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Music History I

A set of terms for the RCM's History I exam.

tutti Italian for "all"; the performance of a certain passage of a composition with all the instruments together (the opposite of solo); popular technique in concerti grossi.
fugue a genre perfected by J.S. Bach during the Baroque era in which a theme or subject is introduced by one voice, then imitated by other voices in succession, creating a complex, polyphonic piece.
pedal point a low, sustained tone (also known as a drone) played in the bass part of a composition while the other parts or voices move above it; technique used throughout music history.
motive a short tune or musical figure that unifies a composition and is easily recognizable; can be of any length, but is usually only a few notes long.
oratorio a large scale, unstaged (no costumes or scenery) dramatic composition originating in the 17th century employing solo voices and choruses; usually based on religious subjects.
concerto grosso a Baroque style of music in which a small group of solo instruments (the concertino) plays in opposition to a larger ensemble (the ripieno).
art song a composition usually sung by a solo voice with accompaniment; not part of a larger work (such as an opera) but a song with artistic purpose, know as a lied in German; most popular during the Romantic era.
Dies irae latin for "day of wrath"; originally a 13th century hymn and later became a movement in the Mass for the Dead (Requiem); the text describes the Last Judgment and is taken from the biblical prophet Zephaniah.
hemiola a rhythmic device in which duplets are played in one part of the music, over which another part is playing triplets
lyric opera a form of opera that combines elements of both grand opera and opera comique, reaching perfection in some of Bizet's 19th century operas.
counterpoint Latin, meaning 'note against note', it is the combination of two or more melodies, performed simultaneously and musically; melody is supported by another melody rather than by chords.
chamber orchestra an orchestra that is smaller than the modern symphony orchestra (20-25 musicians) and primarily performs music from the 18th and 19th centuries.
word painting musical depiction of words in text; the music tries to imitate the emotion, action, or adjectival description in the text.
Romanza a popular 18th century work or movement with a slow tempo; Mozart in particular used this form, which is very similar to rounded binary in structure.
Ritornello form a short, recurring instrumental passage in a Baroque concerto or aria, particularly in a tutti section. It was used between solos, for example.
exoticism A popular device during the Romantic era in which composers imitated the rhythms, melodies, and/or instrumentation of music from other countries to evoke the atmosphere of far-off lands.
sonata-rondo form A hybrid form that combines the characteristics of the sonata form (A-B-A) and the rondo.
concertino The small group of instruments in the Baroque concerto grosso.
da capo aria Italian lyric song in ternary form, commonly found in operas, cantatas and oratorios. It developed during the Baroque era and the melody was usually decorated during the return of the A section.
musical theatre Theatrical stage performances using contemporary music alongside the story line.
whole tone scales A scale built without semitones.
col legno Italian for "with the wood"; a direction for bowed string instrument musicians to strike the strings with the wood of the bow (rather than with the hair).
Lied German for "song", the term refers most commonly to accompanied songs from the Romantic era.
glissando An Italian term which describes a rapidly ascending or descending scale, most often associated with the harp, but also used on the piano, string, and wind instruments.
recitativo secco In multi-movement vocal compositions, a sung narrative which describes the action; follows the natural flow of the language with little accompaniment.
ripieno An Italian word which refers to the larger of the two ensembles in a Baroque concerto grosso.
polyrhythm The use of several patterns or meters simultaneously, a technique used in many 20th century compositions.
cyclical structure A compositional device in which a single theme, or group of themes, returns in each subsequent movement of a large-scale work, often transformed in various ways.
idee fixe French for "fixed idea"; refers to a recurring theme that appears in many movements of the same composition. Berlioz made the technique famous in his Symphonie fantastique in 1830.
solo concerto An Italian term originally applied to almost any kind of concerted music for voices and/or instruments of the Baroque era.
modal scales These scales are based upon patterns of whole and half steps other than major or minor patterns
canon Strict counterpoint in which each instrument (or voice) exactly imitates the previous voice at a fixed distance. The technique has been popular in both Baroque polyphonic music as well as 20th century tone row compositions.
ballad A simple song of natural construction, usually in the narrative or descriptive form; usually has several verses of similar construction and may or may not have a refrain.
subject The motive, or theme, upon which a fugue is based. It is stated by one of the voices (anywhere from three to six parts is common), then there is an answer.
recitative accompagnato Means there is instrumental accompaniment with the soloist; more so than the sparse chords added to the "secco" style.
tierce de Picardie The raised third degree of the tonic chord is used for the ending of a composition in a minor mode, in order to give the ending a greater sense of finality; commonly used by J.S. Bach.
polymeter The simultaneous use of two meters -- two instruments in a score given different time signatures, for example, or a piano work which has one meter for one hand and another meter for the other. Popular technique in the 20th century.
strophic form A song structure in which every verse of the text is sung with the same tune.
countersubject The secondary theme of a fugue, heard in a separate voice against the subject; possibly more than one.
antique cymbals A pitched percussion instrument, consisting of a set of two small brass disks, each held in one hand of the performer. They are played by being struck together gently and are allowed to vibrate.
string orchestra An orchestra playing only string instruments.
libretto Italian for "little book"; the words to an oratorio or an opera.
polonaise A type of Polish dance in triple meter; originated as a stately Polish processional dance, developed from the "Polish dance" (taniec polski) of the 18th century.
habanera A dance of Cuban origins from the mid-1800s that is performed in duple meter, usually with a slow tempo; this dance was based on a French Renaissance dance, and eventually developed into the mambo and cha-cha.
answer The second entry of the subject in a fugue, in a different voice and usually beginning on the dominant note. If the theme is altered slightly, it is said to be 'tonal'; if unaltered, it is 'real.'
symbolism Refers to the artistic movement in France during the early 20th century, involving poetry, art, and music. The artists felt that art should appeal to the senses before the intellect. Debussy considered himself to be a part of this movement.
polytonality The use of two or more keys simultaneously, used in 20th century compositions by composers such as Stravinsky. A famous example is his "Petrushka chord."
pentatonic scale A scale consisting of five tones (4th and 7th tones were omitted). It was first used in African and Far Eastern music, and utilized in 20th century Western compositions.
episode In fugues, it is a connective passage or area of relaxation between entrances of the subject.
durchkomponiert Song form that is composed from beginning to end without repetitions of any major sections; each verse having its own, unique melody.
dissonance Two or more notes sounded together which are discordant, and may or may not be resolved to a consonant sound.
mambo rhythm In the 1940s, the American jazz beat was combined with the Cuban rumba rhythm. The result was this new rhythm. Dancers dance to the off beat rather than the traditional downbeat; the name of a Voodoo priestess
rubato An Italian term meaning "robbed or stolen." It is a common practice in Romantic compositions, with the performer subtly stretching, slowing, or hurrying the tempo, thus giving flexibility and emotion to the performance.
stretto In a fugue, that situation in which the subject and answer overlap one another, or when two subjects enter in close succession. J.S. Bach often used this technique near the end of a fugue.
serenade A French word meaning "night music", it is a Classical instrumental genre that combines elements of chamber music and symphonic music; often performed in the evening.
Petrushka chord The simultaneous sounding of C major and F sharp major (polychord) in one of Stravinsky's ballets. It was meant to signify the main character to the audience.
Program symphony A multi-movement composition with extra-musical content that directs the attention of the listener to a literary or pictorial association. The genre was especially popular during the Romantic era and the composer usually provided the context.
choreography The representation of the dance steps by symbols written in the music; can be found in any work that combines dancing and music, such as an opera or musical.
nocturne A title popular during the Romantic era, used for piano and orchestral pieces, suggesting some aspect of the night; usually solemn and contemplative; the best known examples for the piano were written by Chopin.
modified strophic A combination of both strophic and through-composed lied, with later verses often set to varied music.
tritone The dissonant interval of an augmented fourth (enharmonically spelled as a diminished fifth), popular in 20th century music. This interval was known as the 'diabolo in musica' in the Medieval era because it is the most dissonant sound in the scale.
ostinato The Italian word for "unceasing"; a short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic pattern, repeated throughout an entire composition (or section of a composition).
opera A drama set to music, usually sung throughout, originating in 17th century Italy; combines music, drama, scenery, costumes, dance, etc., to create a complete art form.
bel canto Italian for "beautiful singing." This Italian vocal style is characterized by florid melodic lines delivered by voices of great agility, smoothness, and purity of tone. This style greatly influenced Chopin's piano music.
ballet A French word meaning a theatrical representation of a story by means of dances accompanied by music.
symphonic poem A one-movement orchestral genre invented during the Romantic era, that develops a poetic idea, suggests a scene, or creates a mood.
chorus A group of singers who usually sing in parts with several voices on each part; can be a performing group in its own right, or a part of a larger vocal genre such as opera and oratorios. A famous example is Hallelujah by Handel.
conductor The leader of a musical ensemble who indicates through gestures or conducting patterns how the music should be interpreted by the musicians.
timbre A French word meaning the quality of a sound; that component of a tone that causes different instruments (for example a guitar and a violin) to sound different from each other while they are both playing the same note.
string quartet A group of four solo instrumentalists (usually two violin players, a viola player, and a cellist) who perform together on stringed instruments as a chamber ensemble.
genre French for "style"; a word used when classifying music into categories such as opera, lieder, and symphony.
symphony In the early 18th century, the term was applied to any instrumental prelude, interlude, or postlude. By the Classical era, the term is applied to a large composition for orchestra, generally in three or four movements (sonata cycle form).
polyphonic A type of musical texture in which a composition has many voices, each with its own melody; popular during the Baroque era.
chromatic harmony A type of harmony which employs notes outside of the major or minor key in use - having a C# in the key of C major, for example.
scherzo and trio The third movement in the sonata cycle popular in the Classical era, introduced as a replacement for the Minuet and Trio. Beethoven preferred this to the Minuet, such as in the third movement of his Fifth Symphony; more playful than the Minuet.
expanded tonality The 20th century saw an increase in more unusual harmonic resolutions, (tonic to dominant cadences less important), and compositions that begin in one key but end in another (nonconcentric compositions).
absolute music Music that has no literary, dramatic, or pictorial program. The focus is on the form, rather than a program.
terraced dynamics When dynamic levels shift abruptly from soft to loud (and back again), without gradual crescendos and decrescendos. A typical practice on instruments such as the harpsichord which had two keyboards (or manuals).
jazz A style of music originating in the 20th century in New Orleans which combined elements of European-American and African music. It is an improvisational, expressive style of music, characterized by syncopated rhythms and the use of seventh/ninth chords.
program music Compositions with extra-musical content that directs the attention of the listener to a literary or pictorial association; especially popular in the 19th century; a famous example is the Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz.
homophonic texture a style of composition (and musical texture) in which there is one melody, and the accompaniment supports the melody - the instruments moves rhythmically together.
diatonic harmony Proceeding in the order of the octave based on five tones and two semitones, with all the chords based upon this system (few notes or accidentals that are not included in the tonic key, for example).
polychord The simultaneous use of two or more simple chords (such as triads), a technique used in 20th century compositions, including The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.
barroco A Portuguese word used by 18th century critics to comment on what they perceived to be excesses of the style, rather than the simpler, more rational, and balanced style of the Classical era.
Nationalism Term describing the 19th century movement when composers began to add features to their music so that their music would feature the unique characteristics of their country. Chopin wrote dances from his native Poland, the Polonaises and Mazurkas.
Post-Romanticism The period from approximately 1890-1920; the period when many composers (such as Wagner) concentrated on the traditions of their own countries. Others, such as Mahler, took Romantic ideals to their utmost limits.
Doctrine of the Affections A theory that arose during the Baroque period that related to emotions - happiness could be described through the use of faster notes and major sonorities; sadness through minor keys and slower movement; and anger through loud, harsh discordant harmonies
menuet and trio a popular combination for the third movement of the sonata cycle in orchestral works. The first form is a stately dance in triple meter, ideal for the Classical era.
figured bass When the bass part of a Baroque composition is marked so as to indicate which harmonies correspond with each note. Often a type of musical "shorthand" was used to inform the performer which chords should be used.
atonality Music without tonality, or music that is not centered around a central key, scale, or tonal centre.
equal temperament A method of tuning that involves tuning each of the twelve semitones of the octave exactly equally to one another. This is the modern tuning system, first used in the Baroque era.
symmetrical phrasing Structured musical phrasing, based on phrases of four or eight measures. The first phrase usually ends with an open cadence and the second phrase with a closed cadence. This leads to a call and response in the music and a consistent harmonic structure.
serialism A method of composition in which various musical elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and tone colour may be put in order according to a fixed series.
binary form Two-part (A-B) structure of music; usually each part is repeated. It was the standard form for pieces in a Baroque suite, with no strong contrast between the sections.
theme and variations A style of composition that first presents a basic theme and then develops and alters that theme in subsequent statements; each variation is unique. It is a popular form for the second movement in the sonata cycle.
ternary form A compositional form which consists of three major sections, 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.
Viennese Classical School The three greatest contributors to the Classical period were Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, all of whom spent part of their careers in Vienna.
choir A group of singers, generally singing in parts (such as soprano, alto, tenor, bass), with numerous voices singing each part.
Impressionism Term applied to composers such as Debussy and Ravel, who were composing in the same time and place that the Impressionist painters were active; refers to exaggerated musical colour and a focus on modal and chromatic progressions, rather than tonal ones.
basso continuo An Italian phrase which refers to a characteristic of Baroque music where a bass part runs continuously throughout a work; also known as thoroughbass.
sonata-allegro form The form generally used for the opening movement of the Classical sonata. It consists of an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The exposition has two contrasting themes in contrasting keys, whereas the recap restates both themes in the tonic.
sonata cycle General term describing the multi-movement structure found in sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, concertos, and large-scale works of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Expressionism The German composer's response to French Impressionism. Instead of creating impressions of the outer world, they preferred looking inward; music is often characterized by harsh dissonances, large jumps in the melodic line and sudden changes in dynamics.
rocket theme A rapid upward arpeggio over a large range, combined with a crescendo.
flute A woodwind instrument that is held horizontally so that the performer can blow across the mouthpiece of the instrument. The modern version is made of metal, not wood. Its timbre ranges from a low, smooth sound to high, almost shrill bursts.
trumpet A brass instrument with valves. Early examples date back thousands of years. The modern version is used in the symphony orchestra, as well as marching bands, concert bands, and jazz bands.
piccolo Meaning "little" in Italian, this instrument plays an octave higher than the flute and has a piercing sound.
violin A four-stringed wooden instrument, played with a bow. It is played in the soprano range (in comparison to the cello or double bass which play lower notes); one of the most popular instruments in the orchestra and has been since the Baroque era.
English Horn An alto oboe classified as a woodwind instrument with a double reed; the direct descendent of the oboe da caccia which was used throughout the Baroque era.
timpani A tuned percussion instrument; comes in several different sizes, each capable of playing different pitches; also known as kettledrums. Sound is created by striking the stretched membrane with mallets.
harp A plucked string instrument in use since ancient times. The modern version has seven pedals (which allow the key to change) and 47 strings.
cello A string instrument that is lower in pitch than the violin and viola. It is as expressive and versatile as the violin, but with a richer, deeper, darker tone.
clarinet A single-reed woodwind instrument which developed from the recorder; a relatively recent addition to the symphony orchestra.
French horn A brass instrument in the alto range with a conical-shaped tube. The pitches are written a fifth higher than what is actually played.
viola A member of the violin family (the second highest in pitch) which is larger than the violin.
double bassoon The lowest member of the bassoon family, sounding an octave below the regular bassoon. A double-reed instrument with a conical bore.
double bass The largest, and lowest pitched, instrument of the violin family. It has sloping shoulders and four strings.
trombone A brass instrument that developed from the sackbut and became popular with orchestras in the 18th century. It has a slide rather than valves. Sound is produced by the vibrations of the lips.
oboe A double-reed woodwind instrument dating back to the mid-17th century. It has a warm, reedy, sometimes almost squawking sound.
tuba The bass instrument of the modern brass family. The modern version has valves and the bell is very wide and the cut very deep, thus facilitating the extremely low notes characteristic of the instrument.
aerophone Any instrument that produces sound by using air as the primary vibrating means, such as the flute.
membranophone Any instrument that produces tones by means of vibrating a stretched membrane, such as a drum.
chordophones Any instrument that is sounded by bowing, plucking, or striking a string that is stretched between two fixed points, such as a harp or violin.
Created by: sashby