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


M (continue)


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.

O (no listing)



A term in music. In passing from one chord to another, an intervening note, not belonging to either chord, may be used to assist the progression. Such a note is called a passing note or note of transition. They differ from suspensions in not being prepared and in always entering upon the unaccented beat.


Any part of a musical instrument acted on by the feet. The pianoforte, the harp, and the organ are furnished with pedals, which, however, serve an entirely different purpose in each instrument. In the pianoforte their object is to effect a change in the quality or intensity of the sound; the damper pedal prolongs the sound after the finger is lifted from the key, and the shifting or una corda pedal softens the tone. The pedals of the harp are the means by which the chromatic changes of intonation are effected. In the organ the pedals are keys put in action by the feet. The division of the organ which is connected with the foot-keys is called the pedal organ, and contains the largest pipes. The introduction of pedals in the organ has been attributed to various men, among them a German of the name of Bernhard, who lived in the fifteenth century. Pedals known as combination pedals are also used in the organ by which certain fixed combinations of stops may be utilized. Recent improvements in organ-building have made possible the choice of such combinations by the performer, who before commencing to play arranges the combinations he wishes to use, to act on the swell and on the stops.


The name given, in music, to the simple motives containing in themselves no satisfactory musical idea, which enter into the composition of every melody containing a perfect musical idea, e.g. The phrase most usually consists of two measures; in compound time it may be comprised in one measure, and an extended phrase is one which contains three measures. In the more simple and regular forms of musical composition, two phrases unite to form a section, ending in a cadence, and a perfect musical idea is formed of two such sections terminating, the first with the dominant, the second with the tonic harmony.


The proper rendering of musical phrases. A musical composition is analogous to a literary one, the sentences being replaced by phrases; upon their correct interpretation depends the intelligible presentation of the whole piece. One of the most important elements of phrasing is accent, the general principles of which will be found under RHYTHM; but in no case must an accent be so insisted upon as to break the unity of the musical phrase. On the contrary, the ordinary accent is often postponed or anticipated in order to emphasize the general effect of the phrase. For the same reason, especially in rapid passages, accents are often added; while in quick movements accents are sometimes omitted so as to give an impression of unity to a number of separate bars. Two common faults in phrasing are breaking up a group of notes which together form a musical sentence, and running together two distinct sentences. In instrumental work, especially, there is a tendency to make a break at the end of a bar; but in reality a sentence always ends on the accented division of a bar, the bar-stroke having absolutely no relation to phrasing. In vocal music the musical accents correspond with those of the text and the phrases are, as a rule, dependent upon the lines or word sentences. Vocal phrasing, therefore, is obviously much simpler than instrumental. The signs most commonly used to indicate phrasing are the dash; the curved line, denoting legato; and the slur; but the interpretation of any composition is to a great extent a matter of personal appreciation and discrimination. For some helpful suggestions on the subject, consult: Ehrenfechter, Delivery in the Art of Pianoforte Playing (London, 1897); Goodrich, Theory of Interpretation (Philadelphia, 1899); Goodrich, Theory of Interpretation (Philadelphia, 1899); Lussy, Traite de l'expression musicale (6th ed., Paris, 1892).



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Article Name: Terms and Processes Used in the Interpretation of Music: Letters M-P
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Total of 21 Volumes
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