a cappella
unaccompanied vocal music
tempo mark: getting faster
emphasis or stress placed on a musical tone or chord
a sharp, flat, or natural sign that alters the pitch of a note a half step
tempo mark: slow
aleatoric (chance) music
music that involves an element of chance or whimsy on the part of the performers; especially popular with avant-garde composers
tempo mark: moderately fast
tempo mark: fast
a stately dance in 4/4 meter with gracefully interweaving lines
tempo mark: moderately moving
tempo mark: moderately moving but faster than andante
a composition for chorus on a sacred subject; similar in design and function to a motet
an elaborate lyrical song for solo voice
the notes of a triad or seventh chord played in direct succession and in a direct line up or down
a style of singing and a type of song midway between an aria and a recitative
atonal music
music without tonality, music without a key center, most often associated with the twentieth-century avant-garde style of Arnold Schoenberg
the notes of a melody held for longer, usually double, their normal duration
a traditional song, or folk song, sung by a soloist that tells a tale and is organized by stanzas
an art form that uses dance and music, along with sodumes and scenery, to tell a story and display emotions through expressive gestures and movement
bass clef
a sign placed on a staff to indicate the notes below middle C
basso continuo
a small ensemble of at least two instrumentalists who provide a foundation for the melody or melodies above, heard almost exclusively in Baroque music
basso ostinato
a motive or phrase in the bass that is repeated again and again
Bayreuth Festival House
an opera house in the town of Bayreuth, Germany, constructed exclusively for the music dramas of Richard Wegner
an even pulse in music that divides the passing of time into equal segments
bel canto
Italian for “beautiful singing”, a style of singing and a type of Italian opera developed in the 19th century that features the beautiful tone and brilliant technique of the human voice
binary form
a musical form consisting of two units (A and B) constructed to balance and complement each other
the concluding fast aria of any two or three section operatic scene, a useful mechanism to get the principals off the stage
perfect cadence
the concluding part of a musical phrase, dominant to tonic
a showy passage for the soloist appearing near the end of the movement in a concerto, it usually incorporates rapid runs, arpeggios, and snippets of previously heard themes into a fantasy-like improvisation
canon (round)
a contrapuntal form in which the individual voices enter and each in turn duplicates exactly the melody that the first voice played or sang
a term originally meaning “something sung”, in its mature state it consists of several movements, including one or more arias, ariosos, and recitatives, cantatas can be on secular subjects, but those of J.S. Bach are primarily sacred in content
plagal cadence
end of musical phrase: subdominant to tonic
a light, whimsical character piece of the 19th century
a boy or adult singer who had been castrated to keep his voice from changing so that it would remain in the soprano register
a French term used broadly to indicate a lyrical song from the Middle Ages into the 20th century
the German word for the hymn of the Lutheran church, hence a simple religious melody to be sung by the congregation
two or more simultaneously sounding pitches
chord progression
a succession of chords moving forward in a purposeful fashion
the frequent presence in melodies and chords of intervals only a half step apart, in a scale, the use of notes not part of the diatonic major or minor pattern
clef sign
a sign used to indicate the register, or range of pitches, in which an instrument is to play or a singer is to sing
Italian “tail”, a final and concluding section of a musical composition
color (timbre)
the character or quality of a musical tone as determined by its harmonics and its attack and decay
comic opera
a genre of opera that originated in the eighteenth century, portraying everyday characters and situations, and using spoken dialogue and simple songs
concert overture
an independent, one-movement work, usually of programmatic content, originally intended for the concert hall and not designed to precede an opera or a play
the group of instruments that function as soloists in a concerto grosso
an instrumental genre in which one or more soloists play with and against a larger orchetra
concerto grosso
a three-movement concerto of the Baroque era that pits the sound of a small group of soloists (the concertino) against that of the full orchestra (the tutti)
pitches sounding agreeable and stable
the harmonious opposition of two or more independent musical lines
a lively dance in 6/4 wit an upbeat and frequent changes of metrical accent
a gradual increase in the volume of sounds
da capo aria
an aria in two sections, with an obligatory return to and repeat of the first, hence an aria in ternary (ABA) form
dance suite
a collection of instrumental dances, each with its own distinctive rhythm and character
the center-most portion of sonata-allegro form, in which the thematic material of the exposition is developed and extended, transformed, or reduced to its essence, it is often the most confrontational and unstable section of the movement
pertaining to the seven notes that make up either the major or the minor scale
Dies irae
a Gregorian chant composed in the 13th century and used as the central portion of the Requiem Mass of the Catholic Church
diminished chord
a triad or seventh chord made up entirely of minor thirds and producing a tense, unstable sound
a gradual decrease in volume of sound
a reduction, usually by half, of all the rhythmic durations in a melody
a discordant mingling of sounds
dominant chord
the chord built on the fifth degree of the scale
dotted note
a note to which an additional duration of fifty percent has been added
the first beat of each measure, it is indicated by a downward motion of the conductor’s hand and is usually stressed
eleventh chord
a chord comprised of five intervals of a third and spanning eleven different letter names of pitches
Eroica symphony
Beethoven’s symphony NO. 3 (1803) originally dedicated to Napoleon but published as the Heroic Symphony
a short one-movement composition designed to improve one aspect of a performer’s technique
in a fugue, the opening section, in which each voice in turn has the opportunity to present the subject, in sonata-allegro form, the principal section, in which all thematic material is presented
a free improvisatory-like composition in which the composer follows his or her whims rather than an established musical form
in musical notation, a mark indicating that the performers should hold a note or chord for an extended duration
figured bass
in musical notation, a numerical shorthand that tells the player which unwritten notes to fill in above the written bass note
the last movement of a multi-movement composition, one that usually works to a climax and conclusion
in musical notation, a symbol that lowers a pitch by a half step
folk song
a song originating from an ethnic group and passed from generation to generation by oral tradition rather than written notation
the purposeful organization of the artist’s materials, in music, the general shape of a composition as perceived by the listener
forte (f)
in musical notation, a dynamic mark indicating loud
forte (f)
in musical notation, a dynamic mark indicating loud
fortissimo (ff)
in musical notation, a dynamic mark indicating “very loud”
free counterpoint
counterpoint in which the voices do not all make use of some preexisting subject in imitation
French overture
a two-part musical form of the Baroque era consisting of a slow first section in duple meter with dotted rhythms and a fast second section with imitative counterpoint
a short fugue set in some other musical form like sonata-allegro or theme and variations
a composition of three, four, or five parts played or sung by voices or instruments, which begins with a presentation of a subject in imitation in each part and continues with modulating passages of free counterpoint and further appearances of the subject
full cadence
a cadence that sounds complete, in part because it usually ends on the tonic note
German for “total art work”, an art form that involves music, poetry, drama, and scenic design, often used in reference to Richard Wagner’s music dramas
a fast dance in 6/8 or 12/8 with a constant eighth-note pulse that produces a gallop-like effects
a device of sliding up or down the scale very rapidly
a tempo mark indicating very slow and grave
great staff
a large musical staff that combines both the treble and the bass clefs
Gregorian chant (plainsong)
a large body of unaccompanied monophonic vocal music, set to Latin texts, composed for the Western Church over the course of fifteen centuries, from the time of the earliest Fathers to the Council of Trent
ground bass
the English term for basso ostinato
imperfect cadence
a cadence at which the music does not come to a fully satisfying stop but stands as if suspended on a dominant chord
half step
the smallest musical interval in the Western major or minor scale, the distance between any two adjacent keys on the piano
the secondary tones above a fundamental pitch that taken in sum help form the totality of that sound
the sounds that provide the support and enrichment – an accompaniment – for melody
a texture in which all the voices, or lines, move to new pitches at roughly the same time, often referred to in contradistinction to polyphony
an energetic dance, derived from the country jig, in either 3/2 or 2/4 time
idee fixe
literally a “fixed idea”, but more specifically an obsessive musical theme as first used in Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
the process by which one or more musical voices, or parts, enter and duplicate exactly for a period of time the music presented by the previous voice
imitative counterpoint
a type of counterpoint in which the voices or lines frequently use imitation
incidental music
music to be inserted between the acts or during important scenes of a play to add an extra dimension to the drama
Italian for “between piece”, a light musical interlude intended to separate and thus break the mood of two more serious, surrounding movements or operatic acts or scenes
the distance between any two pitches on a musical scale
the process of inverting the musical intervals in a theme or melody, a melody that ascended by step, now descend by step, and so on
a tonal center built on a tonic note and making use of a scale, also, on a keyboard instrument, one of a series of levers that can be depressed to generate sound
key signature
in musical notation, a pre-placed set of sharps or flats used to indicate the scale and key
the first portion of the Ordinary of the Mass and hence usually the opening movement in a polyphonic setting of the Mass
a tempo mark indicating “slow and broad”
leading tone
the pitch a half step below the tonic, which pulls up and into it, especially at cadences
in musical notation, an articulation mark indicating that the notes are to be smoothly connected, the opposite of staccato
a brief, distinctive unit of music designed to represent a character, object, or idea, a term applied to the motives in the music dramas of Richard Wagner
a tempo mark indicating “very slow”
a text of an opera
German for “love death”, the famous aria sung by the expiring Isolde at the end of Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde
German for “song”, the genre of art song, for voice and piano accompaniment, that originated in Germany ca. 1800
a popular genre of secular vocal music that originated in Italy during the Renaissance, in which usually four or five voices sing love poems
major scale
a seven-note scale that ascends in the following order of whole and half steps: 1-1-0.5-1-1-1-0.5
the central religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, one that incorporates singing for spiritual reflection or as accompaniment to sacred acts
a fast dance of Polish origins in triple meter with an accent on the second beat
measure (bar)
a group of beats, or musical pulses, usually the number of bears is fixed and constant so that the measure serves as a continual unit of measurement in music
in singing, one vowel luxuriously spread out over many notes
melodic sequence
the repetition of a musical motive at successively higher or lower degrees of the scale
a series of notes arranged in order to form a distinctive, recognizable musical unit, it is most often placed in the treble
the gathering of beats into regular groups
middle C
the middle-most C on the modern piano
a style of modern music that takes a very small amount of musical material and repeats it over and over to form a composition
a type of secular poet-musician that flourished in Germany during the twelfth through fourteenth century
minor scale
a seven-note scale that ascends in the following order of whole and half steps: 1-0.5-1-1-0.5-1-1
a moderate dance in 3/4, though actually danced in patterns of six steps, with no upbeat but with highly symmetrical phrasing
a pattern of pitches forming a scale, the two primary modes in Western music are major and minor
a tempo mark indicating “moderately moving”
the process in music whereby the tonal center changes from one key to another, from G major to C major, for example
a musical texture involving only a single line of music with no accompaniment
a composition for choir or larger chorus setting a religious, devotional, or solemn text, often sung a capella
a short distinctive melodic figure that stands by itself
a large, independent section of a major instrumental work, such as a sonata, dance suite, symphony, quartet or concerto
the rational organization of sounds and silences as they pass through time
music drama
a term used for the mature operas of Richard Wagner
musical comedy
a popular genre of musical theatre designed to appeal to a general audience by means of spoken dialogue, songs, and energetic dances
musique concrete
music in which the composer works directly with sounds recorded on magnetic tape, not with musical notation and performers
a movement in music in the nineteenth century in which composers sought to emphasize the indigenous qualities to their music by incorporating folk songs, native scales, dance rhythms, and local instrumental sounds