Glossary

Please feel free to suggest any other terms that should be included here.


aleatory- also referred to as indeterminacy or chance music. Aleatory compositions contain at least one aspect (rhythm, pitch, dynamics, etc.) that is left up to the performer to control. The composer usually presents some kind of basic guidelines but it is then up to the performer to "improvise" on these rules.

 

atonal- a commonly misused term which refers to music having no perceived tonal center. This perception is often due to the uneducated ears of the listener. Twelve-tone and serial music can almost always be referred to as atonal. Also, many 19th century compositions (Liszt's Nuages gris for instance or the opening section of the Faust Symphony) can also be referred to as atonal (although these works or passages may be more correctly described by the term suspended tonality).

 

bitonality- the use of two tonalities (or keys) at the same time. This does not imply, for instance, sudden or rapid modulation from one key to another but rather a passage or work in which two distinct keys are used simultaneously.

 

chromatic- in simplest terms this can be defined as a scale consisting of half steps. It also would naturally refer to any melodic or harmonic passages which contain primarily half steps. Pärt's music is notable for its lack of chromaticism

 

collage technique- Pärt's use involved the insertion of borrowed musical material, from composers such as Bach and Tchaikovsky, into his serial structure. This material included not only small quotations but also larger sections of basically unaltered music of these composers.

 

combinatoriality- see twelve-tone

 

dodecaphonic- see twelve-tone

 

hocket- The 13th and 14th century term hocket refers to a composition or technique involving two voices in which when one voice sings, the other rests. In the 16th century, the term was applied to a certain type of cadence in which one voice, approaching the tonic from above, fails to reach its destination, and instead has a rest at least one beat long. The leading tone in another voice reaches the tonic and has at least a whole-note value, over which the theme of the next section begins.

 

homophonic- passages in which all voices sing identical or similar rhythms. This term also refers to music in which a melody lies in one voice while the other voices serve as accompaniment. When discussing Pärt's music, the former definition applies.

 

homorhythmic- passages in which all voices sing identical or similar rhythms.

 

Neoclassicism- a compositional style probably most often associated with certain works by Stravinsky although it is by no means limited to only Stravinsky (Poulenc, Satie, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, etc.). It is characterized by the use of "classical" compositional forms, expressive restraint and motivic clarity. For the most part the music is generally "tonal" although there are exceptions (Schoenberg).

 

Minimalism- most simply defined as music composed of repeated patterns or rhythms. In general it may also characterized by the use of clear modality, non-Western influences, limited melodic or harmonic movement, etc. This is a fairly broad term that can be applied to radically different compositional styles (from Terry Riley, John Adams, and Philip Glass to Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, and Henryk Górecki).

 

pandiatonicism- a compositional technique by which a diatonic scale is adhered to but not used in a conventional manner (lack of standard chord progressions or resolution of dissonance, etc.). Pärt's music is pandiatonic mostly in the area of unresolved dissonance, although the tintinnabulation technique itself could be referred to as a type of pandiatonicism. As a general example, if you were to take a 2x4 and pound (lightly of course) on strictly the white notes of the piano (C major diatonic or A minor diatonic) you would be demonstrating a type of pandiatonicism. You are not using standard choral progressions (I - IV - V - vi - ii - V7 - I , etc.) and you are not correctly resolving dissonances.

 

pantonality- similar to pandiatonicism except for the "diatonic" part. This basically refers to any traditional tonality in the functional sense. Twelve tone music falls into this category although it can be applied to any music that is atonal in nature

 

polychord- a chord composed of two or more traditional triads (eg. D major triad and G major triad)

 

polytonality- see bitonality

 

serialism- a compositional technique in which one or more aspects of a piece are pre-defined. This music is generally atonal (see above). "Classical serialism" is synonymous with the term "twelve-tone" and refers to the ordering of only the pitch series. "Integral serialism" takes this even further in that aspects other than pitch are preplanned (rhythm, form, dynamics, etc.).

 

retrograde- the simplest definition is "backwards." This term is seen most often in the context of counterpoint where a motif that has been established in one voice is sounded backwards in another voice

 

Tintinnabulation- click here

 

twelve-tone- a compositional technique first developed by Arnold Schoenberg in 1921. Twelve-tone compositons are based on a tone row consisting of an ordered arrangement of the 12 pitch classes, none of which are to be repeated. This tone row is used throughout the composition in various ways. The row can be stated in its original form, in inversion, retrograde, or retrograde inversion. Also, pitches in the row can be presented simultaneously in chord forms rather than one pitch at a time. The goal was to obscure any perceived tonal center. This movement was a natural extension of the developments in chromaticism which had occurred in the 19th and early 20th centuries in music of composers such as Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Strauss, and others. The twelve-tone method eventually led to serial and aleatory techniques.