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4.9: Glossary

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    Antiphonal – A genre of sacred music featuring multiple choirs, or a choir that has been divided into different groups that can perform call and responses.

    Aria – Homophonic compositions featuring a solo singer over orchestral accompaniment. homophonic compositions featuring a solo singer over accompaniment. Arias are very melodic primarily utilized in operas, cantatas, and oratorios.

    Basso continuo – continuous realization of harmony throughout a musical piece, usually by a harpsichord and/or cello. The Basso continuo provides a framework/template for harmonic accompaniments.

    Cantata – A composite major church choir form from the Baroque period that involves soloist, choir, and orchestra. Cantatas have several movements and last for fifteen to thirty minutes. Cantatas are performed without staging but they utilize narration, arias, recitatives, choruses and smaller vocal ensembles.

    Chorale – Originally the result from the German protestant church’s reformation, the chorale is the hymn (tune) is a four part homophonic work that is sung by the church congregation. Chorales became the foundation for several cantatas and chorale preludes for organ.

    Concerto – A musical composition for a soloist and orchestra.

    Concerto Grosso – a musical composition for a small group of soloists and orchestra.

    Cori spezzati – A divided choir that is utilized to perform in a polychoral style—able to perform “call and response”. Large churches were designed with multiple choir seating sections to perform such works.

    Fugue – perfected by J.S. Bach during the baroque period, fugues are a form written in an imitative contrapuntal style in multiple parts. Fugues are based upon their original tune that is called the subject. The subject is then imitated and overlapped by the other parts by the called the answer, countersubject, stretto, and episode

    Homophony – Music where the melody is supported by a chordal accompaniment the move in the same rhythm. Homophony is generally the opposite of polyphony where the voices imitative and weave with each other.

    Libretto – The text or actual words of an opera, musical, cantata or oratorio, written or compiled by a librettist

    Melisma – More than one note sung during one syllable of the text. The melismatic style was used extensively in gregorian chant.

    Motor rhythm – The constant repeated subdivision of the beat. The motor rhythm provide unity and stability within the musical piece.

    Movement – a subsection or independent section/piece of a larger work. (Ex. A symphony is divided into movements.)

    Opera – A staged musical drama for voices and orchestra. Operas are fully blocked and performed in costume with sets. Operas utilize arias and recitatives without no narration.

    Oratorio – a major work with religious or contemplative character for solo voices, chorus and orchestra. Oratorios do not utilize blocking, costumes, or scenery.

    Polychoral (style) – a compositional style where the chorus/choir is divided into two or more groups that can perform with or independently for each other (see antiphonal).

    Polyphony – Two or more melodic voices or instruments combine weaving together.

    Program music – instrumental Music written to portray an non-musical idea. A

    descriptive piece.

    Recitative – An operatic number using speech-like melodies and rhythms, performing using a flexible tempo, to sparse accompaniment, most often provided by the basso continuo. Recitatives are often performed between arias and have texts that tend to be descriptive and narrating.

    Ritornello Form – Repeated unifying sections founds in between the solo sections of a concerto grosso

    Sectional form – A piece where distinct sections can be identified due to changes in texture and other musical compositional techniques.

    Solo – A musical piece that features on musician either with or without accompaniment. In larger scored piece, the solo is the main part that should be brought out while performing.

    Sonata – a musical composition in multiple movements for solo instrument, usually accompanied by the piano.

    Stylized dance – piece of music that sounds like a dance but that was not designed for dancing. In other words, a stylized dance uses the distinct characteristics of a dance and would be recognized as sounding like that dance but might be too long or too complicated to be danced to.

    Subject – The main melody or tune of a fugue.
    Suite – A multi-movement instrumental musical composition of baroque music—usually

    in dance form.

    Terraced dynamics – Used during the Baroque period, this is where the different sections have a piece of music have a set volume unique for that particular section. The next section may be written to be performed at another volume.

    Through-composed – Songs or musical selections where new music is composed for each stanza or section with no repetition.

    Tutti – Where the entire musical ensemble performs together as a whole as opposed to a soloist.

    Word painting – the depiction of specific images from the text by vocal music. If the text refers to quickly running up a hill, the melody will ascend quickly to portray running up a hill musically.

    This page titled 4.9: Glossary is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Clark, Heflin, Kluball, & Kramer (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.