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Elaine Sisman

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Article

Elaine Sisman

A form founded on repetition, and as such an outgrowth of a fundamental musical and rhetorical principle, in which a discrete theme is repeated several or many times with various modifications. Identifiable as a formal type from the 16th century, it nonetheless reflects a technique and process important in nearly all music, including music in which the improvised repetition of the strophes of song or dance forms is a part. A theme for variations, rarely shorter than eight or longer than 32 bars, may be a melody, a bass line, a harmonic progression or a complex of such elements. When the theme is brief enough to serve as an ostinato, its repetitions generate a continuously unfolding structure with new figurations and textures at each statement of the theme. When the theme is a self-contained sectional structure, such as a small two-reprise form, its repetitions result in a strophic form in which some elements of the theme change and others remain the same; this is known as ‘theme and variations’. If instead of successive repetitions the variations recur singly or in groups after intervening material (e.g. episodes, another theme and its own variations, a ...

Article

Maurice J.E. Brown

(Fr; It. varsoviana).

A dance originating in France during the 1850s. It is a genteel variation of the mazurka, incorporating elements of the waltz; its name – from the French form of ‘Warsaw’ – was intended to remove the exotic connotations of ‘mazurka’. It would have returned to obscurity, having served its purpose as an instructive piece for dancing classes, had it not become unexpectedly popular at balls at the Tuileries in Paris; it is said to have been a favourite of the Empress Eugénie. Its tempo is rather slow, and its music is characterized by strong accents on the first beats of the second and fourth complete bars....

Article

Clifford Barnes

(Fr.)

A French poem or song of satirical or epigrammatic character common in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its use in the French theatre (comédie en vaudevilles) led in the 19th and 20th centuries to a broader application of the term as a name for theatrical entertainments similar to modern musical comedy or music-hall variety shows. The term itself is the result of the cohesion and confusion of two genres of French song which have separate origins. The earliest, the vau de vire, was a popular, satirical song originating in Normandy in the 15th century; the voix de ville was a courtly song of Parisian origin, the spelling of which in the earliest known reference (‘vaul-de-ville’, 1507) is already confused with that of the Norman genre. The existence of three villages in Lorraine, all named Vaudeville, adds to the confusion of etymology.

Vau de vire literally means ‘valley of Vire’, the place near the city of Vire in Normandy where the song originated. A local genre, concerned with events and personalities of Normandy, celebrated in songs of love, drinking and current events, the ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

A type of finale used originally in French vaudevilles and some opéras comiques, and later more widely: it is in strophic form and most often has verses of seven or eight relatively short lines with a refrain in which all may join. Generally different characters take turns. The first verse sums up the moral of the work, subsequent ones frequently refer to key moments in the plot and point to the character’s sentiments or reform because of the action, and the final one is traditionally a compliment to the public, asking their indulgence. The works of Favart and other authors for the Fair Theatres, Opéra-Comique and Comédie-Italienne offer numerous examples of this classic format during the 18th century. The repertory of several boulevard theatres continued this tradition into the first decades of the 19th century.

In vaudevilles, pre-existing tunes were most often used, but occasionally the theatre’s resident composer (who was usually a violinist in the orchestra and responsible for arrangements and revisions of ...

Article

(Lat.: ‘Come Creator Spirit’)

A hymn for Whitsuntide in the Latin rite; outside the Pentecost season it was and is also used for liturgical and non-liturgical solemnities. It first appears in manuscripts dating from the 10th century and its earliest recorded use was at the Council of Rheims (1049). The text has been attributed variously to St Gregory, St Ambrose, Charlemagne and, more plausibly, to Hrabanus Maurus, and it has been suggested that the melody ( LU , 885) may predate the text, having served originally the Ambrosian hymn Hic est dies verus Dei. The hymn is found in several Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, in one case ( GB-Ccc 391) with a tune (in unheighted neumes) that is clearly a version of the usual one. The melody was used also in the Sarum rite for the hymn Salvator mundi. Keyboard settings based on the melody survive by 16th-century composers including Bull and Byrd, as does a vocal setting by Tallis, ...

Article

John Caldwell

(Lat.: ‘Come Holy Spirit’)

The sequence for Pentecost (LU, 880); it was one of the four sequences retained by the Council of Trent (1545–63). The text has been ascribed to Pope Innocent III (d 1216) and Stephen Langton (d 1228); its ten stanzas are set as five double versicles. There are settings by Du Fay, Josquin, Willaert (two), Palestrina (two), Lassus and Victoria, among others (see Sequence, §11). The text, though not the melody, was incorporated by Dunstaple into his famous motet Veni Sancte Spiritus et emitte/Veni Sancte Spiritus et infunde/Veni Creator/Mentes tuorum. Here the top part sets the sequence text, while the second voice sings an otherwise unrecorded paraphrase of it. The borrowed melodic material of this motet, however, is drawn exclusively from the Office hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. Another combination of these two texts, this time using both melodies, is Heinrich Finck's Veni Creator...

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Venite  

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Jonathan Bellman

(Hung., from Ger. Werbung: ‘recruiting’)

A traditional Hungarian dance music originally used for recruiting, of 18th-century origin and sometimes simply called a hongroise, or ungarischer Tanz. Before the Austro-Hungarian imperial army instituted conscription in 1849, recruiting presentations involving music were used in order to fill the ranks with Hungarian village recruits. About a dozen hussars (members of the Hungarian light cavalry), led by their sergeant, would be involved: first, the sergeant would dance slow and dignified figures, then the subordinate officers would join in and the music and dancing became increasingly energetic, until finally the youngest soldiers engaged in virtuosic leaps and spur-clicking. The accompanying music was usually played by Gypsy musicians. Although the verbunkos is sometimes considered Gypsy music, it was actually Hungarian, often derived ultimately from the song repertory, but played in a fashion characteristic of the Gypsy musicians. Its use as recruiting music ceased in 1849, by which time it was already evolving into the Hungarian national dance, the ...

Article

Verismo  

Matteo Sansone

(It.: ‘realism’; Fr. vérisme)

A movement in Italian literature, and subsequently in opera, which developed in the 1870s. Its major literary representatives are the Sicilian writers Giovanni Verga (1840–1922), Luigi Capuana (1839–1915) and Federico De Roberto (1861–1927).

Although sharing certain characteristics with naturalism – an impersonal narrative style, an interest in the lower social strata, a true-to-life approach in dealing with contemporary reality – verismo developed distinctive traits. The veristi gave a markedly regional character to their works; they reassessed the link between art and reality, established by Zola as a fundamental aesthetic premise, to allow greater freedom to the imagination; and they arrived at an objectivity that implied total consistency of form and content.

Verismo entered opera through ‘scene popolari’, such as Verga’s Cavalleria rusticana (1884), which was the first text to be turned into an opera. In 1888 the publisher Edoardo Sonzogno advertised a competition for a one-act opera by a young Italian composer. Mascagni had no innovatory intentions in his choice of Verga’s popular one-act play. The libretto preserved the vivid dialogue and the rapid pace but the operatic version was distanced from the veristic play by a distortion of its social characteristics and a dilution of its down-to-earth language with traditional high-flown libretto jargon. The opera’s success, however (...

Article

Vers  

Stephen Haynes

A technical term in troubadour poetry, with three separate meanings. For the earliest troubadours, up to and including Marcabru, it was the usual term for a strophic song in the vernacular, encompassing both love songs and political or moralizing songs, which were called cansos (see Canso) and sirventes...

Article

Howard Mayer Brown

revised by Richard Freedman

(Fr.)

French verses, written in the last third of the 16th century by Jean-Antoine de Baïf, a member of the group of poets known as the Pléiade, and by his followers. Baïf attempted to apply the quantitative principles of Greek and Latin poetry to the French language, by its nature accentual, and worked out an accentual version of classical metres – hexameters, Sapphic strophes, and so on – by equating long with accented syllables and short with unaccented syllables.

As a member of the Pléiade, Baïf was committed to the proposition that music and poetry should be united as they had been (according to their theories) in ancient times. Eventually, Baïf and his musical associates – Thibault de Courville, Jacques Mauduit, Guillaume Costeley and the brilliant Claude Le Jeune – devised a technique for setting vers mesurés to music. In musique mesurée à l’antique (or, more simply, musique mesurée), the composer followed the metre of the verse exactly; each long (accented) syllable was set to a minim and each short (unaccented) syllable to a crotchet. To ensure that the words would not be obscured the verses were set syllabically in an almost strictly homophonic texture broken occasionally by very brief melismas often no more than two notes long. Because of the complex patterns of classical verse ...

Article

(from Lat. versus)

In liturgical books of the Roman Catholic Church, a line of a psalm or canticle, or a sentence from a biblical text, such as those used in graduals, alleluias and introits (where the verse is marked V̸). Such verses were always sung by soloists, either in chant or polyphony, while the ...

Article

The words ‘verse’, ‘versus’ and ‘verset’ (or ‘organ verse’, ‘organ verset’) are often used to denote a short, possibly improvised, organ piece used in place of a verse of a hymn, psalm, canticle or other liturgical item from the Mass or Office. The word ‘verse’ (more rarely ‘versus’) was also used in England in the 16th and 17th centuries to denote a short, freely composed organ piece....

Article

David Hiley and Peter Le Huray

(from Lat. versiculus: ‘small verse’)

In Christian liturgies any short text (often said by celebrant or deacon) followed by an answer or ‘response’ (from congregation or choir). The combination of versicle and response is generally called ‘versus’ in Latin liturgical sources. Versicles and responses are often grouped in series, and sung in litany fashion, as in the Roman rite on Sundays at Prime, or in Anglican Morning and Evening Prayer. (See also Litany; for the Preces in non-Roman Latin rites, see Gallican chant, §13; Mozarabic chant §3, (x); for the abbreviations commonly signifying ‘versicle’ and ‘response’ see Respond.)

In the Roman rite, except for the Preces (‘prayers’) at Prime on Sundays, sets of versicles and responses are said or sung singly at many places in the Office: at the beginning of each of the canonical Hours, and at the close of all but Prime and Compline; on Sundays and feast days after the nocturns of Matins, after the hymns of Lauds and Vespers and after the Short Responsory of the Little Hours. Their music follows a simple intonation formula. The versicle ...

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Arnold Whittall

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John Caldwell

(Lat.: ‘praises to the paschal victim’)

The sequence for Easter (LU, 665; HAM, no.16a). The text is ascribed to Wipo of Burgundy (d c1050). It was one of the four sequences retained by the Council of Trent (1545–63), following which the first part of the final double versicle, containing an uncomplimentary reference to the Jews, was normally omitted. It occupies a position midway between the early type and that of Adam of St Victor (see Sequence §9); there is some rhyme, but the metre is still very irregular even though it was not apparently written to a pre-existing melody. It was frequently incorporated into liturgical dramas at Easter (see Medieval drama). There is a primitive organum setting in the Las Huelgas manuscript (E-BUhu; early 14th century), and an anonymous 15th-century alternatim setting survives in Trent (I-TRmnp 88). In addition there are settings by Busnoys, Josquin (two), Willaert (two), Lassus, Palestrina (four), Victoria (an incomplete setting beginning at ‘Dic nobis’), Fernando de las Infantas and Byrd. It was used as a cantus firmus in Isaac's setting of a different Easter sequence, ...

Article

Karen Collins

Video game music is distinct from music in most other media forms in that when composed well (according to the standards of the game community), the music is dynamic; that is, responsive to game events and player actions. This can mean, for instance, that various parameters of the music (such as tempo, key, and instrumentation), or sequences or sections of music, are altered based in real time on what is happening in the game. For example, a player-generated change in music occurs in Koji Kondo’s music for Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1992); when the player’s character Mario jumps on a character (the dinosaur, Yoshi), a layer of percussion is added to the music. When the player jumps off, the percussion track is removed. In addition to player-generated changes, run-time game parameters such as player health, number of enemies, time of day, or location in the game can alter what music is being played....

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Howard Mayer Brown, Ellen Rosand, Reinhard Strohm, Michel Noiray, Roger Parker, Arnold Whittall, Roger Savage and Barry Millington

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