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Terms Relating To Vocal Music
Tempo (_continued_)
Scales (_continued_)
Symbols Of Music Defined
Terms Relating To Forms And Styles
Musical Instruments
Chords Cadences Etc

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Terms Relating To Forms And Styles (_continued_)
Auxiliary Words And Endings
Miscellaneous Terms (_continued_)
Terminology Adoptions 1907-1910
Symbols Of Music Defined Part Two
Miscellaneous Terms
Terminology Reform
Abbreviations Signs Etc

Random Music Terms

Auxiliary Words And Endings
Terms Relating To Forms And Styles (_continued_)
The History Of Music Notation
Symbols Of Music Defined Part Two
Terms Relating To Vocal Music
Miscellaneous Terms
Tempo (_continued_)
Terms Relating To Forms And Styles

Terms Relating To Forms And Styles

132. A form in music is a specific arrangement of the various parts of
a composition resulting in a structure so characteristic that it is
easily recognized by the ear. Thus e.g., although every fugue is
different from all other fugues in actual material, yet the arrangement
of the various parts is so characteristic that no one who knows the
fugue form has any doubt as to what kind of a composition he is
hearing whenever a fugue is played. The word form is therefore seen to
be somewhat synonymous with the word plan as used in architecture; it
is the structure or design underlying music. Examples of form are the
canon, the fugue, the sonata, etc.

Speaking broadly we may say that form in any art consists in
the placing together of certain parts in such relations of
proportion and symmetry as to make a unified whole. In music
this implies unity of tonality and of general rhythmic effect,
as well as unity in the grouping of the various parts of the
work (phrases, periods, movements) so as to weld them into one
whole, giving the impression of completeness to the hearer.

133. The primal basis of form is the repetition of some characteristic
effect, and the problem of the composer is to bring about these
repetitions in such a way that the ear will recognize them as being the
same material and will nevertheless not grow weary of them. This is
accomplished by varying the material (cf. thematic development), by
introducing contrasting material, and by choice of key.

134. The student should note at the outset of this topic the difference
in meaning between the terms form and style: A form is a plan
for building a certain definite kind of composition, but a style is
merely a manner of writing. Thus e.g., the fugue is a
form--i.e., it is a plan, which although capable of variation in
details, is yet carried out fairly definitely in every case; but
counterpoint is merely a style or manner of writing (just as Gothic
architecture is a style of building), which may be cast into any one of
several forms.

135. The material found in the following sections is an attempt to
explain in simple language certain terms relating to forms and
styles which are in common use; in many cases the definition is too
meagre to give anything but a very general idea, but it is hoped that
the student will at least be set to thinking and that he will eventually
be led to a more detailed and scholarly study of the subject. (The
article Form and the separate articles under each term here defined,
as found in Grove's Dictionary, are especially recommended. For examples
of the various forms described, see also Mason and Surette--The
Appreciation of Music, Supplementary Volume.)

136. In a very general way there may be said to be two styles of
musical composition, the monophonic (or homophonic)--the
one-voiced--and the polyphonic--the many voiced. The polyphonic[32]
style antedates the monophonic historically.

[Footnote 32: Polyphonic music flourished from 1000 A.D. to about 1750
A.D., the culmination of the polyphonic period being reached in the
music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven,
and the later writers have used the monophonic style more than the
polyphonic, although a combination of the two is often found, as e.g.,
in the later works of Beethoven.]

137. In monophonic music there is one voice which has a pronounced
melody, the other voices (if present) supporting this melody as a
harmonic (and often rhythmic) background. An example of this is the
ordinary hymn-tune with its melody in the highest part, and with three
other voices forming a four-part harmony. The sonata, symphony, opera,
modern piano piece, etc., are also largely monophonic, though
polyphonic passages by way of contrast are often to be found.

138. In polyphonic music each voice is to a certain extent melodically
interesting, and the harmony is the result of combining several
melodies in such a way as to give a pleasing effect, instead of treating
a melody by adding chords as an accompaniment or support. Counterpoint,
canon, round, fugue, etc., are all polyphonic in style. The word
contrapuntal is often used synonymously with polyphonic.

(Sections 139 to 143 relate especially to terms describing
polyphonic music.)

139. Counterpoint is the art of adding one or more parts or melodies
to a given melody, the latter being known as the cantus firmus, or
subject. It may therefore be broadly defined as the art of combining

The word counterpoint comes from the three words punctus
contra punctum, meaning point against point. The word
point as here used refers to the punctus--one of the neumae
of the mediaeval system, these neumae being the immediate
predecessors of modern notes.

Both vocal and instrumental music have been written in
contrapuntal style. The familiar two- and three-part
inventions by Bach are excellent examples of instrumental
counterpoint, while such choruses as those in The Messiah by
Handel illustrate the highest type of vocal counterpoint.

140. Imitation is the repetition by one part, of a subject or theme
previously introduced by another part. If the imitation is exact, the
term strict imitation is applied, but if only approximate, then the
term free imitation is used in referring to it. The repetition need
not have the exact pitches of the subject in order to be strict; on
the contrary the imitation is usually at the interval of an octave, or a
fifth, or a second, etc. Fig. 57 shows an example of strict imitation in
which the third part comes in an octave lower than the first part.

141. A canon is a contrapuntal composition in the style of strict
imitation, one part repeating exactly (but at any interval) what another
part has played or sung. The term canonic style is sometimes applied
to music in which the imitation is not exact. An example of three-part
canon is given in Fig. 57.

The word canon means law, and was applied to this
particular form of composition because the rules relating to
its composition were invariable. It is because of this
non-flexibility that the canon is so little used as a form
at the present time: the modern composer demands a plan of
writing that is capable of being varied to such an extent as
to give him room for the exercise of his own particular
individuality of conception, and this the canon does not do.
For this same reason too the fugue and the sonata have
successively gone out of fashion and from Schumann down to the
present time composers have as it were created their own
forms, the difficulty in listening arising from the fact that
no one but the composer himself could recognize the form as
a form because it had not been adopted to a great enough
extent by other composers to make it in any sense universal.
The result is that in much present-day music it is very
difficult for the hearer to discover any trace of familiar
design, and the impression made by such music is in
consequence much less definite than that made by music of the
classic school. It is probable that a reaction from this state
of affairs will come in the near future, for in any art it is
necessary that there should be at least enough semblance of
structure to make the art work capable of standing as a
universal thing rather than as the mere temporary expression
of some particular composer or of some period of composition.

142. The common school round is an example of canon, each voice
repeating exactly what the first voice has sung, while this first voice
is going on with its melody. The round is therefore defined as a
variety of canon in which the imitation is always in unison with the

143. The fugue (Latin, fuga = flight) is a form of contrapuntal
composition in which the imitation is always in the dominant key,
i.e., a fifth above or a fourth below. The imitation (called the
answer) may be an exact repetition of the subject (sometimes called
the question), but is usually not so.

The fugue differs from the canon also in that the subject is
given in complete form before the answer begins, while in the
canon the imitation begins while the subject is still going
on. The fugue is not nearly so strict in form as the canon
and gives the composer much greater opportunity for expressing
musical ideas. A canon may be perfect in form and yet be
very poor music; this same statement might of course be made
about any form, but is especially true in the stricter ones.

Next: Terms Relating To Forms And Styles (_continued_)

Previous: Dynamics

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