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madrigal  Renaissance secular work originating in Italy for voices, with or without instruments, set to a short, lyric love poem; also popular in England.

madrigal choir  Small vocal ensemble that specializes in a cappella secular works.

maestoso  Majestic.

Magnificat  Biblical text on the words of the Virgin Mary, sung polyphonically in church from the Renaissance on.

major scale  A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps, as shown below:

1  -  2  -  3  -  4  -  5  -  6  -  7  -  8
 whole  whole  half whole  whole  whole  half

mambo  Dance of Afro-Cuban origin with a characteristic quadruple-meter rhythmic pattern.

mandolin  Plucked-string instrument with a rounded body and fingerboard; used in some folk musics and in country-western music.

march  A style incorporating characteristics of military music, including strongly accented duple-meter in simple, repetitive rhythmic patterns.

marching band  Instrumental ensemble for entertainment at sports events and parades, consisting of wind and percussion instruments, drum majors/majorettes, and baton twirlers.

mariachi  Traditional Mexican ensemble popular throughout the country, consisting of trumpets, violins, guitar and bass guitar.

marimba  Percussion instrument that is a mellower version of the xylophone; of African origin.

masque  English genre of aristocratic entertainment that combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry and dance, developed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Mass  Central service of the Roman Catholic Church.

mazurka  Type of Polish folk dance in triple meter.

mbube  "Lion"; a cappella choral singing style of South African Zulus, featuring call and response patterns, close-knit harmonies and syncopation.

measure  A rhythmic grouping or metrical unit that contains a fixed number of beats; in notated music, it appears as a vertical line through the staff.

medium  Performing forces employed in a certain musical work.

melismatic  Melodic style characterized by many notes sung to a single text syllable.

melody  Succession of single tones or pitches perceived by the mind as a unity.

membranophone  World music classification for instruments that produce sound from a tightly stretched membrane that can be struck, plucked, rubbed or sung into (setting the "skin" in vibration). The most common Western instruments of this category belong to the percussion family (timpani, bass drum). The conga drum is a membranophone often used in popular music.

meno  Less.

mesto  Sad.

metallophone  Percussion instrument consisting of tuned metal bars, usually struck with a mallet.

meter  Organization of rhythm in time; the grouping of beats into larger, regular patterns, notated as measures. In simple meters, such as duple, triple, and quadruple, each beat subdivides into two; in compound meters, such as sextuple, each beat divides into three.

metronome  Device used to indicate the tempo by sounding regular beats at adjustable speeds.

mezzo forte  The Italian term for "moderately loud", indicated in the musical score by the marking "mf".

mezzo piano  The Italian term for "moderately soft", indicated in the musical score by the marking "mp".

mezzo-soprano  Female voice of middle range.

micropolyphony  Twentieth century technique encompassing the complex interweaving of all musical elements.

microtone  Musical interval smaller than a semitone, prevalent in some non-Western musics and in some twentieth century art music.

MIDI  Acronym for musical instrument digital interface; technology standard that allows networking of computers with electronic musical instruments.

minimalist music  Contemporary musical style featuring the repetition of short melodic, rhythmic and harmonic patterns with little variation. See also spiritual minimalism.

Minnesingers  Late medieval German poet-musicians.

minor scale  A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps, as shown below:

1  -  2  -  3  -  4  -  5  -  6  -  7  -  8
 whole  half  whole  whole  whole  half  whole

minuet and trio  A moderate triple-meter dance form with two main sections (minuet = A, trio = B) that often occurs as the third movement of a symphony.

misterioso  Mysteriously.

modal  Characterizes music that is based on modes other than major and minor, especially the early church modes.

mode  Scale or sequence of notes used as the basis for a composition; major and minor are modes.

moderato  Moderate.

modified strophic form  Song structure that combines elements of strophic and through-composed forms; a variation of strophic form in which a section might have a new key, rhythm, or varied melodic pattern.

modulation  The process of changing from one key to another.

molto  Very.

monody  Vocal style established in the Baroque, with a solo singer and instrumental accompaniment.

monophonic  Single-line texture, or melody without accompaniment.

monothematic  Work or movement based on a single theme.

morality play  Medieval drama, often with music, intended to teach proper values.

motet  Polyphonic vocal genre, secular in the Middle Ages but sacred or devotional thereafter.

motive  Short melodic or rhythmic idea; the smallest fragment of a theme that forms a melodic-harmonic-rhythmic unit.

movement  Complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work.

MTV  Acronym for music television, a cable channel that presents non-stop music videos.

muses  Nine daughters of Zeus in ancient mythology; each presided over one of the arts.

music drama  Wagner's term for his operas.

music video  Video tape or film that accompanies a recording, usually of a popular or rock song.

musical  Genre of twentieth century musical theater, especially popular in the United States and Great Britain; characterized by spoken dialogue, dramatic plot interspersed with songs, ensemble numbers and dancing.

musical saw  A handsaw that is bowed on its smooth edge; pitch is varied by bending the saw.

musique concrète  Music made up of natural sounds and sound effects that are recorded and then manipulated electronically.

mute  Mechanical device used to muffle the sound of an instrument.