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Some Musical Terms (2)

  • Absolute pitch: Power failure in the concert hall.
  • A cappella: Custom of women choristers wearing hats in church.
  • Accent: Sing in dialect.
  • A-cous-tic: Nervous mannerism induced by Mediterranean food at cast party.
  • Adeste Fideles: Roll call of the violin section (they hate being called 'fiddlers').
  • Alle-gro: German growth hormone used by short tenors.
  • Alto: Stop singing.
  • And-ante: Card game comment in the percussion section.
  • An-them: Those guys (the ones who sang off-key).
  • Anti-phonal: No pagers allowed in rehearsal.
  • Arco: Violin oil vendor.
  • A-ria: Behind, financially (in arias), or musically (behind the beat).
  • Attaca: New York prison for criminal musicians.
  • Ballet: Method of voting for choir president.
  • Bar line: Ten baritones waiting to buy drinks on rehearsal break.
  • Baroque: The usual financial status of musicians.
  • Basso continuo: The one who is always late on cut-offs.
  • Benedictus: See "eggs benedictus" in the Top Ten section.
  • Binary form: Electronic work in which the instrument is always either "off" or "on."
  • Blues: Dress uniform for military jazz band.
  • Bourdon: Brand of whiskey preferred by organists.
  • Breve: The longest note - go figure!
  • Cadenza: Side table for the music room.
  • Canon: Instrument used in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
  • Cantus firmus: Company theme song.
  • Capriccio: A lively coffee for rehearsal breaks, usually placed on the cadenza.
  • Chamber music: What the judge plays in his office.
  • Chromatic scales: Feature of the fish in Schubert's song, Die Forelle (The Trout).
  • Clef: What a depressed musician jumps off.
  • Coda: Analgesic for rehearsal headaches.
  • Con-certo: Prison choir uniform.
  • Concerto grosso: Really ugly prison choir uniform.
  • Concert pitch: Advertising the event.
  • Consecutive fifth: Another visit to the bar.
  • Contralto: An alto who has done time.
  • Contrapuntal: Opposed to singing gondoliers.
  • Countertenor: Singing waiter.
  • Cresc.: Manger scene for Christmas cantata.
  • Cue: Meaningless gesture by conductor.
  • D.C.: Home of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Diapason: Sanitary clothing for a very young organist.
  • Open diapason: You don't want to know.
  • Stopped diapason: Don't even think about it.
  • Diatonic scale: Measures the mass (q.v.) of largos (q.v.) after a diet of tonic water.
  • Dim.: Light strength by which you have to read the music.
  • Diminished interval: Shortened intermission in England.
  • Disc-ord: Program the songs on your CD player.
  • Do: Deer of song.
  • Dominant: In a relationship, usually the alto.
  • Double bar: Drinks cost twice as much here.
  • Double flat: Duplex apartment for musicians.
  • Down beat: Music critic's sphere of activity.
  • Early music: 9 a.m. rehearsal.
  • Esspressivo: Coffee for early music.
  • Étude: Maestro's study.
  • Euphony: Frank comment to an incompetent musician.
  • Euphonium: Instrument played by incompetent musician.
  • False relation: Your bad twin who sings off-key.
  • Fanfare: What to feed the patrons during intermission.
  • Figured bass: He has tattoos.
  • First inversion: Reason for first-stage smog alert.
  • Flautist: One who disregards acceptable musical behavior.
  • Forte: Make warlike sounds.
  • f: Forceful.
  • ff: Frightfully forceful.
  • fff: Fearfully frightfully forceful.
  • French Suites: Bonbons, chocolat, éclairs, etc.
  • Fugal style: Performed at lowest possible cost.
  • German Suites: Süsses, Pralinen, Sachertorte, etc.
  • Gewandhaus: Place to buy batons.
  • Gigue: Performance for pay.
  • Gopak: Prepare for Russian concert tour.
  • Grace note: Very nice letter from a concert goer.
  • Grand piano: Instrument worth $1,000.
  • Half note: Read the music absent-mindedly.
  • Harmony: from 'harm' + Old English 'oni,' without; combination of notes not causing pain.
  • Harp: Example - "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times . . ."
  • Hemiola: Burst blood vessel from attempting high trumpet parts.
  • Hexachord: Guido's six notes to frighten evil spirits away.
  • Hillbilly music: Songs written by Arkansas composer William Hill.
  • Hymn: In medieval texts, the counterpart to Hyr.
  • Hrotta: Another name for the crwth, really!
  • Im-prompt-u: Cockney theatre instruction to actor.
  • Intonation: Warning phrase sung to wake up audience before the main song begins.
  • Isorhythmic: OK, Jamal, but try not to brag.
  • Jam session: Trying to get into your old tuxedo.
  • Jazz: Cuban approximation of the English "Yes."
  • Jig: Melody stolen from another composer. If discovered, "the jig is up."
  • Kaddish: Sing with an inconsiderate, insensitive tone.
  • Kazoo: Barbershop musical instrument.
  • Key signature: The one on the paycheck for your gigue.
  • Klavier: St. Francis Klavier, patron saint of pianists.
  • Klavierstück: What happens when you move a 4' wide piano through a 3'11" doorway.
  • Koto: Bow three times respectfully before commencing performance.
  • Largo: Minimum height of 6'2" required to perform this music.
  • Leger lines: Used by the Choir Treasurer to track expenses.
  • Leitmotif: Like a regular motif, but less filling.
  • Lieder: The one with the baton.
  • Lizst: Archaic command, equivalent to 'Hearken.'
  • Lute: Your share of the box office.
  • Lyre: Someone who tells you he is P.D.Q. Bach's cousin.
  • Major scale: Used for weighing Largo people.
  • Minor scale: Used for weighing the others.
  • Mass: Total weight derived from the major and minor scales.
  • Measure: Distance in millimetres between two bar lines.
  • mf: Mostly forceful.
  • MM: Hum this passage.
  • mp: Mostly peaceful.
  • Mezzo-soprano: Soprano from the Mezozoic age.(Does anyone know why there are no mezzo-tenors?)
  • Minuet: Your chances of becoming a rich and famous musician.
  • Modal: Fashionable way to sing.
  • Mosso: With a soft and furry tone.
  • Motet: Small and inexpensive inn for travelling musicians.
  • Natural: Accidentally sound like Robert Redford.
  • Neapolitan Sixth: Small portion of mixed-flavour ice cream eaten after concerts.
  • Nocturne: Music played in the dark (see Absolute pitch).
  • Octet: Or Oktet, a Motet approved by the Auto Club (see Motet).
  • Op.: Operating procedure, usually numbered according to conductor's manual.
  • Opus: Ode to a Manx cat.
  • Opera buffa: Opera with nude scenes.
  • Organum: The annoying hum from some electronic organs.
  • Ornaments: OK on the Christmas tree, not OK on your piano, where they can make a buzz.
  • Overtone: A note sung sharp.
  • p: Peaceful.
  • pp: Pretty peaceful.
  • ppp: Pretty plentifully peaceful.
  • Part song: Moses' aria when confronting the Red Sea in Exodus.
  • Passing notes: This really upsets the director.
  • Pentatonic scale: Price list for the penthouse mini-bar.
  • Polyphony: Parrot song.
  • Portamento: Bag for carrying music scores.
  • Postlude: Folk song performed by mailmen.
  • Psaltery: Instrument for performing psalms and psonatas.
  • Quint: What happens when the stage lights shine into your eyes.
  • Quodlibet: What happens in rehearsal when some performers begin at the wrong place in the score.
  • Ragtime: Wipe those perspiring brows!
  • Rall.: From Rally round the flag; slow down and salute.
  • Rank: Classification of organ pipes. Killing the organist is considered a rank injustice.
  • Recit.: Wretched, describing the composer's attempt to find a melody before the aria begins.
  • Relative major: Your uncle.
  • Relative minor: Your nephew.
  • Reprise: Punishment, as when a choir is made to repeat a section and get it right.
  • Rit.: Sing exactly as written.
  • Round: One canon load (see canon).
  • Rubato: See "How To Build A Metronome."
  • Sackbut: Trombonists get this shape from long hours of sitting.
  • Scherzo: A joke, really. How can we improve on that?
  • Score: Music for 20 performers.
  • Full score: Very complicated music for 20 performers.
  • Miniature score: Music for 20 very small performers.
  • Second inversion: Reason for second stage smog alert.
  • Semichorus: Truck drivers' glee club.
  • Sempre: An affectation of sycophantic speech.
  • Sextet: A motet (q.v.) of doubtful reputation.
  • sfz.: Suddenly forceful zinger.
  • Sharp: Some notes require more intelligence to perform. These are marked # sharp.
  • Shofar: Shogood. Progress marker.
  • Sight-reading: A lot easier than Braille music.
  • Soft pedal: One covered with a felt sleeve.
  • Solo: Same as pppp.
  • Song cycle: Schwinn model fitted with built-in stereo.
  • Sotto voce: Tone of voice for drinking song, or brindisi.
  • Sousaphone: Answering machine that plays military marches.
  • Suspension: Dismissed from the choir.
  • Tacet: Unspoken assumption about the music.
  • Tamburo: Office that regulates headgear for bagpipe players.
  • Tango: It happens with all those night gigues and no sunshine.
  • Tempi: Arizona city notable for its strict music laws.
  • Ten.: Hold for 10 beats.
  • Third inversion: Reason for a third-stage smog alert.
  • Timbre: Warning shout before performing Paul Bunyan songs.
  • Timpani: Percussion instruments played in Tim Pan Alley.
  • Tonic: Upscale drink.
  • Treble: When executed badly, three times as hard to listen to.
  • Trumpet Voluntary: Unpaid fanfare.
  • Tutti: Sounds of disapproval from the audience.
  • Unison: First-born.
  • Up-beat: In conducting, showing a happy demeanor.
  • Upright piano: Church piano, never used to play 'bad songs.'
  • Vamping: Musical style from Transylvania.
  • Viol: Small bottle of smelling salts to revive performer after sustained high notes.
  • Viola: Violin on steroids.
  • Viola da gamba: African viola from Gambia, also known as the African violet.
  • Violone: Section consisting of a single viola player.
  • Virtuoso: Performer of very high morals. Probably uses an upright piano.
  • Well-Tempered Clavier: St. Francis (see Klavier) on a good day.
  • Wind instrument: Mechanical instrument, e.g. music box, which must be wound up.
  • Xylophone: Not a marimba, glockenspiel, or celesta. The skeleton in the percussion closet.
  • Yodel: Song sung by a character from Star Wars.
  • Zither: Exotic instrument played by The Third Man, who dithered on the zither.