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A Spanish term with a wide variety of connotations, all relating to dance. It can refer simply to an occasion for social dancing (thus as an equivalent of the English ‘ball’), or to a specific dance type like the waltz or the minuet, or it can be used as the Spanish equivalent of ‘ballet’. Some 17th-century writers (e.g. Rodrigo Caro and Gonzalo de Salas) distinguished between ‘baile’ and the nearly synonymous ‘danza’, saying that ‘danza’ referred to a courtly, ceremonious dance using grave and measured steps and little or no arm movement, while ‘baile’ referred to an energetic dance involving arm gestures, especially if performed in the theatre. Thus pavans were considered ‘danzas’ while zarabandas and ciacconas were ‘bailes’.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the term ‘baile’ was used for a specific literary form, a combination of poetry, music and dance performed between the second and third acts of a play (thus resembling the intermezzo; ...


William Gradante

[bailecito de tierra]

A couple-dance common to the indigenous peoples of Bolivia and northern Argentina, featuring zapateo (foot-stamping), handkerchief-waving and other circular movements. Melodies are frequently pentatonic and performed in parallel 3rds to melancholy seguidilla verses. A common trait is the contrast between the 3/4 melodies of the voices, violin, harp and accordion, and the syncopated 6/8 accompaniment of the ...



Daniel Party

Spanish-language variant of the international pop music ballad. A hybrid of Mexican bolero, Italian and French orchestrated love songs, and early rock and roll ballads, balada emerged simultaneously in Spain and throughout the Americas in the late 1960s. Lyrics are invariably about love and purposely lack references to socio-political issues or local events to maximize potential target audiences. Most often performed by a solo singer, early balada moves at a slow to moderate tempo, and the musical accompaniment, by either a rock ensemble or a studio orchestra, is secondary to the voice. Early baladistas include Mexicans Carlos Lico and Armando Manzanero, Cuban American La Lupe, Spaniards Raphael and Julio Iglesias, Brazilian Roberto Carlos, Argentines Leonardo Favio and Sandro, and Chilean band Los Ángeles Negros.

During the 1970s, the genre’s golden age, balada featured sophisticated orchestral arrangements and lavish studio production, a trend developed in Spain by producer Rafael Trabucchelli and arranger Waldo de los Ríos. In the 1980s, Miami became the most important balada production center, as the city grew into the main hub for United States marketing and distribution in Latin America. The Miami-based balada industry served as a gateway for Latin American artists hoping to extend their popularity beyond their country of origin to the rest of Latin America and the United States. Balada albums produced in Miami are not limited to slow romantic ballads, but also include up-tempo, dance-oriented songs. During its golden age, the majority of balada singers were males, who targeted a mostly female audience by appearing sensitive and vulnerable. Baladas were regularly featured in Latin American soap opera soundtracks, and many baladistas, such as José Luis Rodríguez, Chayanne, and Daniela Romo, starred in soap operas....


Andrew Porter

(It.: ‘danceable’, ‘apt for dancing’)

A movement, usually in an opera, intended for dancing. In Act 3 of Macbeth Verdi termed the song and dance of the witches ballabile; the ‘Galop con cori’ that opens Act 2 of his Ernani is a coro ballabile; dance divertissements in Meyerbeer's operas are titled , 2° ballabile etc. The term is also used for instrumental pieces of a dance character; the dances in Hans von Bülow's ...



James Porter, Jeremy Barlow, Graham Johnson, Eric Sams and Nicholas Temperley

(from Lat. ballare: ‘to dance’)

Term used for a short popular or traditional song that normally frames a narrative element. Scholars of the term’s history and origin take it to signify a relatively concise composition known throughout Europe since the late Middle Ages, spreading later to the New World, notably the Americas: it combines narrative, dramatic dialogue and lyrical passages in strophic form sung to a rounded tune, and often includes a recurrent refrain. Performance is predominantly by solo singers, though choral and dance elements are known in some cultures. Originally the word referred to dance-songs such as the French carole, but by the 14th century it had lost that connotation in English and had become a distinctive song type with a narrative core. The word has sometimes been used, mistakenly, as a translation for the medieval French forme fixe ballade (see Ballade), and for the 18th- and 19th-century German ballade (see §II below); the latter was partly influenced by the narrative folksong tradition of Britain and Scandinavia (...


Charles Garrett

A short popular song that often features a narrative element. The word often signifies a slow-tempo love song, and ballads became especially important to jazz repertory and Tin Pan Alley song. In recent decades, ballads have been performed frequently by modern-day crooners, jazz singers, pop superstars, and hard rock groups (“power ballads”)....


Curtis Price and Robert D. Hume

A distinctively English form in which spoken dialogue alternates with songs set to traditional or popular melodies and sung by the actors themselves. A vogue for the form was sparked by the enormous popularity of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (January 1728) but faded out by the mid-1730s. Some 80 such works were written in these years, but only a handful remained in the repertory. The genre was invented by Gay as a complex vehicle for both harsh and subtle satire; for most of his successors it quickly became little more than a way of padding out farces with popular music.

The term ‘ballad opera’ is a misnomer. The works so described are plays (almost always comic, usually farcical) into which a variety of songs have been worked. Fewer than half the songs are actually popular ballads: the sources of the music vary widely, ranging from D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy...


Nigel Wilkins

One of the three formes fixes (the others are the rondeau and the virelai) that dominated French song and poetry in the 14th and 15th centuries. In its standard late medieval shape the ballade text falls into three stanzas, sharing the same metrical and rhyme scheme and ending with the same refrain. The music for each stanza follows the overall pattern I–I–II. Approximations to this form can be found in monophonic song in the 12th and 13th centuries, when the distinction between the ballade and the virelai in particular was not completely clear. Indeed, even in the 14th century, Machaut called his virelais ‘chansons baladées’.

The word ‘ballade’ is derived from Provençal ballada, from balar, to dance; the ballade, rondeau and virelai were in their earliest phase songs for dancing, the most common dances being the carole and the tresche. One of the most attractive of the few surviving examples in Provençal is the spring song ...


Maurice J.E. Brown

A term applied to an instrumental (normally piano) piece in a narrative style. It was first used by Chopin (Ballade in G minor op.23, published in 1836 but begun in 1831). He composed four ballades, whose common features are compound metre (6/4 or 6/8) and a structure that is based on thematic metamorphosis governed not so much by formal musical procedures as by a programmatic or literary intention. Full of melodic beauty, harmonic richness and powerful climaxes, they are among his finest achievements. They were said to have been inspired by the ballad poetry of his compatriot Adam Mickiewicz, particularly by his Ṡwiteź and Ṡwitezianka, poems concerning a lake near Nowogródek and a nymph of the lake; but Chopin himself provided no evidence whatever for that belief and probably had no specific ballad or story in mind.

Franck’s Ballade op.9 (1844) and Liszt’s in D♭ (1845–8...



Kurt von Fischer

revised by Gianluca D’Agostino

Italian dance-song, and poetic and musical form, in use from the second half of the 13th century until the 15th century and beyond.

The word, which was synonymous with danza in earlier times, refers to the functional origin of the word ballare (‘to dance’). The first ballata texts survive without music from the second half of the 13th century in the so-called Bolognese Memoriali. Dante mentioned the ballata in De vulgari eloquentia (II, iii.5, 1304–5), stating that, in contrast to the canzone, it demands a singing dancer. The form is also indicative of the dance-song: it originally consisted of a choral refrain (ripresa) and several strophes (stanze) performed by a soloist. Moreover, even in the 13th century the oldest ballate were closely linked with the lauda. The numerous laude-contrafacta of the 14th and 15th centuries are evidence of this link (see Ghisi, 1953). It was in the ...