Song


Song
/sawng/, n. Pinyin.
1. Ailing /uy"ling"/. See Soong, Ai-ling.
2. Qingling /ching"ling"/. See Soong, Ching-ling.
3. Meiling /may"ling"/. See Soong, Mei-ling.
4. Ziwen /zue"wun"/. See Soong, Tse-ven.
5. Sung.

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I
Short and usually simple piece of music for voice, with or without instrumental accompaniment.

Folk songs
traditional songs without a known composer transmitted orally rather than in written form
have existed for millennia but have left few traces in ancient sources. Virtually all known preliterate societies have a repertory of songs. Folk songs often accompany religious ceremonies, dancing, labour, or courting; they may tell stories or express emotions; the music follows obvious conventions and is often repetitive. Songs written by a particular composer or poet generally are more sophisticated and are not attached to activities. In the West the continuous tradition of secular art songs began with the troubadours, trouvères, and minnesingers of the 12th–13th centuries. Polyphonic songs, originating in the motet, began to appear in the 13th century. Composers of the 14th century produced a great body of polyphonic songs in the formes fixes. Later the Italian madrigal became the most distinguished genre. Notated accompaniments to solo songs appeared in the 16th century. The Romantic movement made the 19th century a golden age for the art song, notably the German lied. In the 20th century the popular song displaced the more cultivated art song, and popular music is today synonymous with popular song.
II
(as used in expressions)
Song Huizong
Song of the Nibelungs
song play
Song of Roland
vessel of song
Song Hong
Yi Song gye

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      piece of music performed by a single voice, with or without instrumental accompaniment. Works for several voices are called duets, trios, etc.; larger ensembles sing choral music. Speech and music have been combined from the earliest times; music heightens the effect of words, allowing them to be rendered with a projection and passion lacking in speech alone. Singing style differs among cultures, reflecting such variables as social structure, level of literacy, language, and even sexual mores. Wordy solo songs predominate in technologically advanced, highly centralized societies, whereas primitive cultures often stress ensemble singing, with less attention to careful enunciation and a more relaxed vocal quality than is found in, for example, Oriental solo singing.

      In Western music, folk song is customarily distinguished from art song. Folk songs are usually sung unaccompanied or with simple accompaniment—e.g., by guitar or dulcimer. They are usually learned by ear and are infrequently written down; hence they are susceptible to changes of notes and words through generations of oral transmission. Composers of most folk songs are unknown.

      Art songs are intended for performance by professional, or at least carefully taught, singers, generally accompanied by piano or instrumental ensemble. The notes are written down, and notes and words are thereafter resistant to casual alteration. Popular songs stand midway between folk and art songs with regard to technical difficulty, sophistication, and resistance to change.

      Folk songs often accompany activities such as religious ceremonies, dancing, labour, or courting. Other folk songs tell stories; chief among these are narrative ballads and lyrics. Anglo-American ballads are action-oriented, often dealing with a tragic episode. Lyric songs are more emotion-oriented, more sentimental. Both types display relatively simple melodies, usually with only one or a few notes per syllable. The language tends to follow certain conventions and is often repetitive. Music and words are easily understandable.

      Art songs in the European tradition are rarely connected with extramusical activities. Their texts tend to be sophisticated, their melodies often wide-ranging and complex, demanding repeated hearings for full comprehension. Art song, like “classical” music, is essentially an urban phenomenon, with origins in the medieval courts, colleges, cities, and churches. Twelfth-century trouvères and troubadours left a large corpus of melodies and sung verse; they were imitated throughout Europe. Melodies and poems are subtle and highly organized, the products of an aristocratic society. Manuscripts indicate no accompaniment; presumably it was improvised.

      With the growth of polyphonic music in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, composers learned to assign the principal melody to a solo singer, with subsidiary melodies played on instruments. The technique of having one melody imitate a preceding one led by the 15th century to elaborate textures wherein the vocal line's primacy was threatened; there followed a reaction in songs with the simplest possible accompaniment, merely a few chords. These became widely popular, and by the 16th century careful declamation and audibility of text became again a central concern.

      Seventeenth-century dramatic music saw further refinement of song style. Distinctions arose between recitative and aria, the former entirely word-oriented and free, with simple chordal accompaniment, the latter more virtuosic and melodically elaborate, with varied accompaniment. Being musically more interesting, arias came to dominate opera, cantata, and oratorio, and in the 18th century relatively little attention was paid to solo song outside these genres. The songs of W.A. Mozart and Joseph Haydn, for example, are not considered among their best works. Only in popular music did simple strophic (stanzaic) songs with keyboard accompaniment flourish.

      In the early 19th century Franz Schubert's (Schubert, Franz) songs excelled in dramatic realization and musical quality. Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and the other leading Romantic songwriters learned from Schubert not only the art of varying a strophic melody but also the potential significance of the accompaniment. In French song the works of composers such as Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy characteristically possess shifting, kaleidoscopic harmonies, influenced in part by the fluid accentual patterns of the language. Twentieth-century composers continued to explore the relation of voice to accompaniment and to expand the singer's range of expression and technique, sometimes treating the voice instrumentally. See also chanson; lied.

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Universalium. 2010.

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