Glossary of Music-Related Terms

for Serge Winitzki's music page

under construction
Music
I don't like the way people came to use the words music and song. I prefer to distinguish song, that is words (for some reason called "lyrics") sung with or without melody, from "music proper", which is basically tones produced by musical instruments. In modern practice, especially in the "pop" part of the culture, the words "music" and "song" have virtually become synonyms. Most of the production of the "music industry" is actually songs, and most of "academic" (or "classical") music is music without words. When I say "music", I always refer primarily to those genres of music which have no lyrics.
One could further distinguish song from choral music. Choral music (sung by a choir with or without accompaniment) usually has lyrics, but it is different from song in that it does not contain emphasis primarily on lyrics and makes generally as profound an impression on a listener as when sung altogether without words. In effect, choral music makes use of a human voice as if it were a musical instrument equal to other instruments. An obvious example is a traditional mass sung in Latin; the listeners frequently don't follow the text but it doesn't prevent them from fully enjoying the music. One can perhaps say that lyrics are not essential in choral music but essential in a song.

MIDI
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a way of storing and transmitting music as a set of musical notes rather than a sampled wave. This information is interpreted and played by a MIDI module (an electronic synthesizer) or by a computer with MIDI capability, such as a MIDI-supporting sound card. The MIDI information is stored in MIDI files. To listen to music stored in MIDI, one has to download the files and feed them into a MIDI module (external or internal) through a MIDI player application configured for a specific system.

"Academic" music vs. "popular" music
"Academic music" is a misnomer for the kind of music people would also call "serious", "classical", or "traditional". Most people have a feeling that anything written before 1900 is definitely "academic", while in the 20th century a new genre, that of popular (or "pop") music, came into existence. I disagree with that view. In particular, I think that some of the the "popular" music of 18th and 19th centuries would now perceived as "serious" (by some adherents of this dichotomy).
In terms of development of the harmonic and the melodic language, "popular" styles are roughly a century behind the "academic" styles. This is, I think, because the more complicated musical language of the "serious" styles is not well-suited for becoming widely popular.
However, I would rather not draw a sharp line between "serious" and "light" music. Music has been composed in different circumstances and for different audiences, such as music for some local king's dinner, or for a wedding, or for a church service; one could also think about a piece written for some soloist's public recital, a mass commissioned by a radio program, or an opera composed by several people as a birthday present to a common friend. In each case, there are specific intentions for creating a piece and specific audiences to listen to it. It would be impossible to categorize this variety of contexts into a "serious"-"light" dichotomy.

Copyright on music and on MIDI files
A piece of music can be copyrighted in three ways: first, the music itself is copyrighted, with all rights to public performance and printing; second, printed scores are copyrighted as books; third, recordings of performances are copyrighted as "forms of expression".
MIDI files are recordings of performance of music not essentially different from the standard audio recordings (although implemented in a new form). Then, two forms of copyright apply: the copyright on the particular performance (i.e. the copyright on a particular MIDI file) and the copyright on all performances (usually held by a publishing house or agency or by the composer). The latter (at least in the USA) is only effective for 75 years since first publication. Some countries (such as Russia) didn't allow composers to reserve copyright and this means that the second form of copyright shouldn't apply to Russian music created in the Soviet Union during the Communist times. The situation with contemporary Russian music is of course different.

20th Century Music
By that I mean music which transcends the tonal and harmonic standards of 19th century. Some composers, although they lived and worked after 1900, never stepped out of the magic circle of tonic-dominant triads; their music is then not quite a "20th century music proper". Here's how I imagine the history of music around 1900: The harmonic and melodic development started by late romanticism (for example, Reger, Ysaye, and Scriabin, from the composers I know) led to "impressionists" (Debussy, Satie, Ravel), then to "avant-guarde" (Stravinsky, Prokofiev). From this point on (c. 1920), there was no return to the "ear candy" of the 19th century classical style.

Music I like
It tends to be harmonically complicated; melody seems to be of somewhat less importance to me than harmony.
Music I like definitely should not have a drum beat and should not contain many repetitions of one and the same material. I tend to like most of certain composers' output rather than individual pieces. Composers I like include: Bach, Reger, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Dupré, Duruflé, Messiaen.
Recently I learned about the existence of Nikolai Roslavec, a Russian composer completely suppressed by the Communist regime. His music seems rather interesting to me.
Some composers I like:

more to come...


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