definition of music by The Free Dictionary



“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” [William Congreve The Mourning Bride]
“There’s no passion in the human soul,”
“But finds its food in music” [George Lillo The Fatal Curiosity]
“Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty” [Thomas Beecham]
“Bach gave us God’s word”
“Mozart gave us God’s laughter”
“Beethoven gave us God’s fire”
“God gave us music that we might pray without words” from a German Opera House poster
“Music is a beautiful opiate, if you don’t take it too seriously” [Henry Miller The Air-Conditioned Nightmare]
“The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings” [Dan Cook]
“It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature, and everlasting beauty of monotony” [Benjamin Britten letter]
“Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie” [John Milton Arcades]
“The greatest moments of the human spirit may be deduced from the greatest moments in music” [Aaron Copland Music as an Aspect of the Human Spirit]
“My music is best understood by children and animals” [Igor Stravinsky]
“When I get those really intense moments it doesn’t feel like it’s the violin that’s giving them to me, it’s like I’m in touch with some realm of consciousness which is much bigger than I am … It’s the music which takes over” [Nigel Kennedy]
“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn” [Charlie Parker]
“Hell is full of musical amateurs; music is the brandy of the damned” [George Bernard Shaw Man and Superman]
“Music is feeling, then, not sound” [Wallace Stevens Peter Quince at the Clavier]
“Music is spiritual. The music business is not” [Van Morrison]
“If music be the food of love, play on;”
“Give me excess of it” [William Shakespeare Twelfth Night]
“Without music life would be a mistake” [Friedrich Nietzsche The Twilight of the Idols]
“I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds” [Mark Twain]
“Music is essentially useless, as life is” [George Santayana Little Essays]
“Music is a memory bank for finding one’s way about the world” [Bruce Chatwin The Songlines]
“Music is the healing force of the universe” [Albert Ayler]
“All music is folk music, I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song” [Louis Armstrong]
“The only sensual pleasure without vice” [Dr. Johnson]
“Classic music is th’kind that we keep thinkin’ll turn into a tune” [Kin Hubbard Comments of Abe Martin and His Neighbours]
“There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn what goes on in between” [Thomas Beecham]
“If the music doesn’t say it, how can the words say it for the music?” [John Coltrane]
“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is” [Noël Coward Private Lives]
“What passion cannot music raise and quell?” [John Dryden A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day]
“Music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is” [Samuel Pepys Diary]
“Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance… poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music” [Ezra Pound The ABC of Reading]
“[Rock music] is still only certain elements in the blues isolated, coarsened and amplified. It may affect audiences more strongly but this is only to say that home-distilled hooch is more affecting than château-bottled claret, or a punch on the nose than a reasoned refutation under nineteen headings” [Philip Larkin]
“In memory everything seems to happen to music” [Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie]


Classical music genres  ars antiqua, ars nova, baroque, classical, early music, expressionist, galant, Gothic, impressionist, minimalist, music concrète, nationalist, neoclassical, post-romantic, Renaissance, rococo, romantic, salon music, serial music, twelve-tone or dodecaphonic

Types of composition  air, albumblatt, allemande, anthem, aria, bagatelle, ballade, ballet, barcarole, barceuse, bolero, bourrée, canon, cantata, canticle, canzona, canzone, canzonetta, capriccio, cavatina, chaconne, chorale, chorus, concertante, concertino, concerto, concerto grosso, concertstück, contredanse or contradance, czardas, dirge, divertimento, divertissement, duet, dumka, duo, ecossaise, elegy, étude, fantasy or fantasia, farandole, fugue, galliard, galop, gavotte, gigue, grand opera, hornpipe, humoresque, impromptu, interlude, lament, ländler, lied, madrigal, march, mass, mazurka, medley, minuet, motet, nocturne, nonet, notturno, octet, opera, opera buffa, opera seria, operetta, oratorio, overture, partita, part song, passacaglia, passepied, Passion, pastiche, pastorale, pavane, phantasy, pibroch, polka, polonaise, prelude, psalm, quadrille, quartet, quintet, raga, reel, Requiem, rhapsody, ricercar or ricercare, rigadoon or rigadoun, romance, scherzo, schottische, septet, serenade, sextet, sinfonia concertante, sinfonietta, Singspiel, sonata, sonatina, song, song cycle, strathspey, suite, symphonic poem, symphony, toccata, tone poem, trio, trio sonata, waltz

Popular music types  acid house, acid jazz, acid rock, ambient, bebop, bhangra, bluebeat, bluegrass, blues, boogie-woogie, bop, bubblegum, Cajun, calypso, cool jazz, country and western, country blues, country rock, Cu-bop, death metal, disco, Dixieland, doo-wop, dub, folk music, folk rock, free jazz, funk, fusion, gangsta rap, glam rock, gospel, Goth, grunge, hardbop, hardcore, harmolodics, heavy metal, hip-hop, House, Indie, industrial, jazz, jazz-funk, jazz-rock, jungle, mainstream jazz, Merseybeat, modern jazz, Motown (trademark), Muzak (trademark), New Age, New Country, New Orleans jazz, new romantic, New Wave, P-funk, pop, progressive rock, psychobilly, punk, ragga, rap, rave, reggae, rhythm and blues, rock, rockabilly, rock and roll, salsa, ska, skiffle, soul, surf music, swing, swingbeat, techno, thrash metal, trad jazz, world music, zydeco

Expression and tempo instructions 

Instruction Meaning
accelerando with increasing speed
adagio slowly
agitato in an agitated manner
allegretto fairly quickly or briskly
allegro quickly, in a brisk, lively manner
amoroso lovingly
andante at a moderately slow tempo
andantino slightly faster than andante
animato in a lively manner
appassionato impassioned
assai (in combination) very
calando with gradually decreasing tone and speed
cantabile in a singing style
con (in combination) with
con affeto with tender emotion
con amore lovingly
con anima with spirit
con brio vigorously
con fuoco with fire
con moto quickly
crescendo gradual increase in loudness
diminuendo gradual decrease in loudness
dolce gently and sweetly
doloroso in a sorrowful manner
energico energetically
espressivo expressively
forte loud or loudly
fortissimo very loud
furioso in a frantically rushing manner
giocoso merry
grave solemn and slow
grazioso graceful
lacrimoso sad and mournful
largo slowly and broadly
larghetto slowly and broadly, but less so than largo
legato smoothly and connectedly
leggiero light
lento slowly
maestoso majestically
marziale martial
mezzo (in combination) moderately
moderato at a moderate tempo
molto (in combination) very
non troppo or non tanto (in combination) not too much
pianissimo very quietly
piano softly
più (in combination) more
pizzicato (in music for stringed instruments) to be plucked with the finger
poco or un poco (in combination) a little
pomposo in a pompous manner
presto very fast
prestissimo faster than presto
quasi (in combination) almost, as if
rallentando becoming slower
rubato with a flexible tempo
scherzando in jocular style
sciolto free and easy
semplice simple and unforced
sforzando with strong initial attack
smorzando dying away
sospirando `sighing’, plaintive
sostenuto in a smooth and sustained manner
sotto voce extremely quiet
staccato (of notes) short, clipped, and separate
strascinando stretched out
strepitoso noisy
stringendo with increasing speed
tanto (in combination) too much
tardo slow
troppo (in combination) too much
vivace in a brisk lively manner
volante `flying’, fast and light

Musical modes 

Final note
I Dorian D
II Hypodorian A
III Phrygian E
IV Hypophrygian B
V Lydian F
VI Hypolydian C
VII Mixolydian G
VIII Hypomixolydian D
IX Aeolian A
X Hypoaeolian E
XI Ionian C
XII Hypoionian G

Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

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