Anonymous/circle of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825): Calliope Mourning Homer (1812). Depicted here is Calliope, the ninth and eldest muse, strumming the lyre, the most iconic symbol of music in Western Civilization. The two epic poems of Homer (dates unknown), the Iliad and the Odyssey, have continued to hold powerful sway over Western Civilization for more than two millennia, and the Odyssey found a twentieth century reinterpretation in the equally epic novel Ulysses (pub. 1922) by James Joyce (1882-1941).

a cappella

literally “in the chapel;" it refers to purely vocal music without any instrumental involvement; it can also be used to describe extended sections of purely vocal music within larger compositions involving instruments (e.g. “there is a lengthy a cappella passage in the midst of that movement")

The Thomanerchor (Leipzig, Germany), with a history dating back to 1212 is among the few remaining and most renowned choir boy schools in the world.

a tempo

a return to the original tempo of a work, movement or section thereof after an intervening change of tempo; the term may appear several times during the course of a work indicating a return to the original tempo in place at the beginning

n.  Ger., evening music

an evening concert in a church; a tradition tied to the free performances of organ and vocal music given on Sunday evenings at the Marienkirche in the northern city of Lübeck in northern, Germany from the seventeenth century through 1810; these concerts were especially popular on the five Sundays during Advent in the church calendar; informal use of the term continues today applied to similar such performances

Abendmusik Banner

The Marienkirche in Lübeck, Germany. c

absolute music

purely instrumental music that is free of any association with words (other than tempo, dynamic and expressive markings placed in the score

absolute pitch

the ability of a person to recognize pitches without any external reference; research shows it to be a largely innate ability that is evident by age five and cannot be learned; also termed perfect pitch


a scholarly or artistic society; the term gets its name from a grove in Athens sacred to the mythological hero Academus where Plato had established a school (c385 B.C.E.); academies flourished during the sixteenth century, the best known for musical purposes that being the so-called Florentine camerata which n. he palaces of Giovanni de' Bardi and Jacopo Corsi whose study of Ancienct Greek writings (in Latin translations) led directly to the creation of opera

accelerando (abbr. accel.)
adv. or adj. It.

to gradually increase tempo


a symbol placed to indicate musical stress (see also sforzando)

n. It.

an ornament found in Italianate seventeenth and eighteenth century keyboard music consisting of a nonharmonic tone sounding simultaneously with a harmonic tone (or tones) without preparation or resolution (sometimes also referred to as a Zusammenschlag)


a variety of symbols (sharp, flat, double-sharp, double-flat, natural) used to indicate the raising or lowering of pitches up to two half steps

adv. or adj. It.

accompanied; a term most frequently applied to recitative that is accompanied by full orchestra (see also recitative)


a fear of loud noises and sounds


in a keyboard instrument, the mechanism that causes a string or pipe to sound when the key is depressed; in a harp, the mechanism that alters the pitch when a pedal is depressed

Actus musicus

a dramatic work on a Biblical subject found in German Protestant music in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (see also historia)


a system of vibrational sound healing therapy with roots in Eastern medicine and philosophy that incorporates tuning forks and symphonic gongs tuned to the planets, Tibetan bowls, bells, drums, rattles, and so on

ad libitum (abbr. ad lib.)

at the whim of the performer; the term can grant considerable license to the performer (of vocal or instrumental music) to omit the passage (as distinct from obbligato), to alter the passage and/or to improvise in the nature of a cadenza

adv. or adj. It.

a slow tempo between andante and largo

Adams, John (b. 1947)

American composer


an instrument in which the primary system of vibration is a column of air; the sound is produced by the player blowing the air in one of three ways (1) across a sharp edge (e.g. the flute) (2) through vibration of the player's lips (e.g. brass instruments) or (3) the air is set in motion by a vibrating reed (e.g. the oboe)

Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time, 1941), Movement III: Abîme des oiseaux (Abyss of Birds)

aesthetics (esthetics)

a branch of philosophy concerned with art and beauty and how people experience differing sensori-emotional responses to art, music, poetry, etc. and how it effects the mind and the emotions

aesthetics (esthetics) Banner

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90): Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône (Starry Night Over the Rhône, 1888). Aesthetic reactions to this painting are as varied as there are human beings in existence, everything from repulsion to rapture all rendering the study and discussion of aesthetics one of endless ambiguity.

n. Ger. Affektenlehre

a widespread belief in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that the principal aim of music was to arouse the passions or emotions (love, hate, anger, joy, etc.); the view also included the notion that a composition (or at least an individual movement) should display a unity of affection; the concept of the affections appears in writings as early as those of Zarlino (1558) and appears frequently in works of Descartes, Mersenne, Kircher, Werckmeister, Mattheson, Quantz and Marpurg

adv. or adj. It.


n. Fr.

term for a wide range of ornaments found in French music of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries


a tune (vocal or instrumental); in the sixteenth century in France and England (Ayre) the term was usually applied to vocal melodies; in opera airs are distinguished from recitatives; in baroque suites, the term air was often used for newly composed tuneful movements that did not fit in any dance category

air de coeur
n. Fr.

court air; a type of secular, usually strophic vocal music (solo or ensemble) popular in the end of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century

n. Prov.

a poem found in the troubadour and trouvère repertoire which portrays the paring of two lovers after a secret (often illicut) nocturnal tryst and who have been awakened by the sunrise and lament the all too sudden arrival of day and their inevitable parting

Albéniz, Isaac (1860-1909)

Spanish composer and pianist

Alberti bass

an accompaniment figure found frequently in the left hand of eighteenth century keyboard music in which the notes of a three note chord are sounded lowest, highest, middle highest; it gets its name from the composer Domenico Alberti (1710-40) who employed it often

aleatoric music

music which incorporates any degree of a deliberate use of chance; the indeterminacy may affect any aspect of the composition or performance; John Cage's (1912-92) 1951 composition Music of Changes is considered a seminal work in the evolution of aleatoric music

alla breve

a meter of 2/2 (as compared with 4/4); the name is derived from the system of prorpotions used in the later Middle Ages and the renaissance which indicated that the tactus (metrical pulse) was to be “at the breve" rather than “at the semibreve"

adv. or adj. It.

in a brisk, lively tempo

Lat., fr. Heb. hallelujah,

an expression of praise to God found in the Christian Bible in The Psalm 110-18 and in the Revelation, 19:1, 3, 4, 6; it is found in the repertory of chant especially that surrounding the Easter season and the word is often given a melismatic setting.

n. Fr., Ger., It.

an independent instrumental piece usually in quadruple meter and binary form that became the common first movement of a four movement instrumental suite in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, it is often mistakenly considered a dance inspired movement which it is not

J. S. Bach: From the Suite No. 1 in G Major for Violoncello Solo, BWV 1007, II: Allemande


the practice of two or more contrasting forces taking turns in performing music with a liturgical text, each taking one verse or short section at a time


Ambrosian chant

a body of Latin liturgical chant that formed in Milan and is preserved in about 300 north Italian manuscripts dating from the later Middle Ages; the name is derived from the Milanese bishop St. Ambrose (c340-97) however most of the repertory dates from after his time (St. Ambrose did write a few of the Ambrosian hymn texts); of the various regional bodies of chant that arose during the Middle Ages, it is the only one that was not completely usurped by Rome and is still found in limited practice in Milan today


one or more notes preceding a metrically strong beat; an upbeat

adv. or adj. It.

moderately slow (between adagio and allegro)


Angels, benevolent messengers from God, appear with great frequency in both the New and Old Testaments, yet nowhere in the Bible do they actually sing. And although the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse engage in song in the book of Revelation, the fact they are seated on thrones has led most commentators to dissociate them with angels. Angels singing or playing instruments (most frequently wind instruments) do not become a common occurrence until the renaissance, often drawing poetic references to the “heavenly" sound of music. This day Christ was born. This day our Savior did appear. This day the Angels sing in earth, The Archangels are glad. (Byrd, 1611, no. 27)

angel Banner

Detail showing two cherubs from Madonna di San Sisto (Sistine Madonna) by Rafae.l Among the artist's best known works it was commissioned by commissioned in 1512 by Pope Julius II (1443-1513, r. 1503-13) for the church of San Sisto (Piacenza, Italy). c

Anglican chant

harmonized formulas for singing Psalms and canticles in the daily Offices of the Anglish Church


in a fugue, the statement of the subject immediately following its first appearance; answers appear most often at the perfect fifth above or the perfect fourth below; answers may be either tonal (modified to suit the prevailing tonality) or real (retaining the exact intervallic structure of the subject)


a choral composition with a sacred or moralizing text in English, most often performed in a ceremonial context; in the context of the Protestant church it is the equivalent of the motet of the Roman Catholic Church

n fr. Lat. antiphona

a type of liturgical chant common in the Western chant repertories and usually associated with antiphonal Psalmody (a generally short melody serving as a refrain in the singing of the verses of a Psalm or canticle); the largest body of antiphons are found in the thousands of chants composed to be sung with the Psalms of the Office; the vast majority these are simple melodic formulas to which numerous texts were set; the introit, communion and offertory of the Mass are sometimes also termed antiphons; two other types of antiphons have no association with psalmody at all - these are the (1) processional antiphons (such at processions on certain feasts and occasions) and (2) the Marian antiphons (antiphons for the Blessed Virgin Mary) the most important of which are the four sung at the end of Compline (one for each season of the year), these being the “Alma Redemptoris Mater," “Ave Regina caelorum," “Regina caeli laetare," and “Salve Regina."

antiphonal singing

singing in which two choirs alternate; the term is often applied to any polychoral music

Antiphoner, antiphonal
n. Lat. antiphonales, antiphonarium

the liturgical book in the Western Christian rites containing the chants for the Offices (including antiphons, responsories and other forms of chant); the comparable book for the Mass is the gradual

Antiphoner, antiphonal Banner

n. It.

a dissonant pitch occuring on a strong beat and resolving by ascending or descending to a more consonant sounding pitch on a relatively weak beat

n. Fr.; Ger. Arabeske

decorative or floral material or such material used in a composition (a term employed by Schumann and Debussy in well known compositions)

n. It.

a self contained composition for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment most often occurring within the context of a larger work such as an opera, oratorio or cantata; the term first appeared as early as the fourteenth century largely to indicate a style of singing for polyphony; by the seventeenth century it had come to signify a portion of a larger work (or an independent piece such as found in Giulio Caccini's Le nuove musiche (1601/2); in the later seventeenth century the da capo aria became increasing prominent; operatic reforms in the later eighteenth century decreased the popularity of the da capo aria which was often replaced in the nineteenth century with the “double-aria" (a two part construction normally slow-fast)

Vincenzo Bellini: Aria from Norma, Act I: "Casta diva"

n. It.

(1) a lyrical manner of setting a text (usually a recitative text) in an opera, oratorio or cantata; such an arioso may flow naturally out of a recitative; (2) the term may also indicate a small aria, or one that does not have the formal construction of a regular aria (e.g. strophic, da capo, etc.); (3) the term may also appear in instrumental music as an indication that a work or passage is to be played in a lyrical or vocal manner

n. It. fr. arpa, harp; Fr. arpège; Sp. arpegio

a chord whose pitches are sounded successively, usually from lowest to highest (as opposed to simultaneously)

n. Ger. Bearbeitung

the reworking of a composition for a medium or set of forces different for than which it was originally conceived; arrangements fall generally into two categories: (1) literal transcriptions virtually note-for-note of the original; (2) more creative arrangements where an attempt is made to transfer some of the idiomatic and tonal qualities of the original onto the new arrangement and to cast in a different manner light through the incorporation of additional harmonies, contrapuntal lines, etc.

Ars nova

new art; the term originated in several theoretical treatises dating from ca.1320 and refers mostly to the innovations presented therein with regard to rhythmic notation (and specifically, the notation of duple subdivisions of the beat)

art song

a song intended for the concert repertory (as distinct from a folk or popular song) (see also Lied)


the characteristics of attack and decay of single tones or groups of tones as indicated in the music score (through incorporation of articulation markings) by the composer or implied by performance traditions; staccato and legato are the most common indications of articulation

adv. or adj. It.

rather, somewhat


the absence of key or tonality; atonal music is founded on suppression of any clear impression of a tonal center; although it became a characteristic of some pioneering works in the early twentieth century (works which attempted to suppress not only a general sense of tonality but to avoid traditional harmonic conventions such as dominant-tonic relationships) many composers in the past temporarily suspended a clear sense of tonal center for dramatic or programmatic purposes (e.g. in the opening movement of Haydn's oratorio Die Schöpfung, on the words “Ihr stürzt nieder Millionen ..." in the final movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Major, Op. 125, the “Romeo seul" movement in Act II of Berlioz' Romeo et Juliette, and many other examples)

adv. It.

attack, or attack immediately; an indication placed at the end of a movement or similar instructs the performer(s) to begin the next movement immediately without pause (see also segue)

audiogenic seizure

a seizure primarily precipitated by sounds

n. Ger., eye music

a term for music in which the composer endeavors to make the musical notes on the page visually descriptive of some aspect of the text (for example, the representation of two eyes with equally spaced hollow notes); the practice is most common in the highly expressive, if mannered, madrigals of the late sixteenth century and in the century oratorio


the altering of the notes of a melody into ones of longer duration often for the purpose of ornamentation; the practice was most common from the mid-fifteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries

n. Ger.

edition (see also Gesamtausgabe)


a manuscript of a musical composition in the composer's own hand (as opposed to that of a copyist or printed music); some autograph manuscripts include the completion date in the composer's own hand

Babbitt, Milton (1916-2011)

American composer


the letters for the surname of composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); in German nomenclature B denotes B-flat and H denotes B-natural, therefore the series of pitches B-flat, A, C B-natural which has been used to depict Bach's name and has been used (often as a fugue subject) in works by various composers including Bach himself, Albrechtsberger, Schumann, Liszt and Busoni

Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)

German composer

n. Fr. trifle

a short, generally unpretentious piece usually composed for piano, sometimes presented in sets of pieces of contrasting nature (Beethoven's three sets for piano, opp. 33, 119 and 126 are the most representative contributions to the genre)

fr. Lat. ballare, to dance

a strophic narrative song; the term refers most commonly to the Anglo-American from the nineteenth century forward, but use of the term reaches all the way back to the later Middle Ages

ballad opera

a musico-dramatic work popular in England, Ireland and the American colonies in the eighteenth century in which spoken dialogue alternates with familiar songs to which new texts have been applied (see also contrafactum)

Fr., Ger.

(1) : one of the three formes fixes (fixed forms) which dominated French secular poetry and music in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; in the variety most often set to music the poem usually has three 7 or 8 line stanzes, all the the same metrical and rhyme scheme; most often the stanzas also share a refrain of one or two lines; (2) : a narrative poem or song in German or an instrumental work associated with such a poem; it is most commonly found in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries where its subjects were often drawn from medieval history or legend and are largely serious, even tragic in nature

n. It. fr. ballare, to dance

a Italian poetic and musical form from the mid-thirteenth through the fifteenth century that is almost always polyphonic comprised of a single stanza with a refrain (AbbaA) with a refrain (represa)

ballet de coeur
Fr., court ballet

the principal French amateur courtly entertainment of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; it was influenced by the Italian intermedio and produced in an decorated hall it was made up of as many as five mythological or allegorical entrées (sets of dances and choruses)

bar form
Ger. Barform

the formal design AAB, found in many types of music and poetry, but particularly associated with the German strophic song (secular and liturgical) from the late twelfth century onward

bar line
Fr. barre de mesure; Ger. Takstrich; It. stranghetta; Sp. barra de compás

a vertical line separating measures in Western music notation

Barber, Samuel (1910-81)

American composer


Bartók, Béla (1881-1945)

Hungarian composer


basse dance
Fr.; It. bassadanza

a family of dances (including the bassadanza, the quartermaria, the pas de Brabant (salterello) widely cultivated in the courts of Europe during the fifteenth century; it was a relatively subdued dance performed by couples

basso continuo

see thoroughbass

basso ostinato

see ground bass

Bax, Arnold (1883-1953)

English composer

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)

German-Austrian composer and pianist

bel canto
It., beautiful singing

(1) a term used by some musicologists (most notably Manfred Bukofzer, 1947) for the more lyric style of mid-seventeenth century composers active in Venice in Rome (as distinct from the more declamatory style of earlier Florentine composers; ( 2) a manner of singing that emphasizes beauty of sound, with an even tone across the entire range, legato phrasing, mastery of breath control and ease in controlling high notes

Bellini, Vincenzo (1801-35)

Italian composer

Beneventan chant

a body of liturgical chant from southern Italy (Benevento, Montecassino, Bari, etc) preserved in sources from the tenth through thirteenth centuries; only one fragment preserves the original Beneventan chant, the others reveal a hybrid Romanized form of the chant in which many of the pieces have been replaced by pieces from the Gregorian chant repertory

n. Fr.; Ger. Wiegenlied

lullaby; a quiet and gentle song intended to lull a child to sleep; a popular character piece for the piano in the nineteenth century which captured the rocking of a lullaby through an ostinato accompaniment figure most often in a compound meter or triplets

Chopin: Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57

Berg, Alban (1885-1935)

Austrian composer

n. Fr.

(1) a form related to the formes fixes of the fifteenth century; it is often thought of today as a one stanza virelai, but was commonly defined by later fifteenth and sixteenth century theorists as related to the rondeau; (2) a relatively rare instrumental composition of the sixteenth century in quick triple time; (3) an eighteenth century French air with a pastoral theme

Berio, Luciano (1925-2003)

Italian composer

Berlioz, Hector (1803-69)

French composer


a list of writings in formal citations on any given subject (music) presented alphabetically by author; extensive bibliographies may be divided by subject (biographies, works, specialized topics, etc.)

n. Lat.

a two voice composition for voices, instruments or keyboards without accompaniment; the term was principally associated with a large repertory of primarily didactic works cultivated by Lutherans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the first major published collection was Georg Rhau's Bicinia gallica, latrina, Germanic (Wittenberg, 1545)

binary form

one of the most fundamental of musical forms; a binary form consists of two parts, each usually repeated. The first part generally modulates from the tonic to dominant (though other key relationships are possible) and the second part moves from dominant back to tonic; the relationship between thematic material across the two parts is usually quite close, with the closing material often being the same (sometimes referred to as rounded binary form)



the simultaneous use of two or more tonalities or keys; this may occur briefly or over an extended passage or movement; bitonality was used extensively in the first half of the twentieth century

This ballet score makes a point of the clash between the keys of c major and f-sharp major. The distance of c to f-sharp is the interval of a tritone, the interval which was associated with evil in Western music for over a millennium yet here is almost exploited as a comical element to the music.

Bizet, Georges (1838-75)

French compsoer

Borodin, Alexander (1833-87)

Russian composer

Boulez, Pierre (1925-2016)

French composer

n. Fr.

a lively dance in duple meter and binary form; it usually has four measure phrases in 2, an upbeat and dactylic figures in quarters and eighths


the technique of using the bow on a stringed instrument (such as the violin or cello)

Brahms, Johannes (1833-97)

German composer

n. Fr.; It. brando; Eng. brawl, brall, brangill

(1) in the fifteenth century one of the steps of the basse danse, indicated in dance notation by the letter b; (2) in the sixteenth century a lively dance in 4/4 time usually danced by couples

n. It., skill, bravery

a passage or a style of performance of an extroverted or virtuoso nature (con bravura, with bravura)

Auber/Liszt: Tarantella di Bravura, S. 386

breve, brevis
n. Lat., short

in mensural notation it indicated a short note as distinct from a long one (the longa)

Lat. Brevarium

a liturgical book of the Latin rites of the Catholic Church containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially by bishops, priests, and deacons in the Divine Office; the name Breviary suggests a compendium or compilation

Britten, Benjamin (1913-76)

English composer

Bruch, Max (1838-1920)

German composer and conductor

Bruckner, Anton (1824-96)

Austrian composer and organist

Buxtehude, Dietrich (1637-1707)

German composer and organist


Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Catalog of Bach's Work): compiled during the twentieth century by Wolfgang Schmieder (1901-90), it was first published in 1950; it is organized by genre rather than chronology; S (Schmieder). numbers are sometimes used in place of BWV, but refer to the same catalog

Byrd, William (ca. 1540-1623)

English composer

Byzantine chant

the medieval sacred music developed in the Christian churches following the Eastern Orthodox rite; the tradition largely encompasses the Greek speaking world; manuscripts survive beginning with the ninth century a convey music that is purely vocal and exclusively monodic

n. It.

in nineteenth century Italian opera, the concluding portion (or coda) of an aria or a duet that has several sections; cabalettas are usually in a lively, rousing tempo

n. It., hunt

an Italian poetic and musical genre of the fourteenth and fifteenth century; among the 25 or so surviving examples, most have two texted upper voice parts moving in canonic fashion above a textless tenor part (presumably played on instruments)

Fr.;Fr. cadence; Ger. Kadenz, Schluss: It. cadenza; Sp. Cadencia

a melodic or harmonic progression which creates a temporary or permanent sense of rest or repose; cadences are the central way in which composers project a sense of tonic pitch or key in a work

n. It.

(1) in instrumental music involving a soloist (e.g. a concerto) a moment of improvisation or written-out ornamental passage work performed by the soloist without accompaniment; the practice is most commonly associated with the solo concerto of the later eighteenth century; in the nineteenth century composers gravitated toward incorporating written out cadenzas (or eliminating it entirely); at times composers wrote extensive cadenzas (for example in the Second Piano Concerti of both Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev); (2) in vocal music it is most commonly found in the operatic aria (especially of the da capo aria) in which it served as a brief moment for the singer to display technical prowess

Cage, John (1912-92)

American composer


(1) the muse of epic poetry; Calliope was eldest of the nine muses, nine daughters born to Apollo and Mnemosyne in the space of nine days although the tradition of muses pre-dated this time frame (2) in instrument in which tuned steam whistles are played from a keyboard and it is often associated with showboats, carnivals and circuses

Calliope Banner

Detail from an illustration in the collection of the Library of Congress. The caption to the graphic reads: "Calliope! The Wonderful Operonicon or Steam Car of the Muses as it appears in the gorgeous street pageant of the european Zoological Association."

n. It.

chamber, as in chamber music (musica da camera); the term was often used in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (sonata da camera, concerto da camera) most likely to distinguish it from music intended for church performance (chiesa) though the distinction is not a clear one

n. Sp., song

(1) in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries a type of villancico; (2) after about 1530 a type of Spanish poem in which 7 and 11 syllable lines alternate freely; a musical setting of such a poem

Lat., fr. Gr. kanon, rule, precept

(1) the monochord of ancient Greece which was used in the intense study of intervallic relationships (not so much for muscial purposes but for overreaching mathematical, astronomical, philosophical and even religious purposes) but not for making music; (2) a common musical texture based on imitation at any interval; Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations features nine canons built upon successively larger intervals beginning with the unison

Pachelbel: Canon

canonic imitation

the use of strict imitation (as found in a canon)

adj. It.

in a singing or song-like manner

n. It.

(1) in the early seventeenth century a term loosely applied to a variety of vocal works (as distinct to works composed for instruments); (2) in the later seventeenth century and first half of the eighteenth century it indicated a vocal work consisting of a succession of recitatives, arias and other ensemble pieces (duets, choruses, etc.) that could be based on either a sacred or secular libretto: sacred cantatas were generally on a larger scaled, involved larger music forms (a number of vocal soloists, chorus, large orchestra) and were often intended to replace the sermon or lesson during a (usually Protestant) church service; a secular cantata was generally on a smaller scale (often a single solo singer with basso continuo) and almost always drawing its story Greek or Roman mythology

J.S. Bach: Cantata "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut," BWV 113

canti carnascialeschi
It., carnival songs.

any of the wide variety of popular songs sung by revelers during carnival time in Florence; most of the extant repertoire comes from the early decades of the sixteenth century

Lat. canticum

a song or other lyrical passage from the Bible other than from the Book of Psalms; Canticles hold an important place in the liturgies of both Eastern and Western Christian churches; in the Roman rite three canticles from the New Testament are found in the Offices: “Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel," “Magnificat" and “Nunc dimittis" (such daily at Lauds, Vespers and Compline respectively)

n. Sp., Port.

a medieval monophonic song from the Iberian peninsula; although it can include settings of either sacred or secular poems, it is a term most often used in connection with the vast Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso el Sabis (Alfronso the Wise, 122-84, King of Castile and León from 1252)

n. Lat.

(1) In the Middle Ages, song, melody, which included both liturgical change and secular song; (2) from the thirteenth through fifteenth century, polyphonic song, especially the French chanson; (3) in England in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, three voice pieces with sacred Latin texts not usually based on a cantus firmus, making extensive use of six-three chords and notated in score; (4) from the nineteenth century forward a lyrical vocal piece or an instrumental melody in a lyrical style

n. Lat.; Heb. chazzan

(1) in Jewish and Latin Christian liturgical traditions, a solo singer; (2) in the Gregorian and related chant repertories, certain melodies or parts of melodies to be sung by a soloist (as distinct from the chorus or schola)

n. Lat.

song, melody; a single piece of (liturgical) chant or a repertory of such pieces

cantus firmus
n. Lat., pl. (canti) firmi

a pre-existing melody of sacred or secular nature that is used as the basis for a polyphonic composition

n. It.

an instrumental composition of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries based on the French chanson often in the nature of a transcription of intabulation

n. It.

an often humorous, fanciful even bizarre composition characterized by a departure from current stylistic norms

Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espangol, Op. 34


in the Middle Ages a song of English origin with an English or Latin text or a mixture of the two languages on an subject but most often involving the Virgin Mary;

n. Fr.

a social dance of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, found in both common and courtly societies

Carter, Elliott (1908-2012)

American composer


the loosely applied designation for an instrumental work in a light manner consisting of a number of movements and intended for performance outdoors or possibly to conclude a program; it is most commonly found in Austria in the later eighteenth century

catalog number

(1) a number assigned to a composer's work as part of a comprehensive catalog to identify individual works (usually arranged either chronologically or by genre); (2) a number assigned by a manufacturer to a recording


a light hearted, often frivolous or even ribald, English round for three unaccompanied male voices found from the later sixteenth into the nineteenth century

n. It.; Fr. cavatine; Ger. Kavatine

a type of aria found in nineteenth century Italian opera, it is usually reserved for the entrance of the principal singers; from a musical standpoint it is not constructed differently from a regular aria and therefore distinguished in name only by its position in the first act of an opera

Cecilian movement

a movement within the Roman Catholic Church (especially in Germanic countries) to reform music in the spirit of nineteenth century romantic historicism; in part a reaction to growing secular influence in the church music of the eighteenth century, it was a movement to cultivate Gregorian chant, vernacular hymnody and sacred composition in the a cappella style of the later sixteenth century

It., abbr. of clavicembale; Ger.


n. Fr., hunt

(1) in the fourteenth century, a canon (ther term is used by Guillaume Machat, c1300-77); (2) a type of French composition found in the fourteenth century employing a canon in the setting of the text that mimics natural sounds (similar to the Italian caccia)

Fr.; It. ciaccona

a set of variations on a short repeating harmonic progression, sometimes coupled with a recurring bass line (see also passacaglia)

chamber music

music composed for a small ensemble (usually 2-12 performers) with one person per instrument/part

Schubert: Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, D. 929

chanseon de toile

a strophic genre cultivated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by the trouvères in which the singer tells a tale of disappointed love, often with a tragic ending

n. Fr.

(1) song; the term has been in use since the Middle Ages to refer to a wide variety of poetic and musical forms including the medieval epic (chanson de geste), troubadour and trouvère repertories and much of the secular poetry and associated music of the fourteenth to sixteenth century; (2) French secular song from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, not necessarily in the formes fixes

chanson de geste
Fr., fr. Lat. gesta, actions

a type of medieval epic French poetry that recounts the exploits of an historical or legendary figure which flourished in the eleventh and twelfth centuries

n. Fr., fr. chanson

a manuscript or printed collection of French lyrical poetry or musical settings of such poetry


(1) plainsong, Gregorian chant; a tradition of monophonic sacred music in which the rhythm was determined by the natural declamation of the text;(2) to sing in the style of plainchant; (3) to sing a single pitch or limited range of pitches repetitively; (4) (Fr.) : song or melody, as distinct from accompaniment

character piece
Ger. Charakterstück; Fr. pièce caractéristique

usually a short piece for piano with a descriptive title (making it vaguely programmatic) and often grouped in sets

chasse, la
Fr., the hunt

a title sometimes given to a piece which imitates the sound of hunting horns or some other aspect of hunting


(1) a mansucript large enough to permit an entire choir (c20 singers) to sing from it; (2) any manuscript in such a format, regardless of size;

choirboook format

found in choirbooks of the fourteenth through early sixteenth century (whether manuscript of printed), the parts were displayed separately (as distinct from being presented in score) with the normal arrangement in four part polyphony to have the superius copied out above the tenor on the left-hand page and the also above the bass on the right-hand page

Chopin, Frédéric (1810-49)

Polish-French composer


the congregational song or hymn of the German Protestant (Evangelical) Church; the term is derived from the German Choral (plainsong, itself derived from the Latin cantus choralis)

chorale cantata
Ger. Choralkantate

a cantata based on the words or both the words and melody of a German Protestant chorale; a large number of these are found among the works of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

chorale concerto
Ger. Choralkonzert

a setting for voices and instruments of a German Protestant chorale; such works could employ forces ranging from a few voices with thoroughbass accompaniment to large polychoral works with a large instrumental complement (see also geistliches Konzert)

chorale fantasia

a work for organ in which a German Protestant chorale melody is freely treated; such works were cultivated by northern German organists from the mid-seventeenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries

chorale fugue
Ger. Choralfuge

a work for organ in which the first phrase of a choral is made into a fugue subject

chorale motet
Ger. Choralmotette

(1) a polyphonic work in the style of a motet based on a German Protestant chorale; (2) a work for organ based on (1)

J. S. Bach: "Jesu, meine Freude, " chorale motet BWV 227

chorale prelude
Ger. Choralvorspiel

a work for organ based on a German Protestant chorale melody and intended to function as an introduction to the singing of the chorale; the texture of such works usually features original figuration surrounding the chorale melody which often appears in the tenor voice in long sustained notes

J. S. Bach: "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," ("Awake, the Voice is Calling Us"), BWV 645

chorale variations

a work for organ (or harpsichord) in which a German Protestant chorale is made the theme for a set of variations

n. Ger.

see chorale prelude

fr. Gr. choros; Fr. choeur; Ger. Chor; It., Sp. Coro

a generally large number of singers who perform together usually in parts

n. Gr., colored

1) the scale which contains all twelve pitches (half steps) contained in an octave (as distinct from a diatonic scale); (2) a melody or harmony which contains many if not all pitches of the chromatic scale; (3) an instrument capable of playing a chromatic scale (e.g. brass instruments as distinct from natural instruments); (4) one of the three genera (the other two being diatonic and enharmonic) in the Great Perfect System of Greek Antiquity; (5) (It. cromatico) : works in the sixteenth century notated in black notes (see note nere)

circle of fifths
Ger. Quintenzirkel

the arrangement in a closed circle of all 12 pitch names in such a manner that when proceeding clockwise any adjacent pitch represents the interval of a fifth

n. Lat., fr. claudo, claudere, to conclude

(1) from the eleventh to the fifteenth century, a cadence; (2) in the twelfth and thirteenth century in the repertoire of Notre Dame, a passage most often in discant style

n. (Fr. clavicord; (Ger. Clavichord, Klavichord); (It. clavicordo)

a small sounding keyboard instrument in use from the fifteenth through the eighteenth century (and like the harpsichord revived in the early twentieth century); the strings traverse the case from right to left and are struck with a brass hammer which remains in contact with the strings allowing more expressive capabilities and subtle dynamic nuances than possible with a harpsichord, and a player can even produce a vibrato effect

n. Eng., Fr., Ger.


n. fr. Lat. clavis, key; Fr.; Ger. Schlüssel; It. chiave; Sp. Clave

a sign placed at the beginning of a musical staff to indicate the position of a particular pitch and by extension, the other pitches on the staff

n. It., tail

a closing section generally of a self contained movement that is outside the formal plan of that movement; the coda normally serves as brief concluding section; in some genres such as the rondo and variation, the coda is often in a different meter and tempo; for a few composers (such as Beethoven) an extensive coda could also serve as a second development section

n. It., little tail

(1) a brief coda which could even appear within a movement; (2) in a fugue, a modulatory passage connecting the end of a statement of the subject in the dominant with the beginning of a statement of the subject in the tonic

Lat. oratio, collecta

a short prayer consisting of an invocation, a petition, and a pleading of Christ's name or ascripton of glory to God; in forms part of the Proper of the Mass in the Roman rite, preceding the reading of the Epistle

collegium musicum
Lat., musical guild

any of the various types of musical societies which arose in German towns in the sixteenth century and remained popular until the mid-eighteenth century; in general the collegium musicum performed music both vocal and instrumental intended for entertainment (this is especially true in the early eighteenth century)

n. Lat.

in the Middle Ages, embellishment of any variety, but especially involving repetition (in modern usage, the term referes specifically to the repetition of a melodic pattern in works from the fourteenth and early fifteenth century making use of isorhythm)


in mensural notation the use of colored notes (red or white in black notation, black in white notation)

n. It.

(1) elaborate passages of running notes, trills and other ornament whether improvised or written out and common in eighteenth and nineteenth century singing; (2) a soprano with a high voice, often singing in the manner of (1)

commedia dell' arte
It., comedy by profession as distinct from amateur

a genre of improvised theater that parodied Venetian and northern Italian society; arising in the sixteenth century, it remained popular until the early eighteenth century; its stock stereotypical characters included Pantalone, Dottore Graziano, Capitano, Columbina, Pedrolino, Arlecchino (Harlequin) and Pulcinella (Punch); elements of the tradition have been drawn on by later composers including Schumann, Busoni, Debussy and Stravinsky

n. Lat. communio

sharing in common

compound interval

an interval that exceeds an octave

compound meter

a meter which includes a triple subdivision of the beat at some level (e.g. 6/8)

compound stop

any organ stop with two or more pipers per note (sounding in a unison at the octave or at the interval of a fifth

adj. Fr.; It. Concertante

beginning in the eighteenth century, an adjective applied to a work for two or more performers (including orchestral works) in which one or more parts functioned as a solo part

adj. It., concerted

a term applied to works of the early seventeenth century that combine and contrast vocal and instrumental forces

n. It., dim. of concerto

(1) the group of solo instruments in a concerto grosso; (2) a multi-movement orchestral work of the early to mid-eighteenth century that usually did not feature soloists and was lighter and less formal than the symphony; (3) from the nineteenth century forward, a work in the manner of a concerto but on a smaller scale, usually for a small group of instruments (without orchestra) in a single movement

n. fr. It. concertare, to join together

(1) from the late sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries, a term broadly applied to compositions for any diverse combination of instruments and voices, or both, or a composition for such an ensemble; (2) in the early eighteenth century the concerto grosso featured an instrumental ensemble and one or more often a group of solo instruments (concertino); the ripieno concerto of the early eighteenth century was written for instrumental ensemble without soloist(s); the solo concerto which began to develop in the early eighteenth century, featuring a single solo instrument and orchestra, became the most far reaching, and the solo concerto has dominated the genre since the 1760s forward

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18


Certain intervals between pitches of two or more which, when sounded all together, are perceived to create a pleasing sound. The perception is a relative one. The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils ... ~ Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.83-5

fr. Lat. conducere, to escort, pl. conductus or conducti

a medieval song in rhymed Latin verse (usually sacred) found in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries


(1) a type of melodic motion which proceeds in a largely stepwise manner; (2) tetrachords in the musical practice of Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages which share a common pitch (the last pitch of one is the first pitch of the other) (see also disjunct)


the perceived stability or instability of a complex of two or more sounds; in tonal Western music this usually refers to intervals and sonorities which do not require resolution (see also dissonance)

fr. Lat., consortio, fellowship

an instrumental ensemble of from two to eight players common in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; a composition for such an ensemble

contact calling

n. Lat.

to apply a new text to a pre-existing vocal work


(1) of or pertaining to counterpoint; (2) a musical texture exhibiting contrapuntal features (independence of lines or parts)

Copland, Aaron (1900-90)

American composer


Corelli, Arcangelo (1653-1713)

Italian composer

cori spezzati
It., broken choirs

a term commonly applied to the style of antiphonal choral music from the late sixteenth century and specifically found in the musical practice of the Basilica of San Marcos in Venice; many scholars believe that this style of alternating choirs and forces was transferred to instrumental music in the genre of the concerto

n. It.

a courante in the Italian style

n. Lat. contrapunctus, fr. contra punctum;Ger. Kontrapunkt; It. contrappunto

one or more melodies placed against another holding significant independence often subject to a set or rules


(1) contratenor; (2) a male alto who sings falsetto

n. Fr.; It. corrente: Eng. corant, corranto

a dance in triple meter common from the 16th through the mid-eighteenth century; the term means “running" and the stylized version as found in the suite generally features a lively tempo, an upbeat and running figuration

Cowell, Henry (1897-1965)

American composer

n. It.

to become gradually louder

cross-relation, false relation
Fr. fausse relation; Ger. Querstand

the succession of a pitch in one voice by a chromatic alteration of the pitch (in another octave) in another voice


in British musical terminology, the quarter note

Crumb, George (b. 1929)

American composer


in music, the use of music or musical notation to carry an idea extra-musical idea or hidden message; the most common method employs a set of pitches to spell a word or abbreviation, e.g. B-A-C-H (see also soggetto cavato)

Cui, César (1835-1918)

Russian composer

cyclic form

a musical form in which any number of distinct movements share the same or very similar musical ideas; the process was first used on a large scale in the cyclic Mass of the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in which the same cantus firmus is employed in all movements or each movement begins with the same motto; the parody Mass of the sixteenth century can also be viewed as cyclic in nature; the technique also came to the fore in some instrumental works of the nineteenth century (e.g. Schubert's Wanderer-Fantasie, D. 760, Liszt's Les preludes, S. 97, etc.) which make considerable use of the technique (in a manner often related to thematic transformation)

da capo (abbr. D.C.)
It., the head

an indication to return to the beginning of a piece and to proceed usually to a place marked fine (da capo al fine); da capo al segno means to return to a sign (§)

dal segno (abbr. D.S.)

an indication to return to a sign (§)


in the action of a piano is a felt covered device that prevents the string or strings associated with it from vibrating except when raised by striking the key or using the damper pedal

damper pedal

on a modern piano the furthest right pedal which removes all dampers from the strings when depressed (also called sustaining pedal or loud pedal)

Danielpour, Richard (b. 1956)

American composer

Debussy, Claude (1862-1918)

French composer


the correspondence between the sound of text and its musical setting; good text declamation is often thought to have a strong affinity between accents in the text and the music

decrescendo (abbr. decresc.)
n. It.

to become gradually softer

Delius, Frederick (1862-1934)

English composer

n. Fr.

a poem or a musical setting of such a poem that is a lament on the death of someone

n. fr. Lat. discantus

in hymn singing, an ornamental high part above the melody


structural alteration of musical materials (themes, motives, harmonic progressions, etc.) as opposed to exposition of those materials; development may affect any parameter of the material

diabolus in musica

see tritone

fr. Gr.

(1) in Greek Antiquity and medieval theory, the interval of an octave; (2) in English and American organs, the main open flute stop of the Great manual; (3) the range of a voice or instrument; (4) (Fr., Ital. Sp., diapason) a tuning fork (5) (Fr., Diapason )normal standard or concert pitch


in Greek antiquity and medieval theory, the interval of a fifth


music notation that is precise with respect to pitch (see also neume)


in Greek Antiquity and medieval theory, the interval of a fourth


(1) a heptatonic (seven pitch) scale made up of tones which are adjacent to one another on the circle of fifths in a specific arrangement of whole and half tones; (2) musical melody or harmony that employs primarily the pitches of a diatonic scale


a reference work in which subjects are arranged alphabetically; encyclopedias have a connotation more exhaustive, while dictionaries may be more concise; subjects include (1) terms only (2) biography only (3) terms and biography (4) specialized topics (e.g. genres, instruments, cities, etc.)

diminuendo (abbr. dim.)
n. It.

to become gradually softer


the division of the notes of a melody into ones of shorter duration often for the purpose of ornamentation; the practice was most common from the mid-fifteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries

d’Indy, Vincent (1851-1931)

French composer

n. Engl.

first used in the thirteenth century, the word was derived from the opening of the Latin funeral liturgy “Dirige, Domine Deus meus, in conspectus tuo viram mean." It eventually took on the meaning of any song in the vernacular sung as a lament at a funeral or, more particularly, at a funeral procession.

Traditional English dirge:


polyphony of the Middle Ages it referred to music in which all the parts move in essentially the same rhythm


(1) a type of melodic motion which proceeds in a largely in skips; (2) tetrachords in the musical practice of Ancient Greek and the Middle Ages which do not share a common pitch (see also conjunct)


the perceived stability or instability of a complex of two or more sounds; in tonal Western music this usually refers to intervals and sonorities which require resolution (see also consonance)

n. fr. Gr. dithyrambos

(1) in Greek Antiquity a song in honor of the god Dionysus; (2) in the nineteenth and twentieth century the term suggests music of a passionate or even wild character


a term commonly applied by Austrian composers in the second half of the eighteenth century to a wide variety of secular compositions often of a lighter or occasional nature (see also cassation, notturno, partita, serenade ) and at times to more serious forms of composition such as the string quartet or keyboard sonata

Mozart: Divertimento in D Major, K. 136

n. Fr.

(1) a musical pastiche often in the form of pieces drawn from an opera; (2) a group of pieces (dances, vocal solos or ensembles) inserted within or between the acts of an opera, play or ballet; (3) divertimento

Divine Office

see Office

divisi (abbr. div.)
n. It

divided; an indication in ensemble music that a part normally played together (such as a section string part in an orchestra) is to be divided


see twelve-tone music


(1) the fifth scale degree of the major or minor scale; (2) the triad or dominant seventh chord built on this degree are known respectively as the dominant or dominant seventh chord

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797-1848)

Italian composer

n. or adj. It.

double (doppio movimento, twice as fast as the preceding tempo)


one of the system of eight modes in use in Western music from the eighth through the sixteenth centuries, each taking its name from the Greek ordinal numbers (protus, deuterus, tritus, etc.) and distinguishing authentic and plagal forms of each based on the range; dorian has a final of d with a range of d to d' (see also mode)

J. S. Bach: Organ Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 538

Fr. point; Ger. Punkt; It. punto; Sp. puntillo

(1) in modern musical notation a dot placed after a note to increase its value by one half; (2) a dot placed above or beneath a not to indicate staccato


(1) to perform or specify the performance of the same notes or part(s) at the same pitch level or in octaves; (2) instruments of low pitch (e.g. double bass, double bassoon); (3) two instruments combined in one (e.g. a double harpsichord, that being one having two manuals); (4) a variation (most commonly found in French keyboard suites) characterized by having note values twice or even three times as fast as the original movement

double chorus

two choruses that perform in a single work, in combination (as in SSAATTBB) or in alternation (as in SATBSATB)

double fugue

a fugue having two subjects which are at first presented and treated independently and later in contrapuntal combination (see also triple fugue)

double motet

(1) a motet in which two different texts are presented simultaneously in different parts; (2) a motet composed for double chorus (SSAATTBB)

J. S. Bach: "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied," BWV 225

double stop

the execution of two (double) or more (triple or quadruple stop) on a bowed string instrument to create the effect of several pitches sounding simultaneously (sometimes called a multiple stop)

Dowland, John (1563-1626)

English composer


he Greater Doxology is the Gloria (“Gloria in excelsis Deo") of the Roman Catholic Mass; the Lesser Doxology is the text “Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto; sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen" (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.") which is sung following the Psalms of the Office, the verse of the introit and most canticles

dramma per musica
It., drama with music

a designation that often followed the title in seventeenth and eighteenth century libretti indicating that the text was written to be set to music

Dukas, Paul (1865-1935)

French composer

n. Lat., pl. dupla

n music of the twelfth century Notre Dame school the part immediately above the tenor line (organum duplum); in the motet of the same period that voice was known as the motetus

Dvořák, Antonin (1841-1904)

Czech composer


(1) the aspect of music concerned with volume; (2) dynamic markings placed in the musical score

n. Fr.

(1) a poem in which shepherds converse; (2) a musical composition or portion thereof that reflects that idea

editions, historical

carefully prepared editions of music of the past, usually issued in series, which fall into one of two categories: (1) the complete works of a composer (Ger. Gesamtausgabe: Fr. Oeuvres complètes) (2) selected works of a composer (Sämtlicher Werke)

n. Ger.


R. Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (1896)


electroacoustic music


a sorrowful poem usually mourning for someone dead; a textless musical work of similar character (see also lament, tombeau)

n. Lat. Elevatio;It. elevazione

elevation of the elements of communion following their consecration in the Mass; it was often accompanied by a motet or organ music

Elgar, Edward (1857-1934)

English composer


see ornamentation

n. fr. Ger. Enfindsamer Stil

a style of composition found in the music of some mid-18th century German composers with an emphasis authentic and natural feelings and often incorporating frequent changes of mood and expression



see dictionaries and encyclopedia of music

Enescu, George (1881-1955)

Romanian composer, pianist, violinist, composer and conductor


(1) one of the three genera of tetrachords in the musical system of Greek Antiquity (all of which are bounded in a perfect fourth with the inner two pitches being in microtones); (2) in modern theory (and equal temperament) two pitches which are one and the same but notated or spelled differently for harmonic purposes


n. Fr.

a piece, normally instrumental, performed between the acts of a play or an opera (see also intermezzo and interlude)

Bizet: From Carmen, Act III, Entr-acte

n. Fr.

found in some poetic forms of the later Middle Ages (such as the ballade) it was a concluding half stanza that usually begins with some form of address (such as “prince" - a reference to a prince presiding over a poetic competition) it repeats the refrain line and continues the rhyme scheme of the immediately preceding lines


see coda


a subsidiary passage occurring between passages of primary thematic material; in a fugue specifically those sections (often modulatory) which occur between statements of the fugue subject; in a rondo those passages occurring between statements of the principal recurring (rondo) theme

Lat. epistola

letter; one of the New Testament Epistles from which readings are taken for the Mass in the Roman Catholic rite

Epistle sonata

an instrumental work intended for performance following the Epistle of the Mass (the term is most commonly applied to the 17 contributions made my Mozart to the genre)

n. Fr.

one of the oldest surviving purely instrumental forms (dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) it consisted of 3 to 7 sections called puncta

n. Fr.

a instrumental work designed to help improve a specific aspect of playing an instrument; etudes are often published in groups; the designation is rarely found before the nineteenth century; the “concert etude" is a larger work intended for the concert stage


in medieval England, the canonical hour of Vespers in the Office; during the Reformation the name was carried over in the Book of Common Prayer to designate what eventually became called “evening prayer;" informal use of the term continues in modern times

evolutionary musicology


in sonata form the first major section encasing one important modulation to the dominant or other secondary key area; in a fugue the first presentation of the fugue subject through all the voices of the fugue


a movement in German visual art and literature of the early twentieth century often applied to music of the same period (especially that of Schönberg and his followers); sometimes dubbed “romanticism gone mad" it features intensely personal expression (often disregarding the conventions and strictures of the past)

expressive markings

symbols and words (or their abbreviations) which accompany musical notation as a guide (provided by the composer and/or editor) to performance


an English technique of polyphonic vocal improvisation common from the early fourteenth century until the Reformation


an exact copy; facsimile editions are high quality photographic reproductions of rare source materials and editions; expensive print publications (largely found only in major music research libraries) they are being increasingly supplanted by high quality online digital reproductions

n. It.

the male voice above its normal range; male altos or countertenors use only this method of vocal production

n. It

a four part homophonic vocal harmonization of a psalm tone or similar liturgical chant (which may be placed in the tenor line or in the uppermost part)

n. Sp.

a dance and dance-song in a moderately fast triple meter originating in Spain in the eighteenth century

Santiago de Murcia: Fandango


ceremonial music most often played by trumpets or other brass instruments sometimes accompanied with percussion especially to signal the arrival of a dignitary or the beginning of a public ceremony

fantasia, fantasy
n. Fr. fantaisie; Gr. Fantasie, Phatasie; Sp. fantasia

a quasi-improvisatory often fantastical instrumental composition that is through composed and often departs intentionally and radically from traditional and common musical structures

n. Fr.

a dance native to Provence performed by a chain of alternating men and women who follow the leader in a variety of winding patterns


an early English version of solmization, later called sol-fa or Lancashire solfa in use from the end of the sixteenth century

Fauré, Gabriel (1845-1924)

French composer, pianist and organist

n. Fr.

a fifteenth century French compositional technique found in short pieces or sections of longer pieces in which two voices are notated (the upper being usually a sacred cantus firmus an octave higher than ordinary chant, the lower voice forming sixths or octaves below) to which a third, unnotated voice paralleling the highest voice at a fourth below is added in performance

n. It.

a popular Italian dance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in a compound duple meter based on the harmonic pattern of the romanesca

n. Lat.

in the Roman rite, a day of the week (other than Saturday or Sunday) on which no feast falls

n. It.; Fr. point d'orgue; Ger. Fermate; Sp. fermata, calderón

a symbol placed over a note, rest or bar line signaling that it is to be prolonged beyond its normal duration, suspending the prevailing metrical pulse; in concerti and arias it may also be used to indicate a cadenza

n. Ger.

a publication in honor of a scholar (normally issued on the occasion of a landmark birthday or similar) consisting of a collection of articles written by colleagues and students and often concentrating on that particular scholar's field of specialization

Finzi, Gerald (1901-56)

English composer

n. Sp.

a characteristic style of singing or dance associated with Andalusia in northern Spain

folk music

an orally transmitted musical tradition, often relatively simple in style, normally performed by amateurs and specific to a region, nationality or ethnicity


in organ music, the measure of the pitch at which a pipe sounds

forensic musicology


the shape and structure of a musical composition as determined by all of its constituent elements

formes fixes

a group of poetic and musical forms which dominated French secular music during the fourteenth and fifteenth century which included the ballade, the rondeau and the virelai (a related form is the bergerette)

n. Ger. spinning out

the process by which continuous musical material is derived from a short motive or idea (rather than in balanced phrases)

Franck, César (1822-90)

French composer

n. It.

a type of northern Italian secular music common in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries often in a popular or rustic style

n. It.

a fugue-like passage occurring in a larger work or movement that is itself not a fugue

n. It.

a short fugue

Fr. fugue; Ger. Fuge; Lat., It., Sp. fuga

(1) the most fully developed form of imitative counterpoint characterized by the theme (subject) being presented successively in all voices of the polyphonic texture; the etymology of the word literally means "flight" from the Latin fuga and is a polyphonic compositions or technique based on the introduction of one or more short themes (referred to as subjects) which appear from time to time within various contrapuntal devices; (2) a flight from one's own identity

Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578

n. It. futurismo

a short-lived movement in literature and the arts founded in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1872-1942) that emphasized the machine age and took a radical view of established institutions; its principles were applied to music in three manifestos by Francesco Pratella (1880-1955); as a musical movement it was among the first to experiment with incorporating non-traditional musical sounds

Gabrieli, Giovanni (1557-1612)

Italian composer and organist

n. It.; Fr. gaillarde; Sp. gallarda; Eng. galliard

a lively sixteenth century dance of Italian origin characterized by a compound duple (6/8) meter occasionally interspersed with hemiola (3/4 measures

n. fr. Fr. style galant

a term frequently applied to the simpler, more homophonic and more accessible musical style of the mid-eighteenth century (as opposed to the more strict or learned contrapuntal style characteristic earlier in the century

Gallican chant

the Latin chant of the churches in the region of Gaul before the importation of Gregorian chant during the Carolingian Dynasty; no notated music survives

n. Fr.

a very fast dance in 2/4 meter that enjoyed great popularity in the mid-nineteenth century it was occasionally stylized into an instrumental composition (by Schubert, Liszt, Auber and others)


(1) a contraction of gamma ut; (2) range, compass

Fr., Ger., Eng.; It. gavotta; Sp. gavota

a gracious dance movement in duple meter commonly found in the eighteenth century characterized by having four measure phrases that being and end in the middle of the bar and simple rhythms lacking syncopation

n. Ger.

a term coined in the 1920s for music that was to serve an immediate functional purpose, such as performance by amateurs, in schools or in film (as opposed to music composed for artistic or a composer's self expression)

n. Ger., flagellant songs

songs sung by flagellants in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; penitential flagellation was common in thirteenth century Italy (see also laude spirituali); the German repertoire flourished in the fourteenth century partly in response to the plague of 1349-50

geistliches Konzert

a sacred work for voies and orchestra most often associated with Heintich Schütz (1585-1672) and other northern German composers in the seventeenth century

n. Ger.


Generalpause (abbr. G.P.)

a rest for the entire orchestra specified by the composer, especially one that is unexpected

Gershwin, George (1898-1937)

American composer

n. Ger.

critical editions of the complete known works of a composer which are usually accompanied by extensive critical commentaries detailing the available sources, variants among them and the editorial decision making process; the production of a Gesamtausgabe may take many decades and involve a large number of scholars; major composers can expect a new edition incorporating newly identified sources and information about a century apart

n. Ger., complete art work.

a term applied by Richard Wagner to his later stage works in which he desired that all of the arts (music, poetry, visual spectacle) would be fused

n. Fr., Eng.; Ger. Gigue; It. giga; Sp. giga, jiga

a fast dance movement in binary form (and the most commonly found movement at the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century suite); it originated in Ireland and althought its rhythm and texture varies widely it is most often cast in a triple meter with sequential running figures

J. S. Bach: From Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin, BWV 1006, VI: Gigue

Ginastera, Alberto (1916-83)

Argentine composer

Glass, Philllp (b. 1937)

American composer


an unaccompanied English composition for three or more voices (usually male); the poem (and the music) may range from light-hearted to serious

Glinka, Mikhail (1804-57)

Russian composer

glissando (abbr. gliss.)
n. It.; Fr. glisser, to slide

a continuous sliding or movement from one pitch to another

global melodic formulas

Gluck, Christoph Willibald (1714-87)

Bohemian raised composer active in Vienna and Paris

Gorecki, Henryk (1933-2010)

Polish composer

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1826-69)

American pianist and composer

Gounod, Charles (1818-93)

French composer

grace note

a note printed in small type to indicate that its rhythmic value is outside of the rhythm of the measure; large groups of grace notes (common in the music of Chopin and other nineteenth century composers for the piano) can sometimes make up entire beats or even measures

n. Lat. graduale

(1) the liturgical book containing the chants for the Mass; (2) the item in the Proper of the Mass that is sung following the reading of the Epistle (a type of responsorial psalmody)

Granados, Enrique (1867-1916)

Spanish composer

grand opera

a large scale (usually 4 or 5 acts and including ballet and chorus) opera on an historical subject intended for performance at the Paris Opéra with the entire text set to music (without the spoken dialogue found in the French opéra comique); a phenomenon of the 1830s and 40s, it featured some of the most elaborate scenery and stage machinery ever used in operatic productions

graphic notation

found in some musical works from the 1950s forward it features visual materials and symbols outside of conventional music notation (though it is often combined with traditional notation)



great antiphons

see O antophons

great responsories

responsories with longer and more ornate melodies that are sung in the Offices at Matins, Vespers and in processionals on solemn feast days

Gregorian chant

one of the five principal repertories of Latin liturgical chant from the Middle Ages (the others being Old Roman, Ambrosian, Gallican and Mozarabic); transmitted orally since the early Middle Ages it began to appear in manuscripts beginning in the tenth century; it consists of unaccompanied monophonic settings of the Latin texts of the liturgy (the Mass and the Offices); name after Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590-604) his involvement in creating and shaping the repertory is dubious

Grieg, Edvard (1843-1907)

Norwegian composer

Griffes, Charles Tomlinson (1884-1920)

ground bass

a pattern of notes that most often appear in the bass and is repeated over and over during the courses of a vocal or instrumental composition; it is especially common in English music of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (see also passacaglia)

Purcell: From Dido and Aeneas, Act III: "When I am Laid in Earth" (Dido's Lament)

Guidonian hand
Lat., manus Guidonis

a drawing of a human hand with the notes and solmization syllables assigned to the joints and fingertips; it was a well known teaching aid during the later Middle ages and although it is attributed to the theorist Guido d'Arezzo (d. after 1033) it is not mentioned in any of his writings

Guidonian hand Banner

Image of a Guidonian hand from a late fifteenth century manuscript found in Mantua, Italy. Oxford, Bodleian Library: Oxford University MS Canon. Liturg. 216. f. 168

n. Sp.

a nineteenth century Cuban song and dance form; the name is derived from the capital city of Havana and it is typically in 2/4 meter with a characteristic rhythm in the accompaniment


n. Ger.

a common name for the piano in the early nineteenth century; Beethoven subtitled his piano sonatas opp. 101 and 106 “für das Hammerklavier" (op. 106 is commonly referred to as the “Hammerklavier Sonata")

Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)

German born composer active in England

Hanson, Howard (1896-1981)

American composer and conductor


a series of frequencies all of which are multiples of a single frequency (the fundamental) that are numbered in order


A word that has held a wide variety of meanings when applied to music from Greco-Roman Antiquity to the present

n. Fr. clavecin; Gr. Cembalo, Kielflügel; It. clavicembalo, clavecin

a popular keyboard instrument in widespread usage from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries characterized by a mechanism in which the strings are plucked by a quill (as opposed to being struck by a hammer in the modern piano) giving the harpsichord limited dynamic capabilities

harpsichord Banner

Close up of the series of jacks that pluck the strings in the harpsichord action.

Harrison, Lou (1917-2003)

American composer

n. Ger.

principal (melody or motive)

Haydn, Joseph (1732-1809)

Austrian composer

head motive

see Leitmotif


(1) in pitch, it refers to the ratio of the length of two strings that sound a perfect fiftth; (2) in rhythm, it refers to the temporary sense of being in a different meter


related to monophony, it is the simultaneous statement of the same melody in two or more slightly different versions (as opposed to polyphony)


a collection of six pitches; hexachords figure prominently in solmization and in twelve tone (serial) music

Higdon, Jennifer (b. 1962)

American composer

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

German composer and author

Hindemith, Paul (1895-1963)

German composer

n. Lat.

a setting of a Biblical story; the Passion was the most common among such musical works from German composers of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries

n. Lat. hoquetus; Fr. hocquet, hoquet

a musical devices or the title of a composition that refers to the distribution of a melodic line between two voices occasionally found in polyphony of the thirteenth- and fourteenth centuries

Holst, Gustav (1874-1934)

English composer

homophony, homophonic

a musical texture in which one part is dominant and a subordinate accompaniment or harmonic role is played by the other parts

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550


the same or very similar rhythm occurring among all the parts


a dance popular in England and Wales from the sixteenth-nineteenth centuries related to the jig and the country-dance family of dances and is usually in a lively 3/2 time (or 3/4, 2/4 and 4/4)

Hovhaness, Alan (1911-2000)

American composer

n. Ger.

the organ in ancient Greece and Rome; as described in sources it comprised a set of pipes, a keyboard mechanism and a wind mechanism that used water to regulate the air pressure

n. fr. Gr. hymnos, a song in praise of gods or heros

(1) in the Christian church it is a song in praise of God; the history of medieval hymnody begins with St. Ambrose (340-97) four of whose hymns (“Aetrene rerum conditor," “Deus creator omnium," “Iam surgit hora tertia," and “Veni redemptor gentium") were certified by St. Augustine; the hymn began to appear in the Divine Office in the sixth century; hymns represent a small part of the corpus of chant from the early Christian church, most likely because the congregational singing of hymns was a common practice in many pagan religions; (2) a type of congregational singing, usually in four parts, that has become especially common in Protestant demoninations; unrelated to the hymnody of the Middle Ages, most of these hymns were composed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (athough a significant number of them draw on melodies from earlier sources)



the study of visual representations for what information they can reveal; it is especially important in the study of musical instruments, performance practice (the actual performance techniques applied to individual instruments, the number of performers, etc.), the physical environment of musical performance and its societal context

iconography Banner

Jan Van Kessel the Elder (1626-79): Personification of Music (late seventeenth century) c

n. Lat.

a metrical accent in prosody; the term was frequently applied at Solemnes for the “rhythmic step" or “lighting point" that governs the rhythm of Gregorian chant

idée fix
n. Fr., obsession

Berlioz's term for the recurring motive associated with the image of his beloved as found in his Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14


in music, a work which explores and exploits the particular capabilities of the instrument or voice for which it is intended


any musical instrument which produces sound through vibration of its own primary material (e.g. cymbals, xylophone, washboard, glass harmonic, etc.)


a scene usually found in a comic opera in which the illusion of confusion is accentuated through means of polyphonic, rhythmic and metric complexity; it originated in eighteenth century opera buffa


the statement of a musical motive or melody in two or more parts or voices in succession with each part continuing as the others enter in turn; the imitation may take place at the unison, but is more common at different pitch levels


see cadence; see mensural notation


a term which originated in the visual arts that characterized the work of a number of later nineteenth century French painters (e.g. Monet from whose painting Impression: soleil levant is taken the term); in music is is principally applied to some of Debussy's works from the final decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century along with a limited number of works by other composers

n. Fr., unpremeditated

a musical composition that suggest improvisation; from the nineteenth century onward a composition usually for piano in an offhand or extemporized style

n. Lat., reproaches

a series of chants sung at the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday in the Roman Catholic Rite; they usually consist of three texts drawn from the Old Testament


the creation of music during the course of live performance; in Western music the concept of improvisation has most often been applied as a supplement to previously written composition (as opposed to northern Indian Hindustani music which relies almost entirely on the ability to improvise) best exemplified by the cadenza of the concerto

In nomine

any of over 150 English instrumental compositions from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries using the Sarum antiphon “Gloria tibi Trinitas" as a cantus firmus

incidental music

music composed for use during a straight play; it may consist of instrumental (overture, interludes, etc.) or vocal (songs) music; dating back to Greek Antiquity it was most common in the later eighteenth- and early nineteenth centuries with composers ranging from Mozart to Mendelssohn making significant contributions to the genre; often individual pieces have taken on an independent existence in the concert hall

n. Lat., beginning

the first few words and/or notes with which a work of literature or music begins; in liturgical chant it is sometimes synonymous with intonation (see also Psalm tone)

n. fr. It. intabolature, intavolature; Fr. reduicte en tablature; Ger. Intabulierung

an arrangement of a vocal or instrumental ensemble work for a keyboard or plucked string instrument notated in tablature

integer valor

in mensural notation it refers to the normal value of a note (as distinct from an augmented or diminished value brought about by a proportion)


music played between sections of a composition or a dramatic work; in a dramatic work it is often purely instrumental; in church music it refers to music (often improvised) played between verses or lines of a hymn or Psalm

n. It.

in the sixteenth century a work performed between the acts of a play which could consist purely of instrumental music or stages presentations with singers and dancers; much emphasis was placed on elaborate scenery and stage machinery; the most impressive intermedi appear to be those conceived for state occasions in Florence in the later sixteenth century

n. It.

in the eighteenth century, a short comic work performed between the acts of a serious opera (its origins are found in the intermedio); in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a middle movement section of a larger work characterized by being lighter in nature; an independent lyrical piece of small scale usually for the piano and belong to the genre of character piece


the relationship between two pitches; until the adoption of equal-tempered tuning theorists described intervals as the distance between a higher and lower pitch


the accuracy with which a pitch is produced; a system of tuning (see just intonation); the first pitches of a psalm tone which have the function of establishing the correct pitch for what is to follow

n. It.

a short liturgical work for organ intended to establish the pitch and mode of a following vocal composition

n. Ger.; It. entrata; Fr. entrée

a piece that accompanies the entrance of a character on a stage; the arrival of an important person at an event

n. Ger. Einleitung, Eingang; It. introduzione; Sp. introduciõn

a passage often in a slow tempo at the beginning of a movement or work serving a preparatory function; found most frequently in the first movement of eighteenth century symphonies it varies widely in length and complexity

n. Lat. introitus

the first item in the Proper of the Mass sung during the opening procession to the altar


the inversion of an internal normally with respect to the octave

n. It.

intabulation; on the title page of keyboard music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the term often refers to the use of score format (two staves) as opposed to tablature notation


the repetition of a rhythmic pattern (talea) and often a melodic pattern (color) as well; it was a structural device frequently applied in the motet (and motet-like Mass movements) in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries

Ite, Missa est

The dismissal formula for the Mass: “Let us be dismissed"; the use of the Latin word Missa for the celebration of the eucharist appears to have come from this phrase

Ives, Charles (1874-1954)

American composer

Janáček, Leoš (1854-1928)

Czech composer

Josquin des Prez

n. Lat.

the melisma sung to the final syllable of the word “alleluia" in the repertory of Gallican chant

just intonation

any tuning system comprising five or more beatless (pure) intervals within the octave (it is not possible to construct a diatonic scale in which both the thirds and fifths are pure)

Kagel, Mauricio (1931-2008)

German-Argentine composer

n. Ger.

the leader of a musical chapel the duties of which might encompass both sacred and secular music

Kenner und Liebhaber
Ger., connoisseurs and amateurs

the designation was commonly used in publications of the eighteenth century intended for both musicians and the burgeoning groups of amateur music makers

Kernis, Aaron Jay (b. 1960)

American composer

n. Ger.


n. Ger.

liturgical chant

n. Ger.


n. Ger.

piano reduction or arrangement; piano-vocal score

n. Ger.

the widely used catalog for Mozart's music compiled by Ludwig Köchel (1800-77) it was first published in 1862; by today's standards of scholarship it is seriously flawed as Köchel took a chronological approach which has proved especially problematic in dating Mozart's earlier works (before the composer himself began keeping a detailed thematic catalog of his own compositions in February of 1874) and because so much information (and compositions unknown to Köchel) have come to light since the catalog was first published many works have several different K. numbers assigned to them along with other points of confusion

Kurtág, György (b. 1926)

Hungarian composer and pianist

n. Fr.

a lengthy poem of irregular construction sometimes with music and cultivated in medieval France; with rare exception the music of the lais is monophonic (the German Leich is similar in its history and stylistic traits); the form was first cultivated by the troubadours and later by the trouvères; several appear in the early fourteenth century Roman de Fauvel and the form reached a zenith in the lais of Machaut (of which 19 have music)

Lambert, Constant (1905-51)

English composer


(1) a poem or song of mourning; (2) an instrumental piece of similar character


music for verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lat. Threni, id est Lamentationes Ieremiae Prophetae); in the Roman Catholic liturgy, nine groups of these verses are sung, three each at Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday; polyphonic settings of the Lamentations began to appear in the fifteenth century

Landini, Francesco (ca. 1325-97)

Italian composer

n. Ger.

a dance of southern German and Austria in a moderate 3/4 time; it originated as a folk dance but became popular in the ballroom in the later 18th century (with contributions being made to the genre by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and others); it appears as a stylized movement in several of the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler (where it replaced the traditional scherzo movement)

Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (1908-09)

n. It., pl. laude

a nonliturgical religious song most popular in the Italy in the thirteenth and again from the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries; laude of the thirteenth century were anonymous and relatively simply in style suitable for performance by those with little musical training; laude were vigorously cultivated during the penitential fervor of the later thirteenth century (see also Geisslerlieder)

laude spirituali

a type of sacred song in the vernacular popular in Italy from the late fourteenth century through the sixteenth century

leading tone

the seventh degree of the major and harmonic or ascending melodic minor scales, which falls a half step below the tonic tone (see also scale degrees)

n. Lat.


n. Lat., lectionarium, liber comicus

a liturgical book contain Scripture readings or lessons

n. Ger.; Fr. légende

a fantastical title used in a variety of ways by nineteenth century composers for works ranging from short instrumental pieces to symphonic poems and oratorios

Leitmotif, Leitmotiv
n. Ger.

a musical motive or idea associated with some aspect of the drama (a person, an emotion, an object, etc.) that recurs during the course of an opera; the term is applied most often in the later works of Wagner although Wagner himself preferred the terms Grundthema and Hauptmotiv

lexical tone

Liber usualis
Lat., common book

the most widely used modern compendium of liturgical chant (for both the Mass and the Offices) it was the culmination of the restoration of chant undertaken in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century at the Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes in France

n. It.

the writer of a libretto; the relationship between librettist and composer can vary considerably; some librettists have enjoyed long and productive collaborations with composers (such as Quinault and Lully, Da Ponte and Mozart, Boito and Verdi and Hofmannsthal and Strauss)

n. It.

the text of an opera or oratorio; originally it referred to a small book containing the text and offered for sale to the audience; at a minimum a libretto provides a list of characters and the text, but it may also be augmented with stage directions, background information relative to the story (argomento in Italian) and may indicate any parts of the text not set by the composer (versi virgolati)

libretto Banner

I libretto for Puccini's opera La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) which was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on December 10, 1910. Libretti were often sold to audiences so that they could read a synopsis of the story and follow allow with the singing often in a different language. In recent times opera houses have found ways to project subtitles in a host of languages, often on seat back display screens.

n. Ger.

see Kenner und Liebhaber

n. Ger., pl. Lieder

a song for solo voice and piano common in German speaking countries in the eighteenth and especially nineteenth century

n. Ger.

song book; a reference to fifteenth century manuscript collections of monophonic and polyphonic songs (such as the Lochaner Liederbuch, Glogauer Liederbuch, etc.)

Liederkreiz, Liederzyklus
n. Ger.

song cycle


originally a group of men gathered around a table (Ger. Tafel) for singing and amusement; the first singing group of the this nature appeared in Berlin 1808 under the guidance of Carl Friedrich Zelter and similar such groups were founded during the 19th century

Ligeti, Gyorgy (1923-2006)

Hungarian composer


a fear specifically of loud sounds such as sirens, trains, jack hammers and the like which have been in place since the industrial "revolution" of the nineteenth century; symptoms vary widely but can usually be treated by a mental health specialist

Liszt, Franz (1811-86)

Hungarian-German composer, pianist and conductor

Lat. litania

a prayer comprised of a series of invocations and petitions, each sung by a celebrant (a deacon or other person)

liturgical drama

dramatic presentations from the tenth through the sixteenth century usually centered around the Nativity or Easter story (they may have been conceived to augment or decorate the Mass) sung throughout in Latin drawing largely on liturgical texts and chant


the formal and customary worship (rite) and text of the various services of the western Christian church

longa, longe

in mensural notation, a note having twice the length of the brevis


a slow and majestic French gigue with heavy accents that is usually cast in 6/4 meter and characterized by having upbeats, dotted figures, syncopation and hemiola

Lully, Jean-Baptste (1632-87)

Lutheran church music

the music of the Lutheran church in large part derived from the views of Martin Luther (1483-1546) which embraced some use of the vernacular (alongside Latin) and simpler musical structures which would allow for more congregational involvement



one of the system of eight modes in use in Western music from the eighth through the sixteenth centuries, each taking its name from the Greek ordinal numbers (protus, deuterus, tritus, etc.) and distinguishing authentic and plagal forms of each based on the range; dorian has a final of f with a range of f to f' (see also mode)

MacDowell, Edward (1860-1908)

American composer

Machaut, Guillaume de (ca. 1300-77)

French composer and poet

n. It.

a poetic and musical form cultivated in 14th century Italy (at first the poems were almost always pastoral in theme with two or three stanzas of three lines followed by a ritornello - the subject and structure became more flexible over time); a poetic genre (only distantly related to the fourteenth century madrigal) which flourished during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, characterized by a variety of poetic forms (most often of irregular structure) in increasingly elaborate, largely unaccompanied settings

n. It.

the feminine version of maestro. Some female conductors use the appellation, while others avoid it, preferring the masculine maestro. This is because in the past the, term maestra had been used as a derogatory term for an unfavorably viewed male conductor, holding a negative connotation that “you conduct like a woman."

maestro (pl. maestri)
n. It.

literally “master." A term most often applied to someone for his (or her) expertise at conducting, teaching or writing music. See also maestra.

n. Lat.

the canticle of the Virgin (Luke 1: 46-55) the Latin text of which begins “Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (“My soul doth magnify the Lord"); the Magnificat has been a part of the Office of Vespers since the early Middle Ages, its verses sung to one of a set of psalm tones (see Liber Usualis pp. 207-18); independent and often elaborate polyphonic settings of the text were common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (with notable settings by Monteverdi, Schütz, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and others)

Magnus liber organi

a “Large Book of Organa" on the Gradual and the Antiphoner, attributed by the thirteenth century writer and theorest now known as Anonymous IV, to Master Leonin

Mahler, Gustav (1860-1911)

Austrian composer and conductor


a term often applied to certain music from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth century in which exaggerated musical devices appear to take precedence over clear and coherent musical structures


a keyboard of an organ or harpsichord

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Spanish composer


music originally intended to keep the marching of European armies in order through standardized patterns; the march began to appear as a stylized musical work as early as the sixteenth century, with settings appearing commonly in the nineteenth and twentiethe centuries

Marian antiphon

an Antiphon with a devotional text in praise of the Virgin Mary


a form of entertainment involving costumes, scenery, dances, music and poetry which flourished in England in Tudor (1485-1603) and Stuart (1603-1714) times; the subject matter was often mythological, allegorical or heroic and the setting more social than theatrical

Lat., It.. Fr. messe; Ger. Messe

the central service of the Roman rite originating as a recreation of the Last Supper; the term is taken from the dismissal formula given to the congregation at the end of the rite; by the eleventh century the Mass had become mostly standardized as an elaborate liturgy of chants, prayers and readings placed before and after the central canon and a distinction was made between those parts of the texts and music which were appropriate only for a particular feast (the Proper) and those parts whose texts and music could be used on any day (the Ordinary)

Massenet, Jules (1842-1912)

n. Pol.

a Polish folk dance in triple meter from the province of Mazowia (near Warsaw); artistic settings of the mazurka (most notably those of Chopin) vary widely in their stylistic traits (reflecting the large number of dances which fall into that category)


right hand

mean tone temperament

a scale in which acoustically pure major thirds (5:4) above and below the tonic are comprised of equal sized whole tones whose value is the geometric mean of 5:4 (from which comes the term mean-tone); this system of tuning was widely used on keyboard instruments from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century (it largely replaced Pythagorean and just intonation while preserving some aspects of both)


a succession of well known melodies loosely connected with one another, at times in an arbitrary or even intentionally whimsical manner

n. Ger. master singer

a person belonging to one of the guilds from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries formed to perpetuate or emulate the tradition of the Minnesinger

Gr. melody

a group of notes sung to a single syllable (especially in liturgical chant); in the body of Gregorian chant melismas are most frequently found in settings of the “Alleluia" (see also Jubilus) the gradual, the tract and in great responsories


characterized by the presence of melismas; one of the three common settings of text in liturgical chant (see also syllabic and neumatic)

n. Fr.

(1) song; (2) the French art song (equivalent of the German Lied) of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries


a musico-dramatic work in which spoken text alternates with instrumental music

n. fr. Lat. melodia, fr. Gr. melodia, fr. melos

a coherent set of pitches which often serves to create primary thematic musical material for repetition or possibly development


a fear or aversion to music; the most well known person experiencing this phenomenon was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

Mendelssohn, Felix (1809-47)

German composer and conductor

mensural notation

a system of musical notation in which each note head displays its own rhythmical value; Franco of Cologne is generally credit with establishing the first such system around 1260 (known as Franconian notation) having three main note values (long, breve and semibreve) which remained in widespread use until around 1600

mensuration canon

a canon in which the voice parts move in different mensurations (meters)

Messa di voce

(1) in singing, a gradual crescendo and decrescendo on a sustained note; it was first described by Giulo Caccinii (1551-1618) in Le nuove musice (1601) and has become a standard vocal exercise; (2) it has subsequently been adopted as an expressive ornament for brass, woodwind, string and even keyboard instruments

n. Fr., Ger.


Messe des morts
Fr. Mass for the dead

Requiem Mass

Messiaen, Olivier (1908-92)

French composer

Fr. mesure; Ger. Takt, Taktart; It. tempormisura; Sp. tiempo, compás

the organization of a pattern of steady rhythmic pulses (beats)


a device to (1) indicate the tempo of a composition or (2) be used as a general practice aid to performers; it was invented c1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkler (c1780-1826) of Amsterdam but takes its name from Johann Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1838) who copied the device, adding a scale of tempo divisions and patented the device under the name “metronome" (the device is sometimes still called a Maelzel Metronome)

Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791-1864)

German-French composer


an interval smaller than a half step; once Western music had settled on a system of twelve equally spaced pitches within the space of an octave in the early part of the eighteenth century, microtone or microtonal became a vague term applied to using pitches outside of those twelve equally spaced pitches

Ives: Three Quarter Tone Pieces (1924)

Milanese chant

see Ambrosian chant

mimetic participation

n. Ger. fr. Minne, love

any of the German body of poetry and song dating from c1150-c1350 related to love (Minnesang) or any relevant political or social topic


a wandering singer of ballads

minuet, menuet
n. Fr. menuet: Ger. Menuett; It. minuetto; Sp. minué, minuete

a social dance of French origin in a moderate tempo; originally in binary form, stylized minuets (found first in seventeenth century opera and then later in the instrumental suite) were often composed in A-B-A form with a contrasting trio making up the B section

mirror composition

a composition which can be performed in inversion with respect to both the intervals as well as the relationship of all the parts to one another

n. Lat.

Psalme 50 [51] “Miserer mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordian tuam" (“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness"); one of the Penitential Psalms, it is found in the Roman rite in the lauds of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, holy Saturday and in the Office of the Dead


n. Lat.

Mass (see also “Ite, Missa est") : a reenactment of the Last Supper (Eucharist) that forms the central part of the Christian liturgy; it is divided into the Ordinary (Lat. Ordinarium), those portions of text and music which is fixed in each performance, and the Proper (Lat. Proparium), those portions of text and music which vary according to the church calendar (the Proper of the Time)

n. Lat. missale

a book containing the text (and often the music) for the Mass

n. It.

meter, measure beat: alla misura (in strict meter); senza misura (freely, without strict meter)


one of the system of eight modes in use in Western music from the eighth through the sixteenth centuries, each taking its name from the Greek ordinal numbers (protus, deuterus, tritus, etc.) and distinguishing authentic and plagal forms of each based on the range; dorian has a final of d with a range of e to e' (see also mode)

n. or adj.

characterized by the use of a mode or modes; this is especially applicable to the church modes of the Middle Ages (dorian, phrygian, mixolydian, etc.) or the rhythmic modes of the School of Notre Dame

modal notation

notation especially that found in the School of Notre Dame sources which displays the rhythmic modes


a musical system based on the use of a mode or modes

n. Lat. modus

(1) in mensural notation, the relationship between the long and the breve; (2) any of the rhythmic patterns found in the repertory of the Schoo of Notre Dame; (3) interval, in the writings of some theorists of the early Middle Ages (Hucbald, Guido); (4) in acoustics, any of the ways in which vibrating systems (such as strings or columns) can be made to vibrate; (5) any of a series of loose classifications applied to both scales and melodies; in the Middle Ages these were referred to as the church modes (dorian, phyrigian, mixolydian, etc.) which although named after geographical regions of Greek Antiquity have no connection with ancient Greek music practice


in tonal music, the process of changing from one key to another or the result of such a change


an electronic device for vaying some characteristic (frequency, amplitude, etc.) of a carrier wave for the purpose of transmitting a signal (as in radio and television transmissions)

monica, monicha, monaca
n. It.

an Italian popular song with the poetic theme of a young girls whose parents force her to become a nun against her own will dating back to the later Middle Ages

n. Gr. kanon

a zither with a single string streched over a rectangular sound box; markings on the box indicate divisions of the string according to various mathematical ratios


(1) music consisting of a single musical line; (2) any of the various types of Italian solo songs which flourished in the early seventeenth century

monophony, monophonic

music consisting of a single line or melody without an accompaniment


a single pitch on which a liturgical text (most often a prayer or a passage of Scripture) is recited (see also Psalm tone)

Monteverdi, Claudio (1567-1643)

n. Fr.

piece, composition

n. Ger. Mordant; Fr. martellement; It. mordente

an ornament involving one or more alternation of the principal note with its lower auxiliary

moresca, moriscan
n. It.

a renaissance dance performed by dancers in black face and wearing bells attached to their legs most likely in binary meter; it was often found in the intermedio and similar forms of entertainment

adj. or adv. It.

moved, agitated


a major vocal genre from the thirteenth through the eighteenth century; the early motet evolved from the substitute discant sections of organum known as clasula (pl. clausulae); the motet of the later Middle Ages was an quasi-intellectual, often polytextual and polylingual three voice composition normally constructed over a pre-existing (usually sacred) cantus-firmus (familiarty on the part of the listener with that cantus-firmus and its text may had been a fundamental precept of the medieval motet, one which is lost on modern audiences); the motet of the fifteenth and sixteenth century general had a single sacred, non-liturgical, text; the motet went into steep decline in the seventeenth century, and has only been cultivated by few composers since that time (most notably J.S. Bach and Anton Bruckner)


a type of motet found in the sixteenth century in which a Latin sacred text (usually in the tenor or lowest voice) is combined with a secular text in the vernacular in one or more of the other voice parts reflecting the polytextual tradition of the motet in the later Middle Ages

Lat., fr. Fr., mot, word

the first voice above the tenor line in the medieval motet


a term used to describe the way in which mothers talk to their children and it is studied for what insight it might provide in the acquisition of language skills; there is often a musical aspect of motherese that appears to be universal in that the inflections and choice of "intervals" is fairly consistent across all borders and cultures

motive, motif

(1) a short rhythmic or melodic musical idea that is sufficient enough to retain its identity when embellished, transformed or combined with other material; (2) the same that can serve as the primary musical idea from which a complex texture or even entire composition can be based

moto perteruo

see perpetuum mobile

adv. or adj. It.

(1) in Masses of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a musical idea that recurrs at the beginning of each major section (see also head motive); (2) in arias of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the opening gesture in the voice part, followed immediately by a ritornello and then the principal entrance of the voice part

n. Fr. mouvement); (Ger. Satz); (It. movimento, tempo); (Sp. movimento, tiempo

any self-contained at least partially independent section of a larger work; many larger works (sonatas, symphonies, concerti, cantatas, oratorios, etc.) are divided into any number of movements; in performances such movements are usually separated by a brief pause, howevera composer may indiated that the next movement is to proceed without pause (see attacca)

Mozarabic chant

the liturgical chant of the Christian church that developed in Spain until it was supplanted in favor of the Roman rite in the eleventh century; the term Mozarabic refers to Christians practicing their own religion under Muslim political rule, however the body of chant was already significantly developed before the Muslim invation of the Iberian peninsula in 711

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-91)

Austrian composer

It. abbr. mano sinistra, sinister hand

left hand; for thousands of years in Western Civilization, the direction of left has held and evil, sinister connotation: it is at the core of Christian symbolism (“those that sit at the right hand of God") but is nowhere more evident that in the first canto of Dante's Inferno when Dante and Virgil enter the dark woods and turn left

multiple stop

on bowed stringed instruments, the stopping of two or more strings at the same time (see also double stop)

n. Fr.

(1) a small French bagpipe very popular in aristocratic society curing the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; (2) a pastoral-like dance of the eighteenth century characterized by usuallyhaving a drone in the base and imitating the sound of the instrument of the same name

music archaeology

n. Lat., Ger.

four broad classifications of music are found in the thought and writings of ancient and medieval texts: (1) theoretical and practical, found in Ancient Greek thought, it separates the practical (performing) and theoretical (mathematical) aspects of music; (2) the so-called Boethian disctinctions (named after Anicius Manlius Sevrinus Boethius, c. 480-1525/25) in whose writings (principally De musica) are found three distinctions: (1) musica mundana (the harmony of the universe); (2) musica humana (the harmony of the body and soul); (3) musica instrumentalis (all music produced by instruments including the human voice); (3) harmonic, rhythmic, metric; first found in the writings of Aristides Quintilianus (cthird-fourth century); natural and artificial, a dichotomy described in Aristotles Physics (and which has sometimes been applied to distinguish between vocal and instrumental music)

Musica enchiriadis

a treatise written c900 and extant in about 40 manuscript copies; its authorship is a matter of scholarly debate: originally though to have been written by Hudbald (a name which is frequently found in association with it in the literature), numerous other authors have been proposed, most convincingly Otgerus of St. Amand; related treatises include the Scolica enchiriadis, Commemoratio brevis and Alia musica

musica ficta
Lat., feigned music

in music theory through the end of the sixteenth century it referred to notes found outside the gamut or the Guidonian hand; notes within the gamut or Guidonian hand constituted musica recta or musica vera (right or true music); in general these notes were chromatic (indicated in modern notation throught the use of accidentals) which in practice, while left out of manuscripts and printings of music before 1600 were realized by performers or editors (in modern edition such accidentals are often placed above or below the notes or in small print)

musica reservata

Fr. musicologie); (Ger. Musikwissenschaft, Musikforschung); (It. musicologica)

the scholarly study of music, generally of Western music, but the term continues to be applied more broadly


musique concrète
Fr., concrete music

a form of electroacoustic music incorporating sounds dervied from traditional instruments and the human voice in combination with other sources of sound such as electronic synthesizers or sounds from nature; the style was pioneered by French composer Pierre Shaeffer (1910-95) in the 1940s

musique mesurée

a style of music composed in France in the late sixteenth century developed by Jean Antoine de Baif (1532-89) which was intended to adapt to French the principles of Greek and Latin poetry with a view of reestablishing the perceived relationship between music and poetry as reported in classical antiquity in which the long and short syllables of text were set according to the poetry without regard for musical meter; Baif and his followers formed the Académie de poésie et musique in 1570 and this style of music was termed vers mesurés, vers mesurés à l'antique and musique mesurés à l'antique

Musorgsky, Modest (1839-81)

Russian composer

n. Fr. sourdine); (Ger. Dämpfer); (It. sordino); (Sp. sordina

a device for reducing the volume and/or altering the tone color of an instrument; a variety of mutes are applied to string and brass instruments; on the piano the effect is achieved through use of the una corda (soft) pedal

n. Ger. after beat

the type of ornament which follow and take their value from the notes they are to embellish; in modern German usage it refers to the suffix of a trill

n. Ger.

a musical composition generally intend for performance in the evening; (see also serenade)


the use of materials in art music that are specifically national, regional or ethnic in character including but not limited to folk music, melodies, rhythms, modes, etc.

natural horn, trumpet

brass instruments lacking valves and/or keys and therefore only offering the tones occuring naturally in the harmonic series

J. S. Bach: Cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147

Neo-Gallican chant

chant composed for the reformed liturgies of the Catholi Church in France from the mid-17th century through the 19th century


a term applicable to a large number of compositions by a variety of composers in the 1920s, 30s and40s characterized by restraint, clarity and formal balance in emulation (though not imitation) of music of the past; representative works include Stravinky's ballet score Pulcinella (1920, fashioned from music of Pergolesi) to Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 (“Classical," 1916-17, loosely modeled on the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart)

Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms (1930)

n. Lat.

any melisma in liturgical chant, especially that of the “alleluia" added to great responsories

fr. neume

a setting of text in chant with three to six notes per syllable

n. Lat.

any of the signs employed in the notation of chant beginning in the ninth century; some neumes can represent up to three pitches (designated as simple), those that represent more than three pitches were known as compound

new age music

A style of relaxed and non-invasive music which gained some popularity in the 1970s and 80s. It was described by comedian and social commentator George Carlin (1937-2008) as "that pointless meandering zombie noise played by pseudo spiritual lunatics who think that wind chimes are a musical instrument."

Music of George Winston (b. 1949).

Nielsen, Carl (1865-1931)

Danish composer and conductor


A bird which has had a long association with music since the Latin authors recounted the tale of the mythological figure of Philomela who was transformed into a nightingale after being raped by her brother-in-law Tereus and having her tongue cut out. Despite the legend, only male nightingales are capable of “singing" and their songs have been associated with both love and mourning.

Sounds of the common nightingale common to Europe, Africa and Asia.

n. Fr. of the night

(1) a composition usually for the piano common in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries characterized by a lyrical melody accompanied by broken chords without any clear association to the instrumental ensemble work of the eighteenth century known as notturno; the term was first used for a musical work by the Irish composer John Field (1782-1837) in 1812; (2) many composers, and writers such as James Joyce (1882-1941) have extended use of the term to include various, often dream-like events experienced during the dark of night

Chopin: Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No 2

n. Fr., fr. Lat. natalis, of birth

(1) a semi-religious Christsmas song or carol in strophic form in the vernacular and popular in nature; since the 16th century, most noëls have been associated with the Nativity; (2) an interumental composition in the spirt of a noël most commonly written for keyboard (organ) and intended for performance in a Christmas service

n. Fr. nonette; Ger. Nonette; It. nonetto

a chamber composition for nine performers; an sensemble of nine performers

nonharmonic tones

dissonant tones that embellish otherwise consonant harmonies (e.g. the seventh tone in a dominant seventh chord)


any means of writing down music; notational systems (of a which a wide variety exist or have existed) are primarily concerned with pitch and duration (rhythm) though may be extended to include dynamic, expressive and articulation markings


a symbol used in music to indicate the duration of a sound and when placed on some sort of staff, the pitch of that sound

note nere
It., black notes

a notational practice seen in some pieces in the 1530s and 1540s; in this practice here the principal beat is on the semi-breve rather than the breve causing there to be many semiminums and fusae on in use giving the page a “blackened" appearance; it was sometimes called cromatico (colored)

notes inégales
Fr. unequal notes

a performance practice which renders divisions of the beat into alternating long and short values even it notated in even values; it is described in French treatises from the mid-sixteenth century to the early nineteenth century; it was a performance practice intended to add interest, variety and grace to music

n. It.

(1) nocturne; (2) an instrumental (occasionally vocal) work intended for performance at night most often found in the later eighteenth century; Mozart and Haydn made notable contributions to the genre

Grieg: Notturno, Op. 54, No. 4

n. Fr.; Ger. Novelette

a term first applied by Schumann for his set of eight Noveletten, op. 21, for piano; the title is akin to arabesque, humoresque and the like and implies no particular form

numbers opera

operas in which there is a distinct separation between musical movements (recitatives, arias, ensembles, etc.) and hence each movement was consecutively numbered; this was the normal construction of operas from the seventeenth century through much of the nineteenth century and is in contrast to the style of continuous musical texture first found in Weber's Euryanthe and later in the music dramas of Wagner, the last two operas a Verdi and became the prevailing texture for opera composition from the late nineteenth century forward

O antiphons

a series of seven antiphons for the Magnificat beginning with the exclamation “O" (e.g. “O Sapientia," “O Adonai," etc.) and sung one each per day on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (see also great antiphons)

n. It. obligatory

an accompanying part of considerable significance than should not be omitted (the opposite of ad libitum); in the seventeenth century it often referred to keyboard parts written out in full; later it became associated with a prominent counter-melody (often found in an aria)


the interval of double or half the frequency of pitch with the same name; in litiurgical terms the eighth day or the entire week following a feast

octave species

the arrangement of whole and half steps constituting a diatonic scale within any octave; it is fundamental to the Western concert of tonality/modality and also have fundamental important in the music of Greek Antiquity

n. It.

a verse form consisting of four line stanzas with a rhyming scheme (aaab, bbbc, etc., or abbc cdde, etc.) of which the first three lines have seven syllables and the laste from four to eleven and used by composers of the frottola


a lengthy lyric poem most often written for a ceremonial occasion; it dates back as far as the Greek odes of Pindar (522-442 B.C.E.) which comprised song and dance

Offenbach, Jacques (1819-80)

French composer

n. Lat. offertorium

the item in the Proper of the Mass sung before the presentation of the offferring (there is mention of such a chant by St. Augustine (d. 430); from the earliest sources (often labeled as antiphons) the chants were uncharacteristically ornate or melismatic in style often employing a wide range

Office (Divine Office)
Lat. officium

a series of (usually 8) daily services in the Western Christan rite that is distinct from the Mass; the arrangement varied between one plan followed in churches (the Roman cursus) and another followed in monasteries (the monastic cursus); the services center around the Psalms and appropriate accompanying antiphons and readings from the Bible or the lives of the saints which are by responsories; the liturgical books conaining the Office are the antiphoner and the breviary

old Roman chant

n. It.

a large scale music-dramatic stage work involving vocal soloists, chorus (occasionally) and instrumental ensemble (or orchestra) that is usually diviided into several acts and is a fully staged reenacment of a secular story

opera buffa

comic opera

opera seria

the dominant form of Italian serious opera during the eighteenth century


1) in the seventeenth and eighteenth century an operatic work on a small scale that could easily be classified as an intermezzo, opera buffa, opéra comique or Singspiel; (2)

opus (abbr. op., pl. opp.)
Lat. pl. opera; Fr. oeuvre; Ger. Opus


n. It.

a large scale musical drama involving solo singers, chorus, instruments and most often based on story (and sometimes text) drawn from the Old Testament; traditionally unstaged it often relies on the character of a narrator

Ger. Orchester; Fr. orchestre

a performing body comprised of diverse instruments; in Greek Antiquity it referred to the area in front of the stage occupied by the dramatic chorus; by the Middle Ages it came to refer to the stage itself; the current definition as an instrumental ensemble was established in the eighteenth century

Ravel: Bolero (1928)


the art of employing instruments in varying combinations most notably in the orchestra




see rhythmic modes

ordo romanus
Lat., pl. Ordines roman

any of the early liturgical books (ordinals) describing the practice of Rome

n. Fr.

the French name for the suite (sonata da camera) of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a series of harpsichord or instrumental pieces in the same key; the term was coined by François Couperin in his 4 harpsichord books (1715, 1717, 1722, 1730); in general the ordre has a considerably larger number of movements than suites in the Italian or German manner

Orff, Carl (1895-1982)

German composer

organ chorale
Ger. Orgelchoral

a polyphonic elaboration or working out of a Protestant chorale tune on the organ for use as a prelude, congregational chorale or similar in a church service (see also chorale prelude)

organ Mass

a set of organ pieces intended to substitute for parts of the plainchant Mass (especially the Ordinary); the practice was common from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century

organ point

see pedal point



the study of musical instruments and their classification; it includes the history of instruments across all cultures and the way in which they produce sound

n. Lat.

the earliest form of polyphony in Western music that is almost always based on a cantus firmus; the term is derived from the Greek organon (tool or instrument) and it is unclear how it came to be associated with polyphony; the earliest examples are found in musical treatises (such as the Musica enchiriadis and the Scholica enchiriadis, both from the ninth century) as there was not yet a viable form of music notation; both sources describe three types of organum: (1) organuman at the octave; (2) the organal voice (vox organalis) moving with the original chant (vox principalis) at the fifth below; (3) the voices moving at the interval of the fourth with consideration to avoiding the inevitable tritones that arise


see agréments

n. It.

or; used to indicate an alternative version (often, though not always, easier) of a passage

n. It., obstinate

a short musical pattern (melody, harmonic progression, rhythm or some combination of these) that is repeated persistently throughout a piece or section of a piece or performance; while found in Western music, it is most commonly found in the musics of Africa

n. It.

the interval of an octave (abbr. 8va, All'ottava, ottava alta, ottava sopra)

n. fr. Fr. ouverture

(1) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, an orchestral work designed to function as an introduction for a musico-dramatic or other vocal work (it was often labeled a sinfonia or introduzione; (2) from the nineteenth century forward, an independent concert piece for orchestral (in part conceived to open an orchestral program)

padovana, padoana
n. It.

dance from Padua, Italy; (1) in the first half of the sixteenth century it was a generic term for dances of the pavan- passs'e mezo varieties; (2) by the later sixteenth century it referred to a fast dance in a quadruple compound meter (12/8)

Paganini, Niccolò (1782-1840)

Italian violinist and composer

paired imitation

a compositional technique in which the voice parts enter in imitation in pairs; this is especially characteristic of the music of Josquin des Prez


the study of the history of writing in particular the study of specific types of scripts

Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94)

Italian composer


a term coined by the musicologist Manfred Bukofzer for the music of John Dunstable and his followers in the early fifteenth century which is dominated by consonant sounds and in which dissonance is restricted


term coined by the musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky for some twentieth century music that relies predominantly on pitches found in the diatonic scale (as distinct from the highly chromatic, atonal or even twelve-tone music of the early twentieth century)

parallel fifths, octaves

the simultaneous statement of the same melodic idea in two independent parts of a polyphonic composition at the interval of a fifth or octave


an independent variable; one of the separately considerable aspects of a sound (e.g. pitch, duration, dynamic, timbre, etc.)

n. Gr., Lat.

in later Greek and early medieval theory, the intervals of a fourth and fifth


(1) a metrical rendition in the vernacular of Scripture or a Psalm that is set to music; (2) in the fourteenth-sixteenth century a melody that is borrowed from another musical source (most often chant); (3) in the nineteenth century a work of great virtuosity (most often for the piano) in which popular melodies (most often from operas) are woven into an elaborate fantasy like composition; these paraphrases are distinct from more literal arrangements or transcriptions

Lisz: Paraphrase on Verdi's Rigoletto, S. 434

n. It. Speaking

in the manner of speech; the term is most often applied to vocal music but is occasionally applied to instrumental music as well to project a sense of natural vocal production and breathing

n. It.

(1) parlando; (2) in nineteenth century Italian opera a texture in which the primarily melodic material is projected by the orchestra while the singer proceeds in a more speech like pattern, somewhere between recitative and aria


(1) a work that is humorous or satirical in nature, perhaps making exaggerated or distorted use of the material at hand; (2) in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a work in which another text is substituted for the original (often termed contrafacta); (3) a composition which is built upon the work of another composer, often worked into a completely new composition

parody Mass
Lat. Missa parodia

a form of cyclic Mass (common to the fifteenth and especially sixteenth centuries) based upon a pre-existing polyphonic model and making use of more than one of its voices in a wide variety of ways

Pärt, Arvo (b. 1935)

Estonian composer

part song

an unaccompanied secular choral work of modest length; the repertory of such songs grew enormously during the nineteenth century with the growing popularity of amateur choral societies

n. Ger. Stimmbuch

a separately bound manuscript or printed book containing only the part for a single voice or instrument in an ensemble piece

partbook Banner

First page of a sixteenth century partbook containing the tenor voice for motets and Masses. Each piece begins with an elaborate capital. Cambridge, Cambridge University Library MS Dd.13.27.

n. fr. It. parte, part); (Ger.; also Parthie, Partie, Parita

(1) in the late sixteenth and the seventeenth century, a variation, usually on a common melody (such as the romanesca or passamezzo); this meaning was continued in the chorale partitas of George Böhm and Bach

J. S. Bach: Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826

n. Fr.

a dance step (pas de deux); a dance for two dancers

n. Sp.

a dance derived from the European waltz and cultivated in the ballrooms and salons of nineteenth century Columbia and Ecuador; distinct forms of the pasilllo existed in triple meter employing a range of tempos and other musical characteristics survive in the folk traditions of both countries


a continuous variation form usually built upon a recurring bass line (basso ostinato) which was originally derived from the ritornello practice of the seventeenth century; use of the form became rare as of the later eighteenth century thought it has been invoked at times to impart an archaic feeling (e.g. in the fourth movement of Brahms's Symphony No. 4)

J. S. Bach: Organ Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582


(1) any section of a work of indefinite length and not always self-contained; (2) a succession of scales, arpeggios or similar figuration often, though not always, of considerable technical difficulty

n. It.

(1) transition, modulation; (2) passage work; (3) an ornamental melodic passage, whether written or improvised; (4) the introduction flourishes on manual or pedals in German organ toccatas in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries

n. Eng., also passing measures, passy-measures); (It., also pass'e mezzo, passo e mezo, passomezo

an Italian dance of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries similar to a pavana

n. Fr.

a lively simple dance in triple meter (often 3/8) characterized by having an upbeat and regular two or four measure phrases, most often homophonic in texture

passion music

a musical setting of Jesus' suffering and death as retold in one of the four Gospel accounts

n. It. hodgepodge; Fr. pastiche

(1) any musical work assembled of bits and pieces of other works and, by implication, lacking artistic coherence; (2) a composite vocal work (usually an opera) made up of the work of several different composers or assembled from a variety of pre-composed works

n. Fr.; It. pastorale

a poem or other work of literature (or music) that depicts life in the countryside (especially that of shepherds); pastoral poetry was especially popular from the later Middle Ages through the sixteenth century, but can be found as late as the eighteenth century

pastoral symphony

the term was most prominently used as number 13 in George Frideric Handel's oratorio Messiah where it harked back to the long held traditional of a pastoral as being something associated with shepherds, and as the subtitle to Ludwig van Beethoven's Sixth Symphony in F Major, Op. 68 which contains five movements each emblematic of scenes in nature

n. It.

in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a vocal and/or instrumental work conceived for Christmas drawing on pastoral elements of the Christmas story

n. Fr.; Prov. pastorela

a strophic genre of the broubadours and the trouvères in which the subject is an amorous debate between a shepherdess and a knight who wishes to seduce her

Pater noster
Lat., Our Father

The Lord's Prayer; in the Roman Catholic Church it forms part of the Mass and of the hours of Lauds and Vespers; the text was set polyphonically during the 16th century

pavan, pavana
n. It., Sp., Fr. pavane, pavanne;Eng. pavan, paven, pavin

a sixteenth century dance of Italian origin; the word is derived from Pava (a dialect form of Padua); dances from Pava or in the Paduan style were described as alla pavana

Purcell: Pavan

n. It.

an instrumental dance or dance song of unknown origin popular in Italy from the late sixteenth to early seventeenth century

pedal (abbr. ped.)

(1) on the piano any of several foot operated levers that control the sound in a variety of ways, most common being the pedal which removes dampers from contact with the strings (see also damper pedal); (2) the pedal keyboard in organs; (see also pedal point)

pedal harpsichord
Ger. Pedalcembalo

a harpsichord with a pedalboard similar to that of an organ; though no extant instrument survives, harpsichords with pedalboards appear to have been constructed between the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries

Pachelbel: Arietta

pedal piano
Ger. Pedalflügel, Pedalklavier; It. pianoforte con pedaliera;

a piano with a pedalboard similar to that of an organ; in the eighteenth century it was an integral part of the instrument whereas in the nineteenth century, it was normally an independent instrument placed on the floor beneath a grand piano

pedal piano Banner

The Doppio Borgato, a concert grand piano with a second, lower case for a pedal board. It is made by Borgato in Vicenza, Italy.

pedal point
Fr. pédale; Ger. Orgelpunkt; It. pedale

a sustained tone in the lowest register occurring beneath changing harmonies in the upper parts; a similarly sustained tone in an upper part can also be considered a pedal point (sometimes referred to an inverted or internal pedal point)


the pedal keyboard of an organ

Penderecki, Krystof (b. 1933)

Polish composer and conductor

Penitential psalms

Psalms 6, 31 [32], 37 [38], 50 [51], 101 [102], 129 [130] and 142 [143] (see also Psalter)


(1) a scale consisting of five pitches; (2) music based on such a scale

perfect pitch

see absolute pitch

performance marks

words, abbreviations of words and symbols placed alongside the notation of pitches and duration in a musical score to indicate a variety of expressive aspects of performance (including tempo, dynamic, phrasing and articulation, etc.)

performance practice
Ger. Aufführungspraxis

the conventions and knowledge that allow a performer to suggest the commonly applied practices of an earlier time; in general this consists of everything that is not generally notated in the musical score


(1) a complete musical element that is defined by arriving at some sort of cadence; in the later eighteenth century a period is usually defined by consisting of two phrases; (2) a musical element that is in some way repeated


publications issued at regular intervals; music periodicals most often include articles centered on highly focused topics and containing the most recent scholarship

perpetuum mobile
Lat. perpetual motion; It. moto perpetuo

literally "perpetual motion;" distinct compositions or parts of larger compositions that are characterized by having a steady stream of repeated note patterns often in a fast tempo

Pēteris Vasks (b. 1946)

Latvian composer

n. Ger.

fantasia; phantasieren, to improvise

n. Lat.

found in some Ordines romani in the 7th and 8th centuries, a singer


a unit of musical syntax normally forming part of a larger unit (period); a phrase is a regular unit of music produced through a combination of melody, harmony and rhythm and that concludes with some form of relative stability such as a cadence


the realization in performance of the phrase structure of a composition; this is achieved largely through the performer's own realization


one of the system of eight modes in use in Western music from the eighth through the sixteenth centuries, each taking its name from the Greek ordinal numbers (protus, deuterus, tritus, etc.) and distinguishing authentic and plagal forms of each based on the range; phrygian has a final of e with a range of e to e' (see also mode)

piano (abbr. p)
n. It.

(1) soft; (2) a large instrument operated through a keyboard whose strings are struck with hammers

piano arrangement

an arrangement for piano of a work composed for another medium

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (arranged by Liszt)

piano quartet

a quartet consisting of piano an strings (most often piano, violin, viola and cello); rarely a quartet of four pianos

Brahms: Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25

piano reduction

an arrangement for piano of an orchestral or other ensemble work

piano score

a score of an orchestral work notated on two staves in the manner of piano music and often indicating orchestral cues for salient instrumental parts

piano trio

(1) a trio consisting of piano, violin and cello; (2) a work for such a combination of instruments

piano-vocal score

the score of an opera, oratorio or other large ensemble piece in the which the vocal parts are displayed in full and the orchestra part is reduced or arranged for piano (primarily for rehearsal purposes)

n. or adj. It.

(1) piano; (2) as a dynamic mark (abbr. pf), piano immediately followed by forte

Piazzolla, Astor (1921-92)

Argentine composer

picardy third
Fr. tierce de Picardie

the raised or major third of the tonic triad as it appears as the final chord in a work otherwise in the minor mode

Fr. pièce, morceau; Ger. Stück; It. pezzo; Sp. pieza

a composition most often, though not necessarily, for instruments

Fr. hauteur; Ger. Tonhöhe; It. intonazione; Sp. entonación

the characteristic of a musical sound as determined by its fundamental frequency; often measured in the number of oscillations per second (the Herz scale, abbr. Hz.)

pitch class

a pitch without reference to the register of the octave in which it is found; a term most often applied in twelve-tone and serial music

pitch names

the system of naming pitch classes with letters (C, D, E, etc.)




Christian liturgical chant in free rhythm (as distinct from measured music)

plainsong Mass

(1) the Mass in the Gregorian chant repertory; (2) a polyphonic Mass in music the music for each liturgical item is based on an appropriate liturgical chant

plainsong notation

the notation employed for liturgical chant; more specifically the square shaped form of notation common in the twelfth century

plenary Mass

a setting of the Mass that includes both the Ordinary and the Proper

n. Lat. Fold

the name given to the note shape in early music notation


(1) the tip of the violin or similar bow opposite from the end at which it is held; (2) point of imitation

point d'orgue

(1) fermata; (2) cadenza (often indicated with a fermata); (3) used rarely in the seventeenth century to indicate a pedal point


a musical texture in which the pitches are presented in linear isolation from one another (and frequently with varying timbres)

n. It.

polonaise; alla polacca, in the Polish style

n. Fr.

(1) a festive, processional, couple dance of Polish origin in a moderate tempo; (2) a stylized instrumental piece based on the dance


a composition with parts for 2 or more choirs often positioned separately (sometimes referred to as antiphonal)


(1) the simultaneous use of two or more meters; (2) the successive use of different meters in one or more parts

n. Fr. polyphonie; Ger. Mehrstimmigkeit; It. polifonia; Sp. polifonia

music that simultaneously combines more than one line (as distinct from monophony) and in which each line retains to some extent its own identity (as distinct from homophony)


the simultaneous use of two or more rhythms that are unrelated


the simultaneous use of two or more texts in a vocal work; it is a prominent feature of the motet in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries


Definition goes here.

port de voix

a compound vocal ornament beginning below the principal note (usually a step lower) and “carrying the voice" up to a resolution that is also ornamented


a work concluding a larger work or performed at the end of some sort of ceremony

n. Fr., rotten pot, a stew made from leftover meat and vegetables

a compilation of a variety of musical works (sometimes also called a medley); the term appeared in the early eighteenth century applied to miscellaneous collections of songs and by the end of that century for compilations of opera melodies

Poulenc, Francis (1899-1963)

French composer

Praetorius, Michael (1571-1621)

German composer

n. Ger.

see Schneller

n. Lat.


n. Fr. ; Lat. preambulum


n. It.

n aria or chorus in the the character or characters plead for divine assistance; preghiera are most closely associated with nineteenth century Italian upera (they appear in works of Rossin, Veri and others); similar numbers are found in French and German operas

fr. Lat. praeluduere, to play beforehand; Fr. prélude; Ger. Präludium, Preamble, Vorspiel; It., Sp. preludio

(1) a composition whose principal aim is to establish the pitch or key of a piece to follow (this connotation carried well into the nineteenth century when performers often “preluded" before or between pieces to enhance the transition between keys); (2) a short piece intended to command the audiences attention in preface to a larger work; (3) an short, independent work (usually for piano) pioneered by Chopin in his set of 24 preludes (one in each major and minor key), op. 28

prepared piano

a piano whose sound has been altered in advance of performance by inserting a wide variety of materials (nuts, bolts, rubber, cloth, paper, etc.) altering at times the pitch, loudness and especially the timbre

prima donna

the singer of the principal female role in Italian opera; the term was in place by the mid-seventeenth century and has come to connote a singer of strong temperament and arrogance (the corresponding term for a male singer, prima uomo, is rarely used)

prima prattica, seconda prattica
It., first practice, second practice

the prima prattica referred to the older, polyphonic style of the sixteenth century as opposed to the seconda prattica or the new style of monody and treatment of dissonance in the early seventeenth century; this distinction was found in the writings of Zarlino and other theorists

primo, secondo
It., first, second

in a duet (e.g. for piano four hands) the two parts (the primo usually being the upper and more prominent part)

Prix de Rome

a prize for composition handed out by the Académi-Arts in Paris from 1803-1968; the composition entailed writing a cantata on a prescribed libretto and the prize was a four year residence at the Villa Medici in Rome (Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Dutilleux are among the most prominent composers to be awarded the prize

Lat. processionale

a musical work performed during a procession at the beginning of a ceremony

program music
fr. Fr. musique à programme; Ger. Programmusik

purely instrumental music that is inspired by some non-musical or extra-musical idea, concept, emotion or object; examples are few and far between prior to the nineteenth century when it became enormously popular, finding expression in everything from works for solo piano to the explicitly programmatic genre of symphonic poem; literature (especially works of German Romantic literature) was the primary source of inspiration for nineteenth century composers, however just about anything could possibly be connected with a programmatic musical work

Prokofiev, Sergei (1891-1953)

Russian composer

n. Lat. prolatio

see also mensural notation


the preface or introduction to a dramatic stage work often intended to provide background or reference on what is to follow

Lat. Proparium

those items of the Mass and Office whose text and melodies vary with the occasion (as distinct from those texts that remain the same throughout the church year); in liturgical books such texts are arranged to reflect the cycles of feasts in the liturgical year (the Proper of the Time)

Proper of the Time

the calendar of of the Roman Catholic Church; it is centered around the two major events of Advent and Easter

n. Lat. proportio

in mensural notation, a ratio espressing the relationship between the rhythmic relationship between notes before the ratio and those following; a proportion is therefore used to indicate augmentation or diminution

n. Lat.; Fr. prose

a term used in many medieval sources (especially those of French or English origin) for the text added to the extended melisma (or sequentia) that followed the verse of the Alleluia in the Mass (see also sequence); although the term sequence is often used for the resulting combination of words and music, the word prose is frequently found in the French language


all features of a language invovlving stress, pitch and length of syllables; variations in prosodic features occur

n. Lat.

the medieval term for the texts added to the internal melismas of certain liturgical chants of the Mass and, less frequently, of the Office; the process involved (adding text to pre-existing melody) is related to sequence or prosa (the word itself is a diminutive form of prosa)

Gr. psalmos; Lat., psalmus; Fr. psaume; Ger. Psalm; It., Sp. salmo

a sacred song of the type found in the Old Testament book of Psalms

psalm tone

a melodic formula to which the psalms and certain other texts are sung; the use of such melodic formulas is linked to the eight modes; the earliest source of the tones is preserved in a treatise of teh tenth century, the Commemoratio brevis de tonis et psalmis modulandis


the practice of singing psalms and other forms of chant in the Jewish and Christian traditions; the singing of the book of Psalms (ascribed by tradition to David) together with similar psalmic texts formed an important part of Jewish liturgical observances at the Temple of Jerusalem


a translation of the 150 Hebrew biblical psalms arranged for Christian liturgical or devotional use; the text was translated into Greek in the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C.E. (know as the Septuagint) from which all Latin liturgical psalters (including the Old Latin and the Vulgate versions) were derived; a second version (known as the Masoretic Hebrew text) dates from the 6th to 10th centuries C.E., in which Psalm 9 in the Septuagint was divided into Psalms 9 and 10, and Psalms 146 and 147 were combined, making the numbering of the psalms between 10 and 146 one digit higher in the Septuagint version

Puccini, Giacomo (1858-1924)

Italian composer

Purcell, Henry (1659-95)

English composer

Pythagorean comma

the discrepancy (approximately 24 cents) occuring between two enharmonic pitches (e.g. c and b-sharp) when pure perfect fifths are consecutively stacked

Pythagorean scale (intonation)

a system of tuning in which the 4ths and 5ths are untempered; a distinguishing feature of this tuning is that the major 2nds and 3rds are larger, and minor 2nds and 3rds smaller than in other tuning systems

n. Fr.

a dance for four or more couples popular in the nineteenth century and consisting of five sections in either 2/4 or 6/8

n. Lat.

a term applied by Boethius in the early Middle Ages the subject of which were (1) arithmetic (2) geometry (3) astronomy (4) music representing the upper group of the seven liberal arts (the lower group known as the trivium comprised grammar, logic and rhetoric)

quarter tone

an interval equal to half of a half step

Ives: From Three Quarter Tone Pieces (1924), II: Allegro

Fr.quatour; Ger. Quartett; Ital. quartetto

a chamber composition for four solo performers; an ensemble of four performers

n. Fr. quintette, quintour; Ger. Quintett; Ital. quintetto

a chamber composition for five solo performers; an ensemble of five performers


what you please; a composition in which familiar melodies are placed simultaneously or in succession as a display of humor or virtuosity

Rachmaninoff, Sergei (1873-1943)

Russian composer and pianist

Rameau, Jean-Philippe (1683-1764)

French composer and theorist


a row of pipes, one for each note of the organ keyboard, which make up a stop

ranz des vaches
(Ger. Kuhreihen)

a type of Swiss melody occasionally sung but most often played on an Alphorn by herdsmen to call their cows; the ranz des vaches is often associated with loneliness (as in the third movement of Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14) or homesickness as in Le mal du pays, the eighth piece of Franz Liszt's collection of pieces based on his journey through Switzerland, the first volume of the Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage)

rappresentazione sacre
It. sacra rappresentazione

in the sixteenth century a religious play with music and an antecedent of oratorio


the study of musical staving; before the advent of printed staff paper in the nineteenth century, the musical staff was most often drawn using a rastrum


a five pointed pen used to draw a musical staff

Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)

French composer


a program given by one or a small number of performers (often with an accompanist); the term was first used by Liszt for a series of memorized performances in London in 1840

Chinese-American pianist Lang-Lang performs a recital in the Musikvereinsaal in Vienna, Austria

n. Fr. récitative; Ger. Rezitativ; It., Sp. recitativo

a style of text setting that closely imitates the inflection and rhythm of natural speech; the term is used most often in connection with dramatic music (opera, oratorio and cantata) and has been used widely since the seventeenth century

reciting tone

see Psalm tone

n. Fr. réduction

an arrangement usually for piano of a work originally for orchestra of other ensemble

n. Fr. refrain; Ger. Kehrreim; It. ritornello, ripresa; Sp. estribillo

text and/or music that is repeated at regular intervals during the course of a larger form


Reger, Max (1873-1916)

German composer

n. Fr.

the stage manager of a theatrical production


a specific segment of the total range of pitches available; it can also refer to specific ranges (soprano, alto, etc.)


in organ and harpsichord playing, the specific selection of stops (registers) employed in the performance of a work


the adjustment of the mechanism of a piano or harpsichord to ensure consistency of touch and sound

Reich, Steve (b. 1936)

American composer

adj. Ger.

(1) with respect to intervals, acoustically pure (reine Stimmung); (2) perfect

relative pitch

the ability to recognize musical intervals or to notate music by ear alone without the ability to recognize specific pitches (absolute pitch)

n. Fr.


(1) the repetition of a musical idea or section of a work; (2) the aspect of the action of a piano which allows for rapid repetition of the same note

n. Fr.

a literal or varied repetition of a music idea or section of a work

Requiem (Mass)
n. Lat.

the Mass for the Dead (Missa pro defunctis) so-called after the first words of its Introit, “Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine" (“Grant to them eternal rest, O Lord"); though part of the liturgy since the early Middle Ages, it was not confirmed as part of the liturgy until the Council of Trent (1545-63); the term has been applied at times more liberally from the 19th century forward for any composition in honor of the dead

Mozart: Requiem, K. 626

rescue opera

a category of opéra -comique popular at the turn of the nineteenth century in which the hero or heroine is threatened (and often imprisoned) by an unjust ruler (or other villain or natural catastrophe) and is rescued at the last moment


a progression from a dissonant tone or harmony to one that is considered consonant

Respighi, Ottorino (1879-1936)

Italian composer


a short text to be spoken or sung by a congregation or choir in reply to a versicle

n. Fr.

answer in a fugue

responsorial singing

singing, especially in liturgical chant, characterized by a soloist or group of soloists singing in alternation with a choir (see also Psalmody)


a type of chant common to Gregorian and other Western chant repertories generally in connection with responsorial Psalmody; responsories generally fall into categories of great and short; the great responsories are a feature of Matins in the Office (where they are associated with lessons or readings from Scripture); they are also sung at Vespers on solemn feast days; the short responsories are sung following the short readings or chapters of the lesser hours and in Compline in the secular Office and at Lauds and Vespers in the monastic Office


backward; e.g. beginning with the last note and ending with the first; the device can be found in canons as early as the fourteenth century and is a common feature in twelve-tone music

retrograde inversion

backward and upside down; it is a common feature in twelve-tone music


from the nineteenth century a theatrical production featuring a succession of songs, dances and other types of entertainment in a generally light and often humorous context

Revueltas, Silvestre (1899-1940)

Mexican composer


(1) a section of an epic poem that is separately recited; (2) from the nineteenth century forward an instrumental piece (most often for piano) with no fixed form, content or compositional method akin to improvisation

Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, S. 244/2

rhymed Office

a form of the Office usually for the feast day of a local saint in which the antiphons and responsories have rhymed, metrical texts (see also historia)


the pattern of movement in time

rhythmic modes

a set of six rhythmic patterns taken by thirteenth century theorists from the musical practice at the School of Notre Dame; each mode had a characteristic combination of long (longa) and short (brevis) notes; the rhythmic modes represent one of the first and widely used methods for notating the duration of notes in Western music

ricercar, ricercare
n. fr. It. ricercare; Fr. recherché; Ger. Ricercar

an instrumental composition of the sixteenth and seventeenth century of which two distinct types existed side-by-side: (1) a rhapsodic form in a mostly homophonic texture; (2) a polyphonic form that embraced contrapuntal devices and is an immediate forerunner of the fugue; the ricercar often had a preludial function and could frequently appear under the titles prelude, fancy, tiento and fantasia

J. S. Bach: Ricercar a 6 from Das Musikalische Opfer (The Musical Offering, BWV 1079

rigaudon, rigodon
n. Fr.

a light dance movement in duple meter common in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; it typically has a quarter note upbeat, four measure phrases in binary form


acronym for Répetoire international des littérature musicale; it contains information and brief abstracts for articles in a wide variety of international periodicals since 1967

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai (1844-1908)

Russian composer

n. It.

played with doubled parts (see also tutti); in a concerto grosso it refers to the large ensemble (as distinct from the soloists)

n. It.

(1) repeat, repetition; (2) refrain; (3) in some 16th and 17th century dances a short instrumental passage occurring in conjunction with repetitions of the principal sections (see also ritornello)


see musica reservata


acronymn for Répetoire international des sources musicales; RISM is an ongoing online and print resource cataloging all known source materials from Greek Antiquity through the 20th century

n. It.

stanza of poetry consisting of eight 11 syllable lines with the rhyme scheme abababcc or ababccdd; poems of this type were set polyphonically in the fourteenth century and in the frottola repertory of the fifteenth and sixteenth century

n. It. small return

(1) in the fourteenth century madrigal and caccia the final couplet of the 8 or 11 line poem; (2) in the seventeenth century a (usually) recurring instrumental section of an opera, cantata, strophic aria or other vocal work; (3) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the recurring tutti section of a concerto or a da capo aria

ritornello form

the characteristic form of the first (and often last) movement of the concerto in the eighteenth century founded on alternation of tutti (ritornello) and solo sections; ritornello form can also be found in concerto-based works (such as many choruses in Bach's cantatas) or in works lacking the tuttli/solo contrasts (e.g. sonatas) in which it refers to the recurrence of the principal theme in a variety of keys


a term coined by musician Peter Wylie (b. 1958) to imply the superiority of rock music over other sorts of "benign" popular music; see also poptimism


(fr. Fr. rocaille, rockwork) : a style of French visual arts from the end of the seventeenth century through the 1760s; it is sometimes applied to French music of the same time frame, particularly smaller scale lute and harpsichord pieces

Rodrigo, Joaquin (1901-99)

Spanish composer and pianist

Roman chant

Old Roman Chant; Gregorian chant


(1) (Sp.) : a poetic form from the fourteenth century characterized by having stanzas of 8 syllable lines; examples from the later 16th century sometimes incorporate a refrain; (2) (Fr.) beginning in the eighteenth century a lyrical, strophic poem on an amorous or epic subject, or a musical setting of such a poem


a harmonic bass line widely used for the composition of arie per cantar and dance variations from the middle of the sixteenth through the seventeenth centuries


a term loosely and often broadly applied to music of the nineteenth century; the origins of the movement are found in the literary movement of German romanticism which began in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and slowly wound its way into music in the first quarter of the nineteenth century; it is often a stretch to apply it to music composed in the second half of the nineteenth century except to view it as a long enduring movement which reaches its culmination in the exaggerations and excesses of early twentieth century expressionism

romantic Banner

n. It.

a term used by Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi for a somewhat more intimate and less elaborate piece than an aria

n. Ger.

(1) in the 18th century the term was frequently used interchangeably with ballade; often folk-like in nature it was frequently found in the Singspiel; (2) in the 18th and 19th centuries a generally lyrical instrumental work in a somewhat slow tempo and ABA form

Fr. pl. rondeaux

(1) (Fr.) : one of the three formes fixes (fixed forms) which dominated French secular poetry and music in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; in its most characteristic form the rondeau has 8 lines in the pattern ABaAabAB (capital letters indicating a refrain); (2) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a simple refrain form usually found in dance movements

n. Lat.

(1) in medieval treatises the Latin equivalent of rondeau; (2) in thirteenth century England, a technique of composition for three voices based on voice exchange or a piece exhibiting this technique

n. It.

a multi-sectional form, movement or composition based on the principle of any number of recurrences of a theme or section in the tonic key; in a standard rondo the principal theme (known as refrain or rondo) alternates with secondary sections usually called episodes; all statements of the refrain are usually in the tonic key (an important distinction from ritornello form); a typical rondo scheme is ABACA; independent rondos, occasionally with slow introductions, were common in the later eighteenth century

Rossini, Gioachino (1792-1868)

Italian composer


a perpetual canon at the unison


(1) a composition having two sections, the second fo which features a return to the material of the first (as in rounded binary form); (2) a composition in which the two principal sections conclude with the same material

n. of Fr. rondelet

in the fourteenth century, rondeau

n. It. tempo rubato, stolen time

the practice in performance of intentionally altering the rhythmic values and/or pulse of a phrase or other brief musical passage by accelerating or slowing down the tempo as an expressive device


a harmonic bass of Italian provenance popular from the mid-sixteenth through the seventeenth century

n. Sp.

arrow; a spontaneous song sung for a passing religious statue or float (most often the Virgin Mary or Jesus) during the procession of Holy Week

Saint-Saëns, Camille (1835-1921)

French organist and composer

Salieri, Antonio (1750-1825)

Italian composer, conductor and teacher

n. It.

a lively dance of Italian heritage; a number of salterelli survive from the fourteenth century; in the sixteenth century it was all but indistinguishable from the gagliarda; it appears stylized in the fourth and final movement in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 (“Italian")

n. Lat.

the feasts of the saints in the liturgical year

n. Fr. : It. sarabanda; Sp. zarabanda

a slow and majestic dance in triple meter characterized by an accented dotted note on the second beat

Handel: Sarabande in D Minor, HWV 437

Satie, Erik (1866-1925)

French composer


a collection of pitches arranged in order from lowest to highest, or highest to lowest; the use of organized scales has been of special importance in Western music

scale degrees

the numbered position of individual pitches within a scale

Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660-1725)

Italian composer

Scarlatti, Domenico (1685-1757)

Italian composer

n. It.

the stage or scene; the subdivision of an act of an opera


an outline for a libretto

n. It.

in the seventeenth century, a vocal or instrumental work light in character; in the eighteenth century a movement of a suite or other multimovement work quick and light in character; from the nineteenth century onward a movement in a symphonically structured work usually rapid in tempo and in 3/4 meter ranging in character form humorous to diabolical (it can also be a stand alone composition embracing the same musical characteristics

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Movement III: Scherzo. Presto - Assai meno presto (trio)

n. Ger.

an 18th century ornament invovling rapid alternation between the principal note and the note immediately above (performed as a short trill); the Schneller was introduced after 1750 by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88)

schola (cantorum)
n. Lat.

chool of singers; the body of singers in the Papal Court in Rome , possibly founded as early as the papacy of St. Gregory (r. 590-604) it was dissolved in the late fourteenth century and replaced by the papal choir

Schönberg, Arnold (1874-1971)

Austrian composer

Schubert, Franz (1797-1828)

Austrian composer

Schumann, Robert (1810-56)

German composer

Schütz, Heinrich (1585-1672)

German composer

n. It.

unconventional tuning of stringed instruments, particularly lutes and violins, it was used to make available difficult or impossible pitch combinations, alter the timbre of the instrument and to reinforce certain tonalities by making them available on open strings, a common practice in the seventeenth century it fell out of favor by the mid-eighteenth century

partition (Fr.); Partitur (Ger.); partitura (Ital.)

the notation of a musical work, especially for ensemble, in which all the parts are simultaneously aligned vertically with each voice or part notated on its own staff


the combination of instruments found in a work, or the characteristic treament of those instruments (see also orchestration)

Scriabin, Alexander (1872-1915)

Russian composer

adj. or adv. It.

dry (see also recitative)

n. It.

a sign (§) used to mark the beginning or end of a repeated section

n. It.

follows; an indication that the next section of a work should follow immediately without pause; an instruction to continue in a manner of execution that is at first written out in full but thereafter abbreviated (see also attacca)

n. Eng.

a form of English stage entertainment in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century in which the principal characters only employed speech with elaborate musical scenes given over to lesser characters

adv. or adj. It.

without (senza sordino, without mute)

n. Fr.septour; Ger. Septett; It. septeto

a chamber composition for seven solo performers; an sensemble of seven performers

Sepulchrum play

a liturgical drama set at the holy sepulchre (place of burial)


(1) the repetition of a melody (melodic sequence) and/or harmony (harmonic sequence) at different pitch levels (the pitch levels rising or falling by the same or similar intervals); (2) (Lat. sequential) in the Middle Ages the earliest sequences consisted of new text added to an extended verion of the jubilus, or alleluia melisma (sung after the alleluia verse), the term prosa was applied to the added words; sequences began to appear in the 9th century and became of great importance in the later Middle Ages as prose (and later poetic) sacred Latin texts set to music that often became independent compositions (most often sung in the Mass after the alleluia); thousands of sequences were composed in the later Middle Ages but all but 4 were expurged from the Roman Catholic Church during the Council of Trent (1545-63)

n. Lat.

in the Middle Ages, the textless melody to which a text (prosa) was fitted in order to create what is today called a sequence


a vocal or instrumental work generally intended for performance in the evening and addressed to a lover, friend or person of special rank; an especially popular form of instrumental composition in the eighteenth century the term is applied more loosely thereafter for instrumental works often in the nature of a suite

Mozart: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525,

n. It.

a cantata composed to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday of a prince or the arrival of a special visitor

serial music

music constructed in which one or a group of elements is placed in a certain order (or series); these elements may include pitches, durations or virtually any other musical values; the term is commonly applied to Schönberg's twelve-tone system of music composition

Schönberg: Fünf Klavierstücke (Five Piano Pieces), Op.23, 5. Waltzer


(1) in Anglo-American music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a through-composed setting of a metrical text; (2) in a musico-dramatic work a composition (e.g. an aria) that is musically self contained

n. Fr.sextette, sextour; Ger. Sextett; Ital. sexteto

a chamber composition for six solo performers; an ensemble of six performers

n. It. abbr.. sf., sfz.

forced, accented (usually applied to a single pitch or chord)




a form of notation found in tune books and hymnals in the U.S. (especially in the South and Midwest) introduced in 1801 and still in use in which the shape of the note head indicates the solmization syllabes corresponding to that note

Shostakovich, Dmitri (1906-75)

Russian composer

Sibelius, Jean (1865-1957)

Finnish composer


two or more pitches sounded simultaneously

simultaneous composition

a term sometimes applied to the newer style of music in the fifteenth century (as distinct from the successive style of composition which characterizes much of the polyphony of the later Middle Ages) in which composers display concern with the vertical aspects (harmony) of the music (this can also be seen in the gradual shift from choirbook notation to score notation

n. It., pl. sinfonie

(1) symphony; (2) in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries an alternate designation of sonata or canzona (especially a trio or other ensemble sonata); (3) in seventeenth and eighteenth century operas and other extended vocal works, an instrumental piece functioning as a prelude, overture, interlude or postlude

Handel: From Messiah, HWV 56, Sinfonia

sinfonia concertante

see symphonie concertante

sinfonie pastorale

see pastoral symphony

n. It.

an orchestral work in the manner of a symphony but on a smaller scale (and often for a smaller orchestra)

singing bowl

n. Ger.

a musico-dramatic work with the German text, especially from the 18th and early 19th centuries in which spoken dialogue alternates with song and/or ensembles, choruses and other extended pieces

Mozart: Die Zauberflōte (The Magic Flute), K. 620

n. Prov.

a type of strophic troubadour poem based on topics such as politics, literary satire, current events and the crusades (but not on love)


a composer's autograph notation of a work in progress

Smetana, Bedřich (1824-84)

Czech composer

societies, musical
Ger. Gesellschaft, Verein

organizations of people with common artistic or scholarly goals whose activities are governed by a constitution and a set of bylaws

sociology of music

the study of the relationship between music and society; it is dependent on a blend of traditional sociology, musicology and philosophy

n. Ger.

immediately, attacca

soft pedal

see una corda

n. It.

subject, theme; in the sixteenth century it referred to the melody used in a canon; by the eighteenth century it referred to the type of fugue subject found in the ricercar (a subject form of relatively few notes in long durations)

soggetto cavato (dalla parole)
It., subject carved from the words

a musical melody or motto derived from text by using solmization syllables which correspond to the words in the text (e.g. B-A-C-H); the term was coined the sixteenth century theorist Gioseffo Zarlino (1517-90) in Le institutione harmoniche (1559)

n. Fr.; It.. solfeggio

(1) from the seventeenth century, a textless vocal exercie (at first in Italian, it appeared later in French); (2) from the late eighteenth century to the present, a system of singing scales, intervals and melodic exercises to solmization syllables; the term has also been applied to the teaching of all basic musical skills (especially in France)


the designation of pitches by means of conventional syllables rather than letter names; many of the principal cultures of the world have systems of solmization; the syllables most commonly used in Western cultures today are do (doh), re, mi, fa, sol, la and si (or ti)

n. It., alone

a work for a single instrument without accompaniment or in which that instrument is prominently features throughout even with accompaniment

n. It.

a work for one or more solo instruments, usually in several movements, popular from the seventeenth century onward; in its earliest use it was a general term for any work involving instruments (sonatas from the sixteenth century could include the voice as well); sonatas in the 17th century were comprised of both dance collections and works composed in an abstract style and by the mid-seventeenth century the distinction between the sonata da camera (the dance suite) and the sonata da chiesa (in an abstract style) became clear, both often composed for chamber groups (such as the trio sonata);

Beethoven: Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 (

sonata da camera
It., chamber sonata or court sonata

a work for chamber ensemble popular from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries; written primarily for string instruments (with basso continuo) characterized as having an introductory movement followed usually by 2-4 stylized dance movements

sonata da chiesa
It., church sonata

sonata form

the most widely used form found in instrumental music since the later eighteenth century; despite the designation, it is a formal structure that takes place in a single movement (as distinct from across a multi-movement sonata); it is not only found commonly in sonatas, but in myriad other instrumental works as well (string quartets, symphonies, etc.); as sonata form emerged in the later eighteenth century it was an outgrowth of the common binary form in which the first part (A) was tonally organized around a modulationg from tonic to dominant (or possibly other related key) and the second part (B) returned from dominant to tonic (at times closing with the same material as found in the A section); this two part tonally organized construction can be found in the sonata form movements of Mozart; in the nineteenth century the view of the form moved from having two parts to having three (exposition, development, recapitulation) in which the exposition was usually repeated (a throwback to the binary form), the development was much more harmonically adventurous and the recapitulation was far from a literal reprise of the exposition; Beethoven did much toward establishing the sonata form as it has remained by often expanding the development section and at times placing an extended coda after the recapitulation (which at times can be viewed as a second development section)

sonata-rondo form

a hybrid combination of sonata and rondo form (found in some works of Haydn and Beethoven)

song form
Ger. Liedform

ternary form, ABA


(1) a fear or aversion to loud sounds; (2) it can also refer to a fear of voices including one's own voice


n. It.

(1) mute; (2) damper; (3) clavichord


in the sixteenth and seventeenth a type of improvised counterpoint (as distinct from compositio, composed counterpoint)

sostenuto pedal

on a moderm grand piano with three pedals it is the center pedal which causes to remain undamped only those strings whose keys are depressed at the moment when it is depressed; it is most often used to sustain pedal points


in opera, particular comic opers of the eighteenth century, a saucy, flirtatous female servant of lady's made often involved in some intrigue

sound collage

sound healing

see also vibrational medicine



the most well known of the fifteenth century italian bassedanze melodies that was widely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth century as a cantus firmus for many instrumental (and a few vocal) compositions

species counterpoint

a method of instruction in sixteenth century counterpoint in which the nature of contrapuntal relationships was categorized into 5 species; it was first expounded by Johann Joseph Fux in his Gradus ad Parnassum (1725)

spectral music


a religious folk song of the U.S. which has it origins in the nineteenth century and was cultivated by both whites and blacks; (1) among whites the term was most often applied to songs that were intended for use in revival meetings; (2) the term is no mostly often associated with the religious songs of blacks beginning in the nineteenth century

Negro Spiritual:

Spohr, Louis (1784-1859)

German composer

n. Ger., speaking voice, speech-song

a type of singing between speech and song pioneered by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck in his Königslieder (1879) but it is most associated with Schönberg who employed it in a number of vocal compositions

Schōnberg: Excerpt from Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21

square neumes

squared shaped neumes that became common practice during the twelfth century and were used to notate both sacred polyphony and some secular monophony in the later Middle Ages

square notation

notation employing predominantly square shapes most often found in the repertory of the School of Notre Dame

St. Martial, repertory of

a large body of manuscripts dating from the 9th through the 12 centuries which wound up in the monastery library of St. Martial of Limoges (France) though few appear to have originated there; the collection is most notable for its tropes and sequences; polyphonic repertoire associated with St. Martial dates from the 11th and 12 centuries; the St. Martial repertory is also notable for its cultivation (both monophonic and polyphonic) of the versus (a strophic setting of rhymed Latin poetry sometimes thought to be a precursor of conductus)

staff, stave

a group of equidistant horizontal lines (usually 5) on which notes are placed to indicate pitch

stile rappresentativo

a style of singing which was a feature of the early operas of the sixteenth century that is more expressive than speech but does not qualify as song; it was a precursor of recitatve in which melodies move over a simple chordal framework

Still, William Grant (1895-1978)

American composer

n. Ger.

(1) mood, Stimmungsbild (mood picture, impression); (2) tuning, intonation, reine Stimmung (just intonation)


Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928-2007)

German composer


(1) on an organ, a row of pipes (one for each key); mixture stops have two or more pipes for each key

Strauss, Johann II (1825-99)

Austrian composer

Strauss, Richard (1864-1949)

German composer

Stravinsky, Igor (1882-1971)

Russian composer

string quartet

a composition for a group of four solo string instruments (usually two violins, one viola, one cello); since the second half of the eighteenth century it has been the most widely cultivated and influential chamber music genre

Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131

string quintet

a composition for five solo string instruments

string trio

a composition for three solo string instruments


(1) a poem comprised of verses (strophes) all with the same number o flines, rhyme scheme and meter; (2) a musical setting of a strophic text with repetition of the same music for each strophe (as distrinct from through composed)

strophic variations

(1) a seventeenth century aria in which the bass line remains the same for each stanza (strophe) of the text; (2) in instrumental music of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, a set of theme and variations which retains the structure of the theme (in particular the harmonic aspects) throughout each variation

n. It.

a musical instrument (e.g. s. a corde, stringed instrument)


see étude

Sturm und Drang
Ger., storm and stress

a German literary movement of the later 18th century characterized by powerful, even violent expression of emotion whose application to similar musical works in the same time period should be applied in only the most guarded manner

style brisé
Fr., broken style

a musical texture in which melodic lines are subservient to broken chords and rhythms that they create; it is most commonly found in seventeenth century French lute music and some keyboard music


a melody or motive on which a composition (or portion thereof) is based; this term is most often used in conjunction with the fugue or other contrapuntal forms such ass the ricercar

successive composition

a type of compositional process in which parts are added in succession over a (usually pre-existing) part with little regard for the harmonic result; this term is often applied to much of the polyphonic music of the later Middle Ages (as distinct from what is usually termed simultaneous composition, a term often applied to music of the later fifteenth and sixteenth century written with much more regard for the harmonic implications of each part and which corresponds roughly with the movement towards notating compositions in score, where all the parts are displayed together, as opposed to notation the individual parts separately


intercessory prayers; most often a series of liturgical intercessory petitions spoken by the officiant and answered by the people

n. Fr., succession, following

a series of instrumental movements usually unified by being in the same key and most often comprised of stylized dances; the origins of the suite are found in the sixteenth century practice of pairing two contrasting dances and by the early eighteenth century frequently had the allemande (not a dance), courante, saraband and gigue as the progression of movements at the core of the suite (though exceptions abound); J.S. Bach was the last major composer to cultivate the genre, writing more than forty suites (for keyboard, plucked string instruments, solo violin and without known precedent, for the solo cello); the orchestral suite followed the same basic pattern of construction


one of the three common settings of text in liturgical chant characterized as having essentially one pitch per syllable of text (see also neumatic and melismatic)


(1) in Ancient Greek musical theory, the unison; (2) in later Greek and medieval theory, a consonance (as distinct from diaphonia, dissonance); (3) in the Middle Ages, any of several instruments including the drum, hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe; (4) in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, sinfonia

symphonic poem
Fr. poème symphonique; Ger. symphonische Dichtung

a generally single movement work for orchestra that is programmatic in nature; the genre had its origins in the programmatic concert overture of Mendelssohn and others, but Liszt was its first major exponent (composing 13 in all) and coining the term (in German) on the score for his work Tasso (1854); many later nineteenth century composers made at least one contribution to the genre which reached its culmination in the works of Richard Strauss, many of which are on a considerably larger scale (and often divided into sections); in a few cases composers (Smetana, Holst) wrote cycles consisting of a number of symphonic poems held together by a common theme

symphonie concertante

in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a type of concerto with (usually) two or more soloists (strings or winds) and orchestra; although designated a symphony, it is closely allied with the history of the concerto; such works became rare during the course of the nineteenth century, with the few exceptions no longer retaining the designation (e.g. Beethoven's Triple Concerto for piano, violin and cello or Brahms's Double Concerto for violin and cello)

n. Lat. symphonia, sounding together, concordant

a multi-movement work for orchestra; although ostensibly habitating the realm of absolute music, many symphonies of the nineteenth century are programmatic and may also include parts for voice, chorus or solo instrument; the genre began to emerge in the 1720s, at which time it took its name from the Italian opera sinfonia, but with important distinctions from that form; the early symphony was usually cast in three movements, fast-slow-fast, and composed for a string orchestra with the requisite basso continuo


a momentary contradiction of the prevailing meter or pulse; it may be an interruption of the progression of strong and weak beats or in the manner of temporary suspension of the character of the meter (see also hemiola)


a instrumenta that produces sounds by purely electronic means

n. Fr. tablature; Ger. Tabulatur; It. intavolatura

a type of musical notation which uses letters, numerals or diagrams to specify pitches in reference to the playing technique of a certain instrument

n. Lat.

beat (in the fifteenth and sixteenth century)

n. Ger.

music intended to be performed at a banquet or dinner, a widely used term in the 17th and 18th centuries

n. Ger.


n. Sp.

an Argentine genre of urban song and dance music whose popularity continues unabated since the twentieth century; it is believed to have originated in the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in the later nineteenth century and the dance, for couples in tight embrace, is characterized by almost violent movements and the sung tango are often highly emotional, sentimental and at times intensely negative; the music of the tango is frequently in the minor mode and features abrupt rhythmic and dynamic contrasts

Piazolla: Libertango, arranged for piano and percussion

n. It. from Taranto

a lively dance from southern Italy which first appeared in the 18th century; it is typically cast in a rapid, accelerating 6/8 meter with shilfts between major and minor; it has been especially favored by a number of composers of the nineteenth century (e.g. Chopin, Liszt, Heller, etc.) most of whose contributions are for the piano

Liszt: From Venezia e Napoli, S. 159, III: Tarantella

Tavener, John (1944-2013)

English composer

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Il’yich (1840-93)

Russian composer

n. or adj. It.

(1) in the seventeenth century another name for allemande; (2) around 1800 it signified a German dance; (3) alla tedesca, in the German style

Telemann, Georg Philipp (1681-1767)

German composer

n. Ger. Temperatur; It. temperamento, sistema participato

(1) the modification of an acoustically pure of just interval (see also just itonation); (2) any scale or specifically system of tuning which employs such intervals; temperaments became practical for transposition and modulation on instruments from the sixteenth century forward

n. It., time

the speed at which music is performed; most tempo markings used by composers worldwide writing in the Western musical tradition are in the Italian language

tempo marks

indications placed in a musical score to provide guidance as to the proper tempo for the music; tempo markings were rarely applied by composers before the later eighteenth century; tempo markings are almost universally expressed in Italian language (with some notable exceptions being some later nineteenth century German and especially French composers who placed tempo markings in their native languages

n. Lat.

in the liturgical year the feasts of the Time (principally those commemorating events in the life of Jesus)


in mensural notation the relationship between the brevis and the semibrevis; when shorter note values were introduced in the fourteenth century , the brevis became an a relatively long note

n. Lat., darkness

in the Roman rite, the service of Matins and Lauds on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy Week; the Lamentations and “Miserere" are prominent parts of the service


tenor Mass

a polyphonic Mass of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries based on a cantus-firmus placed in the tenor voice

n. Prov.; Fr. tenson, debat

a form of troubadour and trouvère poetry in which two or more poets exchange opposing views on a given topic; usually the dialogue alternates stanza by stanza between the participants, with each strophe employing an identical poetic structure

ternary form

a ternary form consists of three parts (usually A-B-A, but possibly A-B-C); the form is based on the concept of contrast between the sections in the form of key, meter, tempo or any combination thereof

n. Ger.; It. terzetto

a vocal work for three voices with or without accompaniment; three part writing was the norm from the later twelfth century through the fifteenth century; opera, oratorio, cantata and related genres of the seventeenth century frequently employed three part vocal ensembles accompanied by continuo (or later orchestra)

n. It.

the particular range of a part or register (especially in vocal music) which is exploited in a given piece (as opposed to the total range possible in such a part)


four pitches; the Greater Perfect System of Greek Antiquity was constructed out of tetrachords which spanned the length of a perfect fourth and enclosed two notes whose pitches varied among the three genera (enharmonic, diatonic, chromatic)


the general pattern of sound created by the combination of elements in a musical passage; common musical textures include monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic and heterophonic

thematic catalog (index)

a list of compositions in a collection or the work of one composer which presents the opening notes of the music as the primary means of identification

thematic transformation

the presentation of a theme in a recognizable manner yet in a new manner of delivery, guise or affect; first essayed in Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy for Solo Piano, in C Major, D. 760, vaguely akin to variation technique, the idea became popular among some nineteenth century composers, mostly notably Liszt in his symphonic poems and Wagner in his music dramas

Liszt: Les préludes, S. 97


the abstract pinciples underlying musical sound, structure and syntax; theory has traditionally encompaased the propertires of pitch, duration, timbre as well as the collective sounds of acoustics, tuning (temperaments), intervals, consonance and dissonance, scales, modes, melodies, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, meter, form and analysis

Thomson, Virgil (1896-1989)

American composer

thoroughbass, figured bass
Fr. basse continue, chiffrée; Ger. Generalbass, bezziferter Bass: It. basso continuo; Sp. baso cifrado

an independent bass line found continually (hence continuo) throughout a piece over which harmonies are realized on chord playing (usually keyboard or plucked string instruments); individual chords may be specified by the composer through means of figures placed above, below or beside the notes (hence, figured bass); the use of thoroughbass was essential to ensemble music of every sort from approximately 1600 to at least 1750, being found considerably longer after that time in the genres of opera and concerto (in the former where it lingered well into the nineteenth century)

three part form

ternary form; sometimes also called song form (see also ternary form)

through-composed form
Ger. Durchkomponiert

a composition constructed without the use of repetition or contrast used specifically to establish formal structure; such a form is commonly employed in nineteenth century programmatic music and in songs in which the poems are of irregular structure (as dinstinct from strophic)


(1) tone color or quality; (2) a melody (usually an unknown or popular one) that is used for different texts; the term came into use in the late eighteenth century

title card

fr. It. toccare, to touch

a virtuoso composition most often for keyboard (or less often for plucked string instrument or other forces) that is typically section, somewhat improvisatory and with or without fugal interludes (toccatas that do not contain a fugue were often paired with a succeeding a fugue in the early eighteenth century)

J. S. Bach: Organ Toccata in F Major, BWV 540/1


a composition in honor of someone deceased (or later) in hommage to, someone or something from the past (see also lament)


in Western music the organization of tones in reference to a central tone (tonality); the system of tonality in use in Western music since the early eighteenth century embraces twelve major and minor keys, each centered around the twelve pitches of the equal-tempered scale

n. Lat. tonarium, tonarius, tonale

a medieval liturgical book (often incorporated into other books such as an antiphoner or gradual, or even theoretical treatises) in which chants from the Gregorian repertory are classified and listed by mode; such classification was of great practical value before the introduction of notation in the 11th century that was precise with regard to actual pitch

n. Fr. ton; Ger. Ton; It., Sp. tono

(1) a sound of definite pitch; (2) the interval of a whole step; (3) the character of sound of a particular instrument; (4) (Lat. tonus) a psalm tone or other formula for singing a liturgical chant

tone cluster

a jarring, dissonant collection of closely spaced pitches; on the piano, it is achieved through use of the fingers, fist or arm; the term was coined by American Composer Henry Cowell (1897-1965) who used it considerably in his own music

tone color
Fr., Eng. timbre; Ger. Klangfarbe; It. timbro, colore; Sp. timbre, color

the character of a sound distinct from its pitch, it is largely (though not entirely) a function of the relative strengths of the harmonics present in that tone

tone poem

see symphonic poem

tone row

see twelve-tone music

n. Lat., fr. Gr. tonos

Torke, Michael (b. 1961)

American composer

n. Lat.,tractus

in Gregorian chant, an item in the Proper of the Mass that is sung before the Gospel, in place of the alleluia (on certain days during the season from Septuagesima Sunday through Holy Saturday, on certain of the Ember Days, and is also found in the Requiem Mass; its text comprises 2 to 10 verses most often drawn from the Psalms

tragédie lyrique

French serious opera of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the term was first used in conjunction with Jean Baptiste Lully's Cadmus (1673); the term appears interchangeably with tragédie en musique


the arrangement of a work originally composed for one medium (or set of forces) for another medium (or set of forces); the term generally connotes a literal as distinct from creative arrangement; many transcriptions of orchestral and operatic works of the nineteenth century were conceived to bring such music to a public which would not otherwise be exposed to the relatively rare operatic or orchestral programs


any of the means by which music (or literature) is preserved over time; a distinction is usally made between oral and written trasnmission); in many cultures transmission is exclusively oral (without use of music notation)

transposing instruments

any instrument which sounds a pitch different from that notated on the staff; common transposing instruments include the b-flat clarinet, the French horn, the string bass, etc.)


the practice of altering all the pitches of a passage at a fixed interval (either written or in performance) so as to alter the range (and key)


An extensive writing on a specialist topic; many, though far from all, are written as dialogues between teacher and student; often being erudite works they most often were written in Latin even as late as the sixteenth century when use of the vernacular languages was becoming commonplace

n. It.

fourteenth century (see also Ars nova)

n. Lat.

a three voice vocal or instrumental composition of the 16th and 17th century, especially one related to the didactic repertoire of the bicinium

n. Fr. tremblement, cadence; Ger. Triller; It. trillo, tremolo, groppo; Sp. trino, quiebro, reyterado, redoble

an ornament consisting of the rapid alternation between one note and the note above (respecting the prevailing key or harmony)

n. Ger.

drinking song


(1) in dance movements from the seventeenth century onward, a middle contrasting section (e.g. minuet - trio - minuet); it is also commonly found in scherzos and marches; (2) in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a work for three instruments without basso continuo; (3) from the later eighteenth century forward, a work for three instruments (the most common of which is the piano trio, for piano, violin and cello)

trio sonata

the most common form of chamber music in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, written in three parts (two upper parts, normally in the same register, along with basso continuso) it actually requires four performers; the origins of the genre are found in the adaptation of the common three part texture found in Italian sound at the end of the sixteenth century

triple fugue

a fugue having three subjects which are at first presented and treated independently and later in contrapuntal combination (see also double fugue)

n. Lat., pl. tripla

in the repertoire of the Nortre Dame school of the twelfth century, it refers to the third part above the tenor (organum triplum, organum in three parts)

Gr., thrice holy

a chant of the Office and the Mass in the Eastern Christian rite; its text begins “Hagios o Theos, Hagios Ischyros, Hagios Athanatos" (“Holy God, Holy and Might, Holy and Immortal") is distinct from the three-fold Sanctus connected with the Eucharistic prayers in the Latin and Greek rites; it was adopted into the Gallican and Mozarabic liturgies and is sung in both Greek and Latin with the Improperia of the Roman Adoration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday (Liber Usualis, p. 737)


an interval of the augmented fourth or diminished fifth scale degrees; at times considered the diabolus in musica (the devil in the music) it was avoided altogether in sacred music until the eighteenth century. Beginning in the nineteenth century composers have intentionally used the tritone to conjure up associations of evil (as Franz Liszt did in his Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata (After Reading Dante: Fantasy in the Manner of a Sonata, S. 162) or humorously as in Camille Saint-Saēns' symphonic poem Danse macabre, Op. 40. Andi: "It's a tritone-—an interval that stretches across three tones ... It's used to create dissonance in harmonies ...You know when Tony signs 'Maria' in West Side Story? That's a tritone. Tritones are in the opening bars of 'Purple Haze,' too. And in the theme song to The Simpsons." Her dad: "But why is it called the devil in the music?" Andi: "Well, one answer is that tritones can sound off-kilter, a bit sinister. But it's really more about the tritone creating harmonic tensions in a piece of music—and then leaving that tension unresolved. Kind of like asking a question that can't be answered." Andi's dad: "And that makes it devilish?" Andi: "The tritone got that name during the Middle Ages becuase church authorities didn't like questions. People who asked too many questions tended to find themselves tied to a stake and set on fire." From Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution (New York: Delacorte Press, 2010), 84.

tritone Banner

Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642): Death Playing the Violin (late seventeenth century) c

n. Lat.


n. Lat. tropus

the addition of words and/or music to a pre-existing chant during the Middle Ages; the term derives from literature, specifically the gloss, and embraces the same concept of embellishing and illuminating the original text; the concept of trope would be extended beginning in the ninth century to include the addition of another musical part (line, voice) leading to the advent of polyphony in Western music


a Latin liturgical book from the Middle Ages containing the tropes, sequences and various other types of additions to the official liturgy

n. Fr.

the traveling poet-singer-composers common to southern France during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries; they were the first to cultivate a tradition of lyric poetry in the vernacular (Provençal) and their poetry (and smaller proportion of music) is the first preserved large body of secular poetry/music in Western Civilization; the troubadours vanished from the South of France after the first decade of the thirteenth century, likely dispersing to northern Italy and the Iberian peninsula because of the Albigensian Crusade against heretics in southern France (c1209)

n. Fr.

the traveling poet-singer-composers common to northern France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; related to the troubadour tradition, they spoke a different dialect of old French and cultivated somewhat different poetic/musical forms

tune book

a collection of psalm tunes printed in the British Colonies (and later in America) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they were oblong in shape and intended for use in singing schools

n. Fr. accord; Ger. Stimmung; It. accordatura; Sp. afinación

the act of adjusting the pitch (fundamental frequency) of an instrument in order to bring it into agreement with a predetermined pitch and/or tuning system

tuning fork
Fr. diapason; Ger. Stimmgabel; It. corista; Sp. diapasón

a two pronged metal fork that sounds a given pitch when struck; a good tuning fork presents a pure, clear sound with few harmonics and retains its pitch through a wide range of temperature and long periods of time

n. It., all

(1) in a concerto, the full ensemble, as distinct from the soloist(s); (2) a passage for the full ensemble

twelve tone music

music based on ordering all twelve pitches in the Western equal-temepered chromatic scale; the term is most often associated with Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) and his followers; in Schönberg's system, all twelve pitches are arranged in a row (or series) that provides the basic pitch structure (Grundgestalt) for the composition; later composers have applied serial techniques to other paramters of the music (dynamics, etc.)

two part form

see binary form

una corda
n. Ital.

one string; it is an abbreviation for applying the soft pedal on the modern grand piano which shifts the keyboard mechanism to the right allowing the hammer to only strike one string

unequal temperament

any temperament in which the semitones are not all of the same size (as in just intonation)


identical musical pitch

Fr. anacrouse; Ger. Auftakt; It. anacrusi

one or several notes that appear before the first barline and metrically accented beat (downbeat)

n. Fr.

a form of waltz in the nineteenth century in which two steps (on the first two beats) are taken per measure with a tempo faster than the usual waltz

J. Strauss Jr.: Emperor Waltz, Op. 437


(1) a textual discrepancy among sources, editions and alternate versions; (2) a distinct performance of a folk song


the technique of modifying a musical idea, usually after it is first presented; variation is one of the most fundamental techniques to many of the worlds musical systems; in Western music the term is usually more narrowly applied to an elaboration of melody or harmony (as distinct from development or transformation); the concerpt reaches back to the later Middle Ages but comes into focus in the early sixteenth century in the form of theme and variation sets (most often composed for keyboard or plucked string instruments)

Mozart: Variations on

Vaughan-Williams, Ralph (1872-1958)

English composer

Venetian school

a group of northern and Italian composers active in Venice in the later 16th and early 17th centuries, many of whom were associated with the Basilica of San Marcos; the music was characterized by its emphasis on instruments and development of polychoral music (cori spezzati)


n. Gr.

Verdi, Guiseppe (1813-1901)

Italian composer

n. It.

movement in Italian literature in the later nineteenth century emphasizing realistic action and naturalness; it became prevalent in Italian operas of the 1890s and elsewhere in the early twentieth century in which the settings are contemporary, the passions run high and often culminate in violence

Puccini: Tosca (1900)


(1) in poetry, a line of a poetry; (2) a group of lines making up a unit (verse, stanza, strophe) in a poem often, though not necessarily, incorporating a meter (number and emphasis of syllables) and/or rhyme scheme

n. Fr.; Ger. Versett, Versetl; It. verso, versetto; Sp. versillo

a short organ piece conceived to replace a serve of plainchant in the liturgy


in the Western Christian rites, a phrase or sentence (often from Scripture) spoken or sung by the officiant after which the choir or congreation answers with a phrase called a response; in the Roman rite, the house of the Office begin with the following versicle and response: V: “Deus in adjutorium meum intende" R: “Domine ad adjuvandum me festina"

n. It., Sp.

(1) verse; (2) verset; (3) (Lat.) in a manuscript book, the reverse side of a leaf (the first side being termed the recto)

n. Lat.

(1) a verse of a Psalm or some form of liturgical chant (see also Psalmody); (2) a line of poetry; (3) rhythmed, rhythmic, strophic poetry set to music (monophonic and polyphonic) beginning in the late tenth century and especially prominent in the repertoire of St. Martial (see also conductus)

Versus ad repetendum

in introits and communions, one or more verses to be sung following the Doxology

Victoria, Tomás Luis de (ca. 1548-1611)

Spanish composer

Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887-1959)

Brazilian composer

n. Sp.

(1) in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a form of Spanish poetry consisting of a refrain (estribillo) that alternates with one or more verses (coplas or pies), each of which is comprised of a mudanza (change, e.g. of rhythm) and a vuelta (return, e.g. to the rhyme scheme of the refrain); (2) some villancicos from the seventeenth century forward include instrumental accompaniment

n. It.

a type of light secular vocal music popular in Italy from the mid-fifteenth through the sixteenth century; the subject was often rustic, comic or even satirical (including parodies of high art poetry); the earlier examples

adj. It., fr. canzone villanesca alla napolitana

the term used for the early repertory of the villanella (villanesca is an adjective meaning countrified; villanelle is a noun originally meaning a country girl)

n. Sp., peasant; It. vallan di Spagna

a sung dance of Spain that was also popular in Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; many sources preserve a harmonic progression of I-IV-I-V-I

n. It.

a type of vocal music popular in Venice and Padua in the early sixteenth century in whih the poems had one or more stanzas varying in length and form and are of a rustic, unsentimental character

n. Fr.

(1) one of the three formes fixes (fixed forms) which dominated French secular poetry and music in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; in

Fr. virginale, épinette; Ger. Virginal, Instrument; It. virginale, spinetta, spinettina

a small harpsichord almost always with a single set of strings and a single keyboard; unlike the spinet, in which the strings run obliquely to the keys, in the virginal the strings run at right angles; the term has been applied loosely and inconsistently to a variety of quilled keyboard instruments in England and across Europe

Dowland: Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home, from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book


any of the English composers of music for the virginal and related keyboard instruments of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; large sources for this repertory in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, the Mulliner Book, My Lady Nevells Booke and other manuscripts all containing dances, variations, preludes, fantasies, arrangements of songs and madrigals and some liturgical pieces

n. It.

an extremely skilled performer; the designation is now most commonly associated with the tradition of celebrated soloists that began in the nineteenth century with such performers as Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) and Franz Liszt (1811-86); it can also bear a negative connotation of one who has more skill than true understanding of the music


Vivaldi, Antonio (1678-1741)

Italian composer

n. Fr.

composition for voice without text; commonly published beginning in the nineteenth century such pieces, often with piano accompaniment were intended to serve as vocal exercises or as aids in solfège

voice exchange
Ger. Stimmtausch

the exchange between between two voices (or sometimes three) of phrases that are sounded simultaneously (the first voice takes the phrase just sung by the second, and the second voice takes the phrase just sung by the first); the technique is found frequently in the twelfth century repertory of the Notre Dame (between the upper voices of three and four part organa); it is also widely found in English polyphony of the thirteenth century


the adjustment of tone quality throughout a stringed keyboard instrument to produce consistent sound quality throughout; on the piano this involves primarily adjustments to the hammers


an English organ piece performed before, during or after an Anglican church service

votive antiphon

any of the four antiphons for the Blessed Virgin Mary sung at Compline (or a polyphonic setting of one of these)

votive Mass
Lat., missa votiva

a Mass performed for a special circumstanced (e.g. a coronation, the consecration of a bishop, a wedding, etc.)

Wagner, Richard (1813-83)

German composer

Walton, William (1902-83)

English composer

n. Ger. Walzer, Fr. Valse

a couple dance in triple meter; it gained in popularity during the later eighteenth century and was the most popular dance of the nineteenth century especially in the Viennese Waltz personified by the Strauss family

Chopin: Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2


a design in paper visible when it is held up to the light; they can provide useful information as to the provenance and date of a source

Weber, Carl Maria von (1786-1826)

German composer

white noise

a sound comprised of random frequencies at equal intensities

whole tone scale

a scale consisting only of whole-tones; given the system of twelve pitches in Western music there are only two possible scales: C, D, E, F#, G#, A# or C#, D# F, G, A, B

wolf fifth

Wolf, Hugo (1860-1903)

Austrian composer

word painting

the depiction in musical sound of the meaning of the words in vocal music; it is commonly found in the highly expressive madrigals of the later sixteenth century and in the eighteenth century oratorio

Xenakis, Iannis


a percussion instrument of definite pitch made up of wooden bars struck with a beater; it came into common usage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries being first heard in an orchestral composition the Danse macabre (1874) by Saint-Saëns to depict the rattling of skeleton bones

Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre, Op. 40

n. Ger.

a style of folk singing involving successive vowels and featuring an alternation between full voice and falsetto (usually between two pitches or over an arpeggiated pattern

n. Sp.

a Spanish theatrical work involving singing and spoken dialogue

n. Ger.


n. Ger.

to hold back

Zwilich, Ellen Taafe (b. 1939)

American composer

n. Ger.

the middle section (in ternary form) or the development section (in sonata form)