In music, a movement beginning in the second half of the 19th century that is characterized by a strong emphasis on national elements and resources of music.  It is based on the idea that the composer should make his work an expression of national and ethnic traits, chiefly by drawing on the folk melodies and dance rhythms of his country and by choosing scenes from his country's history or life as subjects for operas and symphonic poems.

The nationalist movement began as a reaction against the supremacy of German music. It was started by talented musicians who found themselves forced to compete with men like Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms, and who, in their national treasure of melodies, dances, etc., found a potentially strong weapon.  It was principally embraced by the "peripheral" European nations, for which it proved, in most cases, the first opportunity to advance to the center of the musical scene.

Nationalistic tendencies are seen in works by Glinka, Smetana, Grieg, Borodin, and Mussorgsky, among others.