16 subunits), the left hand plays a "traditional" voice in 16 (I mean, strong musical accents are every 16 subunits), and the right hand plays a different voice, which has musical strong accents every 17 subunits.
    Since the minimum common multiple of 16 and 17 is the product 16 times 17 = 242, the two voices have simultaneous accents every 242 subunits.
    (This is contemporary music, of course...)
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Also in the african music there are a lot of hemiolia, with several voices.
    What you have called a hemiola is what we call "polyrhythms"

    I'd like to explain what I was meaning about complex hemiola in Ligeti's piano music.
    I see where our disagreement is:)

    What you have called a hemiola here is what we call "polyrhthmic phasing"

    Polyrhythm = The idea of having two seperate independant melody rhythms (like you said 16 beats in one hand and 17 in the other)

    Phasing = The idea of having an altered rhythm that goes against the other but every so often syncs up perfectly to have a strong beat at exactly the same time and repeat the cycle

    It must be incredibly hard to play!

    I study music quite a high level, and even some of the people I study with would not be 100% sure of what this is called or what it means, so it would be very common for someone to say "hemiola" in English, the Italian version of "hemiola" could be more "loose" in its meaning and incorporate this!
    I'm not telling you you're wrong here, it's just in English study of music, the distinction is made.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the author/composer called it a hemiola to put forward the general idea to a reader about "rhythms not being normal".

    I'm interested to know what you think!

    - Ciao:D

    [Edit]
    When I looked around for an example of "polyrhythmic phasing" I didn't actually expect to get any results in google because of its "esoteric" nature but I found one:
    Geophysicists have compiled a trully awesome .wav library of EarthSounds (samples soon to be available exclusively through the Schvtrn website) usually recorded with ultra-low frequency senso equipment.
    Apart from the obvious cataclysmic sounds of earthquakes, and other major events, Grrrnded, a renegade group of eco-sound scientists from California have devised a matrix of sensors capable of detecting and recording natural cyclical frequencies that derive from rhythmic and vibratory motion in the earth’s crust and magma.
    "The sound of the earth breathing..dude." Offers Carum Leibschitz.
    When amplified, these awesome sound files produce a complex series of multiple overtones, polyrhythmic phasing and interference patterns,
    This is someone talking about sound files of the Earth's actions, volcanoes and earthquakes and noises made by the earth, anyway, when put together and amplified this person says you can here "polyrhythmic phasing" which he uses to mean that as odd as it sounds put together, every once in a while you can hear these noises come together and pulse at the same time, all the earth's noises, seemingly random, when put together still sometimes create a feeling of occasional unison, which I find quite nice to know, I think that statement would be wasted on a lot of people.
     

    Salegrosso

    Senior Member
    Verona (Italy)
    What you have called a hemiola here is what we call "polyrythmic phasing"

    Yes, I like this expression. It is precise and explicit. Before reading that book, I was calling this phenomenon poliritmia.
    If you'd like to be precise in Italian, you could write poliritmia or also phasing poliritmico. If you write sfasamento it could be less precise, I afraid.
    Maybe only the author of that book uses the word hemiolia in this sense.

    It must be incredibly hard to play!

    Yes. I heard from the cd the performance of P.L. Aimard, reading the score: it's something unbelieveble. I've tried but it's hard.

    it would be very common for someone to say "hemiola" in English, the Italian version of "hemiola" could be more "loose" in its meaning and incorporate this!

    Yes. To create no doubt, in Italian you can use simply poliritmia. The concept is very clear.


    I wouldn't be surprised if the author/composer called it a hemiola to put forward the general idea to a reader about "rhythms not being normal".

    The author of the book uses the word emiolia in this way: there is a first chapter about the african traditional polyrythmic phasing, with a lot of exmples.
    Then in another chapter the complex phasing of Nancarrow are analysed, where the ratios are unbelievable. Indeed, the music of Nancarrow was not played by a human person, but by a machine, the mechanical piano where a roll turns (sorry, in English it's not easy), like in a huge carillon, the same instrument in the age of rag-times. So you can make holes with distances in the ratio you want.
    She (the author) fixes a definition: by convention, we call emiolia the polyrythmic phasing, from the very simple case 3 vs 2 like in Mozart, until the multi-layers african music or the crazy phasing of Nancarrow.
    Until the end of the book, this is the conventional word.

    I suggest you to explore the piano music of Ligeti, it's a world!


    All in all: in translation, poliritmia or phasing poliritmico are ok.

    It has been a very pleasure to chat about this topic.
    Cheerio!


    EDIT. The phasing is a very natural phenomenon happening when there are at least two periodic events, with periods in a rational ratio. If the ratio between the periods is irrational (that is, it's not a fraction) then in Mathematics & Physics it's called quasi-periodic motion.
    Also the planets in the solar system would produce polyrythmic phasing, if only they would play a sound at every round (or maybe they do it: the celestial music?).
    If we walk and my steps are one and a half of your ones, we play a very classical hemiolia.
    Oh yeah!
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If we walk and my steps are one and a half of your ones, we play a very classical hemiolia.

    If I stop walking, otherwise it's a polyrhythm:)
    It has been a pleasure to chat about this topic, let me say your English is fantastic, and I understood about the mechanical piano as well.:)
     
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