A is the note of the musical scale used generally
for tuning (= French, Italian, Spanish: la). Notes in English are given
letter names, A,B,C,D,E,F & G.
Accelerando (Italian: becoming faster) is a term
in general use to show that the music should be played at an increasing
An accompaniment is an additional part for a performer
of any kind that is less important than another, which it serves to support
and enhance. The piano is often used to provide an accompaniment to a solo
singer. In instrumental works for, say, violin and piano the rôles
may be reversed.
Adagio (Italian: slow) is an indication of tempo
and is sometimes used to describe a slow movement, even when the indication
of speed at the start of the movement may be different. The diminutive
form adagietto is a little faster than adagio.
An accent created by duration or rhythm rather than
by loudness or metrical position
Air (= Italian: aria)
appearing sometimes with the earlier English spelling ayre,
means a tune or melody, for voice or instrument.
Stereotyped figures of accompaniment for the pianist's
(or harpsichordist's) left hand, consisting of broken chords. They
are named for Domenico Alberti (1710-40?), who used them extensively.
Similar broken-chord patterns occur in the works of the virginalists (c.1600)
and in various keyboard compositions of the 17th century. They are
common in the works of Mozart, Haydn,
and early Beethoven.
Music of the mid-20th century in which the composer
assigns a major creative role to the performer. In such music, the
composer may provide a set of detailed materials or a vague outline of
the entire piece, leaving the order of execution or the filling in of details
to the performer. If the performer is to work out the actual pitches
and rhythm, the composer will normally abandon traditional musical notation
and work out one that will convey his particular ideas. The shape
of a musical gesture (phrase) may be suggested by a line, for example,
or intensity or duration by the size of the figure. Different performances
of the same work may vary greatly, and the receptivity and imagination
of the performer becomes of far greater importance than in traditional
Since neither composer nor performer is necessarily
bound by the limitations of metrical rhythm, great rhythmic freedom may
be achieved in chance music. In addition to traditional vocal and
instrumental sound, tonal resources comprise also vocal and instrumental
sounds produced in abnormal fashion and sounds from extramusical sources
(e.g., striking or dragging of chars or stands). Intensive interest
in chance music began in the 1950's with works of such diverse composers
as Stockhausen and Cage.
Milhaud's "Cocktail" (1921) might be cited as an early example of the concept,
as well as certain 18th-century works that assemble short bits of music
in an order determined by the casting of dice.
The Italian alla means 'in the manner of' (= French:
ˆ la) and may be found in titles like that of Mozart's 'Rondo alla turca',
Rondo in the Turkish Style.
(It., "at the breve") The meter indicated by
the sign ,
in which each measure is conceived as consisting of two half notes, each
given one beat, rather than the four quarter notes indicated with the sign
. It is thus the equivalent of 2/2 as compared with 4/4. It
is sometimes referred to as cut time. In modern practice this implies
relatively rapid tempo, as in military marches, which often employ this
meter. But its use with respect to tempo varied considerably from
the 17th through the 19th centuries, so it cannot always be regarded as
indicating rapid tempo. Historically "alla breve" derives from the
system of proportions, in use in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in which
it indicated that the "tactus" or metrical pulse was to be "at the breve"
rather than at "at the semibreve." This it represented in theory,
as it still does, a diminution of the duration of any note value by one-half,
given a fixed tempo or rate of beats, and was known as "tempus imperfectum
diminutum" or "proportio dupla." It could also be represented in
that system by the fraction 2/1. (See Mensural
Allegro (Italian: cheerful, lively) is generally
taken as fast, although not as fast as vivace or presto. Allegretto is
a diminutive, meaning slightly slower than allegro. These indications of
speed or tempo are used as general titles for pieces of music headed by
instructions of this kind. The first movement of a classical sonata, for
example, is often 'an Allegro', just as the slow movement is often 'an
An allemande is a German dance (the word itself is
French) in 4/4 time, often the first dance in a baroque dance suite, where
it is frequently followed by a courante, a more rapid dance. The allemande,
which appears in earlier English sources often as alman, almain or with
similar spellings, is generally moderate in speed.
The alto (= Italian: high) is the lower female or
unbroken male voice, or male falsetto of similar range. The alto clef (see
Clef) is a sign written on the musical stave to show that the middle line
of the stave is middle C. It is now used for much of the music written
for viola and other instruments of similar range. Female alto soloists
are usually described as contralto rather than alto.
The range of the melodies of Gregorian
chant, varying from a fourth, (in some of the simple antiphons) to
an octave or more (Graduals, Alleluias, etc.). In the Graduals, the
ambitus of the verse is often one or two tones higher than that of the
In the theory of the church
modes, the ambitus is the chief mark of distinction between and authentic
and a plagal mode.
Andante (Italian: walking) is a word used to suggest
the speed of a piece of music, at walking pace. The diminutive andantino
is ambiguous and means either a little faster or a little slower than andante,
more often the former.
Two musical phrases, the second of which is a concluding
response to or resolution of the first. The two phrases often have
the same or similar rhythms, but have complementary pitch contours and
/ or tonal implications, e.g., a rising contour in the first and a falling
contour in the second, or a conclusion on the dominant in the first and
a conclusion on the tonic in the second.
An anthem is a short vocal composition. In the Church
of England the word indicates such a composition often using a non-liturgical
text (i.e. not part of the official service). A full anthem is for full
choir, without soloists, while a verse anthem makes contrasting use of
solo singers. Both these forms flourished in the Church of England from
the late 16th century.
A metrically weak dissonant tone that is immediately
reharmonized as a consonance (it anticipates the next note/harmony).
A metrically strong dissonance, normally arrived
at by leap and resolved by descending step. (Also possible is the
reverse appogiatura, in which a downward leap prepares the upward resolution
by step.) (See Nonharmonic Tones)
The word 'arabesque' originally indicated a decorative
pattern in Arab style found in painting or architecture. Its most common
use in music has been as a descriptive title of short decorative piano
pieces of the 19th or early 20th century. There are two well known Arabesques
by the French composer Debussy.
Arco (Italian: bow) is used as an indication to string-players
that they should use the bow, rather than pluck with the fingers (see pizzicato).
An aria is a song or air. The word is used in particular
to indicate formally constructed songs in opera. The so-called da capo
aria of later baroque opera, oratorio and other vocal compositions, is
an aria in which the first section is repeated, usually with additional
and varied ornamentation, after the first two sections. The diminutive
arietta indicates a little aria, while arioso refers to a freer form of
aria-like vocal writing.
A chord whose pitches are sounded successively, usually
from the lowest to highest, rather than simultaneously.
Assai (Italian: very) appears often in indications
to performers of the speed of a piece of music, as in allegro assai, very
fast, or allegro assai moderato, very moderately fast.
Atonal music is music that has no specific tonality,
is not in a specific key and therefore has no specific 'home' note or chord.
The word atonality refers technically to various forms of 20th century
music not in a key.
An aubade is a morning-song. A well known example
is the Siegfried Idyll, a work written by Richard Wagner to be played for
his second wife Cosima on the morning of her birthday.
The presentation of a subject in doubled values (augmentation)
or in halved values (diminution), so that, e.g., the quarter note becomes
a half note (augmentation) or an eighth note (diminution). The note
values may also be augmented (or diminished) in higher ratios, such as
1:3 (or 3:1) and 1:4 (4:1). These devices provide an important element
of variety in fugal writing. They are usually introduced toward the
end of the fugue. Augmentation
and diminution are also used in the development sections of symphonies,
particularly by Brahms and Bruckner.
These devices occurred first in a number of two-voice
of the Perotin period, in which
a plainsong melody is used twice
in succession, first in "duplex longae" (dotted half notes in modern transcription),
then in plain "longae" (dotted quarter notes). In the 14th century, diminution
is explained in detail by theoretical writers (J. de Muris, Prosdocimus
de Beldemandis) and is used almost regularly in the
of Machaut, the tenor having the
firmus twice, the second time in halved values. With the beginning
of the 15th century, augmentation and diminution become notational devices,
since the change of note values is no longer indicated by longer or shorter
notes but by proportional signs or by verbal instructions. Many 16th
ricercars use augmentation
and diminution. They are also of basic importance in the fantasias
Chords (Italian, German, French)
These chords generally function as pre-dominant chords
-- leading to the dominant of the key. The interval of the augmented
sixth (diminished third) is formed between the raised fourth scale degree
and the minor (or lowered) sixth scale degeree. The raised fourth
scale degree functions as a lower leading-tone moving up to the dominant
pitch, while the minor (or lowered) sixth scale degree (generally the lowest
sounding pitch) functions as an upper leading-tone moving down to the dominant
pitch. All three versions (Italian, German, French) of this chord
have three pitches in common and one differnt, which sets them apart.
(See below. SD = scale degree)
|Italian Aug. 6th
||Raised 4th SD
||Minor 6th SD
|German Aug. 6th
||Raised 4th SD
||Minor 6th SD
||Minor 3rd scale SD
|French Aug. 6th
||Raised 4th SD
||Minor 6th SD
The advance group in any field, especially referring
to the visual, literary, or musical arts, whose work is unorthodox and