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A song is a
musical composition Musical composition can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called ...
intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition and variation of sections. Written words created specifically for music, or for which music is specifically created, are called
lyrics Lyrics are words that make up a song, usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a "libretto" and their writer, ...
. If a pre-existing poem is set to composed music in classical music it is an art song. Songs that are sung on repeated pitches without distinct contours and patterns that rise and fall are called
chant A chant (from French ', from Latin ', "to sing") is the iterative speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two main pitches called reciting tones. Chants may range from a simple melody involving a limited set of note ...
s. Songs composed in a simple style that are learned informally "by ear" are often referred to as
folk song Folk music is a music genre that includes traditional folk music and the contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has b ...
s. Songs that are composed for professional singers who sell their recordings or live shows to the mass market are called
popular song Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk ...
s. These songs, which have broad appeal, are often composed by professional songwriters, composers, and lyricists. Art songs are composed by trained classical composers for concert or recital performances. Songs are performed live and recorded on audio or video (or, in some cases, a song may be performed live and simultaneously recorded). Songs may also appear in plays, musical theatre, stage shows of any form, and within operas, films, and TV shows. A song may be for a solo singer, a lead singer supported by background singers, a duet, trio, or larger ensemble involving more voices singing in
harmony In music, harmony is the process by which individual sounds are joined together or composed into whole units or compositions. Often, the term harmony refers to simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches ( tones, notes), or chords. However ...
, although the term is generally not used for large classical music vocal forms including opera and
oratorio An oratorio () is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists. Like most operas, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an instrumental ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is m ...
, which use terms such as
aria In music, an aria ( Italian: ; plural: ''arie'' , or ''arias'' in common usage, diminutive form arietta , plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrumental or orchestral accompanim ...
and
recitative Recitative (, also known by its Italian name "''recitativo''" ()) is a style of delivery (much used in operas, oratorios, and cantatas) in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms and delivery of ordinary speech. Recitative does not repea ...
instead.Luise Eitel Peake. 1980. "Song". ''
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'' is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language '' Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart'', it is one of the largest reference works on the history and th ...
'', sixth edition, 20 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie, Vol. 17: 510–23. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries. .
A song can be sung without accompaniment by instrumentalists (
a cappella ''A cappella'' (, also , ; ) music is a performance by a singer or a singing group without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. The term ''a cappella'' was originally intended to differentiate between Rena ...
) or accompanied by instruments. In popular music, a singer may perform with an acoustic guitarist, pianist, organist, accordionist, or a
backing band A backup band or backing band is a musical ensemble that typically accompanies a single artist who is the featured performer. The situation may be a live performance or in a recording session, and the group may or may not have its own name, such a ...
. In jazz, a singer may perform with a single pianist, a small combo (such as a trio or quartet), or with a
big band A big band or jazz orchestra is a type of musical ensemble of jazz music that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s an ...
. A Classical singer may perform with a single pianist, a small ensemble, or an orchestra. In jazz and blues, singers often learn songs "by ear" and they may improvise some melody lines. In Classical music, melodies are written by composers in sheet music format, so singers learn to read music. Songs with more than one voice to a part singing in
polyphony Polyphony ( ) is a type of musical texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony, or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords, ...
or
harmony In music, harmony is the process by which individual sounds are joined together or composed into whole units or compositions. Often, the term harmony refers to simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches ( tones, notes), or chords. However ...
are considered
choral A choir ( ; also known as a chorale or chorus) is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which sp ...
works. Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms and types, depending on the criteria used. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to
instrumental An instrumental is a recording normally without any vocals, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a big band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to inst ...
s, such as the 20th century ''
Songs Without Words ''Songs Without Words'' (') is a series of short lyrical piano works by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn written between 1829 and 1845. His sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, and other composers also wrote pieces in the same genre. Music The e ...
'' pieces for solo piano.


Genres


Art

Art songs are songs created for performance by classical artists, often with piano or other instrumental accompaniment, although they can be sung solo. Art songs require strong vocal technique, understanding of language, diction, and poetry for interpretation. Though such singers may also perform popular or folk songs on their programs, these characteristics and the use of poetry are what distinguish art songs from popular songs. Art songs are a tradition from most European countries, and now other countries with classical music traditions. German-speaking communities use the term art song ("Kunstlied") to distinguish so-called "serious" compositions from
folk song Folk music is a music genre that includes traditional folk music and the contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has b ...
(''
Volkslied Volkslied (literally: folk song) is a genre of popular songs in German which are traditionally sung. While many of them were first passed orally, several collections were published from the late 18th century. Later, some popular songs were also i ...
''). The lyrics are often written by a poet or lyricist and the music separately by a composer. Art songs may be more formally complicated than popular or folk songs, though many early Lieder by the likes of
Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast ''oeuvre'', including more than 600 secular vocal wor ...
are in simple strophic form. The accompaniment of European art songs is considered as an important part of the composition. Some art songs are so revered that they take on characteristics of national identification. Art songs emerge from the tradition of singing romantic love songs, often to an ideal or imaginary person and from religious songs. The
troubadour A troubadour (, ; oc, trobador ) was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word ''troubadour'' is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a '' trobairi ...
s and bards of Europe began the documented tradition of romantic songs, continued by the Elizabethan lutenists. Some of the earliest art songs are found in the music of
Henry Purcell Henry Purcell (, rare: September 1659 – 21 November 1695) was an English composer. Purcell's style of Baroque music was uniquely English, although it incorporated Italian and French elements. Generally considered among the greatest En ...
. The tradition of the romance, a love song with a flowing accompaniment, often in triple meter, entered opera in the 19th century and spread from there throughout Europe. It spread into
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Fun ...
and became one of the underpinnings of popular songs. While a romance generally has a simple accompaniment, art songs tend to have complicated, sophisticated accompaniments that underpin, embellish, illustrate or provide contrast to the voice. Sometimes the accompaniment performer has the melody, while the voice sings a more dramatic part.


Folk

Folk songs are songs of often anonymous origin (or are
public domain The public domain (PD) consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable. Because those rights have expired, ...
) that are transmitted orally. They are frequently a major aspect of national or cultural identity. Art songs often approach the status of folk songs when people forget who the author was. Folk songs are also frequently transmitted non-orally (that is, as
sheet music Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of musical notation that uses musical symbols to indicate the pitches, rhythms, or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Ara ...
), especially in the modern era. Folk songs exist in almost every culture. The German term ''Volkslied'' was coined in the late 18th century, in the process of collecting older songs and writing new ones. Popular songs may eventually become
folk song Folk music is a music genre that includes traditional folk music and the contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has b ...
s by the same process of detachment from its source. Folk songs are more-or-less in the public domain by definition, though there are many folk song entertainers who publish and record copyrighted original material. This tradition led also to the singer-songwriter style of performing, where an artist has written confessional poetry or personal statements and sings them set to music, most often with guitar accompaniment. There are many genres of popular songs, including torch songs,
ballad A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French ''chanson balladée'' or '' ballade'', which were originally "dance songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and ...
s, novelty songs,
anthem An anthem is a musical composition of celebration, usually used as a symbol for a distinct group, particularly the national anthems of countries. Originally, and in music theory and religious contexts, it also refers more particularly to short ...
s, rock, blues and soul songs as well as indie music. Other commercial genres include
rapping Rapping (also rhyming, spitting, emceeing or MCing) is a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates "rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular". It is performed or chanted, usually over a backing beat or musical accompaniment. The ...
. Folk songs include ballads, lullabies, love songs, mourning songs, dance songs,
work song A work song is a piece of music closely connected to a form of work, either sung while conducting a task (usually to coordinate timing) or a song linked to a task which might be a connected narrative, description, or protest song. Definitions and ...
s,
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...
songs and many more.


Sporting

A sporting song is a folk song which celebrates
fox hunting Fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase and, if caught, the killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds. A group of unarmed followers, led by a "master of foxhounds" (or "master of ho ...
,
horse racing Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys (or sometimes driven without riders) over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic p ...
,
gambling Gambling (also known as betting or gaming) is the wagering of something of value ("the stakes") on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. Gambling thus requires three ele ...
and other recreations. Although songs about boxers and successful racehorses were common in the nineteenth century, few are performed by current singers. In particular fox-hunting is considered
politically incorrect ''Political correctness'' (adjectivally: ''politically correct''; commonly abbreviated ''PC'') is a term used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in socie ...
. The most famous song about a foxhunter, " D'ye ken John Peel" was included in '' The National Song Book'' in 1906 and is now often heard as a marching tune. A. L. Lloyd recorded two EPs of sporting ballads; "Bold Sportsmen All" (1958) and "Gamblers and Sporting Blades (Songs of the Ring and the Racecourse)" (1962). The High Level Ranters and Martin Wyndham-Read recorded an album called "English Sporting Ballads" in 1977. '' The Prospect Before Us'' (1976) by The Albion Dance Band contains two rarely heard hunting songs.


Lute

The term lute song is given to a music style from the late 16th century to early 17th century, late Renaissance to early Baroque, that was predominantly in England and France. Lute songs were generally in strophic form or verse repeating with a homophonic texture. The composition was written for a solo voice with an accompaniment, usually the lute. It was not uncommon for other forms of accompaniments such as bass viol or other string instruments, and could also be written for more voices. The composition could be performed either solo or with a small group of instruments.


Part

A part song, part-song or partsong is a form of choral music that consists of a
secular Secularity, also the secular or secularness (from Latin ''saeculum'', "worldly" or "of a generation"), is the state of being unrelated or neutral in regards to religion. Anything that does not have an explicit reference to religion, either negativ ...
(vs. ecclesiastical) song written or arranged for several vocal parts. Part songs are commonly sung by an
SATB SATB is an initialism that describes the scoring of compositions for choirs, and also choirs (or consorts) of instruments. The initials are for the voice types: S for soprano, A for alto, T for tenor and B for bass. Choral music Four-part ha ...
choir, but sometimes for an all-male or all-female ensemble.


Patter

The patter song is characterised by a moderately fast to very fast
tempo In musical terminology, tempo ( Italian, 'time'; plural ''tempos'', or ''tempi'' from the Italian plural) is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece (often ...
with a rapid succession of rhythmic patterns in which each syllable of text corresponds to one note. It is a staple of comic opera, especially
Gilbert and Sullivan Gilbert and Sullivan was a Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), who jointly created fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which '' H.M.S. Pin ...
, but it has also been used in musicals and elsewhere."Patter song"
''OnMusic Dictionary'', Connect For Education, Inc, accessed 2 May 2014


See also

*
Air (music) An air ( it, aria; also ''ayr'', ''ayre'' in French) is a song-like vocal or instrumental composition. The term can also be applied to the interchangeable melodies of folk songs and ballads. It is a variant of the musical song form often referred ...
* Animal song ** Bird vocalization ** Whale song **
Zoomusicology Zoomusicology () is the study of the musical aspects of sound and communication as produced and perceived by animals. It is a field of musicology and zoology, and is a type of zoosemiotics. Zoomusicology as a field dates to François-Bernard M ...
*
Aria In music, an aria ( Italian: ; plural: ''arie'' , or ''arias'' in common usage, diminutive form arietta , plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrumental or orchestral accompanim ...
*
Canticle A canticle (from the Latin ''canticulum'', a diminutive of ''canticum'', "song") is a hymn, psalm or other Christian song of praise with lyrics usually taken from biblical or holy texts. Canticles are used in Christian liturgy. Catholic Church ...
*
Hymn A hymn is a type of song, and partially synonymous with devotional song, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word ''hymn'' ...
*
Instrumental An instrumental is a recording normally without any vocals, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a big band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to inst ...
* Lists of songs *
Madrigal (music) A madrigal is a form of secular vocal music most typical of the Renaissance (15th–16th c.) and early Baroque (1600–1750) periods, although revisited by some later European composers. The polyphonic madrigal is unaccompanied, and the number ...
* Poem and song * Song structure * Sung poetry * Theme song *
Vocal music Vocal music is a type of singing performed by one or more singers, either with instrumental accompaniment, or without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella), in which singing provides the main focus of the piece. Music which employs singing but d ...


References


Further reading

* *Marcello Sorce Keller (1984), "The Problem of Classification in Folksong Research: A Short History", ''Folklore'' XCV, no. 1, 100–104. *Jean Nicolas De Surmont (2017), ''From Vocal Poetry to Song, Toward a Theory of Song Objects'' with a foreword by Geoff Stahl, Stuttgart, Ibidem. *Jean Nicolas De Surmont: From Vocal Poetry to Song. Towards a Theory of Song Objects. Tr. Anastasija Ropa, with a foreword by Geoff Stahl. Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2017. . 175 pages. {{Authority control Ritual Musical compositions