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Air (i)  

Nigel Fortune, David Greer and Charles Dill

(Eng., Fr.)

A term used in England and France from the 16th century onwards, frequently and rather loosely as synonymous with ‘melody’, ‘tune’ or ‘song’.

When Thomas Morley (A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, 1597) applied the term to all the secular vocal forms of his day except the madrigal, the most serious of them, he was following his Italian predecessors and contemporaries in using it to refer to light pieces in a simple, canzonetta-derived style (see Aria §1). The term was also consistently used in England from the same year for published volumes of lute-songs, several of which, however, are serious. Here the spelling ‘ayre’ was often preferred. After the decline of the lute ‘ayre’, towards the mid-17th century, the form ‘air’ was often used again in its more general sense. By the 18th century it clearly denoted a simple, unpretentious song, quite different from the Italian or italianate aria, which in both operas and cantatas was often a complex, highly developed form....


John H. Baron


A term used by French composers and publishers from 1571 to the 1650s to designate many secular, strophic songs sung at court. From 1608 until approximately 1632 these were the most important and numerous vocal compositions in France.

Airs de cour were composed either for four or five unaccompanied voices (a few examples are for six and eight voices) or for one voice usually with lute accompaniment. They were written for the entertainment of the king and his courtiers by the finest composers at court, all of whom were excellent singers. Nearly all airs were published first by the royal printers Le Roy & Ballard, later by Ballard alone, often in series of collections appearing over a number of years. From 1608 a number of airs in these collections were taken from the year's most successful ballets de cour.

In the preface to the first collection of airs de cour...



[alabanza] (Sp.-American: ‘praise’).

A hymn of praise for the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary or other saints. It was brought to the New World at least as early as 1716 by the Franciscans, who continued the Spanish custom of chanting the alabado, or alabanza, as it is called in Spain, in their missions to Texas and California, as they had done in their monasteries. One of the earliest ...



Stephen Haynes

(Provençal: ‘dawn’). A minor genre of troubadour lyric, of which 19 examples survive. Several are anonymous or of uncertain attribution; of those whose authorship is reasonably secure, only Reis glorios, by Giraut de Bornelh (PC 242.64), is the work of a poet of the first rank. Few can be dated with any precision, but the period of composition appears to extend from the last quarter of the 12th century to the end of the 13th. Most have a refrain – a rare feature in the troubadour lyric – and this normally includes the word ‘alba’.

The dawn plays a number of different roles in these pieces. Six of the poems are religious, and use the dawn as a symbol of redemption or awakening from sin. The remainder are amorous, and most of these are concerned with the parting of lovers at daybreak, though in two cases the lover is looking forward to the dawn. The surviving poems include the unique ...


Maricarmen Gómez

(Sp.: ‘dawn song’).

A morning serenade or song performed in honour of an individual or to celebrate a festival; it is similar to the albada, an open-air concert performed at daybreak under the balcony or windows of an honoured individual. In the mid-15th century it was customary for the instrumentalists of noble Spanish households to perform the alvorada at dawn on the most solemn festival days of the religious calendar and on other important days. For example, in the household of Miguel Lucas de Iranzo, the Constable of Castile, the instrumentalists, playing ‘softly’, would perform the alborada, placing the loudest instruments, such as the trumpets and kettledrums, on the floor above the Constable’s bedroom and the remaining instruments and the singers at his door.

Alboradas abound in the Spanish folk repertory. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries they were sung in villages at dawn on the day of a wedding, accompanied by local instruments; they were dedicated to the bride and groom and occasionally also to the best man. On other occasions, the alborada took the form of a personal chant dedicated to Jesus or to a specific saint; it was sung by the women standing close to the venerated image, which was carried through the streets in a dawn procession. In the marshes of Valencia, ‘aubades’ (alboradas) were popular strophic songs accompanied by the dulzaina (oboe) and tamboril (small drum); the text and melody of one such song – three stanzas and a refrain – survives in ...


Maurice J.E. Brown

revised by Kenneth L. Hamilton

(Ger. Albumblatt; Fr. feuille d’album).

A composition originally written in the album of a friend or patron and usually dedicated to him or her. The style was therefore simple and the dimensions slight. Examples are Schubert’s Albumblatt in G, d844, written for Anna Hönig, and Liszt’s Adagio in C, based on a theme from his Après une lecture du Dante (Années de pèlerinage, book 2) and written into the album of an unidentified female acquaintance in 1841. But the form of the albumleaf was undefined, and in time its original purpose was lost sight of: substantial pieces such as Beethoven’s Für Elise were dedicated to friends but no longer written in albums. During the 19th century ‘albumleaf’ became merely a convenient title among many others. Sometimes series of such pieces were published as albums: Schumann, besides his Albumblätter, op.124, composed an Album für die Jugend, op.68, Tchaikovsky an Album pour les enfants, op.39, consisting of 24 pieces, and Anton Rubinstein two separate albums of 12 and 6 pieces respectively. In time such a piece was simply called ‘Blatt’; thus Schumann’s well-known ...



Meredith Ellis Little and Suzanne G. Cusick

[allemand, almain, alman, almond] (Fr.: ‘German [dance]’; It. alemana, allemanda)

One of the most popular of Baroque instrumental dances and a standard movement, along with the courante, sarabande and gigue, of the suite. It originated some time in the early or mid-16th century, appearing under such titles as ‘Teutschertanz’ or ‘Dantz’ in Germany and ‘bal todescho’, ‘bal francese’ and ‘tedesco’ in Italy. Originally a moderate duple-metre dance in two or three strains, the allemande came to be one of the most highly stylized of all Baroque dances and by 1732 was likened to a rhetorical ‘Proposition, woraus die übrigen Suiten, als die Courante, Sarabande, und Gigue, als Partes fliessen’ (WaltherML). 30 years later Marpurg (Clavierstücke, 1762, ii, 21) referred to the allemande as similar to the prelude, in that it was said to be based on a succession of changing harmonies in an improvisatory style, although he noted that in the allemande dissonances were to be more carefully prepared and resolved....


Nancy P. Riley

The term “alternative country” refers to Country music of the late 20th century that existed outside of mainstream country (as represented by Nashville and contemporary country radio) and incorporated country music with aspects of punk, rock and roll, and roots influences. During the 1990s, alternative country identified with a punk rock do-it-yourself ethos and a connection to indie-rock fans and scenes, with live venues and independent record labels playing a crucial role in its emergence. Further, the term owes much to the success of underground rock bands like R.E.M. and Nirvana that became commercially successful, marketed as “alternative.”

The mythologized origins of alternative country begins in 1990, when the Belleville, Illinois band Uncle Tupelo released their debut album, No Depression (Rockville Records, 1990), which featured a collection of punk-influence rock songs and ballads with a country influence, including the title track, an edgy cover of the Carter Family tune “No Depression in Heaven.” The album led to a discussion folder on America Online, also named “No Depression,” which in turn led to a bi-monthly magazine of the same name. Although Uncle Tupelo disbanded in ...


Will Fulford-Jones

A form of 20th-century club dance music. It became popular in the ‘chill out’ rooms of clubs in London during the late 1980s as music to relax to, away from the more fevered, heavily rhythmic music favoured in the main rooms. Its DJs included Dr Alex Paterson of the Orb and the KLF, who played a mix of wildlife samples, sound effects, hypnotherapy tapes and Pink Floyd. The KLF’s 1989 album, Chill Out, took up this thread and was perhaps the first ambient house record. A seemingly random collection of samples (from the likes of Fleetwood Mac to Acker Bilk), it is best described as a 1980s pop culture version of musique concrète. Like much club dance music, ambient house music is largely electronic, but differs from other styles in that much of it is not intended for dancing: many of its records are arhythmic, and those that feature a rhythm track do so sparingly. It also often lacks a diatonic centre and features perpetual atonality and prolonged washes of chords played on a synthesizer. Other features include samples of wildlife and birdsong. The term ‘ambient’ was eventually applied, unconvincingly, to many other forms of dance music, such as dub and drum ’n’ bass. (For ambient music, ...