Glossary

C

The key of C.

C clef

A clef usually centered on the first line (soprano clef), third line (alto clef), fourth line (tenor clef) or third space (vocal tenor clef) of the staff. Wherever it is centered, that line or space becomes middle C.

Cabalistic Numerological Symbolism

A method of inbedding hidden messages in music, by using a code of numbers based on which notes are used, their durations, arrangement, subdivision, etc.—whereby the composer made symbolic reference to specific persons, places, or things and/or events in some way associated with the music.

cacophony

Discordant sound; dissonance.

cadence

The melodic or harmonic ending of a piece or the sections or phrases therein. A chord progression that “feels” like a conclusion.

cadenza

A solo passage, often virtuosic, usually near the end of a piece, either written by the composer or improvised by the performer.

cambiata

In counterpoint, a nonharmonic note inserted between a dissonance and its resolution.

camera

Secular chamber music, as opposed to church music, or chiesa.

camerata

Small art or music schools originating in the 16th century.

cancel

A natural sign, used to remove a previously accidental.

canon

“Rule.” In counterpoint, a melody that is repeated exactly by a different voice, entering a short interval after the original voice.

cantata

“Sung.” A multi-movement vocal work for concert or church performance by a chorus and/or soloists and an accompanying instrumental ensemble.

canticle

A non-metrical hymn or song.

canto fermo

A cantus firmus.

cantus firmus

“Fixed Song.” A pre-existing melody, usually an ecclesiastical chant, that serves as the theme or foundation of a polyphonic piece.

canzona, canzone

A song or ballad, or “in the style of a song”.

Capellmeister

Kapellmeister.

Cappella

See a cappella.

Cello

In the violin family, the tenor instrument, played while held between the knees.

chamber music

Music for small ensemble.

chanson

A song.

chiesa

“Church.” Church music, as opposed to chamber music, or camera.

chorale

A German Lutheran hymn tune.

chord

Three or more notes played simultaniously.

chromatic

Motion by half steps; or pitches used outside of the diatonic scale in which they normally occur.

Classical Era

The musical period from the late 18th century to the early 19th century.

clef

The symbol at the beginning of a staff that indicates which lines and spaces represent which notes.

close harmony

Harmony in which notes of the chord are kept as close together as possible, often within an octave.

clusters

Groups of notes that are the interval of a second apart.

coloratura

“Coloring.”

  1. Elaborate ornamentation of the melodic line, usually by a vocalist.
  2. A voice type (especially soprano) specializing in demanding virtuosity.

comic opera

An opera with light-natured music, comedy, and a happy ending.

common chord

A chord composed of a root, third, and fifth.

common time

4/4 meter.

common tone

A note that remains constant between two chords.

compound interval

An interval wider than an octave, such as a ninth, or eleventh.

concert

A public performance of music.

concertante

A piece for two or more instruments with orchestral accompaniment.

concerto

A piece for soloist(s) and orchestra.

consequent

The second phrase in a musical period, in a fugue, the answer.

consonance

Sounds that are pleasing to the ear.

consort

A Renaissance chamber group.

continuo

Basso continuo.

counterpoint

The combination of two or more melodic lines played simultaneously. A horizontal structure of melody against melody rather than chords.

countertenor

“Against the tenor.” The highest male singing voice, above tenor.

crab canon

A contrapuntal piece in which one part is identical to another, but backwards.

crescendo

A gradual increase in volume.

Credo

“I believe.” In the Mass, the third part of the Ordinary. The Creed.