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P

panpipe  Wind instrument consisting of a series of small vertical tubes or pipes of differing length; sound is produced by blowing across the top.

pantomime  Theatrical genre in which an actor silently plays all the parts in a show while accompanied by singing; originated in ancient Rome.

part song  Secular vocal composition, unaccompanied, in three, four or more parts.

partita  See suite.

pas de deux  A dance for two that is an established feature of classical ballet.

passacaglia  Baroque form (similar to the chaconne) in moderately slow triple meter, based on a short, repeated base-line melody that serves as the basis for continuous variation in the other voices.

passepied  French Baroque court dance type; a faster version of the minuet.

passion  Musical setting of the Crucifixion story as told by one of the four Evangelists in the Gospels.

pastorale  Pastoral, country-like.

pavane  Stately Renaissance court dance in duple meter.

pedal point  Sustained tone over which the harmonies change.

penny whistle  See tin whistle.

pentatonic scale  Five-note pattern used in some African, Far Eastern and Native American musics; can also be found in Western music as an example of exoticism.

percussion instrument  Instrument made of metal, wood, stretched skin or other material that is made to sound by striking, shaking, scraping or plucking. The many varied percussion instruments fall into two basic categories: pitched (such as timpani and xylophone) and unpitched (snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine).

performance art  Multimedia art form involving visual as well as dramatic and musical elements.

perpetuum mobile  Type of piece characterized by continuous repetitions of a rhythmic pattern at a quick tempo; perpetual motion.

phasing  A technique in which a musical pattern is repeated and manipulated so that it separates and overlaps itself, and then rejoins the original pattern; getting "out of phase" and back "in sync".

phrase  Musical unit; often a component of a melody.

pianissimo  The Italian term for "very soft", indicated in the musical score by the marking "pp".

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

piano  Keyboard instrument whose strings are struck with hammers controlled by a keyboard mechanism; pedals control dampers in the strings that stop the sound when the finger releases the key.

piano quartet  Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin, viola and cello.

piano quintet  Standard chamber ensemble of piano with two violins, viola and cello.

piano trio  Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin and cello.

pianoforte  Original name for the piano.

piccolo  The highest member of the orchestra, the piccolo is a little flute whose shrill timbre stands out against the full ensemble.

pipa  A Chinese lute with four silk strings; played as solo and ensemble instrument.

pitch  Highness or lowness of a tone, depending on the frequency (rate of vibration).

pizzicato  Performance direction to pluck a string of a bowed instrument with the finger.

plainchant  See Gregorian chant.

plainsong  See Gregorian chant.

poco  A little.

polka  Lively Bohemian dance; also a short, lyric piano piece.

polonaise  Stately Polish processional dance in triple meter.

polychoral  Performance style developed in the late sixteenth century involving the use of two or more choirs that alternate with each other or sing together.

polyharmony  Two or more streams of harmony played against each other, common in twentieth century music.

polyphonic  Two or more melodic lines combined into a multivoiced texture, as distinct from monophonic.

polyrhythm  The simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns or meters, common in twentieth-century music and in certain African musics.

polytextual  Two or more texts set simultaneously in a composition.

polytonality  The simultaneous use of two or more keys, common in twentieth century music.

portative organ  Medieval organ small enough to be carried or set on a table, usually with only one set of pipes.

positive organ  Small single-manual organ, popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

prelude  Instrumental work intended to precede a larger work.

prepared piano  Piano whose sound is altered by the insertion of various materials (metal, rubber, leather and paper) between the strings; invented by John Cage.

presto  Very fast.

program music  Instrumental music endowed with literary or pictorial associations, especially popular in the nineteenth century.

program symphony  Multimovement programmatic orchestral work, typically from the nineteenth century.

progressive rock  See art rock.

Proper  Sections of the Roman Catholic Mass that vary from day to day throughout the church year according to the particular liturgical occasion; as distinct from the Ordinary, in which they remain the same.

Psalms  Book from the Old Testament of the Bible; the 150 psalm texts, used in Jewish and Christian worship, are often set to music.

psaltery  Medieval plucked-string instrument similar to the modern zither, consisting of a sound box over which strings were stretched.

punk rock  Subgenre of rock popular since the mid 1970s, characterized by loud volume levels, driving rhythms and simple forms typical of earlier rock and roll; often contains shocking lyrics and offensive behavior.

pure music  See absolute music.