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Glossary

20th Century: The period of music from 1900-2000 characterized by atonality, dissonance, neoclassicism, and jazz elements.

4/4: A rhythmic meter characterized by 4 beats per note grouping.
6/8: A rhythmic meter characterized by 6 beats split between 2 note groupings.
Acceleration: Becoming faster.
Accents: A greater stress given to one musical tone than to its neighbors.
Accompaniment: a musical part that supports or partners a solo instrument, voice, or group.
Aesthetic: Appreciation of something beautiful.
Allegro: A fast tempo.
Andante: A moderate tempo.
Anthem: A hymn (song) of praise or loyalty.
Applaud: to express approval by clapping hands.
Archetype: the original pattern or model for similar ideas; prototype
Aria: An elaborate solo song, generally with instrumental accompaniment.
Arrangement: The adaptation of a composition for a medium different from that for which it was originally composed.
Ascending: Notes rising in pitch.
Audience: A group of listeners or spectators.
Auditorium: A room, hall or building used for public gatherings.
Ballad: A simple song.
Ballet: A theatrical art form using dancing, music and scenery to convey a story, theme or atmosphere.
Baroque Period: The period of music from 1600-1750 characterized by an emphasis on ornate melodies and the development of musical forms such as opera, cantata, oratorio, and sonata.
Binary Form: Two-part (AB) structure of music; usually each part is repeated. The term can also mean any form with two periods, or sections.
Bow: (a) A wooden rod with horsehairs stretched from end to end used in playing an instrument of the violin family. (b) To play an instrument using a bow.
Bridge: (a) A piece raising the strings of a musical instrument. (b) Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition.
Broadway musicals: A popular form of musical theater of the 20th century, developed chiefly in the United States.
Cadenza: a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end.
Canon: Strict counterpoint in which each voice exactly imitates the previous voice at a fixed distance.
Cantata: A musical work for soloists and chorus, often with orchestral accompaniment.
Chamber Music: Music, especially instrumental ensemble music, intended for performance in a private room.
Chant: is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, either on a single pitch or with a simple melody involving a limited set of notes and often including a great deal of repetition.
Choreograph: To arrange or direct movements especially for dance.
Chorus: (a) a group of singers who all sing together or a piece sung by such a group. (b) The refrain of a song.
Chromaticism: The use of the chromatic scale in a piece of music.
Classical Period: The period of music from 1750-1825 characterized by an emphasis on balance, clarity and moderation.
Coda: A concluding passage that occurs after the structural conclusion of a piece of music.
Collaboration: To work jointly with others
Commission: to hire a composer to write a piece of music in exchange for a fee
Composer: A person who writes music.
Composition: A piece of music.
Concert: The performance of music (or other art form) for an audience.
Concerto: A musical work for solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra.
Concertmaster: the leader of the first violins of an orchestra and, by custom, usually the assistant to the conductor.
Concert Overture: a piece of music in the style of an overture but intended for independent performance.
Conductor: A person who directs the performance of a musical ensemble.
Contemporary: The present period of music; specifically music created from the year 2000 to present.
Contrast: To compare or appraise in respect to differences.
Countermelody: a subordinate melody accompanying a principal one.
Counterpoint: The art of combining two or more melodies to be performed simultaneously and musically. In counterpoint, the melody is supported by another melody rather than by chords.
Creation Myths: describe how the world or universe came into being.
Crescendo: Gradual increase in volume of a musical passage.
Critic: One who expresses a reasoned opinion involving a judgment of its value.
Dance: A series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements usually performed to music.
Descending: Notes falling in pitch
Dialogue: Spoken words.
Diminuendo: soft to loud range of sound. Another word for decrescendo.
Dissonant: The sounding together of notes that do not satisfy the listener.
Double-reed: Two reeds bound together with a slight separation between them so that air passing through causes them to beat against one another and produce a sound.
Double-stopping: The production of two notes simultaneously on any string instrument.
Dynamics: The loudness or softness of sound.
End Pin: The metal rod on which cellos and basses rest.
Finale: The final movement of a musical form; to appear at the end of a composition.
Form: The overall structure of a piece of music.
Fragment: An incomplete part of a whole.
Grand Opera: Opera that is sung throughout.
Harmony: The musical effect derived from combining different pitches simultaneously.
Hemiola: a metrical pattern in which two bars in simple triple time are articulated as if they were three bars in simple duple time
Hymn: Songs in praise of Christian beliefs.
Impressionism: A style of painting and music developed in France that was popular from the 1870's through early 1900's. It is characterized by the impression produced by a scene, or the creation of an emotion or feeling.
Improvise: The creation of music in the course of performance.
Incidental Music: music to be performed during a play (purely orchestral)
Interlude:a temporary amusement or source of entertainment that contrasts with what goes before or after.
Interval: The distance between two notes
Irregular: Not conforming to the usual pattern being exhibited.
Leitmotif: A recurring melody that is associated with a specific character, event, or idea.
Lyrics: the written words in a song.
Mallets: A light hammer with a small rounded or spherical usually padded head used in playing certain musical instruments (as a vibraphone).
Manuscript: A written or typewritten composition (as distinguished from a printed copy).
March: To move along steadily with a rhythmic stride and in step with others.
Melody: A succession of notes defined by pitch and rhythm.
Meter: A pattern in which a steady succession of rhythmic pulses is organized.
Minuet and Trio: A French dance in moderate tempo and ¾ meter. In the Classical period, the minuet was paired with a contrasting movement called the trio. Together, they were played in the pattern of minuet-trio-minuet.
Mixed Meter: A different time signature at the beginning of each bar, resulting in music with an extremely irregular rhythmic feel.
Modal: A series of loosely related concepts employed in the study and classification of both scales and melodies.
Modulate: To change from one key to another.
Mood: The feelings inspired by listening to a piece of music.
Motif: A short tune or musical figure that characterizes and unifies a composition. It can be of any length, but is usually only a few notes long. A motif can be a melodic, harmonic or rhythmic pattern that is easily recognizable throughout the composition.
Musical Theatre: An American creation, it combines music, dance, and drama to tell a story.
Nationalism: The use in art music of materials that are identifiably national or regional in character; may include folk melodies, or nonmusical programmatic elements drawn from national folklore, myth or literature.
Opera: A story told by music and singing very rarely using spoken words.
Oratorio: A multi-movement musical work written for soloists, chorus, and orchestra that are based on stories from the Bible.
Orchestra: A group of musicians organized to perform ensemble music.
Orchestrate: to arrange the music for an orchestra to play.
Orchestration: The art of employing instruments in various combinations, most notably the orchestra.
Ornamentation: The modification of music, usually but not always through the addition of notes, to make it more beautiful or effective.
Ostinato: a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm.
Overture: orchestral introduction that establishes key themes and moods
Patron: A person who supports something, like an orchestra, a composer, or an event.
Patterns: An artistic or musical form.
Pentatonic: A scale consisting of five pitches or pitch classes.
Pianissimo: A very low dynamic level of sound in a musical composition; music being performed as soft as possible.
Pitch: Highness or lowness of sound.
Pizzicato: To play a string instrument by plucking rather than bowing the strings.
Podium: A raised platform for an orchestral conductor.
Polyphony: A style of composition that has many voices, each with its own melody, thus creating a rich texture of sound.
Polytonal: The simultaneous use of two or more tonalities or keys.
Prelude: a short dance/movement or an introductory idea to a larger work.
Prodigy: A highly talented child.
Program Music: Any kind of music, especially orchestral, inspired by a literary, historical, pictorial or other non-musical source.
Recapitulation: a part of a movement (especially one in sonata form) in which themes from the exposition are restated.
Recitative: A style of singing that closely resembles speech, with little change in pitch.
Reed: A thin piece of cane, wood, metal, or plastic attached to one end of a tube which, when vibrating, produces the sound of certain woodwind instruments.
Refrain: A verse which repeats throughout a song or poem at given intervals.
Rehearse: To practice.
Reprise: a repeated passage in music.
Rhythm: The organization of sound over time.
Romantic Period: The period of music from 1825-1900 characterized by an emphasis on subjective emotional qualities and freedom of form.
Rondo: A form of instrumental music that contains a section that is repeated throughout the movement.
Scale: (a) A graduated series of musical tones ascending or descending in order or pitch. (b) When the size of an object is enlarged or diminished across a line.
Scherzo: a movement or passage of light or playful character, esp. as the second or third movement of a sonata or a symphony.
Solo: A piece or a section of a piece played or sung by a single performer. (Soli is a group of people)
Sonata: A composition for solo piano or instruments usually consisting of three or four movements varying in key, mood, and tempo.
Soundscape: A musical creation of sound to depict a certain image of a thing or place.
String Quartet: A composition for an ensemble consisting of four solo string instruments, normally two violins, viola and cello.
Symbol: something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
Symphonic Poem: see Tone Poem.
Symphony: A long and complex work in sonata form for symphony orchestra.
Syncopation: A momentary contradiction of the prevailing meter or pulse.
Tempo: The speed at which a musical composition is played.
Ternary Form: A compositional form which consists of three major sections (ABA), an A section which states the thematic material, a B section which presents a contrasting theme, and a final A section which restates the opening thematic material.
Texture: The way the music is scored
Theme: A melodic subject or main idea of a musical composition or movement.
Theme-and-Variations: Form in which a basic musical idea (the theme) is repeated over and over and is changed each time in melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, or tone color. Used either as an independent piece or as one movement of a larger work.
Timbre: Quality of sound that distinguishes one instrument or voice from another.
Tonality: Central note, scale and chord within a piece, in relationship to which all other tones in the composition are heard.
Tone color: see Timbre.
Tone Poem: a poem told through music rather than words
Tradition: Cultural continuity of social attitudes.
Transformation: change in form, appearance, nature, or character
Transition: A musical modulation.
Tune: A simple melody.
Valves: A device in a brass instrument for quickly channeling air flow through an added length of tube in order to change the pitch.
Variation: Changing some features of a musical idea while retaining others.
Verse: a group of lines which constitutes a unit. Often there are several verses in a single song, and usually the rhyme scheme, rhythm, and lines are the same from verse to verse.
Viol: A bowed stringed instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries from which the modern violin family is descended; it differs from the modern string instruments in that it had a deep body, a flat back, sloping shoulders, usually six strings, a fretted fingerboard and a low-arched bridge.
Virtuoso: Performing artists of extraordinary technical mastery.
Waltz: a ballroom dance in triple meter

 

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