Online Lexicon of Music - Terms of the Music Theory with Audio Samples

Terms of the Music Theory with Audio Samples

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Art genre whose starting point and end in itself lies in the sound. Music in which this purpose is completely developed and worked out, which thus possesses a consistent aesthetic in itself, is tonal music.

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The audible as an object of an aesthetically interested perception. The aesthetic purpose distinguishes the (musical) sound from other acoustic objects such as phonetic sound or noise. It can be seen in the simplest form of sound itself, the tone.

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Tone, Partial, Overtone, Oscillation

The musical tone is the audible result of regular acoustic vibrations. The oscillation of vocal chords, strings, enclosed air columns etc. is transmitted to the ear via sound waves of the air. The ear absorbs the vibrations and makes them accessible to the perception. The higher the frequency of the vibrations, the higher a tone appears. In principle, such an oscillation is composed of a whole series of partial oscillations whose frequencies are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency.

Decomposition of an oscillation into its partial oscillations

Depending on their relative share in the total vibration, these harmonics shape the timbre of a tone. In a similar way, the type of a noise can be identified by the interaction of many different oscillations. But while the noise is a confused mixture of vibrations whose composition is subject to constant change, the tone is based on a regular and continuous vibration with a clearly recognisable fundamental vibration. The sonorous tone is characterised by the fact that it is particularly rich in overtones. In this respect, the musical tone is a sophisticated product of instrument making, which has produced this sonority with appropriate resonating bodies and other technical means. On this basis, on the one hand, a variety of timbres develops, but, on the other hand, also the harmonic relation of the tones.

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The characteristic of the beautiful; objective nature of what is perceived to be beautiful, seen in terms of its basic side. In aesthetic perception, man does not use his senses to pursue external purposes, but is interested in the perceptible as such; he leaves the instrumental reference to the world behind him and conceives the objects of perception as an end in themselves. In this position to objectivity, the nature of the perceptible becomes the criterion under which the relationships at the thing are of interest. When it comes to beauty, man looks at things according to whether they fit together. With the appropriate leisure, he enjoys objects with this characteristic as random products of nature and even more as the conscious result of a creative imagination.

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Going together

Relationship of objects that have their criterion in a perceptible property of these objects. Going together (or matching) is a form of accordance in which the moments of the thing are measured against each other and compared with each other. Examples: rhyme, symmetry, harmony, rhythm, etc. The fitting together of perceptual contents is the abstract principle of aesthetics. Investigations into what fits together, why, and in what respect always reveal the laws of beauty – so too in music.

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Reflex category

A determination which does not belong to an object or person as such, but as a result of a relationship in which it finds itself. Since music, on closer inspection, is always and everywhere about relationships (of fitting together), the musical categories often prove to be reflex categories. Root tone, tonic, bar, motif, etc. reveal themselves as such reflex categories as soon as one gets to the bottom of their aesthetic character.

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Tonal music

Tonal music is music based on major and minor triads and is thus music on a harmonic basis. The term "tonal" is appropriate insofar as the harmonic principle of tonality, based on major and minor triads, forms the basis of all rhythmic and melodic determinations of form of the tonal music. Historically, tonal music was developed from modal music during the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. This is no coincidence because tonal music breaks with the commitment of modal music to a religious basis, to the ritual monotony of the principle of recitation, to mystical rules, and to speculative tone systems. It places the music on its own, namely harmonic, basis and thus corresponds to the modern-materialistic mentality which makes the enjoyment of sound the starting point of making music. The tonal music is therefore only the completely developed music, music in the actual sense. That this is only a historically transient kind of music is a rumour which the supporters of atonal music have circulated.

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Atonal music

Music that disconnects individual moments of the music from their immanent aesthetics and musical basis, shapes them as such, and sets them against their basis. For example, the twelve tones are used separately from their harmonic basis (modulation) and disharmonically. Or everything harmonic, rhythmic and melodic is erased from the tone sequences in order to create an abstraction such as the "series". Musical forms turn into "material", and the most radical representatives of atonal music only produce collages of noise. Atonal music is therefore abstract music: music in which extra-musical ideas are asserted and everything specifically musical is dissolved. The performance problems of atonal music stem precisely from the fact that the performers are not able to exploit their musicality, but have to stubbornly play by notes, if it is about something like tones at all.

The ideas that take the place of the musical interest are partly incorrect musical abstractions (for example, tonality not as a harmonic but as a statistical relationship, dissonance not as a harmonic but as a numerical ratio...), partly imaginings taken from elsewhere (for example astrology). The need that the composers want to serve is not that of sound enjoyment, but that of meaning. Atonal music is a contribution to the creation of meaning. Composers therefore perform with the gesture that their music contains a message that can be understood. They are supported by musicologists who treat music merely as a language.

In contrast to modal music, atonal music is not pre-bourgeois music, which has yet to free itself from its religious bias in order to place itself on its own (harmonic) foundation, but music by composers who, in moral bias (longing for meaning), turn against the already developed (= tonal) music in order to historically replace it. The representatives of this music conjure up an image of history in which atonality is presented as a musical progress. Hence the rumour that tonal music had come to an end around 1900.

The creativity of the "modern" artists is also abstract: The new appears as a value in itself, separated from all aesthetic aspects. The ideal of modern art is originality. In this ideal, the artists personally take to heart their basis of life in bourgeois society: the copyright with which intellectual products can be turned into money. Accordingly, composers are concerned with their peculiarities, searching for their identity when composing, asking themselves a lifetime who they are and how they can communicate their innermost personality to the audience. Because from the intellectual origin of the works of art, they conclude quite naturally that they are about them personally and that the artist expresses himself in the music. In this way, the whole meagerness of the abstraction "identity" becomes the content of the messages for whose sake musical instruments and ears are strained. Atonal music does not offer the audience anything to enjoy, but demands habituation. What is offered is a "material" that everyone can interpret as they wish, i.e. a field of activity for abstract freedom.

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Modal music, Holding tone

Modal music is the regulated form of holding tone music. The pre-bourgeois social systems had systematised the monotonous singsong of spirit evocation and worship of God for their rites. They had fixed the tones into a tone system. The number of tones and their distances were determined speculatively, where mystical ideas were more decisive than an notion of harmony. The tone systems of the modal music as they were fixed in different high cultures have one thing in common in spite of all their differences: They contain a stock of tones for the chants, the modalities of which are regulated as the prescribed handling of these tones. The core of the so-called modes – hence the name modal – is the definition of a tone as a holding tone (recitation note, tenor). The medieval modes (= ecclesiastical modes) are a typical example of the principles of modal music. The almost classical basic form of modal music-making is the psalmody.

Where it has not yet been replaced by the tonal music, there are still remnants of the modal music in remote areas.

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Psalmody, Tenor, Repercussa, Recitation note, Initium, Mediatio, Finalis, Square notation

Psalmody, the singing of psalms, is a form of religious activity in which the elevation of God and the humiliation of man are important. "In this respect, the Psalms provide us with classical examples of true sublimity, presented to all times as a pattern in which what man has before him in his religious conception of God is brilliantly expressed with the strongest elevation of the soul. Nothing in the world can claim independence, for everything is and exists only through God's power and is only there to serve as the praise of this power and as the pronouncement of one's own substanceless nothingness." (Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik)

According to the manner of performance, the psalm is a form of solemn recitation according to the following scheme:

Scheme of psalmody in choral notation

Characteristic for this music is the holding tone style which differs from the usual way of speaking by the egalisation of the pitch. The voice raises and holds the tone for a while, only to fall off again. This monotonous singsong knows no regulation of the tone lengths, but only a ductus based on linguistic articulation. Psalmody was first written down using neumes, then, from the 12th century onwards, the choral notation given above was used. The holding tone, also tenor, recitation tone or repercussa, is the basis of the modal music and, even after the emergence of polyphony, it determined the music written in mensural notation from which the tonal music was developed.

In the broader sense, psalmody is "the cultic speech song in general" (E. Thiel, Sachwörterbuch der Musik, Stuttgart 1984, p. 527). Before the emergence of the tonal music, all singing was psalmody in this sense. The meanings of the Latin word carmen (prayer formula, magic formula, prophecy, oracle, cult song, chant, verse), which are all different from today's point of view, are therefore not particularly distinguished in antiquity.

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Medieval symbols for the written fixation of the psalmody. The neumes are notes developed from the accent signs above the text, which were intended to help the cantor in the performance of the ritual chant. After the emergence of staff lines, the neumes were replaced by the square notation.

Example of neumes

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