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Owen Jander

(Lat.: ‘high [part] against the tenor’)

A line in polyphony lying just above the tenor. In the 15th century, as music came to be written in four rather than only three voices, composers approached the addition of the fourth voice by an extension of earlier compositional procedure. The most common arrangement of three voices had been superius (or cantus), tenor and Contratenor; in the new four-voice texture the composer used two contratenor parts, a contratenor bassus and a contratenor altus. The original method of writing these two voice parts is still evident in Pietro Aaron’s Il Thoscanello de la musica (1523), where ten rules set out ‘the method of composing the controbasso and the controalto, after the tenor and canto’ (bk 2, chap.21). In Italy ‘contratenorbassus’ was abbreviated to ‘bassus’, ‘controbasso’ or ‘basso’; ‘contratenor altus’ became ‘altus’, ‘controalto’, ‘contr’alto’, ‘contralto’ or ‘alto’. In France the term became Haute-contre. English usage was complicated because even in the late 16th century (by which time the word ‘contratenor’ had long been obsolete on the Continent) an alto part might also be called a meane, a contra, a counter or a ...



Peter Williams

revised by John Koster and Christopher Kent

(Fr. accouplement, tirasse; Ger. Koppel, Koppelung)

The mechanism in an organ or harpsichord whereby pipes or strings of one department or manual are made to sound an octave lower or higher, or on the keys of another manual. The most common system until the early 19th century was the Schiebekoppel or shove coupler: one set of keys was pushed in or pulled out to enable some kind of wooden protuberance along the key-shafts (dogs, lugs, small vertical battens, etc.) to connect in one way or another with a second set of keys and so cause them to be depressed likewise. Usually a coupler could not be engaged while playing since both hands were required to move the keyboard by grasping blocks at each end and since (even if the motion to engage the coupler is controlled by a pedal or knee lever, as in some late 18th-century French harpsichords) the coupler dog on a key being played would, if one attempted to move it into the coupling position, block against the side of the point of contact of the key of the second manual. During the early 19th century other more easily manipulated mechanisms came into common use: (...



The arrangement of different stops or registers among the keyboards or divisions of a harpsichord or organ. For example, a single unison register of a harpsichord is usually designated as 1 × 8′; an octave higher (the four foot) as 1 × 4′. A three-register harpsichord with two unisons and an octave would be designated 2 × 8′, 1 × 4′....


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 (see also Notes inégales; for notational meanings of the dot before 1600 see Notation, §III). The principal issue is the degree to which such rhythms sounded uneven, rather than the specific manner of their notation (e.g. the dot may be replaced by a rest or tie).

Dozens of contemporary theoretical and pedagogical sources indicate that the dot was ordinarily equal to one half the value of the note or rest preceding it, just as it is today. But the treatises also present various exceptions. The dot could stand for a tie (...


Howard Mayer Brown

(1) An adjective used, like ‘contra-’, to indicate a lower octave, hence qualifying particular instruments. Thus the double bassoon (or contrabassoon) plays in the octave below the bassoon, the double bass (or contrabass) an octave below the cello, and so on. This usage derives from the old practice of identifying notes below gamma ut (the G on the bottom line of the bass stave) by double letters, FF, EE, and so on. Organ builders still refer to these low pitches as ‘double F’, ‘double E’, etc., and name 16′ manual ranks ‘double open diapason’, etc. ‘Double harp’ (arpa doppia) denotes either a harp with two ranks of strings or a harp with a downward extension of pitch, or both. Keyboard instruments with two manuals are often called ‘double’. But in the 16th and 17th centuries the terms ‘double harpsichord’, ‘double regals’, ‘double virginals’, or even ‘double curtall’ (and also the ...


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 1st century ce displayed nuances of volume illustrating their meaning or imitating the tone of speech. Medieval musicians had no word for ‘dynamics’ per se, but it is implicit in the concepts of structura and processus. By the early Renaissance period dynamic values were reflected in changes in the number of voices and their registers. In Josquin’s ...



Murray Campbell and Mary Térey-Smith

The repetition of sound after a short time interval. In addition to the applications discussed below the term is used for a signal-processing device (also known as a delay) that produces a slightly delayed playback of sounds either by a tape loop or by digital delay; see Electric guitar §2 .

See also Organ stop .

Natural echoes arise from the reflection of a sound wave by a solid surface, such as a wall or cliff. For the echo to be perceived as distinct from the original sound, the extra path length travelled by the reflected sound wave must have a minimum value of around 17 metres, corresponding to a minimum time interval of 50 milliseconds between direct and reflected sounds.

The reverberant sound field in a concert hall is created by multiple reflections of sound waves. In a well-designed hall, the direct sound reaching a member of the audience is followed by a series of reflections within a time interval of around 35 milliseconds. These ‘early delayed arrivals’ are not heard as separate echoes; because of the ‘precedence effect’ they are perceived as a reinforcement of the direct sound. Subsequent reflections blend smoothly into the reverberation. A concave surface, focussing sound waves into a particular part of the hall, can give rise to an audible echo; a ‘flutter echo’ can arise from successive reflections between parallel walls....


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....


Durward R. Center

revised by Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume

[fair organ, showground organ, band organ; Dut. draaiorgel; Ger. Kermisorgel]

A mechanical organ used to provide music for merry-go-rounds and in amusement parks, circuses and skating rinks in Europe and the USA. The instrument originated in Europe as an outdoor version of the Orchestrion, voiced to sound above the hurly-burly of the fairground. Initially it was put near the entrance in order to attract attention. It was usually built in an elaborately carved and colourfully painted case which sometimes incorporated moving figures in its façade. All but the very largest instruments were designed to be portable. With the coming of bioscope (moving picture) theatres, the organ sometimes became the front of the show-tent, its façade incorporating entry and exit doors.

The earliest fairground organs, those of the late 1870s, were of the Barrel organ type. By about 1880 such instruments were being produced in sizes containing several hundred pipes and a variety of percussion effects; these large models were powered by steam or water engines and later by electric motors. Major builders of barrel-operated organs included Gavioli of Paris, Wilhelm Bruder of Waldkirch, Limonaire of Paris, and Eugene DeKleist of North Tonawanda, New York. In ...


Bruce Haynes

[flaté, flatté, tremblement mineur] (Fr.; Ger. Bebung)

An ornament, not unlike a trill, used in woodwind playing, produced by a quick finger movement on the edge of or above a tone hole (usually the highest open hole). It was described in Dutch, English, French and German sources from 1654 to 1847, including Jacques Hotteterre's Principes de la flûte traversière (1707). One of the few collections where it was explicitly marked was P.D. Philidor's suites (1717–18). In English the ornament was described as a ‘sweetening’ or ‘softening’ of the note. Sometimes called a ‘finger vibrato’, the flattement was not intended to be perceived as a change of pitch. It was applied selectively, usually to long notes, and was often associated with swells. The sign for the flattement (rarely marked in music) was a horizontal wavy line. The flattement afforded considerable control of both speed and amplitude, and was better suited to the short and complex phrasing of the music of the 17th and 18th centuries than modern breath vibrato; the latter is not documented before the 1790s....



Owen Jander

revised by Greer Garden

A term used to describe melody that is ornamented, either written out by the composer, or improvised by the performer. It can apply to a single melodic line, or to polyphony. In the florid organum of Aquitaine in the early 12th century the upper part of the note-against-note counterpoint is embellished with melismas. The term is also used to describe the musica figurata of early Netherlandish composers such as Ockeghem, in which elaborate polyphony was created by combining a number of equally florid lines. Most often it refers to a profuse style of ornamentation running in rapid figures, passages or divisions, but it can also designate ornamentation in general. For example, P.F. Tosi’s treatise on improvised embellishment, Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni, o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto figurato (1723), translated into English (1742) as Observations on the Florid Song, includes specific ornaments, such as trills and appoggiaturas, alongside various types of passage work....


Edwin M. Ripin

A term sometimes used today for the piano of the 18th and early 19th centuries in order to distinguish it from the 20th-century instrument. German writers sometimes use the terms ‘Hammerklavier’ and ‘Hammerflügel’ for the same purpose. See Pianoforte §I 1., Pianoforte §I 6., Pianoforte §I 7., Pianoforte §I 8....




Barbara Owen

A name given to certain 16th- and 17th-century tower organs of central Germany and Austria. At first such outdoor organs could play only a few chords, and were used for signalling in the same manner as bells. Later they were enlarged and fitted with self-playing mechanisms of the pinned barrel type, enabling them to play melodies in the manner of a carillon. Two operable examples exist in Austria. One, dating from 1502, known as the ‘Salzburger Stier’, is in the tower of the bishop’s castle in Salzburg. Originally its 138 pipes played only a single loud chord, accounting for the name Stier (Ger.: ‘bull’). About 1640 a separate 25-note barrel organ was added, which played an unidentified hymn tune. In 1753 Johann Rochus Egedacher provided barrels with a different piece for each month, five composed by Johann Ernst Eberlin and six by Leopold Mozart; the old hymn tune was played during the twelfth month.Für den zwölften Monat sollte wieder der »Alte Choral« verwendet werden. During World War II the music was reprogrammed by the Nazis but in ...


Anne Beetem Acker


Electronic music player that accompanies singers with pre-recorded music. The name comes from Japanese, kara (‘empty’) and oke (‘orchestra’). The basic karaoke machine includes some form of music player, a built-in audio mixer, microphone inputs, and audio outputs. The first karaoke systems included a microphone, eight-track tape player, amplifier, loudspeaker, and printed songbooks. Later machines display the lyrics on a video screen, and the more expensive versions can adjust the pitch level to suit the singer without changing tempo (some early systems allowed for changing the pitch but only by changing the tape speed, altering the tempo). Some early 21st-century versions include an Auto-Tune audio processor to correct intonation and software for making music videos. Karaoke systems for public spaces often are integrated into a pedestal that holds the controls, song storage, microphones, and video display, with separate loudspeakers. Portable systems resemble portable CD players, with or without a video screen. Wireless-microphone karaoke systems by companies such as Entertech use television or entertainment consoles for both audio and video. Video-game versions allow singers/players to receive scores or perform ‘with’ famous bands, sometimes as an animated character onscreen....


Gerhard Kubik

Term coined by Gerhard Kubik in 1965 for a type of acoustic guitar music that had developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s along the Copperbelt mining area in Katanga (southern Belgian Congo) and Northern Rhodesia. Its main exponents include the guitar music composers Mwenda Jean Bosco, Losta Abelo, Edouard Masengo and others (Low, 1982). Hugh Tracey's comprehensive coverage of this style cluster (see Guitar 1 and 2, Decca 1170 and 1171) exerted considerable influence on the rise of popular music in Central and East Africa.

The Katanga guitar style embraces a stylistic conglomerate characteristic of a distinctive time period within which the most diverse individual forms and innovations became possible. Between 1946 and 1962 developments and mutations occurred prolifically, and this kind of music reached its peak of popularity. It was performed in a variety of township languages, including Ciluba (Luba), Lunda, Icibemba (e.g. Aushi) and, most important, Kingwana (‘Congo Kiswahili’). The social environment of its exponents was that of mine workers and persons working for the Belgian colonial administration. Beginning in ...


Claus Bockmaier

(Ger., from Lat. colorare: ‘to ornament’)

To introduce Coloration. A term used in German-speaking lands during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance to describe the use of commonplace melodic figures to generate musical textures. During the 15th century, standardized coloration formulae were the starting point for many compositions, especially those which elaborated upon a cantus firmus (see Tactus, (2)); during the 16th century, the term ‘kolorieren’ was applied especially to the art of ornamenting intabulations at the organ. Practitioners (‘Koloristen’) included Bernhard Schmid the elder, E.N. Ammerbach and Jakob Paix.

During the first decades of the 20th century, German musicologists controversially applied the term Kolorierung to several late-medieval vocal repertories, including early 15th-century mass settings and the repertory of English Ordinary tropes, in the belief that such works had been composed from a storehouse of pre-existing melodic formulae.

A. Schering: ‘Das kolorierte Orgelmadrigal des Trecento’, SIMG, 13 (1911–12), 172–204 R. Ficker: ‘Die Kolorierungstechnik der Trienter Messen’, ...


William C. Holmes

(It.: ‘licence’)

(1) In the 17th and 18th centuries a passage or cadenza inserted into a piece by a performer.

(2) In the same period, an epilogue inserted into a stage work (opera or play) in honour of a patron’s birthday or wedding, or for some other festive occasion. This usually consisted of recitatives and arias but choruses were sometimes included. The ...