Applebaum: Music 8A Nose-Bleed Music Theory Disclaimer: These definitions are particularly suited to this class and

will prove useful for much, if not most, of the music you will encounter; however, they are simple definitions and there are always liminal cases and alternative musical traditions for which they are less appropriate. Elements of Pitch Pitch: Any point on the continuum of musical pitch. This continuum is analogous to the domain of musically useful frequencies and each point corresponds to some definite frequency within that domain. Register: A local domain or subset of the continuum of musical pitch, as in the high register, low register, middle-high register, etc. Tessitura is even more specific; it is the particular range in which an instrument or activity functions most consistently. Hertz: A measuring unit of frequency expressing vibrations per second. Middle A=440Hz. The (maximal) range of human hearing is 20Hz-20kHz (20,000Hz). Octave: A frequency ratio of 2:1. Pitches spaced by one or more octaves have the same name. Scale: A collection of pitches arranged in order from lowest to highest or from highest to lowest. (From the Greek scala meaning ladder.) The chromatic scale divides the octave into 12 equally spaced parts. Most Western scales choose 7 of these pitches and exclude 5. The two primary scales are major and minor; modes, for our purposes, are collections of seven pitches which are different from the major and minor scales, thus sounding, to varying extents, exotic. There are scales which have more than or less than seven pitches. Interval: The distance between two pitches, often measured in chromatic steps (known also as half-steps); also refers to the sound of two pitches when sounded simultaneously. Consonance/Dissonance: Terms which refer to musical moments suggesting stability, comfort, and resolution or instability, discomfort, and the need for resolution, respectively. The octave is a very consonant interval; its mathematical ratio is a simple one: 2:1. The major seventh (eleven chromatic steps) is a very dissonant interval; its mathematical ratio is comparatively complex: 45:24. Melody: A coherent succession of pitches. Chord: Three or more pitches sounded simultaneously. Arpeggio: A group of notes, associated more with a chord than with a melody, played in succession, often in a regular rhythm and often from low to high or from high to low. Harmony: A succession of chords, a chord progression. (Not to be confused with vocal harmony in which one or more singers add a note to a melodic moment or moments creating an interval or chord.)

Polyrhythm: The superimposition of different rhythms. either by occurring at a moment or between moments. Ostinato: The repetition of a particular pattern. polyphonic texture suggests multiple voices that are independent of one another. Duration: The length. the sonic character of an instrument from which a listener may identify it. Far less frequent but not exotic is 3. etc. Meter: The pattern in which a regular succession of rhythmic pulses is organized. Texture: The manner in which the musical voices are layered. and 9 are rather exotic meters in Western music. Aesthetic: The collection of values which inspire and inform compositional choices.). tripled. . of a piece or section of a piece.). Mixed Meter: When the meter changes. 2 may be thought of as half of 4 and 6 may be thought of as twice 3. The human voice is an instrument. The most common meter in Western popular music is 4. Events gain a temporal meaning by their proximity to one of these moments. etc.Elements of Time Pulse/Beat: A regular succession of moments which constitute a meaningful temporal context for musical events. Other Musical Elements Instrumentation: The collection of musical instruments that are employed in a given piece. and cyclic forms such as the 12-bar blues. Rhythm: The pattern of events in time. This function is often served by an instrument in the bass register. in time. Form: The shape or architecture of a musical composition as defined by its organization of sections or materials. Dynamics: The loudness and softness of a given piece of music. The pattern is detectable and repeats itself in many kinds of music. the rondo (ABACADA. a notable exception is a fair amount of 20th century modernism which tends to obfuscate patterns and/or to use them only once. 32-bar song form (AABA). the juxtaposition of different meters. Tempo: The speed of the pulse. 5. Timbre: From the French word for stamp. Style: The choices that a work or performance makes from among the possibilities available. homophonic texture suggests multiple voices that do differing things where one stands out in the foreground as most important while others serve in background. Monophonic texture suggests one voice identity (which may be doubled. often to create a sense of thickness or thinness. Some common forms include the arch form (ABA). One unit of this pattern is called a bar or measure. Syncopation: The accentuation of weak or off-beats. 7.

and if it achieves these goals. etc. . ethical. (2) did it achieve its goals? A piece may be considered good if the goals are sufficiently ambitious.A Critical Model Functionality: One possible critical model asks the following questions: (1) what are the piece’s goals?. This is a simplistic and problematic model but it is usually the best starting point for apprehending a new piece of music.

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