Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Terms and Processes Used in the Interpretation of Music: Letters M-N



The process of changing from one key to another within the same composition. In a movement of even the smallest dimensions monotony would result if the composer should confine himself strictly to one key. There are two kinds of modulations, passing and final. Passing modulation introduces chords belonging to other keys only incidentally and soon returns to the original key.But when a piece modulates so that the original key is abandoned and a new key takes its place, the modulation is final. In the sonata-form (see SONATA) the first development of the principal subject confines itself only to passing modulations. A final modulation occurs at the entrance of the secondary subject (generally to the dominant key). The second or development section is concerned entirely with passing modulation. But even here the choice of keys is not arbitrary. However, no rules can be given; the artistic and aesthetic instinct of the composer is the sole guide. According to the theory of the present day, all modulation is regarded in its relation to the principal key of the piece, and in a wider sense, all keys are but steps within the unlimited domain of tonality. Older composers are very sparing and careful in the use of modulation, but those of the nineteenth century (especially Wagner, Schumann, Chopin) practically removed all barriers. The means of modulation are various and cannot be discussed in an article like the present. The most frequent expedient is the different interpretations put upon the same chord. Thus the chord c,e,g may be conceived as tonic of C, dominant of F, sub-dominant of G, etc., and consequently can be used to modulate at once to those keys. In modern music the chord of the diminished seventh plays an important part in modulation. Thus C#, e, g,bb leads into D minor; the same chord conceived as e, g, bb,db into F minor; as g, bb, db, fb to A flat minor; as a#, c#, e, g into B minor, etc. The principal works on modulation are: Draseke, Anweisung zum kunstgerechten Modulieren (Freienwalde, 1876); Riemann, Harmonie und Modulationslehre (Leipzig, 1900); Jadassohn, Die Kunst zu modulieren (Leipzig, 1890).


The keyboard of an organ played by the hands, in contradistinction to the pedal, played by the feet. The number of manuals varies from two to four according to the size of the organ. In older French organs even five manuals are found. The names of the different manuals are: (1) Great organ; (2) choir-manual; (3) swell-manual; (4) solo-manual; (5) echo-manual. Each manual really is a separate organ in itself, having its own set of pipes and stops. By means of couplers any or all of the manuals can be connected, so that by striking a note on one manual the same note sounds on all the other manuals that are coupled. The usual compass of manuals is four octaves and a fifth, C-g.


A small machine for indicating the correct time or speed at which a musical composition should be played. It was invented in 1816, and consists of a pendulum, actuated by clockwork, which swings in front of a graduated scale. To the upper part of the pendulum-rod is attached a movable weight which can be set at any figure indicated by the scale. The figure 60 means that when the weight is set there the pendulum swings 60 times a minute. Thus it beats exact seconds. When set at 120 it beats half seconds. The metronome indication appears always at the beginning of a composition. M.M. (Malzel's metronome, from its reputed inventor, Malzel) By means of the metronome the composer is enabled to give the minutest directions in respect to the tempo, for the old terms allegro, andante, presto, etc., can only serve as approximate indications, leaving much to the temperament of the individual performer. The metronome is of the greatest value and is much used today in training beginners to play strictly in time.


A musical term denoting a division of a cyclical composition. As early as the sixteenth century a number of dances were loosely joined together, the only rule followed being that all should be in the same key, and that the tempo (fast, slow) should alternate. This gave rise to the suite, but the modern symphony or sonata was developed from the old overture, which consisted of three parts, a fast one followed by a slow one with the first part repeated. Gradually the three parts were separated and became distinct movements. In the sonata the first movement is always written in a particular form called sonata-form. The different movements are in different (but related) keys. The first and last are always in the same key, which is therefore spoken of as the key of the cyclical composition. When the first movement is in the minor, the last is generally in the relative major. Each movement has its own themes. Occasionally, however, a composer introduces in a later movement (generally the finale) a theme from a former movement. The number of movements depends upon the character of the composition. In works written in sonata-form the usual number is three for sonatas and four for symphonies. In suites the number varies from four to eight.


A branch of musical training of very recent date. The instructor sings or plays short musical selections or phrases which the pupil is required to fix in musical notation on paper. The object of musical dictation is not only to train the ear, but chiefly to develop the power of quickly grasping and fixing musical ideas. The beginning is made of course with simple melodies progressing in simple intervals. Gradually melodies with more difficult intervals are introduced. The next step is to melodies with a simple harmonic basis. A class for musical dictation was established at the Conservatory in Paris in 1871. Some of the German conservatories soon followed (Hamburg, Dresden, Karlsrube, etc.). An elaborate treatise on the subject was published by A. Lavignac, Cours complet de dictee musicale (Paris, 1882). Smaller works are: Gotze, Musikalische Schreibubungen (Breslau, 1882); and Musical Dictation (London, 1886) by Dr. Ritter (in Novellos series of Music Primers).



In Gregorian music, melodic ornaments, especially series of notes sung to one syllable. Also characters in a peculiar system of musical notation which was in use from the eighth or ninth to the eleventh century. The oldest preserved manuscript written in this notation is the Anti-phonary of Saint Gall (ninth century). No staff was used. The notes were represented by a system of dots and hooks and their respective pitch by the height at which they were placed above the syllables of the text. The rising and falling of the voice was marked by a corresponding higher or lower position of the signs. In order to obviate the difficulty of determining the exact pitch of the various tones, a red line was drawn horizontally across the parchment (tenth century), and the signs were written above and below this line. Any sign upon the line denoted F. Before another century a second line was drawn above the red one. This was yellow and the note upon it was C. But in the plainer manuscripts the distinction of color was soon abandoned, and two black lines were drawn with the letters F and C placed at the beginning. In the course of time these letters underwent a series of conventional modifications, until they finally assumed the shape in which they are used today as clef-signatures. The G clef, which was added later, underwent a similar change.

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