absolute music Music that is independent of words, drama, visual images, or any kind of representational aspects.
a cappella (Italian, "in chapel style") Manner of choral singing without instrumental accompaniment.
accidental Sign that calls for altering the pitch of a NOTE: a sharp raises the pitch a semitone, a flat lowers it a semitone, and a natural cancels a previous accidental.
accompanied recitative RECITATIVE that uses ORCHESTRAL accompaniment to dramatize the text.
act Main division of an OPERA. Most operas have two to five acts, although some have only one.
affections Objectified or archetypal emotions or states of mind, such as sadness, joy, fear, or wonder; one goal of much BAROQUE music was to arouse the affections.
Agnus Dei (Latin, "Lamb of God") Fifth of the five major musical items in the MASS ORDINARY, based on a litany.
agrément (French, "charm"; pronounced ah-gray-MANH) ORNAMENT in French music, usually indicated by a sign.
air English or French song for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment, setting rhymed poetry, often STROPHIC, and usually in the METER of a dance.
air de cour (French, "court air") Type of song for voice and accompaniment, prominent in France from about 1580 through the seventeenth century.
Alberti bass Broken-CHORD accompaniment common in the second half of the eighteenth century and named after Domenico Alberti, who used the FIGURATION frequently.
Alleluia Item from the MASS PROPER, sung just before the Gospel reading, comprising a RESPOND to the text "Alleluia," a verse, and a repetition of the respond. CHANT alleluias are normally MELISMATIC in style and sung in a RESPONSORIAL manner, one or more soloists alternating with the CHOIR.
allemande (French for "German") Highly stylized DANCE in BINARY FORM, in moderately fast quadruple METER with almost continuous movement, beginning with an upbeat. Popular during the RENAISSANCE and BAROQUE; appearing often as the first dance in a SUITE.
alto (from ALTUS) (1) Relatively low female voice, or high male voice. (2) Part for such a voice in an ENSEMBLE work.
altus (Latin, "high") In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century POLYPHONY, a part in a range between the TENOR and the SUPERIUS; originally CONTRATENOR ALTUS.
Ambrosian chant A repertory of ecclesiastical CHANT used in Milan.
answer In the EXPOSITION of a FUGUE, the second entry of the SUBJECT, normally on the DOMINANT if the subject was on the TONIC, and vice versa. Also refers to subsequent answers to the subject.
anthem A POLYPHONIC sacred work in English for Anglican religious services.
antiphon (1) A LITURGICAL CHANT that precedes and follows a PSALM or CANTICLE in the OFFICE. (2) In the MASS, a chant originally associated with ANTIPHONAL PSALMODY; specifically, the COMMUNION and the first and final portion of the INTROIT.
antiphonal Adjective describing a manner of performance in which two or more groups alternate.
Aquitanian polyphony Style of POLYPHONY from the twelfth century, encompassing both DISCANT and FLORID ORGANUM.
aria (Italian, "air") (1) In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, any section of an Italian STROPHIC poem for a solo singer. (2) Lyrical monologue in an OPERA or other vocal work such as CANTATA and ORATORIO.
arioso (1) RECITATIVO ARIOSO. (2) Short, ARIA-like passage. (3) Style of vocal writing that approaches the lyricism of an ARIA but is freer in form.
arpeggio (from Italian arpa, "harp") Broken-CHORD FIGURE.
Ars Nova (Latin, "new art") Style of POLYPHONY from fourteenth-century France, distinguished from earlier styles by a new system of rhythmic NOTATION that allowed duple or triple division of NOTE values, SYNCOPATION, and great rhythmic flexibility.
Ars Subtilior (Latin, "more subtle art") Style of POLYPHONY from the late fourteenth or very early fifteenth centuries in southern France and northern Italy, distinguished by extreme complexity in rhythm and NOTATION.
art music Music that is (or is meant to be) listened to with rapt attention, for its own sake. Compare POPULAR MUSIC.
art song A song intended to be appreciated as an artistic statement rather than as entertainment, featuring precisely notated music, usually THROUGH COMPOSED, and requiring professional standards of performance. Compare POPULAR SONG.
atonal, atonality Terms for music that avoids establishing a central pitch or tonal center (such as the TONIC in TONAL music).
aulos Ancient Greek reed instrument, usually played in pairs.
authentic mode A MODE (2) in which the RANGE normally extends from a STEP below the FINAL to an octave above it. See also PLAGAL MODE.
avant-garde Term for music (and art) that is iconoclastic, irreverent, antagonistic, and nihilistic, seeking to overthrow established aesthetics.