Music Concept

Musical Term
Definition
Meaning
Type
Music without subject

"Absolute Music" refers to instrumental music that is composed and appreciated purely for its intrinsic musical qualities, without any specific external or programmatic meaning. Unlike "program music", which seeks to convey a specific narrative or story, absolute music is free from extra-musical associations or intentions. It is created solely to explore and express the beauty, emotions, and structural elements of music itself.

Absolute music is characterized by its focus on the interplay of musical elements such as melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, and form. Composers of absolute music do not attach specific narratives, imagery, or concepts to their compositions, allowing listeners to interpret and engage with the music based on their personal emotions and experiences. This open-ended nature of absolute music invites listeners to derive their own meanings and connections from the purely musical elements.

The term "absolute" indicates the autonomy and self-sufficiency of the music, highlighting its independence from any external references. In contrast, program music often relies on descriptive titles or accompanying texts to guide the listener's understanding of the intended story or scene.

Throughout history, many renowned composers, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven have created significant works of absolute music, including symphonies, sonatas, and chamber music. These compositions offer opportunities for deep emotional exploration and musical appreciation, allowing listeners to connect with the essence of the music itself rather than relying on external associations.

Absolute music holds a central place in classical music repertoire and performance, as it showcases the compositional prowess and creativity of composers while inviting listeners to experience the pure artistry of sound.

Music Concept
Music without subject

"Abstract Music" is a type of music that focuses on sound and musical elements rather than conveying specific narrative plots or images. It aims to express emotions, atmospheres, and abstract ideas through the manipulation of sound colors, rhythms, harmonies, and forms. Unlike music tied to external language or stories, abstract music is free from those constraints.

Abstract music emphasizes the intrinsic value of musical elements themselves, rather than being bound by particular themes, plots, or meanings. Composers typically do not attach specific textual narratives but instead create emotional and atmospheric qualities through the combination and development of musical elements. Interpretations and feelings about this type of music are often more subjective, allowing listeners to attribute their own meanings based on their personal experiences.

The expression in abstract music can vary widely, ranging from simple sound textures to intricate musical structures. Composers can craft different emotions and contexts by varying, contrasting, and developing musical elements, guiding listeners through emotional experiences. This musical form highlights the listener's subjective involvement, enabling each listener to derive unique feelings and experiences from the music.

The value of abstract music lies in the open space it creates, allowing listeners to interpret and experience the music in different ways. It underscores the expressive power and limitless possibilities of music while encouraging listeners to consider the connections between musical elements and emotions.

Music Concept
A gradual increase in pitch from low to high

"Ascending" in music refers to a musical movement or progression that moves from lower to higher pitches, either within a single melodic line or across different musical parts.

For example, when a musical passage or melody ascends, it means that the successive notes are moving from lower pitches to higher pitches. This can occur in various musical contexts, including melodies, scales, arpeggios, and chord progressions. Ascending melodies often create a feeling of upliftment, aspiration, or progression, as they naturally evoke a sense of growth and positive momentum.

Music Concept
A musical style that does not rely on traditional tonality as its foundation

"Atonal Music" refers to a musical style that does not rely on traditional tonality as its foundation. In atonal music, the relationships between notes and harmonies are not governed by clear scales or tonal centers. This style emerged in the early 20th century, breaking away from the conventions and structures of previous music, and introducing more freedom and experimentation into musical composition.

Atonal music is an approach to musical composition that aims to avoid the use of established tonal structures, such as tonal centers and chord progressions. This style is not bound by fixed scales, key signatures, or harmonic progressions. Instead, the selection and combination of notes are based more on aspects like the colors of sounds, textures, and rhythms. This often leads to an unstable and uncertain musical quality, creating a unique emotional and auditory experience.

Methods of composing atonal music can include utilizing chromatic scales, combinations of different intervals and timbres, and unconventional rhythms and dynamics. These elements result in a diverse sonic palette, generating various emotions and atmospheres ranging from detachment and tension to relaxation and contemplation.

The emergence of atonal music brought about entirely new possibilities for musical composition, breaking free from the constraints of traditional tonal music. Many composers of the 20th century, such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and Anton Webern, adopted atonal techniques to explore new sonic territories. However, atonal music also often challenges conventional notions of musical structure and emotional engagement, posing unique challenges for listeners.

Music Concept
Two or more tones complement each other to produce a sound that is pleasant to the ear

"Consonance" is a musical term that refers to the harmonious combination of sounds or notes played simultaneously or in succession. In consonant intervals or chords, the combination of pitches produces a stable, pleasing, and harmonically agreeable sensation. Consonance is often in contrast to "dissonance", which involves less stable or more tense combinations of pitches.

Consonance is a fundamental concept in music theory and harmony. It involves the perception of pleasantness and stability when certain pitches are played together. This pleasing quality arises from the mathematical relationships between the frequencies of the notes involved. When two or more notes sound in a way that the wavelengths of their frequencies relate to each other in simple ratios (such as 2:1 or 3:2), consonance is achieved.

Common examples of consonant intervals include perfect fifths and octaves. These intervals are perceived as harmonically pleasing due to their simple frequency ratios. Consonant chords, such as major and minor triads, are built upon consonant intervals and produce a sense of closure and resolution.

Consonance plays a crucial role in the emotional impact of music. Resolving a dissonance into a consonance can create a sense of tension and release, contributing to the emotional journey of a piece. Composers and musicians use consonance and dissonance strategically to evoke specific moods and effects in their compositions.

Throughout different musical styles and periods, the balance between consonance and dissonance has been explored, contributing to the unique character of each genre and era. The understanding of consonance and its relationship to dissonance is integral for composers, performers, and music theorists, as it shapes the harmonic language and emotional content of music.

Music Concept
To pass from higher to lower musical notes

"Descending" in music refers to a musical movement or progression that moves from higher to lower pitches, either within a single melodic line or across different musical parts.

For example, when a musical passage or melody descends, it means that the successive notes are moving from higher pitches to lower pitches. This can occur in various musical contexts, including melodies, scales, arpeggios, and chord progressions. Descending melodies often create a feeling of descent, relaxation, or closure, as they naturally evoke a sense of release and conclusion.

Music Concept
Two or more tones occur at the same time and create a discordant or clashing sound

"Dissonance" refers to a musical quality where two or more notes played together create tension and an unstable auditory effect. Dissonant intervals or chords evoke a sense of uncertainty and instability in the listener's perception, often requiring further resolution or consonance to achieve a sense of harmonic resolution.

In music, dissonance is typically presented as intervals or chords that create a sense of needing resolution. The structural makeup of these intervals or chords leads to an auditory sense of instability, prompting an expectation for the music to progress to a more stable and harmonious state. In contrast, consonant intervals and chords generate a sense of stability and resolution in the listener's perception.

Dissonance can be used in music composition to create tension, draw attention, or evoke dramatic emotional effects. Often, dissonant intervals or chords introduce moments of temporary uncertainty in the music, followed by a progression to consonant intervals or chords, creating emotional climaxes or changes.

Many musical works utilize the contrast between dissonance and consonance to achieve emotional variation, development, and richness. Composers harness this contrast to manipulate the audience's emotions, guide their emotional experience, and create a diverse range of musical effects.

Music Concept
Music composed with chance procedures

"Indeterminate Music" is a musical concept in which composers intentionally incorporate elements of chance or randomness into their compositions, resulting in unpredictability and variation during performance.

Indeterminate Music is characterized by composers relinquishing precise control over certain aspects of their compositions, allowing performers to generate unique interpretations and expressions during the act of performing. This approach challenges the conventional methods of music composition by transferring decision-making power to performers and chance factors.

Composers may employ various methods to introduce indeterminacy. For instance, they could use random number generators, dice rolls, drawing lots, or design visual symbols and graphic notations to guide performers' interpretations and executions. Such practices ensure that each performance becomes distinct, and each performer's interpretation and execution may differ.

The introduction of Indeterminate Music aims to expand the possibilities of music, exploring different approaches to composition and expression. It emphasizes musical improvisation, creativity, and freedom, while also prompting performers and audiences to engage with music from fresh perspectives.

This genre has roots in the 20th-century modern music movement, and many composers, particularly figures like John Cage and Christian Wolff, have extensively explored and developed Indeterminate Music. These composers often encourage performers to be actively involved in the creative process of music-making, interpreting and performing works in creative ways.

Music Concept
The shape and sequence of movements of a melodic line

"Melodic Contour" refers to the overall shape or trajectory of a melody as it moves through different pitches over time. It describes the pattern of ascending, descending, and static movements of the melody. The melodic contour is a fundamental aspect of melody that contributes to its character, emotional expression, and the listener's perception of the music's flow.

The melodic contour captures the ups and downs of a melody's pitch movement, forming its distinctive shape. It outlines the general direction and shape of the melody, indicating whether it predominantly ascends, descends, or remains on the same pitch. Melodic contours can be simple or complex, ranging from smooth arcs to zigzag patterns, each conveying a unique emotional and rhythmic quality.

Different melodic contours evoke different emotional responses from listeners. Ascending contours often create a sense of upliftment, positivity, and optimism, while descending contours can evoke feelings of calm, resolution, and introspection. Contours with a mixture of ascents and descents, along with unexpected intervals, can contribute to tension and surprise.

Melodic contour plays a significant role in shaping a melody's narrative and expression. Composers and songwriters use it to guide listeners through a musical journey, highlighting key moments and emotions. By manipulating the melodic contour, composers can create tension and release, build anticipation, and convey specific moods or themes.

Music Concept
A type of instrumental art music that attempts to musically render an extramusical narrative

"Program Music" is a genre of instrumental music that aims to depict or evoke specific extra-musical ideas, stories, scenes, or emotions. Unlike "absolute music", which is purely instrumental and does not have a specific narrative or program, program music is composed with the intention of conveying a programmatic concept or narrative through musical means.

Program music can take various forms, including symphonic poems, tone poems, overtures, and suites. Composers use various musical techniques such as melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, and orchestration to portray or suggest the intended programmatic elements. The programmatic content can be inspired by literature, poetry, mythology, nature, historical events, or personal experiences.

One of the notable examples of program music is Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra", which is based on Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical work. The music follows a narrative structure and aims to depict the themes and ideas presented in Nietzsche's text. Another example is Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", which portrays a series of paintings and artworks through musical depictions of different scenes.

Program music allows composers to express and communicate specific ideas, emotions, or stories through the medium of music. It invites the listener to engage their imagination and connect with the narrative or concept being portrayed. However, program music can also be enjoyed on its own purely for its musical qualities, even without knowledge of the specific program or narrative.

The genre of program music emerged during the Romantic era, with composers such as Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, and Richard Strauss embracing its possibilities. It continues to be explored and expanded upon by contemporary composers who seek to push the boundaries of musical expression and storytelling.

Music Concept
The quality of sound that is produced when an object vibrates at its natural frequency

"Resonance" within the realm of music encapsulates a captivating phenomenon where the frequency of vibration in one entity harmonizes closely with the natural frequency of another, triggering the latter to vibrate distinctly owing to the vibrations of the former. This melodic term extends to both the world of musical instruments and the emotional impact evoked by music.

Within musical instruments, resonance manifests as the sound emitted when a note is plucked, struck, or blown, causing the adjacent air and components of the instrument to resonate in response to their closely aligned frequencies. This congruence of vibrations leads to their synchronized oscillation, subsequently enhancing the original sound's resonance, volume, and timbre. This intricate interplay lies at the heart of generating the multifaceted and layered tonal intricacies present within musical instruments.

Beyond the mechanics, resonance delves into the emotive realm, representing the emotional or mood-based alignment between the sentiments expressed through music and the individual listener's personal experiences and emotions. When the emotional content of the music resonates with the listener's inner emotional landscape, a profound sense of resonance is kindled. This harmonic synthesis might arise from melodies, harmonies, or rhythms in the music that evoke emotional reminiscences, or from the convergence of the music's emotional narrative with the listener's present emotional state.

The musical phenomenon of resonance establishes an emotional kinship, endowing music with the ability to profoundly touch the listener's emotional core. This profound connection bridges linguistic and cultural divides, enabling music to convey emotions and moods to diverse audiences with a resonating impact.

Music Concept
The music that is written by major or minor keys

"Tonal Music" refers to a type of musical composition that is based on a specific tonal center or key. It is characterized by the organization of musical elements, such as melodies and harmonies, around a central note (tonic) and its associated scale. Tonal music developed during the Baroque period and became the dominant musical style throughout the Classical, and Romantic periods.

Tonal music revolves around the concept of a tonal center, which serves as a point of stability and reference throughout the composition. This tonal center is typically established by a tonic chord, consisting of the tonic note and its related harmonies. The choice of key signature determines the tonal center and the specific arrangement of sharps or flats within a piece of music.

In tonal music, melodies and harmonies are organized around the tonic note and its associated scale, often following certain harmonic progressions and rules. Commonly used scales include major and minor scales, which provide a framework for creating melodies and harmonies that evoke different emotions and moods.

Chords in tonal music are typically built on the notes of the chosen scale, and their relationships contribute to the sense of tension and resolution that characterizes tonal music. Tonal music often employs harmonic progressions that lead to a temporary departure from the tonic, creating tension, and then return to the tonic for a satisfying resolution.

Tonal music played a significant role in shaping Western classical music and many other genres influenced by it. It provided a structured framework for composers to create melodies, harmonies, and musical forms that were both expressive and coherent. Although tonal music remains an important aspect of the musical tradition, other approaches like atonality and modal music have also gained prominence in the modern era.

Music Concept