The free use of diatonic pitches in composition.
That is, the pitches of the diatonic collection -- the major scale, for
instance -- are employed in a way that downplays relations centering around
triads and tonal harmony. Pandiatonic passages are often characterized
by secundal harmony and disjunct lines.
The term was first used by Nicolas Slonimksy.
Composers cited include Prokofiev
(Third Piano Concerto), Stravinsky
Petrushka), and Copland (Appalachian
Although a pantomime in Britain has come to indicate
a children’s Christmas entertainment, making use of traditional and topical
elements in a mixture of fairy-story, comic routine and popular song, the
word originally indicated a performance entirely in mime, in this sense
having a long history. In this second and original sense pantomime is sometimes
found as part of a descriptive title of a musical work or part of a work
originally so intended.
A part may indicate the line or music intended for
a particular performer. Earlier choral music, for example, was written
in separate part-books, one for each part, as is the modern practice with
orchestral parts, rather than in the full vocal score now usual. The art
of part-writing or, in American, voice-leading, is the art of writing simultaneous
parts according to the established rules of harmony. A part-song is a vocal
work in which different voices are used, as distinct from a song in which
all sing the same melody.
Partita is another word for suite, used, for example,
by Johann Sebastian Bach in the title of a set of keyboard suites or in
the three Partitas for unaccompanied violin.
The passacaglia is a baroque dance variation form
on a short melodic formula usually occurring in the bass. It is similar
in form to the chaconne, in which a recurrent bass pattern forms the basis
of the composition, implying a recurrent harmonic progression. The two
forms are sometimes confused by composers. Famous examples of the passacaglia
include Johann Sebastian Bach’s C minor Passacaglia for the organ. Something
of the form appears in the last movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms,
and passacaglias occur in Berg’s opera Wozzeck and in Britten’s opera Peter
The four accounts of the suffering and death of Christ,
as given in the first four books of the New Testament, were customarily
sung during the Catholic rites of Holy Week to plainchant, with a division
of parts where direct speech is involved. It became customary in the 15th
century to allow the singing of the parts of the crowd (= Latin: turba)
in the biblical narrative in polyphonic settings, with a gradual extension
of the polyphonic element in the next century. The best known settings
of the Passion are the surviving Lutheran settings by Johann Sebastian
Bach of the accounts of the Passion in the Gospels of St. Matthew and of
tone that connects two consonant pitches by stepwise motion and normally
occurs in a metrically weak position. When it occurs in a metrical
position stronger than that of its resolution, it is called an accented
Pastorale is a musical expression of a genre familiar
in European literature from Hellenistic times or earlier, an idealisation
of the rural, in literary form, in the lives and loves (often fatal) of
shepherds and shepherdesses, and then, by extension, of the country in
general. The word may be used as the title of a piece of music suggesting
a rural idyll. In Italy it was associated particularly with the dance-form,
the Siciliano, used to suggest the scene of shepherds in the fields near
Bethlehem at the birth of Christ. Such pastoral movements formed part of
the Christmas concertos of Corelli and his contemporaries and imitators.
Adjectivally used, the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven, in true Wordsworthian
fashion, offers emotions experienced on a visit to the country, recollected
in what passed for tranquillity in his life.
The pavan (= French: pavane), a stately duple metre
dance of the 16th and early 17th centuries, appears in various English
spellings, paven, pavin and other forms. Coupled with the quicker triple
metre galliard, it was among the most popular dances of the time. The origin
of the word is attributed either to the Italian town of Padua or to the
peacock (= Italian: pavone). Well known examples include the English composer
John Dowland’s Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares Figured in Seaven Passionate
Pavans or Ravel’s nostalgic Pavane pour une infante défunte, (Pavan
for a Dead Infanta).
A sustained tone in the lowest register, occurring
under changing harmonies in the upper parts. In tonal music, pedal
points may occur on any scale degree (and are often identified by the name
of the scale degree), but the most common are those on the dominant, preparing
a climactic return to the tonic, and on the tonic, as the final, summarizing
statement of the tonic at the conclusion of a work. In organ music,
where some of the most characteristic examples occur, such tones are typically
played on the pedalboard. A similarly sustained tone in an upper
register is sometimes termed and inverted or internal pedal. Sustained
tones in the lowest voice are a salient feature of certain types of organum,
an in the form of the drone, sustained tones used in conjunction with moving
parts are widely distributed geographically and historically.
The pentatonic or five-note scale is formed by the
black notes of the keyboard, or the white notes C, D, E, G and A - two
whole tones, a minor third and a whole tone. This form of scale is the
basis of folk melodies in many countries, from China to Scotland, and occasionally
occurs, in passing at least, in the work of 20th century composers. It
is an important element in the educational music of Carl Orff and in the
choral method of the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály.
The percussion section of the orchestra includes
all instruments that are played by being struck, including the piano and
celesta. Originally consisting of a pair of kettledrums or timpani, appearing
normally with a pair of trumpets, in the orchestra of the later 18th century,
a military importation, the percussion section was significantly enlarged
with the allegedly Turkish fashion of the later 18th century, involving
the occasional use of bass drum, cymbals and triangle in an imitation of
the Janissary band. Liszt shocked audiences by including a triangle in
the orchestration of a piano concerto, dubbed a triangle concerto by a
hostile critic, and gradually other percussion instruments were added for
occasional effects, including even, by Erik Satie, the typewriter.
Performance practice or performing practice (= German:
Aufführungspraxis) indicates the attempt to perform music in the way
envisaged originally by the composer. The second half of the 20th century
has brought a significant interest in musicology and the technology and
scholarship necessary to the construction of copies of earlier instruments
and to the study of methods of performance on these instruments. The study
of performing practice extends from the study of music of the earliest
periods to that of relatively recent periods of the 19th and early 20th
A complete musical utterance, defined in tonal music
by arrival at a cadence on some harmony that does not immediately require
further resolution. In this sense, which is necessarily somewhat
flexible, the musical term corresponds to the sentence (or period) in language.
In the music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries especially, a period
usually consists of two phrases (an antecedent
and consequent), each of which may be made up of still shorter sub-phrases.
Periods may be joined to form larger periods (perhaps constituting a section
of a movement) and whole movements or forms. The term was used in
a much broader way by Wagner, who
regarded the musico-poetic period governed by a central tonality as the
fundamental component of form in the music drama.
This term is used if both phrases begin with
similar or identical material.
This is used when the phrase beginnings are not
Double Parallel Period
Consists typically of four phrases in two pairs,
the cadence at the end of the second pair being stronger than the cadence
at the end of the first pair. Double periods are called parallel
or contrasting according to whether or not the melodic material that begins
the two halves of the period is similar.
The adjective Philharmonic and noun Philharmonia
are generally used as adopted titles by orchestras or by music-loving societies
of one sort or another. The words have no other technical meaning.
A phrase in music, on the analogy of syntactical
use, is a recognisable musical unit, generally ending in a cadence of some
kind, and forming part of a period or sentence. Phrasing in performance
has a less precise use, indicating the correct grouping of notes, whether
as phrases in the technical sense or in smaller distinct units, corresponding
to the various possible syntactical uses of punctuation.
Piano (Italian: soft) is generally represented by
the letter p in directions to performers. Pianissimo, represented by pp,
means very soft. Addition of further letters p indicates greater degrees
of softness, as in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, where an excessive pppppp
The pianoforte, known generally as the piano, was
developed during the 18th century. A keyboard instrument, it is distinguished
from the harpsichord by its hammer action, with hammers striking the strings
when keys are depressed. Dynamic change is possible by applying more or
less force to the keys. The instrument underwent a number of technical
changes during the century and in the years following became the most popular
instrument of domestic entertainment.
Piano trio, piano quartet and piano quintet indicate
works for the piano with varying numbers of string instruments. The piano
trio is scored for piano, violin and cello, the piano quartet for piano,
violin, viola and cello, and the piano quintet for piano, two violins,
viola and cello.
The piccolo (Italian: small) is the small flute,
pitched an octave higher than the ordinary flute. Adjectivally the word
may be applied to other instruments or groups, as in coro piccolo, small
chorus. The violino piccolo, a smaller violin, is used by Johann Sebastian
Bach in the first Brandenburg Concerto, where it is to be tuned a third
The pitch of a note is the frequency of its vibrations.
The exact pitch of notes has varied over the years and nowadays differs
to some extent between continent and continent or even between orchestra
and orchestra. Earlier pitches were generally lower, but not necessarily
standardised. Perfect pitch is the ability to distinguish the pitch of
a note, according to generally accepted nomenclature. Relative pitch is
the ability to distinguish the pitch of one note with relation to another,
The harmonic tendencies outlining the tonic in the
major/minor system, tendencies presumably confirmed perceptually through
repetition, do not occur in many 20th-century compositions. However,
it is possible to create the sense that one pitch prevails over others
by repeating that pitch often enough to establish it as the most prominent
pitch in a passage. We refer to this technique as pitch centricity.
There may be more than one centric pitch in a passage.
A pitch without reference to the octave or register
in which it occurs, e.g., the class of all C's as distinct from the pitch
c'. Western tonal music uses twelve pitch classes, each of which
is represented in each octave of the entire range of pitches. The
term is used particularly (though not exclusively) with respect to twelve-tone
and serial music, having been coined in
this context by Milton Babbitt.
Pitch Class set (PC-Set)
Collections of discrete pitch classes ranging from
three (3) to nine (9) elements. PC-Sets may be ordered
(as in serial compositions) or unordered
(as in most other nontonal music).
A musical span filled by pitches.
When tonal relationships are lacking, the listener
can not rely on chord progressions to delineate endings or cadences in
music. Rather, endings must be outlined in other ways. One
of the way composers establish the ending of a section is through the repetition
or sustaining of the ending pitch, a technique called pitch stasis.
Più (Italian: more) is found in directions
to performers, as in più forte, louder, or più lento, slower.
Pizzicato (Italian: plucked) is a direction to performers
on string instruments to pluck the strings. A return to the use of the
bow is indicated by the word ‘arco’, bow. Pizzicato notes on the violin,
viola and cello are normally plucked with the index finger of the right
hand. The great violinist Paganini, however, introduced the technique of
left-hand pizzicato for occasional use, notably in one of the variations
of his 24th Caprice, where it produces a very special effect.
Plainchant is the traditional monodic chant of the
Catholic and Eastern Christian liturgies. In Western Europe plainchant
was largely but not completly standardised under Pope Gregory the Great
at the end of the sixth century. This form of chant is free in rhythm,
following the words of the liturgical texts, and is modal, using the scales
of the eight church modes. In its long history it has undergone various
reforms, revisions and attempts at restoration.
Also known as parallelism. A succession of
chords all having the same interval structure and number of parts, the
parts thus moving parallel to one another. The repeated or extended
use of parallel chords of any type can serve to disrupt the structural
hierarchy that is the basis of classical tonality, replacing it with a
succession of equally weighted harmonies, none of which may be perceived
as the tonic. The music of Debussy,
and thus of impressionism generally,
is frequently associated with this phenomenon, as is that of Satie.
It is also encountered in some works of Bartok
and of early and middle-period Stravinsky.
Some 20th-century music has exploited parallel chords for their percussive
effect when used in rapid succession. Jazz and rock music have also
used parallel chords, often as a result of repeated reliance on characteristic
keyboard or fingerboard idioms. They are a widespread feature of
polyphony outside the tradition of Western art music, occurring in some
European folk music and in some music of Africa and Oceania.
Poco (Italian: little) is found in directions to
performers, as in poco allegro, although un poco allegro, a little fast,
would be more accurate. Poco, in fact, is commonly used meaning un poco,
By analogy with the technique of this name employed
by painters such as Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891), a musical texture in
which pitches are presented in varying timbres
and largely in linear isolation from one another rather than is successions
to be perceived as melodies. Some of Webern's
music would be considered pointillistic.
Polacca, Polish, appears often in the phrase Alla
polacca, in the Polish manner, as in the last movement of the first Brandenburg
Concerto of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The polka, a Bohemian dance, became one of the most
popular ball-room dances of the 19th century, its title a possible reference
to Poland. It is used by Smetana in his Czech opera The Bartered Bride
and elsewhere and in William Walton’s jeu d’esprit Façade.
The polonaise is a Polish dance in triple metre.
Although the title is found in French Suite No. 6 of Johann Sebastian Bach
and elsewhere in the earlier 18th century, the form is best known from
the piano pieces written by Chopin a hundred years later, works that elevated
the original dance to a higher level, while capturing the current spirit
of Polish nationalism.
Polyphony is the writing of music in many parts or
in more than one part, with reference in particular to contrapuntal practices.
Monody or monophony are possible opposites.
The simultaneous use of strikingly contrasted rhythms
in different parts of the musical fabric. In a sense, all truly contrapuntal
or polyphonic music is polyrhythmic, since rhythmic variety in simultaneous
parts more than anything else gives the voice-parts the individuality that
is essential to polyphonic style. Generally, however, the term is
restricted to cases in which rhythmic variety is introduced as a special
effect that is often called "cross rhythm." Two types can be
distinguished: 1) contrasting rhythms within the same scheme of accents;
2) contrasting rhythms involving a conflict of meter or accents.
The latter is sometimes termed "polymetric."
The simultaneous combination of different melodic
or harmonic patterns, each being characteristic of a different key.
Polytonal passages were used on rare occasions in earlier centuries, either
as curiosities or for humorous effect. They occur more frequently
in 20th-century music, and are often a means to powerful expression.
In most instances, bitonality is involved.
Some writers prefer to reserve the term polytonality for those few instances
in which more than two keys are combined simultaneously.
The post horn is a relatively simple kind of horn
once played by postilions as a signal of the departure, arrival or approach
of a coach. Mozart made brief use of the instrument in his Post Horn Serenade,
and its sound was imitated by various composers, including Johann Sebastian
Bach in his harpsichord Capriccio on the Departure of His Beloved Brother,
which includes a Postilion Aria and a fugue on the sound of the post horn.
A postlude is played at the end of a piece and indicates,
in particular, the additional piano phrases that may appear at the end
of a song, after the singer has stopped. The word is more widely used to
describe the closing section of a work or to indicate a piece of music
to be played as the conclusion of some ceremony, the opposite of a prelude.
A prelude (= Latin: praeludium,
praeambulum; French: prélude; German: Vorspiel) is a movement or
section of a work that comes before another movement or section of a work,
although the word also has been used for short independent pieces that
may stand alone, or even for more extended works, such as Debussy’s Prélude
à l’après-midi d’un faune.
Presto (Italian: quick) is used frequently as a direction
to performers. An even faster speed is indicated by the superlative prestissimo
or even il più presto possibile, as fast as possible.
Programme music is music that has a narrative or
descriptive extra-musical content. Music of this kind has a long history,
but the term programme music was coined by Liszt, whose symphonic poems
principally attempt to translate into musical terms works of literature,
such as Goethe’s Faust or Dante’s Divina Commedia. It seems preferable
that the term should be limited to instrumental music for concert use and
should not include either incidental music or ballet music.
The lowest tone, A (not G), of the Greek scale, so
called because it was added below the lowest tetrachord, e-d-c-B.
Psalms are the texts included in the biblical Book
of Psalms and retaining an important place in the services of the Catholic
Divine Office, sung to plainchant. The biblical texts are not metrical
and therefore use a relatively simple form of chant that can be expanded
by the use of a longer reciting note, the final syllables sung to a short
syllabic formula. After the Reformation of the early 16th century metrical
versions of the Psalms became current, with texts that could be sung to
hymn-tunes. Harmonized settings of the biblical and metrical Psalms have
been current in Protestant churches and chapels since the 16th century.
The second of the "natural" methods of tuning, is
based on our ability to distinguish when a perfect fifth is in tune (i.e.,
when the frequency ratio of 3:2 exists). The various tones of the
scale are obtained by proceeding around a spiral of fifths. Although
the Pythagorean system is reasonably satisfactory for diatonic melodies,
difficulties are encountered when chromatic notes are introduced.
(See Article - Enigmatic Duo)