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Mordent  

Article

David Fuller

(Fr.: ‘unequal notes’)

A rhythmic convention according to which certain divisions of the beat move in alternately long and short values, even if they are written equal.

As it existed in France from the mid-16th century to the late 18th the convention of notes inégales was first of all a way of gracing or enlivening passage-work or diminutions in vocal or instrumental music. As styles changed and the figurations born of diminution entered the essential melodic vocabulary, inequality permeated the musical language. Its application was regulated by metre and note values; it always operated within the beat, never distorting the beat itself. (An anomalous instance of alteration of the beat appears in Gigault; see §2.) The degree of inequality (i.e. the ratio between the lengths of the long and short notes of each pair) could vary from the barely perceptible to the equivalent of double dotting, according to the character of the piece and the taste of the performer. Inequality was considered one of the chief resources of expression, and it varied according to expressive needs within the same piece or even within the same passage; where it was felt to be inappropriate it could be abandoned altogether unless explicitly demanded....

Article

David Fuller

(It.: ‘necessary’)

An adjective or noun referring to an essential instrumental part. The term is often used for a part ranking in importance just below the principal melody and not to be omitted. Obbligato is the opposite of Ad libitum when the latter qualifies the mention of a part in a title. On the title-page of Corelli's Concerti Grossi op.6, for example, the concertino parts are designated ‘obligato’ while the ripieno parts are described as ‘ad arbitrio, che si potranno radoppiare’ (as you wish, when you are able to double the parts). Used in connection with a keyboard part in the 18th century, obbligato designated a fully written-out part instead of a figured bass. Sometimes obbligato means simply independent, as in C.P.E. Bach's Orchester Sinfonien mit zwölf obligaten Stimmen (1780).

In music for voice with instruments, ‘obbligato’ refers to a prominent instrumental part in an aria or other number. The archetype of the obbligato part is the instrumental solo which, with a basso continuo, constitutes the accompaniment of vast numbers of late Baroque arias. The direct antecedents of the late Baroque phenomenon are to be found in the ...

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Article

Peter Williams

revised by Rosa Cafiero

(It.: ‘division’)

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 c 1700 of writing bass lines for keyboard players to work into fully-fledged pieces. The definition is attested to as early as 1634 by G.F. Cavalliere in Il scolaro principiante di musica (Naples). Examples are common in MSS, e.g. the ‘Arpeggi per cembalo’ exercises in GB-Lbl Add.14244 (?A. Scarlatti), the organ ‘Versetti … per rispondere al coro’ in Lbl Add.31501 (?B. Pasquini), and the complete solo and even duet figured-bass sonatas for harpsichord by Pasquini in ...

Article

Klaus Aringer

(Lat.)

In 15th-century keyboard music, a form of conclusion consisting of formulaic counterpoint over the long-held final note (ultima) of a section of the cantus firmus, before reaching a closing consonance. Octaves and 5ths frequently constitute the salient features of the figuration. This procedure was a part of organ-playing practice in the 15th century, the most extensive collections of examples being in Conrad Paumann's ...

Article

Edwin M. Ripin

Article

Tony Bacon

A development of the lap steel guitar ( see Hawaiian guitar ) in which the application of pedals enables the player to change instantaneously from one tuning to another. As performing technique developed, players of the Hawaiian guitar came to depend on using a variety of open tunings. In order to be able to move between these tunings at will, players began to use instruments with more than one neck. However, this meant that instruments became increasingly unwieldy as more necks were added. In the 1940s makers such as Bigsby in California and Epiphone in New York started to offer a solution by limiting the number of necks to two but adding pedals which, attached to a system of ‘changers’ and ‘fingers’ on the instrument, would enable the player to alter tunings as desired. At first players were happy to operate the systems as designed, using the pedals to move to new tunings as if they had changed necks. But gradually guitarists adapted the system to provide some novel musical effects, and used the pedals to change the pitch of one string while another was sounding. One of the first recorded examples of this ‘slurring’ effect, which is now considered to be the pedal steel guitar’s most characteristic sound, is featured in a solo played by Bud Isaacs on Webb Pierce’s ...

Article

Peter Williams

revised by Martin Renshaw

A keyboard played by the feet, chiefly to be found in organs, but also in carillons, harpsichords, clavichords and pianos. It can be connected either to its own pipes (bells, strings) or to the manual keyboard(s) of the same instrument. Early types are for playing with the toes: short sticks protruding from the lower case-front either as simple strips of wood (Halberstadt, c 1361) or as proto-keys (Norrlanda, c 1370), small rectangular frames with short straight keys (16th-century Flanders and Italy), the same with longer keys but still for toe-pedalling (16th-century Netherlands and Germany), round or square studs into which the toe or ball of the foot presses (Iberian organs, 17th–18th centuries), flat, shallow, rectangular boxes through the upper board of which pass short separated pedal keys (France and Belgium, 18th century). Eventually, longer and thicker pedals designed for occasional playing with the heel were developed (18th-century Netherlands and Germany); these were called ‘German pedals’ in English sources from about ...

Article

Peter Williams

A quasi-Latin term derived from pedalis (a part ‘for the feet’) to indicate that a piece of organ music so labelled is played by both hands and feet. The word appears to have arisen as an antithesis to Manualiter and was so used by Schlick (1511). Although it does not indicate a piece played by pedals alone, it does in practice imply one with a developed pedal part. Sometimes composers used it to suggest a large-scale work in several ‘voices’ (e.g. Scheidt's ‘Benedicamus à 6 voc. pleno organo pedaliter’, 1624). However, in the third section of his Clavier-Übung Bach seems to have contrasted manualiter with a phrase such as ‘canto fermo in basso’; but pedaliter itself also appeared in music from his circle, chiefly outside the context of organ chorales and pedal melodies, as for example in the autograph manuscript of bwv535a, and in Buxtehude's C major Praeludium in the ‘Johann Andreas Bach Buch’....

Article

David Rowland

The art of using the tone-modifying devices operated on the modern piano by pedals. In the earlier history of the instrument similar, and other, devices were operated by hand stops, knee levers or pedals. The mechanisms of these devices are described in Pianoforte, §I, and in articles on individual stops and pedals.

The number and type of tone-modifying devices on 18th-century pianos varied substantially. Cristofori, the maker of the earliest pianos, used only the Una corda, which is found on two of his three surviving instruments. The una corda also appears on an early piano from the Iberian peninsula. The earliest extant pianos from Germany, made in the 1740s by Gottfried Silbermann, were the first to have a sustaining (damper-raising) stop. The effect produced by this stop imitates the sound of the Pantaleon, a type of large dulcimer also made by Silbermann, and was popular in mid-18th-century Germany. The term ...

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Article

Picada  

Article

Edwin M. Ripin

A term used by François Couperin (Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin, 1722) and revived by modern writers to designate a harpsichord piece in which two parts, one for each hand, cross and re-cross one another in the same range, often sounding the same note simultaneously. Such pieces must be performed on a two-manual harpsichord with independent unison registers, one for each manual. The first such instruments seem to have been made in France in the 1640s, and two ...

Article

Pieno  

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Term for any device, mechanism, or means by which a player controls an instrument. It embraces keys and keyboards, valves, mouthpieces, bows, plectra, beaters, ribbon controllers, joysticks, touchscreens, other computer input devices and displays running control software, and any other intermediary between player and instrument (real or virtual) giving the player control of the sound-producing elements....

Article

Brandon Smith

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[polyphonic key pressure, polyphonic aftertouch]

On an electronic instrument, an expressive MIDI characteristic or data type (in the form: channel, note number, pressure) that transmits the key pressure for individual keys, and therefore separately for each note played, even when several are played simultaneously. This allows the performer to play different notes simultaneously at different loudness levels or with other effects, such as adding vibrato or triggering a filter. As with the more common monophonic MIDI data type (which averages the pressure for different keys pressed simultaneously, as if all were played with the same pressure), the pressure value is transmitted when the performer strikes a key while it is depressed, allowing the tone to change while a note is held.

The term ‘polyphonic aftertouch’ is also used to describe controllers (usually keyboards) with the capability to sense and send polypressure MIDI data, a characteristic found only in relatively expensive equipment. In velocity-sensitive keyboards without aftertouch, only the speed with which the key is initially depressed is sent as data....

Article

Greer Garden

(Fr.: ‘carrying of the voice’)

In Baroque vocal and instrumental music, an appoggiatura, particularly one that resolves upwards by a tone or semitone. Deriving from late 16th-century Italian improvisatory practice – Bovicelli's Regole, passaggi di musica, madrigali et motetti passeggiati (1594/R) contains written-out examples – it became one of the most important graces of French Baroque music. In France it was rarely printed before the late 17th century, but was left to the performer to add extempore. Bacilly explained in his Remarques curieuses sur l'art de bien chanter (1668/R, 4/1681; Eng. trans., 1968) that the accessory note anticipated the beat and took value from the preceding note. Perfection, he continued, lay in its also taking ‘some of the value’ of the note of resolution, as this enabled one to linger on the accessory note.

In his Méthode claire, certaine et facile pour apprendre à chanter la musique (...

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Portato