Glossary of Terms


Accelerando – the process of getting faster and faster

Anti-hero – a character in a story who lacks the qualities of a true hero.

Asymmetric time signature – a time signature, such as 5/4 or 7/4, in which the measure cannot be divided into two equal halves. By contrast, the measures in symmetrical time signatures can be divided into two equal halves. For example, 4/4 can be divided into 2+2, and 6/8 into 3+3.

Cadenza – a long, elaborate passage played by the soloist without accompaniment within a piece for the soloist and orchestra.

Conservatory – a school specializing in the study of the fine arts, typically music

Folk song – songs with no known composer that are unique to a country or ethnicity; the texts often concern local characters or heros and detail stories handed down from generation to generation.

Mazurka – a quick Polish dance in ¾ time.

Musical nationalism – the emphasis in music of musical ideas or motifs identified with a specify country, region, or ethnicity, such as folk tunes and their unique melodic shapes and rhythms. Musical nationalism can also include the use of folklore as a basis for programmatic works and opera.

Nyckelharpa – a traditional Swedish instrument, a keyed “violin” that is played with a bow.

Opera – a dramatic work with continuous music that tells a story through singing and includes acting, costumes and scenery

Pizzicato – playing a string instrument by plucking the strings rather than playing them with a bow.

Prestissimo – a very fast tempo

Suite – a multi-movement work, usually unified by a theme

Tone poem – a rather complex orchestra work in one movement (no breaks) that develops a poetic idea, creates a mood, or suggests a scene.

Trill – rapidly alternating between one pitch and the pitch above it.



Glossary of Terms from 2017 Children’s Concert

Absolute music—music that is not about anything outside itself

Bass trombone—a lower version of the trombone; it has a wider bore, larger bell, larger mouthpiece, and a trigger.

Choreographer—the dance master who plans the dance steps for a musical or ballet

Cimbalom (hammered dulcimer)—A Hungarian box zither, played by hitting the strings with mallets (hammers)

Classical style—a musical style emphasizing elegance, gracefulness, balance, and restraint, featuring phrases and sections of even length; masters of classical style were Haydn and Mozart

Concerto—a piece of music for a solo instrument and orchestra, with several movements (usually three)

Conservatory – a school specializing in the study of the fine arts, typically music

Dissonance—two or more notes which in sounding together make a discord

Ethnomusicology—the study of music of other cultures

Exoticism— A fascination with cultures foreign to Europe

French, Spanish, and Rumanian

Mixed meter–not sticking to one time signature for a piece, but using several time signatures mixed with each other.

Musical–a play with songs; a popular version of opera

Opera – a dramatic work with continuous music that tells a story through singing and includes acting, costumes, and scenery

Programmatic music—music that is about something outside itself, telling a story or describing a character or painting a picture, without using any words.

Romance languages—languages that grew out of Latin, such as Italian,

Romantic style—a musical style emphasizing emotion and dramatic expression, often through chromatic melodies and a very wide range of dynamics; masters of romantic style include Brahms, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky

Sonata—a piece of music for a solo instrument, with several movements (usually three)

Suite – a multi-movement work for an instrumental ensemble, usually unified by a theme

Symphony—an extended piece of music for symphony orchestra with several movements (usually four)

Tonal music, modal music—Tonal music is music with a pitch center; it often uses major or minor scales. Modal music uses scales other than major or minor.

Virtuoso – an exceptionally talented performer