Counterpoint is a form of POLYPHONY. Are they the same thing? Well, as far as I can tell, yes, they are, but you know, in the all-asians-look-alike sort of way. What then are they? Polyphony is the layering of distinct melodies, that interweave and play off of each other, but remain their own separate creature. This below is the first line of the oldest recorded notation for a polyphonic composition, called Sumer is Icumen In. To translate this from the old english, read it aloud. Its in 6 parts traditionally, and this is a delightful version of it, that brings me great joy. Tidings of them. Listen to the way they counter & point at one another.
Click on the picture to download the song.
HOMOPHONIC music, as distinct from homophobic music, is different than polyphony in that it is carried by one strong melody. The separate musical parts, voices, harmonize with the lead meoldy, creating chordal sounds. Notice how the four parts of this old hymn are laid out, following one another, forming a four note chord with the four parts. Click on the picture below to listen to a homophonic hymn composed by Thomas Tallis, an early English composer.
Lastly, we have MONOPHONY, from which both of the crazy chickens above hatched. It is the form of music that is composed of only one single melodic line, which all the singers sing together. Gregorian chant and other varities of single melody chant from early western culture are examples of this. Click here to listen an example of Gregorian Chant.