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A

A : 1. The musical pitch relating to 440 oscillations per second of vibration, or any octave transposition of that pitch. 2. The key of A.

absolute music  Music that has no literary, dramatic, or pictorial program. Also pure music.

a cappella Choral music performed without instrumental accompaniment.

accelerando  Getting faster.Increase tempo.

accent  The stress of one tone over others.

accidental : A sharp raises a tone by a : semitone, a double sharp raises it by a : whole tone, a flat lowers it by a semitone and a double flat lowers it by a whole tone. A natural cancels the effect of a previous accidental.

accompagnato  Accompanied; also a recitative that is accompanied by orchestra.

accompaniment : A vocal or instrumental part that supports or is background for a solo part.

accordion   A musical instrument with a small keyboard and free-vibrating metal reeds that sound when air is generated by pleated bellows.

achromatic : See diatonic.

acid rock  Genre of American rock that emerged in the late 1960s, often associated with psychedelic drugs. Its style featured heavy amplification, instrumental improvisation, new sound technologies, and light shows.

acoustic : Any instrument that produces sound by means of physical vibrations, without the use of electronic amplification.

acoustics : 1. The science of sound. 2. The physical properties of an instrument or a room as they relate to sound

adagio  It. comfortable, easy. 1. Slow tempo, slower – especially in even meter – than : andante and faster than : largo. 2. A movement in slow tempo, especially the second (slow) movement of : sonatas, symphonies, etc.

additive meter  Groupings of irregular numbers of beats that add up to a larger, overall pattern (2 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 10).

ad libitum  Indication that gives the performer the liberty to omit a section or to improvise.

aerophone  World music classification for instruments that produce sound by using air as the primary vibrating means, such as flute, trumpet or whistle. The most common Western instruments of this category belong to the woodwind and brass families. Bagpipes are aerophones frequently used in some traditional music.

ad libitum  Indication that gives the performer the liberty to omit a section or to improvise.

agitato  Agitated or restless.

agnus dei  A section of the Mass; the last musical movement of the Ordinary.

alberti bass : Accompanying bass figures consisting of broken chords, generally in the pattern low-high-middle-high.

air : A song or melody.

aleatory  Indeterminate music in which certain elements of performance (such as pitch, rhythm or form) are left to choice or chance.

alla breve  See cut time.

allegro  It. cheerful. Quick tempo. Also used as a title for pieces in a quick tempo, especially the first and last movements of a : sonata.

allemande  German dance in moderate duple time, popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods; often the first movement of a Baroque suite.

alteration : The raising or lowering of a note by means of a sharp or flat.

alto  A female voice of low range (contralto). Originally the alto was a high male voice (hence the name) which by the use of falsetto reached the height of the female voice. This type of voice is also known as counter tenor.

alto clef : The C clef falling on the third line of the staff. Used almost exclusively by the viola.

ambit : The term ambit (from latin: ambitus, plural: ambitus) denotes a range of pitches for a given voice in a part of music. It may also denote the pitch range that a musical instrument is capable of playing.

ancient minor scale : --> diatonic scale (ancient minor).

andante  Moderately slow or walking pace.

answer  Second entry of the subject in a fugue, usually pitched a fourth below or a fifth above the subject.

anthem  A religious choral composition in English; performed liturgically, the Protestant equivalent of the motet.

antiphonal  Performance style in which an ensemble is divided into two or more groups, performing in alternation and then together.

antique cymbals  Small disks of brass, held by the player one in each hand, that are struck together gently and allowed to vibrate.

appoggiatura : Ornamental note, usually a second, that is melodically connected with the main note following it. In music before the 19th century a. were usually performed on the beat, after that mostly before the beat. While the short a. is performed as a short note regardless of the duration of the main note the duration of the long a. is proportional to that of the main note.

arabesque  Decorative musical material or a composition based on florid embellishment.

aria  Lyric song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, generally expressing intense emotion; found in opera, cantata, and oratorio.

arioso  Short, aria-like passage.


arpeggio  Broken chord in which the individual tones are sounded one after another instead of simultaneously.

Ars Antiqua  French sacred polyphonic musical style from the period c.1160-1320.

Ars Nova  Fourteenth century French polyphonic musical style whose themes moved increasingly from religious to secular.

art rock  Genre of rock that uses larger forms and more complex harmonies than other popular styles; occasionally quotes examples from classical music. Also progressive rock.

ascending interval : A distance between a starting lower note and a higher ending note.

a tempo  Return to the previous tempo.

atonality  Total abandonment of tonality (centering in a key). Atonal music moves from one level of dissonance to another, without areas of relaxation.

attaca  "Attack", proceed without a pause between movements.

augmentation  Lengthening the duration of notes in a theme.

augmented : Raised, enlarged.

aulot  Double-reed pipe; played for public and religious functions in ancient Greece.

autograph : 1. A manuscript in the composer’s own hand. 2. Music prepared for photoreproduction by freehand drawing, with the aid of a straightedge ruler and T-square only, which attempts to emulate engraving. This required more skill than did engraving.