Divisi - "In Unison"

"In Unison"

Several singers singing a melody together.

In orchestral music unison can mean the simultaneous playing of a note (or a series of notes constituting a melody) by different instruments, either at the same pitch; or in a different octave, for example, cello and double bass (all'unisono). Typically a section string player plays unison with the rest of the section. Occasionally the Italian word divisi (meaning divided, abbrev. div.) marks a point where an instrumental section, typically the first violins, is to be divided into two groups for rendering passages that might, for example, include full chords. Thus, in the divisi first violins the "outside" players (nearer the audience) might play the top note of the chord, while the "inside" seated players play the middle note, and the second violins play the bottom note. At the point where the first violins no longer play divisi, the score may indicate this with unison (abbrev. unis.).

When several people sing together, as in a chorus, the simplest way for them to sing is to sing in "one voice", in unison. If there is an instrument accompanying them, then the instrument must play the same notes being sung by the singers (in order for there to be unison). Otherwise the instrument is considered a separate "voice" and there is no unison. If there is no instrument, then the singing is said to be a cappella. Music in which all the notes sung are in unison is called monophonic.

From this sense can be derived another, figurative, sense: if several people do something "in unison" it means they do it simultaneously, in tandem, in lockstep. Related terms are "univocal" and "unanimous".

Monophony could also conceivably include more than one voice which do not sing in unison but whose pitches move in parallel, always maintaining the same interval of an octave. A pair of notes sung one or a multiple of an octave apart are almost in unison, due to octave equivalency.

When there are two or more voices singing different notes, this is called "part singing". If they are singing notes at different pitches but with the same rhythm this is called homophony. An example is a barbershop quartet or a choir singing a hymn. If each voice is singing an independent line (either the same melody at a different time, or different melodies) this is called polyphony.

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Famous quotes containing the word unison:

    A poet is no rattlebrain, saying what comes uppermost, and, because he says every thing, saying, at last, something good; but a heart in unison with his time and country. There is nothing whimsical or fantastic in his production, but sweet and sad earnest, freighted with the weightiest convictions, and pointed with the most determined aim which any man or class knows of in his times.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

    Young men of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison with these,—but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die of disgust,—some of them suicides.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)