Glossary of Musical Terms
Our glossary of musical terms lets you look up any musical term unfamiliar to you, and comes to us courtesy of our good friends at Naxos.
A vocalise is a vocal work, whether an exercise or not, that has no words. There is a well known and frequently transcribed Vocalise by Rachmaninov, and vocalisation is also called for in an orchestral context with the chorus parts of Neptune in Holst's suite The Planets.
Voice is used technically in music to indicate a particular musical line, even if this is intended for an instrumentalist and not a singer. The American 'voice-leading' is the equivalent of the English 'part-writing', writing different parts or lines of music for simultaneous performance.
The waltz (= French: valse; German: Walzer), a dance in triple time, became the most popular of all ball-room dances in the 19th century, typified in Vienna by the compositions and performances of the Strauss family. As a purely instrumental form, the waltz provided an apt vehicle for composers from Chopin to Ravel.
The woodwind section of the modern orchestra includes flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons and related instruments, although flutes are generally no longer made of wood. These instruments are all aerophones, blowing instruments, the sound produced by blowing across an aperture in the case of the flute, by the vibration of a single reed in the case of the clarinet and by the vibration of double reeds in the case of the oboe and the bassoon.
The xylophone, a percussion instrument with sets of horizontally arranged wooden bars to be struck by wooden sticks is used by composers from the 19th century onwards for special effects, as in the Danse macabre of Saint-Sans, with its dancing skeletons, and in Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.