Multilingual Music Glossary

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

M

  • M.M. Marking typically found at the beginning of a composition, identifying the tempo of the composition in terms of beats per minute. This marking originally stood for “Mälzel Metronome”, but has since come to designate “Metronome Marking”.
  • M.V. [Italian] See mezza voce.
  • ma [Italian] “But”.
  • maat [Dutch] See measure.
  • maderas [Spanish] See woodwind.
  • madrigal Renaissance secular work originating in Italy for voices, with or without instruments, set to a short, lyric love poem.
  • madrigal choir Small vocal ensemble that specializes in a cappella secular works.
  • madrigale [Italian] See madrigal.
  • maestoso [Italian] Majestic.
  • maestro [Italian] A title of respect given to a master musician.
  • maggiore [Italian] See major.
  • mainstream Music which is currently popular and in demand.
  • mais [French] “But”.
  • majeur [French] See major.
  • major Term referring to a sequence of notes that define the tonality of the major scale. This series consists of seven notes: the tonic, followed by the next note a whole step up from the tonic, the third is a whole step from the second, the fourth is a half step from the third, the fifth is a whole step from the fourth, the sixth is a whole step from the fifth, the seventh is another whole step, followed by the tonic, a half step above the seventh.
  • malinconico [Italian] Melancholic.
  • mambo [Spanish] Dance of Afro-Cuban origin with a characteristic quadruple-meter rhythmic pattern.
  • man mano [Italian] See poco a poco.
  • mancando [Italian] A directive for the volume to grow quieter and die away.
  • Manieren [German] See ornament.
  • mano a mano [Italian] See poco a poco.
  • Manualiter [German] Organ compositions that are to be performed on the manual alone, i.e. without the pedals.
  • manuscript See autograph.
  • manuscrit [French] See autograph.
  • manuscrito [Spanish] See autograph.
  • marc. [Italian] See marcato.
  • marcato [Italian] Marked, accented, emphasized, stressed.
  • march A military piece characterized by strongly accented duple meter and clear sectional structures.
  • marche [French] See march.
  • marcia [Italian] See march.
  • mariachi [Spanish] Traditional Mexican ensemble popular throughout the country, consisting of trumpets, violins, guitar and bass guitar.
  • mars [Dutch] See march.
  • Marschmusik [German] See march.
  • martellato [Italian] Literally, “hammered”. Strongly marked.
  • martial music Music with a military feeling.
  • marziale [Italian] Martial, with a military feeling.
  • mask See masque.
  • masque [French] English genre of aristocratic entertainment that combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry and dance, developed during the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • mäßig [German] See moderato.
  • mässig [German] See moderato.
  • mayor [Spanish] See major.
  • mazurka A lively Polish dance in 3/4 or 3/8 time with the accent usually on the second or third beat of the measure.
  • meantone temperament Temperament yielding acoustically pure thirds by decreasing the natural fifth by 16 cents. Due to the non-circular character of this temperament, only a limited set of keys are playable. Used for tuning keyboard instruments for performance of pre-1650 music.
  • measure The smallest metrical divisions of a composition, containing a fixed number of beats, the first of which bears an accent.
  • medeltonstemperatur [Swedish] See meantone temperament.
  • mediant The third note of a diatonic scale.
  • medieval See Middle Ages.
  • medley A piece of music that is composed of melodies of other compositons strung together.
  • Mehrstimmigkeit [German] See polyphony.
  • Meistergesang [German] A tradition of songwriting and performance in Germany during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
  • melisma (Plural: melismata.) A group of notes sung melodically to a single syllable.
  • melismata See melisma.
  • mélisme [French] See melisma.
  • melodia [Italian] See melody.
  • melodic minor scale A minor scale where the sixth and seventh tones are raised by a semitone when the scale is ascending. When the scale is descending, the melodic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale.
  • mélodie [French] See melody.
  • Melodram [German] See melodrama.
  • melodrama A spoken dialogue that is accompanied by music.
  • mélodrame [French] See melodrama.
  • melodramma [Italian] See melodrama.
  • melody Succession of single tones or pitches perceived by the mind as a unity.
  • meno [Italian] “Less”.
  • menor [Spanish] See minor.
  • menuet [French] See minuet.
  • menuetto [Italian] See minuet.
  • mestizia [Italian] Sadness.
  • mesto [Italian] Sad.
  • mesure [French] See measure.
  • meter The basic scheme of note values and accents which remains unaltered throughout a composition or a section of it.
  • metre See meter.
  • metrical modulation The shifting from one meter to another in the middle of a composition.
  • metro [Italian] See meter.
  • metronome Device used to indicate the tempo by sounding regular beats at adjustable speeds.
  • Metronome marking See M.M..
  • Metrum [German] See meter.
  • mezza voce [Italian] Literally, “half voice”. A directive to perform in a quiet or restrained manner.
  • mezzo [Italian] Half, medium.
  • mezzo forte [Italian] Moderately loud. Not quite so loud as forte.
  • mezzo piano [Italian] Moderately soft. Not quite so soft as piano.
  • mezzo-soprano [Italian] The female voice between soprano and contralto.
  • mf [Italian] See mezzo forte.
  • microtone Musical interval smaller than a semitone, prevalent in some non-Western musics and in some twentieth century art music.
  • middenstemming [Dutch] See meantone temperament.
  • middentoonstemming [Dutch] See meantone temperament.
  • Middle Ages A period from about 600 AD until about 1450 AD. Sometimes divided divided into two periods, the early middle ages (ca. 600–1100) and the late middle ages or Gothic Period (ca. 1100–1450).
  • middle C First C below the 440 Hz A. It is the note on the ledger line halfway between the bass and treble clef on the grand staff. It is the lowest C that a concert flute can make.
  • MIDI Acronym for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”; technology standard that allows networking of computers with electronic musical instruments.
  • militare [Italian] Military.
  • mineur [French] See minor.
  • minim See half note.
  • minima [Italian] See half note.
  • minimalist music Contemporary musical style featuring the repetition of short melodic, rhythmic and harmonic patterns with little variation.
  • Minnelied [German] A love song composed in the Minnesang tradition.
  • Minnesang [German] A tradition of Medieval courtly and secular music in Germany, cultivated by the nobility. The main focus of the music of this tradition was the idea of Minnedienst, servitude to love, often illustrated as the devoted knight entirely loyal to an unattainable lady with no hope of her love in return.
  • Minnesinger [German] A poet or musician of the Minnesang tradition in Germany, active during the 12th through the 15th centuries.
  • minor Term referring to a sequence of notes that define the tonality of the minor scale. The main difference from the major scale is the third, which is lowered by a semitone. The sixth and seventh degrees are usually lowered, too, generating the natural minor scale.
  • minore [Italian] See minor.
  • minstrel A court musician or entertainer of the 12th through 17th centuries who performed professionally.
  • minuet A 17th-century court dance in moderate triple meter, originating in France.
  • minuetto [Italian] See minuet.
  • misterioso [Italian] Mysterious.
  • misura [Italian] See measure.
  • misurato [Italian] A directive to perform in a measured or strict tempo.
  • mit [German] “With”.
  • mit Dämpfer [German] See dampen.
  • mit halber Stimme [German] See mezza voce.
  • mit Steigerung [German] With exaltation.
  • mitteltönige Stimmung [German] See meantone temperament.
  • mixolydian The Gregorian mode based upon the fifth tone of the scale. This mode, based on G, includes all the tones of the C major scale.
  • modal Having to do with modes; this term is applied most particularly to music that is based upon the Gregorian modes, rather than to music based upon the major, minor, or any other scale.
  • mode A series of notes into which the octave is divided according to specific systems. These systems or modes are used as the basis for composing music. Examples of modes are the major and minor scales.
  • mode ecclésiastique [French] See church mode.
  • moderado [Spanish] See moderato.
  • moderato [Italian] A moderate tempo, faster than andante but slower than allegretto, usually around 100–120 BPM.
  • modéré [French] See moderato.
  • modérément [French] “Moderately”.
  • modo ecclesiastico [Italian] See church mode.
  • modo eclesiástico [Spanish] See church mode.
  • modulaatio [Finnish] See modulation.
  • modulación [Spanish] See modulation.
  • modulation Moving from one key to another.
  • modulazione [Italian] See modulation.
  • modulering [Swedish] See modulation.
  • modus [Latin] See mode.
  • moins [French] “Less”.
  • mol [Dutch] See flat.
  • Moll [German] See minor.
  • molli [Finnish] See minor.
  • molto [Italian] “Very”, “much”.
  • monody Term applied to Italian songs written to be performed by one voice with instrumental accompaniment dating from the first half of the 17th century.
  • monofonia [Italian] See monophony.
  • monophony Music that is written for only one voice or part.
  • monothematic Work or movement based on a single theme.
  • monotone A single sustained, unvarying tone, or a succession of notes of the same tone. Often used in the recitation of liturgical texts.
  • morbidezza [Italian] Softness, tenderness.
  • mordent An ornament indicating that a note is to be played in a single rapid alternation with the note above or below.
  • mordente [Italian] See mordent.
  • morendo [Italian] Literally, “dying away”. Gradually diminishing in volume and tempo, fading away.
  • moresca [Italian] An exotic Renaissance dance simulating a battle between the Moors and the Christians.
  • mormorando [Italian] Murmuring.
  • mosso [Italian] Moved, agitated.
  • motet Polyphonic vocal genre, secular in the Middle Ages but sacred or devotional thereafter.
  • motief [Dutch] See motive.
  • motif [French] See motive.
  • Motiv [German] See motive.
  • motive The briefest intelligible and self-contained fragment of a musical theme or subject.
  • motivo [Italian] See motive.
  • moto [Italian] Motion, movement.
  • moto perpetuo [Italian] Literally, “perpetual motion”. A term used to describe rapidly executed and persistently maintained figuration.
  • Motown A style of music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan in the late 1960s.
  • motteggiando [Italian] Bantering.
  • mottetto [Italian] See motet.
  • mouvement [French] See movement.
  • movement Complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work.
  • movimento [Italian] See movement.
  • movimiento [Spanish] See movement.
  • mp [Italian] See mezzo piano.
  • multiphonics The technique of performing two or more tones simultaneously on an instrument that is designed to produce only one tone at a time, like the flute.
  • munter [German] See vivace.
  • murky A style of keyboard playing in which the bass consists of quick alternating octaves rather than slower, longer notes.
  • murtosointu [Finnish] See arpeggio.
  • music Broadly speaking, sounds organized to express a wide variety of human emotions.
  • music drama Wagner's term for his operas.
  • musica antica [Italian] See early music.
  • música antigua [Spanish] See early music.
  • musica da camera [Italian] See chamber music.
  • música de cámara [Spanish] See chamber music.
  • musica sacra [Italian] See sacred music.
  • musical Genre of twentieth century musical theater, especially popular in the United States and Great Britain; characterized by spoken dialogue, dramatic plot interspersed with songs, ensemble numbers and dancing.
  • musico [Italian] Term applied to any musician in the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • musique ancienne [French] See early music.
  • musique concrète [French] Music made up of natural sounds and sound effects that are recorded and then manipulated electronically.
  • musique de chambre [French] See chamber music.
  • musique sacrée [German] See sacred music.
  • mute A mechanical device used with string and brass instruments to muffle the tone.
  • muthig [German] Courageous, spirited.