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(pronounced AHP-ge-zong)

absolute music
Music that is independent of words, drama, visual images, or any kind of representational aspects.
a cappella

(Italian, “in chapel style)

Manner of choral singing without instrumental accompaniment.

Sign that calls for altering the pitch of a note.
accompanied recitative
Recitative that uses orchestral accompaniment to dramatize the text.
Main division of an opera.  Most operas have two to five acts, although some have only one.
Objectified or archetypal emotions or states of mind, such as sadness, joy, fear, or wonder; one goal of much Baroque music was to arouse the affections.
Agnus Dei

(Latin, “Lamb of God)

Fifth of the five major musical items in the Mass ordinary, based on a litany.


(French, “charm”:  pronounced ah-gray-MANH)

Ornament in French music, usually indicated by a sign.

English or French song for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment, setting rhymed poetry, often strophic, and usually in the meter of a dance.
air de cour

(French, “court air”)

Type of song for voice and accompaniment, prominent in France from about 1580 through the seventeenth century.

Alberti bass
Broken-chord accompaniment common in the second half of the eighteenth century and named after Domenico Alberti, who used the figuration frequently.
Item from the Mass proper, sung just before the Gospel reading, comprising a respond to the text “alleluia,” a verse, and a repetition of the respond.  Chant alleluias are normally melismatic in style and sung in a responsorial manner, one or more soloists alternating with the choir.

(French for “German”)

Highly stylized dance in binary form, in moderately fast quadruple meter with almost continuous movement, beginning with an upbeat.  Popular during the Renaissance and Baroque; appearing often as the first dance in a suite.


(from altus)

1. Relatively low female voice, or high male voice.

2. Part for such a voice in an ensemble work.


(Latin, “high”)

In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century polyphony, a part in a range between the tenor and the superius; originally contratenor altus.

Ambrosian chant
A repertory of ecclesiastical chant used in Milan.
In the exposition of a fugue, the second entry of the subject, normally on the dominant if the subject was on the tonic, and vice versa.  Also refers to subsequent answers to the subject.
A polyphonic sacred work in English for Anglican religious services.

1. A liturgical chant that precedes and follows a Psalm or Canticle in the Office.

2. In the Mass, a chant originally associated with antiphonal psalmody; specifically, the Communion and the first and final portion of the Introit.

Adjective describing a manner of performance in which two or more groups alternate.
Aquitanian polyphony
Style of polyphony from the twelfth century, encompassing both discant and florid organum.

(Italian, “air”)

1. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, any section of an Italian strophic poem for a solo singer.

2. Lyrical monologue in an opera or other vocal work such as cantata and oratoria.


1. Recitativo arioso.

2. Short, aria-like passage.

3. Style of vocal writing that approaches the lyricism of an aria but is freer in form.


(from Italian arpa, “harp”)

Broken-chord figure.

Ars Nova

(Latin, “new art”)

Style of polyphony from fourteenth-century France, distinguished from earlier styles by a new system of rhythmic notation that allowed duple or triple division of note values, syncopation, and great rhythmic flexibility.

Ars Subtilior

(Latin, “more subtle art”)

Style of polyphony from the late fourteenth or very early fifteenth centuries in southern France and northern Italy, distinguished by extreme complexity in rhythm and notation.

art music
Music that is (or is meant to be) listened to with rapt attention, for its own sake.
art song
A song intended to be appreciated as an artistic statement rather than as entertainment, featuring precisely notated music, usually through composed, and requiring professional standards of performance.
atonal, atonality
Terms for music that avoids establishing a central pitch or tonal center (such as the tonic in tonal music).
Ancient Greek reed instrument, usually played in pairs.
authentic mode
A mode (2) in which the range normally extends from a step below the final to an octave above it.
Term for music (and art) that is iconoclastic, irreverent, antagonistic, and nihilistic, seeking to overthrow established aesthetics.

1. Long narrative poem, or musical setting of such a poem.

2. Late-eighteenth-century German poetic form that imitated the folk ballad of England and Scotland and was set to music by German composers.  The ballad expanded the lied in both form and emotional content.

ballad opera
Genre of eighteenth-century English comic play featuring songs in which new words are set to borrowed tunes.

1. French forme fixe, normally in three stanzas, in which each stanza has the musical form aab and ends with a refrain.

2. Instrumental piece inspired by the genre of narrative poetry.