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Intro to Music Vocab

Masterworks: A Musical Discovery - Holoman - Intro to Music All Vocab

a for. The indications a2 or a3 mean the line is to be played by both or all three members of the section.
a cappella Without instrumental accompaniment; applied to choral music, particularly of the Renaissance.
absolute music Instrumental music without illustrative or programmatic intent.
accelerando Growing faster; accelerating.
accent Emphasis of a musical event, typically by increased volume or sharper attack.
accidental Notational symbol used to raise or lower a pitch.
accompagnato Accompanied; as in recitativo accompagnato (recitative with orchestral accompaniment).
acoustics Science of sound and its perception.
ad libitum At will, or at the pleasure of the performer; typically an optional part that may be left out.
adagio Slow. Also used generically to describe a slow movement.
Agnus Dei Last movement of a choral mass.
Alberti Bass Accompanimental figure for the left hand in keyboard music, named after the composer Domenico Alberti (c. 1710-40), where the triads are broken into patterns of short note values.
alla breve Time signature indicating progress by half note.
allargando A broadening (and often slowing and swelling), usually at the end of a movement.
allegretto Somewhat slower than allegro, and by extension somewhat lighter.
allegro Fast. Allegro assai = Quite fast. Allegro con brio = Fast and bright. Allegro ma non troppo = Not too fast. Allegro moderato = Moderately fast. Allegro molto = Quite fast. Allegro vivace = Fast and spirited.
alto (1) The second highest of the four customary voice parts, below the soprano and above the tenor. (2) Singer with that vocal range. (3) [in scores] Viola. The term alto is also used to describe models of the flute and clarinet lower than the usual one.
andante At moderate speed.
andantino Term that has come to mean a little faster than andante, but which once meant a little slower than andante.
animato Animated; typically suggesting getting faster.
answer Response in a new voice to the subject of a fugue, usually a fifth above it.
antecedent thus the first half of a two-part phrase, where the second seems to be an appropriate outcome of the first.
anthem English sacred choral composition for the Anglican service, often accompanied by organ. Also, any solemn hymn.
antiphony Referring to music by multiple performing groups separated by space.
arabesque Florid turn of melody.
arco Cancels the instruction "pizzicato" ("pizz.").
aria Composition for solo voice, usually a movement of a larger work.
arioso Lyrical manner midway in style between recitative and aria, esp. in operatic solo scenes.
arpeggio Chord where the pitches are played in succession rather than simultaneously.
assai Very; as in Allegro assai (very fast).
atonality Having no allegiance to tonality; not having a key.
attacca Attack, i.e., go on to the next movement without pause.
augmentation Stating familiar melodic materials in longer-than-ordinary note values.
augmented interval Intervals a half step wider than the corresponding major or perfect interval.
avant-garde Term that describes the most progressive or radical element of an artistic movement.
baguette Drumstick; usually part of a direction to the timpanist or bass drum player to use an alternative kind of stick. Baguettes d'éponge = sponge-headed drumsticks. Baguettes de bois = wooden drumsticks.
ballad Self-contained narrative (i.e., storytelling) song. Also, any singable or popular tune.
ballade Title given by Chopin to four major one-movement works for piano solo. Later composers, notably Brahms, also used the title.
bar Same as measure; the basic unit of meter.
bar line Vertical line separating measures (or bars) of music in a score.
baritone (1) Voice part midway between tenor and bass. (2) Brass instrument having the appearance of a small tuba. (3) Member of an instrument family between tenor and bass; as in baritone saxophone.
bass (1) Lowest-sounding voice part. (2) Double bass viol, lowest of the orchestral string instruments. (3) Lowest-sounding line of a score, or the lowest pitch in a chord. (4) Lowest-sounding member of a family of instruments, as in bass clarinet.
basso continuo In Baroque music, a continuously sounding bass part over which the rest of the composition is built.
beat Prevailing metrical pulse.
bebop Jazz style that emerged in the 1940s, an alternative developed by black musicians to the white big bands.
bel canto Prevailing vocal ideal in solo vocal music from the Baroque forward.
binary form Musical forms in two sections (graphed as A and B), very often repeated (AABB).
bitonality Use of two keys at once.
blue note Flattened inflection of scale degrees 3 and/or 7 in a major key.
blues Musical style at the heart of the music of black Americans and permeating jazz and popular forms.
boogie-woogie Fast jazz style that developed in the 1930s, featuring a driving ostinato bass.
bop See bebop.
bourrée Lively Baroque dance movement in duple meter, usually with prominent upbeat.
bridge (1) In sonata form, passage in the exposition that takes the harmony away from tonic and to dominant, arriving at the second group. Used interchangeably with, but more often than, the term transition. (2) Component of string instruments that raises the s
BWV Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or index of Bach's works, organized by genre.
cadence (1) Arrival at harmonic rest. (2) In parade music, the drumbeat.
cadenza Passage of improvisatory display for the soloist, especially in a concerto.
canon Musical procedure where a second voice is generated by following a rule (or "canon").
cantabile Singingly; in lyric fashion.
cantata Genre of vocal composition originating in the Baroque, sacred or secular, for soloist or chorus.
cantus firmus Melody from some other work borrowed to serve as the basis for a new polyphonic composition.
cantus firmus mass See cantus firmus. A Renaissance mass in which all the movements are based on the same cantus firmus is termed a cyclic mass (see cyclicism).
capriccio A caprice, usually a light, fanciful, and imaginative solo work, darting about from segment to segment.
celesta Keyboard instrument of the orchestral percussion section where metal plates are struck by hammers. Invented in the late nineteenth century.
chaconne Work built on an ostinato bass (or ground bass). See also passacaglia.
chamber music Originally, music not intended for the church, theater, or concert hall. Now the term implies a performing group of small size.
chanson Song.
chant Monophonic liturgical repertoire of the Catholic church. See also plainchant, plainsong, Gregorian chant.
character piece Descriptive miniature composition of the Romantic period, usually for piano.
chorale Congregational hymn of the Lutheran church.
chorale prelude Work for organ based on a Protestant chorale and serving to introduce its singing.
chord Group of pitches sounding simultaneously; often a triad (three notes) or seventh chord (four notes).
chromatic scale Scale that includes all 12 pitches.
chromaticism Style of composition that makes pointed use of chromatic melodies and harmonies. (See also semitone.)
circle of fifths Diagram in which the 12 pitches and associated keys are set around a circle where each member is a fifth higher.
clavier Keyboard. Often used as generic term to describe any keyboard instrument.
clef Sign that associates a line on a staff with a particular pitch and thus serves as a "key" to the system.
closing theme Theme that concludes the exposition in a sonata form.
coda Closing section of a movement.
col legno Hitting the strings with the wood, instead of the hair, of the bow.
collegium musicum Society of musicians performing for their own pleasure.
coloratura Florid embellishment of a vocal line, esp. for soprano in the high register; a soprano who specializes in such parts.
compound meter Meter containing triple (instead of duple) subdivisions of the beat (e.g., , , and ).
con brio With spirit, lively; as in Allegro con brio.
con fuoco With fury, furiously; as in Allegro con fuoco.
con moto With motion; as in Allegro con moto.
con sordino With mute, muted. Cancelled by the indication "senza" (without).
concert overture Overture intended to stand alone in a concert, not to go before a theater piece.
concertante Concerto-like composition for more than one solo instrument and orchestra, popular in France in the eighteenth century.
concertino Soloists in a concerto grosso (often two violins). See also ripieno.
concertmaster Principal first violinist in an orchestra.
concerto Work for soloist(s) and orchestra.
concerto grosso Instrumental ritornello form from the Baroque, where a small group of solo players (the concertino) alternates with the large orchestra (ripieno).
consequent Musical material that follows the antecedent and gives it balance and closure.
consonance Musical stability as perceived in certain intervals and chords. The opposite is dissonance.
continuo Bass line of a Baroque work with instruments, and the instruments that play it. Same as thoroughbass. Provides the underpinning for Baroque composition. See also figured bass.
contralto Lowest female voice.
contrapuntal Adjectival form of counterpoint.
counterpoint Manner in which two or more melodic lines are combined and juxtaposed to produce pleasing and technically correct intermingling.
countersubject In fugue, the melodic material that accompanies statements of the subject.
crescendo Growing louder. See decrescendo.
cyclicism Use of a theme in more than one movement.
da camera Type of Baroque sonata or concerto more secular than its counterpart, the sonata or concerto da chiesa.
da capo On reaching this instruction (or its abbreviation, D.C.) in the score, the performers go back to the beginning of the movement and play until the word fine ("end").
da chiesa Type of Baroque sonata or concerto somewhat more rigorous than its counterpart, the sonata or concerto da camera, in that it emphasizes fugal counterpoint.
decrescendo Growing softer.
development Section in sonata form, between the exposition and the recapitulation, which investigates the possibilities inherent in the material stated thus far.
diatonic (1) Succession of whole tones and half steps that make up a major or minor scale. (2) Interval drawn from that succession.
Dies irae Gregorian plainchant for the dead; the sequence from the Requiem Mass.
diminished interval Interval a half step narrower than the corresponding minor or perfect interval .
diminuendo Growing softer; same as decrescendo. Abbr. dim.
diminution Technnique generally accomplished by stating familiar melodic materials in shorter-than-ordinary note values. See also augmentation.
dissonance Unpleasantness or instability perceived in certain intervals and chords. The opposite is consonance. In classical Western music dissonant intervals require resolution to consonance before closure.
divertimento A light work for chamber ensemble, popular as entertainment music in the Viennese Classical period.
divisi Indication in an instrumental part that the section is to divide the lines between or among them. Abbr. div.
Dixieland New Orleans-style jazz for small combo; favored by white musicians.
dolce Sweet.
dominant Fifth scale degree and/or the triad or seventh chord built on it.
double fugue (1) Fugue where the subject and countersubject are of equal importance, thus suggesting simultaneous subjects. (2) Fugue where two subjects are treated independently, then together.
double stop Playing two strings at once on a stringed instrument.
downbeat The initial, and strongest, beat in a measure. See also upbeat.
drone Line of constant pitch, or the instrument that plays it.
dynamics Degrees of loudness.
embouchure Shape and position of the mouth at the mouthpiece of wind instruments.
entr'acte Piece to be performed between the acts of an opera or play.
episode Subsidiary passage other than the main thematic material.
equal temperament Technique of adjusting tunings that divides the octave into 12 equal half steps.
espressivo Expressive; expressively.
ethnomusicology Branch of study that treats musics of the world, particularly emphasizing music and culture, and music and oral transmission.
étude Composition meant to investigate a particular problem of technique.
euphonium Tenor brass instrument, lying in a range between the trumpet and the tuba.
exposition (1) In sonata form, the first section, where the main thematic material is presented, always with a modulation to a second key area. (2) In fugue, the stating of the subject (or answer) in each of the voices, especially the opening statement.
Expressionism Term (borrowed from literary and art history) used rather loosely to describe the music of Schoenberg and his school. The artist portrays not simply an object but his or her internal reactions. What results is (in art) exaggerated, distorted, internalize
falsetto Abnormally high register of the male voice, in the range of the female voice.
fantasia Free-form composition, a flight of fancy.
fermata Held out. At the fermata sign, the perfomer holds the pitch or chord at will (or at the will of the conductor).
figured bass Baroque notational practice where numbers below the bass line indicate chords to be played by the continuo keyboard artist.
finale Typically the last scene in an act of an opera.
fine Marking in a score that shows where to stop after having made a da capo or dal segno repeat.
Five, the The Russian Five, or Mighty Handful (moguchaya kuchka).
forte Loud.
fortissimo Very loud.
fragmentation Common way of treating thematic material, esp. in the development.
French overture Baroque form favored by the French composers and their imitators; the kind of movement that begins stage works and instrumental suites of the period.
fret On certain kinds of string intruments (guitar, lute, viols), a raised position on the fingerboard that shows where to stop the string in order to produce the appropriate pitch.
frog The hair-tightening mechanism on a bow, and the portion of the bow the player holds in the hand.
fugato Imitative, fugue-like passage in a non-fugal movement.
fugue One-movement work in imitative counterpoint, where the theme is stated in each voice as a series of subjects and answers.
G. P. Everybody pauses. Abbreviaiton in orchestral scores for general pause.
gavotte Baroque dance in moderate duple meter with prominent upbeat.
genre Kind, type. Genre in music terminology is typically related to performing force.
Gesamtkunstwerk Wagner's theory of opera wherein all branches of art-poetry, narrative, design, architecture, etc.-are harnessed in a global art form opera.
Gewandhaus Building in Leipzig, the cloth merchant's guild hall. A celebrated series of concerts began there in 1781, and eventually the Leipzig orchestra took the name of the hall.
glissando Slide across the specified range of the instrument.
Gloria Second movement of a choral mass.
grace note Ornamental pitch, usually the upper neighbor, played rapidly and without fixed rhythmic value.
grave Slow, solemn.
grazioso Graceful, gracious.
Gregorian chant Name commonly given to the plainsong of the Catholic church, setting the Latin liturgy. Its connection with Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590-604) is uncertain.
ground bass Repeating bass pattern over which there is continuous variation in the upper parts; same as Ital. basso ostinato.
harmonic (1) High, fluty sound produced on a string instrument by touching the string gently rather than fully stopping it, forcing it to vibrate at a higher position in the harmonic series. (2) Position in the harmonic series.
harmony Technique of organizing pitch simultaneities (chords), and its study. Generally speaking, harmony concerns vertical sonority, and melody concerns the horizontal.
hemiola Rhythmic/metric device where two bars in triple meter are made to sound like three bars in duple, usually just before the cadence in Baroque dance music.
homophony Musical texture in which all the parts move simultaneously, with simple chord progressions.
hymn Strophic religious composition, generally for the congregation to sing.
idée fixe Berlioz used this term to describe the motto theme of his Symphonie fantastique (1830), and said in the printed program that it had to do with the artist's vision of his beloved.
imitation Compositional practice where motives and melodies are taken up, once stated, by the other voices successively, while originating voices go on in counterpoint.
imitative counterpoint Polyphonic practice based on imitation.
Impressionism Term used primarily to describe the work of the painters Monet, Renoir, etc., where loosely articulated images are fashioned from blotches of color the goal was a particularly powerful brilliance. The term is used by extension to describe the work of the
improvisation Free, live invention of music, usually without notated parts.
incidental music Music for use with a play, consisting of an overture and any necessary entr'acte; music for any pageantry (a wedding march, for example); and perhaps music for any songs sung onstage.
intermezzo Orginally, music or light music theater to go between the acts of a serious theater piece. In the nineteenth century the term was used, notably by Brahms, as the title of free piano compositions.
interval Distance between two pitches.
inversion Vertical reversing of a musical relationship, either by switching a pair of voices or by turning a theme in the opposite direction.
isorhythm Use of a single, unvarying rhythmic module throughout a voice part, usually the tenor. Principle of construction in the 14th- and early 15th-century motet.
K. numbers Numbers attached to Mozart's works refer to a thematic catalog for Mozart written by Ludwig von Kšchel (1862; rev. through 1964).
Kapellmeister Chapelmaster, a court composer-conductor who would compose music for and lead the palace opera company, orchestra, and church services.
key Tonal center in a piece of music, toward which the music seems to gravitate. It is defined by a particular tonic pitch and its quality of major or minor. There are 12 major and 12 minor keys.
keyboard White-and-black key mechanism that activates a piano, organ, or similar instrument.
Kyrie First movement of a choral mass.
La Scala The opera house in Milan, built 1778, which took its name from the church, Santa Maria della Scala, originally on the site.
langsam Slow.
larghetto Somewhat faster than largo.
largo Quite slow. The slowest commonly specified tempo.
ledger lines Short lines that extend the staff.
legato Smoothly, without space between the pitches.
Leitmotiv German for "leading motive," a compositional device developed by Wagner.
lento Slow, although not quite as slow as largo.
libretto Text of an opera.
Lied Term for a solo song, especially to a Romantic text of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Liederkreis First applied to Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, then, in particular, to Schumann (Dichterliebe).
l'istesso tempo The same tempo; keep the beat the same.
liturgy Formalized order of church services. The Catholic liturgy, divided into Mass (Eucharist celebration of the Last Supper) and Divine Office (Matins, Vespers, etc.), specifies certain texts common to each service type (the Ordinary), as well as texts specif
ma But; as in Allegro ma non troppo.
madrigal Most commonly, a Renaissance setting of a secular poem to unaccompanied vocal polyphony.
maestoso Majestic.
maestro di capella Chapel master.
major In tonality, the brighter and more open of the two modes of scales, characterized by half steps between scale degrees 3 and 4 and 7 and 8.
Mannheim School Name given to a school of composers who wrote for the virtuoso orchestra of Duke Carl Theodor in the mid-1740s, and thought to be one of the most significant forerunners of Viennese Classicism.
marcato Marked; emphatically.
mass Central public service of the Catholic liturgy, a celebration of the Last Supper. Same as Eucharist. Mass is celebrated by a cantor and the choir. For musical purposes, the most important parts are the choral components of the Ordinary Kyrie eleison, Glo
mazurka Polish country dance in triple meter, often with accentuation of the second beat.
measure Basic unit of meter, i.e., one complete metric unit, delineated by the bar line. Measure and bar are interchangeable.
melisma Group of several pitches sung to a single syllable.
melody Coherent, pleasing horizontal succession of pitches a tune.
meno Less; as in meno mosso.
meter Organization of rhythmic pulses or beats into hierarchies of weak and strong.
mezzo Half. Used to modify the basic dynamic levels (mezzo forte, mezzo piano) and for the voice part mezzo soprano.
Mighty Handful, the Term first used by a Russian critic to describe an affinity group of five nationalist Russian composers Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
miniatures Little pieces; commonly in the Romantic piano and song literature.
minor In tonality, the darker and more enigmatic of the two modes of scales, characterized particularly by the half step between scale degrees 2 and 3.
minuet Dance form in common to the Baroque and Classical periods.
M.M. Abbreviation for Metronome de Maelzel.
mode (1) One of the two subdivisions of tonal scales major or minor. (2) One of the white-note scales, or church modes of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (3) One of the medieval rhythmic modes.
moderato Moderately.
modulation Process of moving from one key area to another.
moguchaya kuchka Russian for Mighty Handful, the Russian Five.
moll Minor.
molto Very; as in Molto allegro.
monody Term describing Italian accompanied solo song of the early seventeenth century.
monophonic Having a single voice.
monothematic Having a single theme.
mosso Moving, lively; as in pi mosso.
motet In its most general sense, texted vocal polyphony; the term describes highly significant genres from the Middle Ages through the high Baroque.
motive Melodic or sometimes rhythmic cell that retains its character and identity throughout a movement or multimovement composition.
movement Self-contained component of a larger work.
music drama Term applied to Wagnerian opera and related works that tries to suggest a different and by implication more serious treatment of character and plot than found in traditional opera.
musicology Scholarly study of music, particularly the history of music.
musique concrète Term applied to an early technique of electronic music where segments of magnetic tape were manipulated (pitch modification by speed change), cut (loops, etc.) and respliced, and then stored to be used for compositional effect.
mute Device to reduce the volume of an instrument, almost invariably damping its tone quality as well. See sordino.
neumatic Groups of several notes per syllable of chanted text.
nocturne Night music, especially a short Romantic piano piece.
non troppo Not too much; as in Allegro non troppo.
obbligato A part that must not be left out.
octave Interval between a pitch and another of twice the frequency middle C to the C above it, for example.
opera Work of music theater (music, drama, spectacle) where much or all of the text is sung and music plays the most significant part.
opus Used with a number, typically assigned by the publisher, to identify a work in a composer's output.
oratorio Multi-movement setting of a sacred text, usually with emphasis on choral movements.
orchestration The way music is scored for the orchestra.
Ordinary Portion of the liturgy (Mass and Office) that remains the same from day to day.
ossia Alternative version of a reading; usually simpler.
ostinato Repetition of a pattern many times to constitute the structural underpinning of a piece.
passacaglia Work built on an ostinato bass (or ground bass), often a descending chromatic bass.
Passion Extended vocal and instrumental setting of the Crucifixion story from one of the Gospels.
pastorale Movement that expresses a rural atmosphere or describes country characters and scenes.
pedal point Sustained pitch usually in the bass (often the dominant, sometimes the tonic) over which the music continues to move. It is usually a component of final closure.
pentatonic Scale or mode of five pitches, common in folk musics.
pesante Heavily.
phrase Basic unit of musical structure, typically eight measures, that represents a more-or-less complete musical idea.
pianissimo Very soft.
piano Soft.
piece Musical work, implying a complete musical work (with all its movements).
pitch Discrete, identifiable musical sound of a fixed number of vibrations per second.
pi More; as in pi forte or pi allegro.
pizzicato Effect produced by plucking, rather than bowing, the string.
plainchant Term used for the monophonic liturgical repertoire of the Catholic church. Used interchangeably with chant, plainsong, and Gregorian chant.
plainsong See plainchant.
poco Little, a little; as in poco a poco.
point of imitation See imitative counterpoint, imitative polyphony.
polka A couple dance to skipping steps in lively duple meter.
polonaise Aristocratic Polish dance in triple time.
polyphonic Having more than one voice.
polyrhythm Superposition of different rhythms and/or meters.
polytonality Use of several keys at once.
ponticello Bridge of a stringed instrument. Sul ponticello = at the bridge, a thin, nasal, or whiny sound.
portamento Gentle sliding up into a pitch.
prelude Instrumental opening movement, often improvisational in character, that precedes a fugue or, sometimes, a group of movements.
presto Quite fast.
program Literary context of a descriptive ("programmatic") piece, especially in the nineteenth century.
progressive jazz Jazz from the 1940s and 1950s, where the goal was to renew and expand the orchestral jazz tradition.
Proper Portion of the liturgy (Mass and Office) that contains texts specific to the feast day or occasion.
quarter tone Pitch halfway between consecutive semitones.
ragtime American musical style of great popularity at the turn of the twentieth century, characterized by strongly syncopated (ragged) rhythms; the usual form is like that of the American march, involving two strains and a trio.
rallentando Growing slower. Abbr. rall.
range Compass of a musical instrument or voice part, from its lowest note to its highest. See also register.
recapitulation In sonata form, the third main section (after exposition and development), where the main thematic material is presented as it was in the exposition, although with the second group remaining in the tonic key. More generally, any large-scale structural re
recitative In opera and related genres, a vocal passage imitating the rhythms and inflections of speech. Often a recitative is followed by an aria. When crisply delivered and accompanied by simple chords in the continuo, the recitative is considered secco (dry); w
register Division of the range (e.g., high, middle, low) of a voice or musical instrument. Roughly synonymous with tessitura.
Requiem The Mass for the dead of the Roman Catholic church.
retrograde In reverse order. Common procedure in certain kinds of counterpoint and in twentieth-century serial music.
réunion des thèmes, grande Berlioz's term for the simultaneous combining of themes first heard consecutively.
rhapsody Free-form instrumental work, generally carefree and episodic.
rhythm Subdivision of time, principally by establishing length of notes.
ripieno Orchestral ensemble in a concerto grosso, in textural opposition to the concertino.
ritard Lessening in speed; gradual slowing down. Abbr. rit.
ritenuto Held back, implicitly more abruptly than ritard, or for shorter duration. Abbr. riten.
ritornello Recurring passage.
rococo Term used to describe the style in art during the reign of Louis XV of France (1715-74) and by extension to gracefully ornamented music.
Romanticism Emphasis on the spiritual or passionate (as opposed to the intellectual) in literature, art, and music. Used particularly to describe music written from c. 1830 to the end of the century.
romanza Songful or ballad-like movement, often the second in a solo concerto.
rondo Musical form in which the main section recurs between subsidiary episodes, often in an overall sonata pattern (the sonata-rondo).
round Strict canon (at the unison), usually for three voices, that can continue perpetually.
row Pitches, usually all 12, ordered in a succession that serves as the basis of a composition. See series.
rubato Literally, robbed time (tempo rubato) the improvisatory adjustment of strict meter.
scale Ascending or descending series of notes that define a mode or tonality, usually by the terminal pitch.
scena Operatic scene for one character, generally embracing a recitative, aria, and finale close.
scherzando Playful. Abbr. scherz.
scherzetto Short movement or passage in the manner of a scherzo.
scherzo Movement type directly descended from the minuet and trio and, like the minuet, usually appearing as the third movement of a four-movement instrumental work.
score Notation for an ensemble where a staff is given to each part or section.
secco Dry. Recitativo secco is recitative delivered rapidly in speech rhythms and accompanied by the continuo force or a keyboard instrument.
secular Worldly; not having to do with the church.
segue Go on, usually to the next movement.
semitone Distance between two adjacent notes on a keyboard; same as half step.
semplice Simply.
sempre Always, ever; as in sempre pi allegro.
senza Without. Typically cancels con sordino (with mute) indications, thus meaning "remove the mute."
sequence (1) Series of motives restated at ascending or descending pitch levels. (2) The medieval sequence is an important category of Gregorian chant where a series of text couplets, eventually rhymed poetry, was set syllabically.
serial Compositional technique in which elements have been prearranged in a fixed series.
series Ordering of elements of pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc., that serve as the basis of a composition. Music so constructed is called serial.
seventh Interval bw a pitch & another 6 diatonic steps apart. A semitone less than an octave is a major seventh; a semitone less than that is a minor seventh. Both are strongly dissonant intervals, the major seventh pulling upward, the minor seventh downward
seventh chord Common enhancement to triadic harmony wherein a fourth pitch is added to the triad, up another third, thus root + 3rd + 5th + 7th.
sforzando, sforzato Suddenly forceful or emphasized. Abbr. sfz., sf.
sonata Instrumental composition, usually for soloist or soloist and keyboard. Originally the term sonata (played music) was used as opposed to cantata (sung music) and toccata (keyboard music).
song cycle Group of songs, generally with texts by the same poet, unified by a story line or literary theme.
soprano Highest voice part.
sordino Mute. Abbr. sord. Con sordino = with mute. Senza sordino = without mute.
sostenuto Sustained; as in Andante sostenuto. Often a slower-than-usual tempo is implied. The right pedal on a piano is the sostenuto pedal, allowing the strings to vibrate until the pedal is released and lowers the dampers.
sotto voce In an undertone; barely heard.
spiritoso Spirited.
Sprechstimme Speaking voice. Abbr. Sprechst. and notated with X's through the note stems.
staccato Separated; short and sharp.
stretto Concluding episode at increased speed. In fugue, overlapping statements of the subject near the end of the work.
stringendo Quickening; sometimes a lurch forward.
strophic Having the same music for all the units (or strophes) of the text, as in a hymn.
Sturm und Drang Literary movement in eighteenth-century Germany and Austria, applied to stormy, emotional, minor-keyed symphonies of the Classical period.
subito Suddenly; as in subito forte. Abbr. sub.
subject Melodic idea or theme on which a composition is based. The theme of a fugue is called its subject.
suite (1) Group of dances in various national styles, usually preceded by an extended prelude or overture, common to the Baroque period. (2) Series of movements extracted from a larger work (often a ballet) to make an effective concert work.
suspension Pitch held over from a previous chord, becoming dissonant in the new chord, and resolving downward.
symphonic poem One-movement work for orchestra with narrative or descriptive intent. See tone poem.
symphony Extended work for orchestra, usually in four movements (fast, slow, dance form, fast), the principal form of orchestral composition.
syncopation Placing the accent on the ordinarily weak beats of a measure.
tempo Speed, rate of speed. Tempo is indicated by a (rather approximate) direction in Italian (e.g., Allegro non troppo), a metronome marking (M.M.), or both. Tempo primo, Tempo I = at the original tempo.
tenor The higher of the male voices.
tenuto Held, sustained. Abbr. ten.
tessitura Prevailing range, or ambitus, of a part-high, middle, low-in relation to the overall compass of that part.
texture Term used to describe the vertical character of a musical passage, esp. how the voices interact. One speaks, for example, of monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic textures.
thematic transformation The recomposition of a theme as it is reused so that gradually its character becomes radically different.
theme A principal melody, a basic point of melodic reference in a movement.
theme and variations Movement type where the given theme is modified in a series of variations.
through composed Music composed from beginning to end without internal repetitions. In general, the opposite of strophic.
tie Notational device used to continue a rhythm across a bar line.
timbre Tone color that distinguishes the character of an instrumental or vocal sound.
toccata Improvisatory showpiece for organ, often an introductory movement preceding a fugue. Originally the term toccata (keyboard music, "touched" with the fingers) was used as opposed to cantata (sung music) and sonata (instrumental music).
tonality System of music composition that establishes relationships through use of a tonal center (the tonic) and a major or minor key built from it.
tone poem One-movement work for orchestra with narrative or descriptive intent. Same as symphonic poem.
tonic Initial scale degree or the triad built on it; thus the most important member.
tranquillo Calmly, tranquilly.
transposition Moving of a passage of music from one pitch level to another. Composers also notate parts for transposing instruments such that when the player plays the notated pitches the appropriate-sounding pitches come out called a transposed part.
tremolando With tremolo.
tremolo Effect with string instruments where very quick up/down bowings produce an unsettled effect. Also a similar alternation between two pitches, possible (unlike string tremolo) on other instruments including keyboards.
triad Chord built of three pitches in intervals of the third.
trill Fast alternating between a main pitch and the diatonic pitch above it.
trio (1) Music for three performers; in music that descends from Baroque practice, this implies two treble instruments and basso continuo. (2) The center section of form in the minuet and trio family, generally in somewhat reduced orchestration
Tristan chord First chord in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, poignant and inconclusive when first heard; then later becoming identified with unfulfilled desire and, at length, its fateful resolution.
troppo Too much; as in Allegro non troppo (not too fast).
tutti All; everybody.
twelve tone Name given by Schoenberg to his system of composition using a row or series as the basis of a composition.
unison Interval (that is, non-interval) that exists between two notes of identical pitch. A chorus of equal voices might well, for example, sing a hymn in unison; choral chant is sung in unison. Abbr. unis.
upbeat Beat that precedes the downbeat.
vibrato Effect used by woodwind & string players, singers to enhance the tone quality by cycles just above & below the desired pitch, using pulsations of the diaphragm or a backandforth motion of the left hand on the fingerboard (for the strings)
vivace Vivacious, bright.
vivo Alive, vigorous.
voce Voice.
waltz Dance in time that developed in the late eighteenth century and became the ballroom rage of the nineteenth.
whole-tone scale Scale that progresses only in whole steps instead of the patterns of half steps and whole steps that define major and minor scales.
Created by: wendyjoups