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Music – sound arts glossary

A glossary of music – sound arts terms from the NZ Curriculum.

accompaniment: music played on an instrument that supports another performer; often a piano part or guitar chords.

accuracy: precision of a performance as communicated, from a written score or aural transcription.

action song: songs that are accompanied by gestures and actions.

acoustics: the scientific study of sound; the characteristic way in which sound carries or can be heard within a particular enclosed space, for example, an auditorium.

added note: note(s) added to a basic chord to add "colour" to the sound; jazz chords include added note(s).

āhua: form, as applied to Māori music.

amplify: to make louder.

answering pattern [phrase]: second half of a pitched or rhythmic pattern that responds to and is informed by the previous phrase, that is, the question.

anthem: a short celebratory vocal piece, often with words taken from the Bible, or a song of great social significance, for example, The New Zealand national anthem 'God of Nations' or 'We are the World', as performed by Band Aid.

arrangement: an arrangement is a reworking of a piece of existing music with additional new material or a 'fleshing-out' of a compositional sketch, such as a lead sheet. If a musical adaptation does not include new material, it is more accurately termed a transcription.

art work: a product of art-making activity (for example, in music an art work could be a song, symphony, rap or jazz performance).

aural skills: focused listening skills developed through regular practice enables students to identify, analyse, understand and apply the elements and features of music (for example, pitch, rhythms, tone colours, chords and other elements or structural devices). Singing plays an important part in developing aural skills.

balance: the blend and positioning of voices, instruments, or other sounds in a musical work or performance.

beat: see pulse.

beat chart: a grid in which each square represents a beat of a rhythm or of a musical phrase.

blues: a vocal form which originated in America; usually consists of 12 bars involving chords I7, IV7 and V7.

body percussion: sounds made using parts of the body (for example, foot stamping, thigh slapping).

bridge: a section of music that links two others, for example, an instrumental bridge between a verse and chorus of a song.

call and response: a structural device that derives from the work songs of Afro-American slaves; a soloist sings or plays, and a group or second soloist responds.

canon: a piece for two or more voices or parts, in which the melody (or rhythm) introduced by the first part is exactly imitated by the second (and subsequent) overlapping parts.

chanting: rhythmically spoken text, for example, chorus of voices, karakia, rap, paatere.

chord: two or more notes sounding simultaneously.

chord progression: a series of chords sounding one after another.

chorus: the refrain of a song; words and music are repeated each time it reoccurs.

classical: music of the 1750-1825 period to which famous composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven belong now often used to refer to any music which is not 'pop'.

communication: conveying or transmitting meaning within a particular context. In music communication skill refers to the performer's committed rapport with the music, instrument and audience.

composition: a composition is an original piece of music containing musical ideas that have been developed and structured. Many compositions are notated for others to perform, though many are passed down from generation to generation orally and others exist in a purely electronic format.

composition processes: this is a process which is unique to every individual when creating music. It usually involves the development of a concept initially, and requires exploring, experimenting and improvising with musical ideas. Ideas are then developed, extended, manipulated and structured into a complete piece of music. The complete piece is often represented in a form appropriate to the genre, such as a traditionally notated score, a lead sheet or a graphic score.

compression: an electronic sound-processing effect used in recording, mixing, or broadcasting to reduce the dynamic range of the music.

contrast: differences within and between the elements of music.

conventions: established procedures in creating, performing, and interpreting musical works.

counter-melody: the simultaneous combination of two or more melodies.

culture: understandings, patterns of behaviour, practices, values, and symbol systems that are acquired, preserved, and transmitted by a group of people and that can be embodied in art works.

descant: a second independent melody added to the main melody usually sung or played at a higher pitch.

diatonic: melody or harmony built from the seven tones of a major or minor scale: encompasses patterns of seven whole tones and semitones. 

distort: alter the quality of sound, often by mechanical or electronic means, for example, distortion pedal for a guitar.

drum machine: an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums and/or other percussion instruments.

dynamics: the varying levels of loudness and softness in music; or the signs used to indicate such levels.

echo pattern: a pattern copied immediately after hearing it. 

electronic sounds: sounds generated by electronic instruments such as computer, synthesiser, drum machine or electric guitar. 

elements of music: the key ingredients of music (for example, beat, rhythm, pitch, tempo, tone colour or timbre, dynamics).

embellishment: decoration of the melodic, rhythmic or harmonic structure of music; often indicated in written notation, for example, a trill or accepted conventions in particular styles of music. For example, trading the head through improvisation in a jazz form.

EQ: equalisation; an electronic sound-processing effect in recording in which certain frequency ranges (for example, bass, mid-range, treble) are enhanced to achieve a particular sound or tone for an instrument or voice; treble and bass controls and graphic equalisers are crude EQ devices.

expressive qualities: refers to the way in which composers and performers contribute to the meaning and artistic language of the music through the use of music conventions. The expressive qualities of music engage or impact on the listener, providing a rich musical and aesthetic experience.

feel: how a performer places notes in relation to the beat (for example, on the beat for a "straight" feel; slightly before or behind the beat for a jazz feel).

folk: traditional and typically anonymous music often transmitted aurally from one generation to the next that is an expression of the life of the people in a community.

form: the compositional structure or structures that shape a musical work or section of a work; or a particular genre of music (for example, the symphony).

found sounds: sounds created from everyday objects (for example, sticks, stones, hubcaps).

fusion: combining two or more styles of music or blending elements from several styles of music.

gamelan: an indigenous Indonesian orchestra composed largely of pitched percussion instruments. These appear in the form of knobbed gongs, some of which are suspended and some laid out horizontally on rope supports and keyed metallophones, mounted on trough or tubular resonators.

genre: a broad category of music (for example, rock, jazz, choral music); or a particular type of music that has a tradition or history and is identifiable by specific characteristics (for example, the sonata, rock opera).

graphic notation: notation in which sound or music is represented by shapes and lines.

hā: tone/timbre as applied to Māori music.

haka: Māori rhythmical posture dance usually performed by males.

harmony: the structure, progression, and interrelationship of chords.

haumarangai: high frequency sound as applied to Māori music.

haumaru: low frequency sound as applied to Māori music.

hip-hop: dance music based on rap with spoken rhythmic sections and a sung chorus.

hook: a memorable melodic or rhythmic idea, repeated several times; the device is common in rock and popular music.

idea: a visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic concept, or a combination of these, within an arts discipline.

imitate: to repeat a phrase or melody often with variations in key, rhythm, and voice.

improvisation: spontaneous or semi-spontaneous musical creation; in jazz, improvisation is often based on the melody and harmony of an existing song or work.

interpretation: analysis or appreciation of meaning in an art work by a viewer or listener; or the particular meaning communicated by the performer of an existing art work.

intonation: the degree to which a performer sings or plays in tune; accuracy of pitch in musical performance.

intro(duction): section found at the start of a piece of music.

jam session: informal playing session by a pop or jazz group.

jazz: style of music performed solo or by an ensemble marked by improvisation often swung rhythms and characterised by a rhythm section over which players improvise.

jingle: musical idea or short tune used commercially for advertising purposes.

kapa haka: a contemporary performance style of the Māori involving choral singing, canting, dance and movements.

key: any of 24 major or minor diatonic scales that provide the tonal framework for a piece of music.

key features: the facets of a piece of music, which have a powerful and important musical effect. Different pieces of music will have different key features. Discovering key features helps to encourage an emotional and aesthetic engagement with a piece, rather than a technical description.

live music: music performed live, for example, at a concert.

lyric setting: the way in which the words are set to music.

lyric song sheet: the written words of the song.

major key: a key whose harmony is based on the major scale.

major scale: a step-wise sequence of notes in a major key.

manawataki: pulse/main beat as applied to Māori music.

manipulation: a general term for various musical processes applied to change, develop or extend a musical idea, phrase into a musical form.

march: a piece for marching; originally military music.

meaning: what an artist expresses in an art work; or what a viewer or listener understands and interprets from an art work.

media music: music used to support other media, for example, television, film, radio, computers, cellphones.

melody - a succession of pitches and durations (note lengths) arranged to create a tune.

metre: the grouping of beats, usually in twos, threes, or fours; metre is usually indicated by a time signature (a fraction-like figure placed at the beginning of a piece of music).

MIDI: Musical Instrument Digital Interface: an international standard that allows electronic instruments and computers to interconnect and operate together.

minor key - a key whose harmony is based on the minor scale.

minor scale: a step-wise sequence of notes in a minor key. 

mood piece: music which by its mood evokes strong emotions in the listener.

moteatea: Māori songs or chants written to lament people who have died; or traditional Māori chants and waiata.

motif: a brief, identifiable musical idea that may be repeated or developed throughout a work; a famous motif is the opening "da-da-da-dum" of Beethoven's Symphony No.5 in C minor.

musical devices: see structural devices.

musicianship: awareness and understanding of the appropriate music style and interpretation; includes phrasing, dynamics, rhythm and "feel".

muting: adding a mute to an instrument to decrease its volume or modify its tonal colour.

notation: the writing down of a piece of music; or the written form itself.

note values: the duration (length) of notes.

onomatopoeic effects: words that imitate natural sounds, for example, crack, splash, bow-wow.

opera: a staged drama which is entirely sung, usually with orchestral accompaniment.

oriori: waiata for children that tell stories of journeys, tribal genealogies, the creation, and so on; Māori lullabies.

oro: sound, as applied to Māori music.

ostinato: a repeated accompaniment pattern that can be rhythmic or melodic and that is maintained throughout a section or piece.

outro: the end section of a piece of music; the instrumental fade at the end of a pop/rock song.

pakiwaitara: a Māori story; or the Māori art of storytelling, largely expressed through song and chant.

patsch - body percussion action of patting the thigh.

pentatonic scale: a five-note scale common to many cultures and open to several variations; the most commonly used pentatonic scale equates to the black notes on the piano. This is achieved by the removal of the 4 th and 7 th notes from a major scale. for example, notes of a C pentatonic are CDEG and A.

performance practice: the performance conventions that are associated with a particular style of music and that affect how a musical work is interpreted and presented.

phrase: a group of notes forming a distinct unit or segment of a rhythm or melody; the four-bar phrase is a common length in music.

pitch: the degree of highness or lowness of a note.

pivot chord: a chord, common to two keys, used to move a piece from one key to a new key.

poi: Māori percussive instrument based on the concept of a swinging ball on a string to unified and co-ordinated visual patterns.

pulse: a regular, reoccuring emphasis of a fixed interval of time. Much like we feel our heart beat in a regular pulse, we often feel a regular beat or pulse in music.

practical: refers to listening, moving, singing, and playing. Singing and playing skills are often acquired through one-to-one or group tuition, and practical skills (for example, playing music back from memory) can be used as an experiential medium in order to reinforce theoretical, aural and conceptual understandings.

presentation: the sense of performance appropriate to the genre of music; includes rapport and communication with the audience and preparation, appropriate posture and visual impact.

programme music: musical compositions intended to evoke images or remind the listener of events.

rangi: melody, as applied to Māori music.

recorded music: music that is set down in a permanent form, usually digitally, for reproduction on a stereo, iPod or other sound system.

rehearsal: formal practice; usually in preparation for a performance.

remix: a different recorded version of a song; may be in a new style, often including changes in instrumentation, texture, harmony or new sound engineering, for example, effects.

reo: language or voice, as applied to Māori music.

repertoire: the selection of music appropriate for an instrument or ensemble.

repetition: a section of music that is repeated.

representation: using some form of notation to convey musical ideas or compositional intent.

reverb: an electronic sound-processing effect used in recording to create a sense that a sound is being made in a particular space; a large amount of reverb can give the impression of a performance in a huge cathedral, whereas a little amount may give the impression of a small room.

rhythm: duration of notes forming pattern.

riff: a jazz/pop music term denoting a repeated musical phrase.

sasa: a Samoan dance in which rows of (often seated) dancers perform rapid, synchronised movements in time to the beating of slit drums, tins, or rolled mats.

sequence: the repetition of a musical phrase at a higher or lower pitch.

silence: the absence of sound.

social text: an art work that refers to and reflects the society or culture in which it is made.

sound: sound causes vibrations that can usually be detected by the human ear. A sound usually has a pitch or frequency, duration or length, a distinctive quality or wave form and its volume can be measured in decibels. Sound is the source material for music. Music is is sound that has been manipulated and organised.

sound environments: include natural (environmental), acoustic (non-electronic) and digital (electronic) media. They provide the means for students to practise, analyse and reflect on music making.

sound qualities: characteristics of sounds (for example, muted, harsh, mellow).

sound source: the means by which a sound is produced (for example, an instrument, voice, environmental object, electronic device).

sources of motivation: these are external objects, such as a painting, a, photograph, a dramatic scene, a dance or an experience remembered, real or imaginary that provided an inspiration to improvise or create music.

structural devices: devices used in constructing a piece of music (for example, motif, phrase, sequence, repetition, variation, cadence).

structure: the way in which the parts of a musical work, or of a section of a work, are arranged (for example, in rondo form; as theme and variations; as a verse-and-chorus pop song).

style: the recognised manner in which one or more composers organise the elements of music according to specific conventions; style determines how a work is performed or interpreted; it often relates to a historical period (for example, baroque, bebop) or composer (for example, in the style of Mozart).

tangiata: chord, as applied to Māori music.

tapa: margin, bar in music notation.

tatangi: texture, as applied to Māori music.

tauira ūngeri: rhythm pattern, as applied to Māori music.

technique: refers to the manner of playing an instrument (that is, performance techniques specific to individual instruments), as well as the tools and conventions used in improvisation and composition.

technologies: equipment used to help create, present, explain, document, listen to or view, interpret, analyse, or learn about musical works, including electronic media (for example, video, computers) and production technologies (for example, mixing desks).

te ihi: the power, awe, essential force.

tempo: the speed of the beat in music. for example, fast and slow.

te wana: the thrill, ray of light, fierce energy.

te wehi: the formidable, fear.

text: any expressive work (artistic or otherwise) that can be "read", whether it uses words, images, or sounds.

texture: a piece of music's "density" of sound, which may range from thin (for example, a single strand or instrumental line) to thick (for example, several strands or instrumental lines).

theoretical: involves the investigation of the 'mechanics' of music. It often involves identifying patterns that govern the conventions of music and composers' techniques. In a more general sense, music theory distills and analyses the elements of music .

timbre: see tone colour.

time signature: the symbol usually consisting of two numbers, one above the other, used to indicate the metre. The top number refers to the number of beats (or subdivided beats in compound meters) per bar, and the bottom number refers to which note value gets the beat. (for example, 3/4 indicates 3 beats to the bar, with the number 4 signifying that the basic beat is a crotchet or quarter note).

tī rākau: wooden sticks used for dance and music.

titi torea: Māori stick games using rākau.

toi puoro: musical instruments, taonga/treasures, used in Māori music.

tone colour: the specific tone or sound quality of a musical instrument, combination of instruments, or sound source (for example, a saxophone and a trumpet playing the same note each has its own distinctive sound); also called timbre.

transcription: notating music by listening to it and writing down or playing what is heard.

transposition: notating or playing a melody, section of a piece, or complete work in a different key to that of the original.

tūmomo puoro: genre/style, as applied to Māori music.

tune: see melody.

tuned percussion: percussion instruments on which sounds of definite pitch can be played (for example, the timpani, xylophone).

ūngeri: rhythm, as applied to Māori music.

unison: singing or playing at the same pitch or exactly an octave apart.

untuned percussion: percussion instruments on which only sounds of indefinite pitch can be played (for example, the snare drum, wood block).

variation: a compositional technique where the same or similar musical material is changed. Changes may be harmonic, melodic, textural, rhythmic, or through tone colour or orchestration.

verse: section of a song; each time it reoccurs the words are different.

vocal sounds: using the voice to produce sounds, for example, clicking, onomatopoeic effects, yelling, chanting, singing.

waiata: a Māori song; more specifically, laments for the dead (waiata tangi) or love songs (waiata aroha or waiata whaiaipo); modern action songs may be called waiata-a-ringa (literally "hand" songs) or waiata kori, and their tunes are not necessarily Māori in origin.

whakarongo: to listen.

whole tone scale: a scale where the distance between each note is two semitones.

word painting: making words in songs sound like an image, for example, singing the word "soft" quietly, or "stop" in a short, abrupt way.

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