- Absolute Music
- Music without extramusical associations, as opposed to program music.
- A cappella
- Choral music for voices alone, without instruments.
- Aleatory, Aleatoric Music
- Same as Chance music.
- A musical style in which two or more choirs and/or instrumental groups
alternate with one another.
- A vocal piece for solo singer and orchestra, generally in an opera, cantata,
- A singing style between recitative and aria.
- Ars Antiqua
- The first style of writing with more than one melodic line,
exemplified by Leonin and Perotin.
- Ars Nova
- Succeeded Ars Antiqua in the early 14th century; its pioneers
included de Vitry and de Machaut. Notable for greater rhythmic complexity.
- Art Song
- A song consciously intended as a work of art; as opposed to a
folksong or popular song.
- The absence of any feeling of tonality.
- In the most advanced style.
- A song or song-poem that tells a story, in several stanzas.
- A name for a miniature piano piece of dramatic
nature. Ballades sometimes suggest a program.
- Basso Continuo
- see Continuo.
- Bel canto
- A style of singing that brings out the sensous beauty of the
- Bel canto opera
- Term for early romantic opera, which featured bel
- Strict imitative polyphony, with the identical melody appearing in each voice, but at staggered intervals; standard in vocal polyphony.
- A composition in several movements for solo voice(s), instruments, and
perhaps also chorus. Depending on text, cantatas are categorized
as either secular or church cantatas.
- Musical director of a German town.
- Chamber music
- Music played by small groups, such as a string quartet or a piano trio.
- Chance music
- A type of contemporary music in which certain elements, such
as the order of the notes or their pitches, are not specified by the composer
but are left to chance.
- French for song; a song for one or two vocal lines and sometimes instrumental
- A way of reciting words to music, generally in monophony
and generally for liturgical purposes, as in Gregorian
- German for hymn; also used for a four-part harmonization of a German hymn.
- A grouping of pitches played and heard simultaneously.
- Church Cantata
- A cantata with religious words, often
tied directly to a particular church service, such as the Easter or Christmas
- A section sometimes added on to the end of a song; in sonata form, added
after the recapitulation to conclude the sonata form movement.
- A large composition for orchestra and solo instruments or small solo group.
- Concerto Grosso
- The main type of Baroque concerto, for a group of solo
instruments and a small orchestra.
- Concert Overture
- An early nineteenth-century term for a piece resembling an
opera overture--but without any following opera. Often concert overtures
amount to short pieces of orchestral program music.
- Entirely newly composed music used to set verse of a religious nature,
though not necessarily drawn from the liturgy.
- Continuo (basso continuo)
- A set of chords continuously underliying the melody
in a piece of baroque music; the instruments playing the continuo, usually
cello plus harpsichord or organ.
- Cyclic form
- A large form, such as a symphony, in which certain themes come
back in various different movements.
- In sonata form, the 2nd section of a sonata form movement which expands
and transforms the main themes presented in the exposition.
- Duet, duo
- A composition for two singers or instrumentalists.
- The volume of sound, the loudness or softness of a musical passage.
- Electronic Music
- Music composed and performed with the aid of electronics,
usually synthesizers and computers.
- The first section of a sonata form movement which presents the main themes
to be developed.
- French Overture
- A baroque type of overture to an opera, oratorio, or suite.
- A composition written systematically in imitative polyphony, usually with
a single main theme.
- A lively, vigorous sixteenth-century dance.
- A concept of art in which poetry, scenic design, staging, action, and music
are all seen as aspects of the total scheme.
- Gigue, Jig
- A baroque dance in a lively compound meter; often fugal in style.
- Gregorian Chant
- The type of chant used in the early Roman Catholic Church.
- The chordal accompaniment of a melody; vertical representation instead
- A rhythmic device which enlivens rhythm by putting rests in the middle
of vocal lines; the alternation of very short melodic phrases, or single
notes, between two voices, used in late medieval polyphony.
- A musical texture that involves only one melody of real interest, combined
with chords or other subsidiary sounds.
- A simple religious song in several stanzas, for congregational
singing in church.
- Idee fixe
- Term used by Berlioz for a recurring theme used in all
the movements of his Symphonie Fantastique.
- Imitation, Imitative Counterpoint
- A polyphonic musical texture in which the various
melodic lines use approximately the same themes.
- A French artistic movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
- Making up the music as you play.
- Putting parts of a melody into a repeated pattern to form one strand in
a polyphonic work, usually a motet.
- A medieval secular musician.
- K. numbers
- The numbers assigned to works by Mozart in the Koechel Catalogue; used instead of opus numbers to catalogue Mozart's works.
- A leitmotif is a musical theme associated with a particular character or
- The complete book of words for an opera, oratorio, cantata, etc.
- German for song; often used as a term for art song.
- a 16th-century secular piece for four or more voices which emphasized the
meaning of words.
- The Catholic liturgy; in a musical context, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus,
Benedictus and Agnus Dei.
- Several notes sung to a single syllable.
- A term for a short evocative composition for piano composed in the Romantic
- A musical texture involving a single melodic line and nothing else, as
in Gregorian chant; as opposed to polyphony.
- A sacred piece for several voices.
- Motive, motif
- A short fragment of melody or rhythm used in constructing a
long section of music.
- A self-contained section of a larger piece, such as a symphony or concerto
- Musique concrete
- Music composed with natural sounds recorded electronically.
- A nineteenth-century movement promoting music built on national folksongs
and dances, or associated with national subjects.
- A twentieth-century movement involving a return to the style and form of
older music, particularly eighteenth-century music.
- A sign in very early manuscripts indicating pitch.
- "Night piece"; title for romantic miniature compositions
for piano, etc.
- A play set to music.
- Opera buffa
- Italian comic opera.
- Opera seria
- Serious and heroic opera of the Baroque period.
- A nineteenth-century type of light (often comic) opera, employing spoken
dialogue in between musical numbers.
- "Work"; opus numbers provide a means of cataloguing a composer's compositions.
- Long, semi-dramatic piece on a religious subject for soloists, chorus,
- Liturgical music, based on existing plainsong,, used to set prose; the earliest genre of medieval polyphonic music.
- An orchestral piece at the start of an opera, oratorio, etc.
- A long, oratorio-like composition telling the story of Jesus's last days,
according to one of the New Testament Gospels.
- Piano Trio
- An instrumental group consisting of violin, cello, and piano;
or a piece composed for this group; or the three players themselves.
- Liturgical chant, such as Gregorian chant.
- Music which uses several independent vocal lines simultaneously; the predominant
early music style, replaced by homophony, in which
the music moves chordally (for example, like a hymn).
- Program music
- Instrumental music associated with a story or other musical
- A piece for four singers or players; often used to mean string
- A piece for five singers or players.
- The third section of a sonata form movement which restates the themes in their original order.
- A half-singing, half-reciting style of presenting words in opera, cantata,
oratorio, etc., which follows speech accents and speech rhythms closely.
- Responsorial chant
- A type of Gregorian chant in which soloists sing in alternation
with the choir.
- Rhythmic serialism
- A compositional technique based on a fixed pattern of different
noted lengths held to throughout a piece.
- An instrumental genre of the Renaissance.
- Religious or associated with a church.
- Non-religious in nature.
- The technique of composing with a series, generally
a twelve-tone series (but see also rhythmic serialism).
- A fixed arrangement of pitches (or rhythms) held to throughout a serial
- A chamber music piece in several movements, typically for three instruments
plus continuo in the Baroque period, and for only one or two instruments
in all periods since then.
- Sonata form, sonata-allegro form
- A form developed by the Viennese composers
and used in almost all the first movements of their symphonies, sonatas,
etc., as well as in some other movements.
- Song Cycle
- A group of songs connected by a general idea or story, and sometimes
also by musical unifying devices.
- In songs or ballads, one of several similar poetic units, which are usually
sung to the same tune; also called verse.
- String Quartet
- An instrumental group consisting of two violins, viola, and
cello; or a piece composed for this group; or the four players themselves.
- Strophic Song
- A song in several stanzas with the same music for each
stanza; as opposed to through-composed song.
- A piece consisting of a series of dances.
- Symphonic Poem
- A piece of orchestral program music in one long movement.
- A large orchestral piece in several movements.
- An electronic apparatus that generates sounds for electronic instruments.
- The speed of music.
- Through-composed song
- A song with new music for each stanza of a poem; as opposed
to strophic song.
- A piece in free form designed partly to show off the instrument and the
technique of the player (usually an organist or harpsichordist).
- The feeling of centrality of one note (and its chord) to a passage of music;
as opposed to atonality.
- Tone Poem
- Same as symphonic poem.
- Trio Sonata
- A baroque sonata for three main instruments plus the continuo
- Troubadours, trouveres
- Aristocratic poet-musicians of the middle ages.
- A realistic and sensational type of late Romantic Italian opera.
- Another term for stanza.
- Whole-tone scale
- A scale, used sometimes by Debussy, comprising only six notes
to the octave, all at the interval of the whole tone (i.e. two semitones).