Room 43--The concept of Hemiola

Here we will bring up the idea of HEMIOLA. Hemiola pertains to the relationship between 2 and 3 where meter is concerned. In a 6/8 measure, containing 6 beats in eighth notes, the measure can be divided as where the red numbers receive the accents. Alternately, it could be felt like where the red numbers again receive the accents. The former is a 6/8 bar in duple meter; the latter is a 3/4 bar in triple meter.

Here is a brief little waltz by Johannes Brahms that beautifully displays the contrast. Notice how as the voices begin the first phrase, there is an accent every two beats. The second phrase contains an accent every three beats. Then the same thing happens again. Then in the second half of the waltz the voices maintain an accent every three beats. Then in the pianos (there are four hands playing, not two) the first phrase accents every three beats, the second phrase every two beats. See if you can hear this relationship. Listen!

Now were you able to hear it? If you have trouble, listen to this version where the accents have been marked with tones. Remember the first two phrases accent every two beats; the second pair accents every three. Listen!

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