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Article

Clive Brown

Symbols appended to musical notation which indicate to the performer the manner in which particular notes and phrases should be played.

Until the late 18th century the only signs commonly used to indicate distinctions of articulation were the slur and the staccato mark (a dot, a vertical stroke, or a wedge) placed above or below the note head. In the 19th century composers became concerned to specify their requirements with ever greater precision, and other forms of articulation mark were introduced, though only a few of these were widely adopted. The principal meaning of the slur has remained relatively constant, though the manner of its employment has varied greatly over the centuries. Except where slurs are written over a succession of notes on the same pitch to indicate portato, they specify that notes of different pitches should be performed without separation, that is, legato. There is, strictly speaking, no greater or lesser degree of connectedness; terms such as ...

Article

Patrizio Barbieri

Term for certain combinations of clefs used in 16th- and 17th-century polyphonic music, distinct from the chiavi naturali (the combination of soprano, alto, tenor and bass clefs); it is especially used for the combination of ‘high clefs’ (treble, mezzo-soprano, alto and baritone clefs). Some theorists stated that the chiavette implied transposition by a 4th or 5th into the register of the ‘normal’ clefs, whence the alternative term ...

Article

The Fingering of keyboard music with figures 1 to 5 for each hand, 1 standing for the thumb, a system in general use throughout the world today. The term was used in Britain in the 19th century in contrast to so-called English fingering (not, however, exclusively English), which provided for four fingers (marked 1 to 4) and a thumb (marked +)....

Article

James Tyler

A term sometimes found in lute, guitar and mandore music to designate the alteration in tuning of at least one course of strings from the normal pattern. Such alterations afford players a greater compass of notes, more open strings for resonance and ease of playing. Because of the nature of the tablature notation for these instruments, it is as easy to read and play music in the altered tuning as it is in the normal one....

Article

Stephen E. Hefling

Rhythms in which long notes alternate with one or more short notes, so called because the long notes are usually written with the aid of the dot of addition (see Note values). Dotted rhythms are found in mensurally notated music of all periods; this article, however, deals mainly with music of the 17th and 18th centuries, in which it was customary to alter certain sorts of written rhythmic values in performance (...

Article

Matthias Thiemel

The intensity of volume with which notes and sounds are expressed. In the 20th century dynamics came to be seen as one of the fundamental parameters of composition which function interdependently to create musical meaning and structure.

Dynamic variation is so natural to the performance of almost all styles of music that its presence can normally be assumed even when indications for it are mainly or even entirely absent from the notation. That dynamic transitions occurred in the music of ancient Greece is suggested by Plutarch’s accounts, and it is likely that the monophonic hymns of the ...

Article

The Fingering of keyboard music with figures 1 to 4 representing four fingers, and + the thumb, of each hand, a system used in England and elsewhere in the 19th century and now obsolete. The term contrasted with Continental fingering, which provides the figures 1 to 5 for each hand, 1 standing for the thumb, a system in general use throughout the world today....

Article

Fermata  

David Fuller

The sign of the corona or point surmounted by a semicircle showing the end of a phrase or indicating the prolongation of a note or a rest beyond its usual value. ‘Fermata’ came into American usage during the 19th century; H.W. Pilkington, in A Musical Dictionary...

Article

A rest for the whole orchestra, usually unexpected and sometimes marked with the letters ‘GP’.

Article

Robert E. Seletsky

Ornamental notes written or printed smaller than the ‘main text’ and accorded an unmeasured duration which is not counted as part of the written bar length. Speed of execution depends on the nature of the ornament they represent and to some extent on the tempo of the music but, except in the case of appoggiaturas, grace notes are usually performed lightly and very quickly. The ornament most commonly expressed as a grace note is the simple acciaccatura, but Chopin, Liszt and others often used quite lengthy strings of grace notes for piano figuration that defied precise notation in rhythmic terms or that invited a certain freedom in performance....

Article

L.H  

Abbreviation for left hand (also Ger. linke Hand).

Article

Legato  

Geoffrey Chew

Of successive notes in performance, connected without any intervening silence of articulation. In practice, the connection or separation of notes is relative, and achieved through the presence or absence of emphasis, Periodicals, and attack, as much as silences of articulation; degrees of connection and separation vary from legatissimo (representing the closest degree of connection), tenuto, portamento, legato, portato, non legato, mezzo-staccato, ...

Article

Meane  

Owen Jander

English term referring originally to the middle part of a three-voice polyphonic texture. R. Brunne’s Chronical of Wace (c 1630) refers to ‘the clerkes that best couthe synge, wyth treble, mene & burdoun’. In discussions of discant, 15th-century theorists (Leonel Power, Pseudo-Chilston) applied ‘mene’ to the part sounding a 5th or a 3rd above the plainchant. In the Mulliner Book ten compositions by John Redford (...

Article

A vertical line drawn between (not through) the staves to show the metrical division in editions of early music. See Strich .

Article

David Fallows

An apparatus for establishing musical tempo. More specifically, it is the clockwork-driven double-pendulum device perhaps invented about 1812 by Diederich Nikolaus Winkel but refined and patented by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel in 1815. The name seems to have entered the English and French languages specifically on Maelzel’s patents filed in London and Paris; and there is no apparent evidence of its earlier use in any European language....

Article

MG  

Main gauche (Fr.: ‘left hand’). An instruction found in keyboard music.

Article

Margaret Bent and Alexander Silbiger

These terms were used by theorists from the late 12th century to the 16th, at first in opposition to musica recta or musica vera, to designate ‘feigned’ extensions of the hexachord system contained in the so-called Guidonian hand. Most scholars accept that notated polyphony of this period required performers to interpret under-prescriptive notation in accordance with their training (by contrapuntal and melodic criteria about which scholars disagree), ensuring the perfection of consonances, and approaching cadences correctly. These requirements could often be met within the ...

Article

A score in which each individual voice of a polyphonic composition is assigned a separate staff (see Score and Organ score).

Article

David Fuller

An ambiguous term in English, owing its existence to the fact that it is the literal equivalent of the Latin punctus organi or organicus punctus, the German Orgelpunkt, and the French point d'orgue. Although listed in all musical dictionaries, the English term is usually avoided in practical situations in favour of the more precise ‘pedal’ or ...

Article

Peter Williams and Rosa Cafiero

A term used fairly frequently in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to denote exercises in figured-bass playing, not so much as accompaniments to a solo instrument as self-contained pieces. Composers using this term were very often Neapolitan or Milanese, though the significance of this is unknown. The word may or may not refer to the 17th century practice of divisions, i.e. performing variations on a repeating (figured) bass; more likely it reflects the common Italian practice ...