An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section C4)


Concertino-The concertino is the small group of solo instruments used in a concerto grosso in contrast to the whole body of the orchestra, consisting of ripieno players (see Concerto grosso). A concertino may also be a small concerto (see Concerto).

Concert-meister-the principal violinist in an orchestra.

concerto a work for a solo instrument and orchestra, or two solo instruments, or a solo instrument and a group of others. The well-known "Carolan’s Concerto", a solo harp piece by Carolan, Turlough, is not a concerto, though it could be adapted into one.

Concerto grosso-The concerto grosso developed towards the end of the 17th century, particularly with the works in this form by Corelli, followed by Handel and many other composers. A small group of soloists, often two violins, cello and harpsichord, the concertino, is contrasted with the whole string orchestra, the concerto grosso, with its less skilled ripieno players. The concerto grosso may involve wind instruments as well as strings. The form has been revived by some 20th century composers, at least nominally.

Concerto-A concerto is a piece of instrumental music that contrasts a solo instrument or a small group of solo instruments with the main body of the orchestra. In the earlier 17th century the word had a more general significance, but in the early 18th century it came to mean primarily a work as described above.

concordance 1. Synonymous with "consonance" - see consonant. 2. An index to a work, such as the Bible.

concordant (also "concord") synonymous with consonant; opposite discordant.

conga a tall floor-standing drum, shaped like a long thin egg with the ends sliced off, and played directly with the hands.

conjunct see conjunctive.

conjunctive (also "conjunct") a melody that moves in small steps, usually from one note to the one adjacent; it can also be used in a looser sense to mean melodic steps limited to about a third. Many folksongs have simple conjunctive melodies, although leaps of a fifth or even an octave are not unknown. The latter is conjunctive’s opposite, disjunctive.

Connors, Tom (1936- ) "Stompin’ Tom" has been writing and singing his rough-edged songs since the early 60s, when he began in northern Ontario. His nickname comes from the stamping of his foot on a plywood board to punctuate the rhythm. He writes on a wide variety of working-class Canadian topics, and calls himself a "hometown singer" - everybody’s hometown gets a mention somewhere in his large repertoire. His songs include "Bud the Spud", "Big Joe Mufferaw", "Luke’s Guitar", "Moon-man Newfie", and "Sudbury Saturday Night". He has five Junos and has recorded over 30 albums.

Conolly, John singer-songwriter who performed with The Broadside group in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. In the late 60s, he wrote "Fiddler’s Green", which many people swear blind is traditional. Others of his songs include "Punch and Judy Man" and "Charlie in the Meadow".

consecutive-octaves and fifths. similar to parallel octaves and parallel fifths, except that the voices are moving in contrary motion.

consonance. any sound that carries little or no specific expectation for its continuance, and is perceived as logical.

consonant see harmony.

Consort-Consort, used in earlier English, indicates a group of instruments, as, for example, a consort of viols in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. A broken consort is a consort of mixed instruments, strings and wind.

contemporary folk the success of the folk revival in the 50s and 60s naturally led songwriters to try their hand at the style, as songwriters have always done. The result was mixed, with some pop writers using folk as a foot in the show biz door (this is still true). The best of them, however, contributed an enormous repertoire of beautiful songs based on a traditional style. Whether or not they should be called folk songs inspires hot debate. In some cases, they redefined the songs that could be admitted to the folk canon. See electric folk, folksong, definition, navelgazers.

conteur a medieval storyteller of legends and fables, similar to a bard or seanachie. The conteurs took the Arthurian legend to Europe before the 10th century, where it caught on to a greater extent than in England at the time. See also storytelling.

continuo (from "basso continuo") the accompaniment part of an ensemble’s playing, particularly in baroque music, in which it’s usually a series of chords played on the harpsichord. The soft bass chords of the harpsichord are often lost in the string sound, so the only continuo you hear would be the upper chords tinkling away. Playing the continuo part is quite an involved skill if period musicians are sticking to tradition - the player was expected to play just the right bass chords from a shorthand notation called figured bass. A form of figured bass remains in folk and country today. Sometimes the continuo is played on a lute like the theorbo or archlute, depending on the type of music. In folk music today, the equivalent of the continuo might be the rhythm guitar, or a guitar playing a chord progression using pattern picking, or anything that provides a chordal background. Strumming rapidly might not count; the continuo chords are usually sounded distinctly.

Continuo-A continuo part, a regular feature of much instrumental music in the 17th and 18th centuries, was played by a keyboard-player or performer on a chordal instrument such as a lute or harp, reading from the bass line of a composition, generally with numbers to indicate the choice of chords, which would then be filled out, with other melodic and contrapuntal embellishments. The continuo or basso continuo was a necessary part of instrumental music, but gradually fell into disuse towards the end of the 18th century, while remaining an important element in the accompaniment of operatic recitative.

contour-inversion. 1. (exact) reversal of interval direction. 2. (tonal) diatonic reversal of interval direction. syn. melodic inversion. E.g., c up to g may be inverted as c down to g.

contra dancing see country dancing.

Contralto (see Alto)

contrapuntal containing melodies played in counterpoint - see round, polyphonic.

contrapuntal. adjective for counterpoint.

contrary-motion. part-writing where one voice moves opposite to another.

Cooder, Ry (1947- ) a virtuoso guitarist who studied briefly with Davis, Rev. Gary. He played folk and blues material in the early 60s, and formed a group called "Rising Sons" with Taj Mahal. He has played with a large number of rock musicians, and is of interest for his country blues slide guitar arrangements as well as his intuitive grasp of the intricacies of various folk styles.

coof see cuif.

cook rarely used. To "cook" is to really blow, to really lay out those hot licks. "Really cooking" is heard occasionally.

Cooney, Michael attracted by the folk sound in the late 50s folk revival, Michael began learning his vast repertoire of traditional music, both American and British. His wide knowledge of songs and instrumental techniques made him a candidate to take over from Pete Seeger as the leading folksinger in the US. He began writing for Sing Out! in 1970, first with "General Delivery" (a sort of songfinder column) and later with his "Roads Scholar" opinion column, which ran until the fall of 1990. In his last column, he seemed to be bidding goodbye, not just to Sing Out, but to performing, lamenting the poor economics of playing the folk circuit - an opinion shared by Sky, Patrick; see also gig, money. He has played just about everywhere internationally, and has two albums on Folk-Legacy. After a near-fatal car accident in 1979, he slowed down considerably, but any retirement is a great loss to the folk community.

cooper (also "couper" and "cowper") a maker of barrels. The cooper’s trade is currently undergoing a revival since the discovery that real ales, wines, and vinegars are at their best when aged in wooden casks. The term occurs often in old songs ("Wee Cooper o’ Fife", etc.).

coorie (Scot., also "curry") to snuggle. The song "Coorie Doon" is a lullaby meaning "snuggle down" and is an inevitable source of jokes about Scots-Indian food.

Copper Family Ron and Bob Copper of Sussex, England, kept copies of many traditional songs accumulated by their family over the generations, beginning in 1922. These proved a gold mine to folk revivalist singers in the 60s and 70s, particularly Steeleye Span and the Young Tradition. Ron and Bob have made albums as The Copper Family. Their songs are popular enough in both the UK and North America that there is a comedy duo called "The Kipper Family", who do hilarious and ingenious parodies.


copyright folkies get annoyed when performers copyright a song that rightfully belongs in the public domain. Examples would be Paul Simon’s copyrighting of the ancient "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" ("Scarborough Fair", aka "The Cambric Shirt"), or Bob Dylan’s constant use of uncredited traditional tunes (for which he now holds the copyright, presumably), or the copyrighting of "Tom Dooley" by the Kingston Trio, even though it was traditional through Proffitt, Frank. See also borrowing. Apparently this has never been tested in court, at least not in any large, media-attracting way. Various people have recorded "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" without getting sued by Simon. Perhaps folkies are seen as too small a fish to fry. That being said, corporate nervousness in 1996 resulted in the shutdown of a guitar tablature Internet site and the relocation of the Digital Tradition lyric database (see Internet folk). The reason given was the sites’ use of copyrighted material.

Cor anglais-The cor anglais is the English horn, a tenor oboe that sounds a fifth lower than it is written.

corbie (UK) raven, crow.

cornet a brass instrument much like a trumpet, but somewhat shorter and with a wider flare to the horn; this gives it a more mellow tone. Like the trumpet, it’s a Bb instrument.

Cornet-The cornet is a valved brass instrument, resembling a trumpet but with a wider bore. It was used in the second quarter of the 19th century before the full development of the valved trumpet, but is now principally found in brass bands.

Cornetto-The cornetto or cornett is a wind instrument made of wood or ivory, or nowadays reproduced in fibre-glass. It has a cup-shaped mouthpiece, like brass instruments, but finger-holes, like a recorder, and was much used in the 17th and earlier 18th centuries, often to support or even replace treble voices. The bass of the cornetto family is the serpent, once found in village church bands in England and now revived.

coster (UK, also "costermonger") a seller of fruits and vegetables, esp. from a cart. It is also a term associated with a performance style in the UK music hall tradition, since some of the singers affected a working-class persona.

Cotswold the Cotswold hills are in the English midlands, and are the place where many of the older morris dance teams originated.

Cotten, Elizabeth (1895-1987) "Libba" Cotten was hired as a cook by the Seeger family in the 40s, and Mike and Peggy encouraged her to perform her songs. She wrote "Freight Train" in 1907 at the age of 12, although it wasn’t heard by the public until she began singing in public in the late 50s. She was a favorite at folk festivals and clubs up until the 80s, and recorded several albums for Folkways. Other songs she’ll be remembered for are "Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie" and "Shake Sugaree". Her finger-style guitar playing was distinctive: although she was left-handed, she played a regular guitar without restringing it by just turning it over (ie, with her right hand on the neck). Naturally, this came to be known as "Cotten picking".

counterexposition. in a fugue, a recurrence of the exposition, but in different keys and entrances.

countermelody a subordinate melody played along with the main one. In folk, any countermelody is usually in step with the main; if it moves independently, it would be counterpoint.

counterpoint one or more melodies that are staggered with respect to their starting points, or that move independently of the main one; see round, polyphonic.

counterpoint. (adj: contrapuntal) two or more simultaneous, independent lines or voices. Counterpoint is a matter of degree. Lines or voices may move in contrary-motion for maximum pitch independence, but they may also be rhythmically different.

Counterpoint-Counterpoint is the combination of two or more melodic lines, the second or later additional melodies described as counterpoints to the first. If harmony is regarded as vertical, as it is in conventional notation, signifying the simultaneous sounding of notes in chords, counterpoint may be regarded as horizontal. The adjective from counterpoint is contrapuntal. The phrase modal counterpoint is used to indicate 16th century counterpoint or Palestrina counterpoint and the phrase tonal counterpoint is used to indicate the later baroque counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries.

countersubject. a line in counterpoint with the subject of a fugue which recurs when then subject returns.

countertenor see alto.

Countertenor-A countertenor voice is that of a male alto. Sometimes a distinction is made between the two, the second indicating the English falsetto tradition and the first a natural voice of similar range.

counting in to begin a song or tune by calling out a number of beats ("One! Two! Three! Four!"). This lets the musicians get the tempo and the exact starting point. It’s essential in recording studio work when other tracks will be added later. In this case, the count is usually done with the last two numbers silent ("One! Two! ... ..."); this short silence allows a bit of room for editing out the count during the final production. It isn’t always necessary to do a count if the musicians are familiar with the music and each other; it’s usually possible to jump into it right away.

country blues blues songs originating in the US rural south. They’re usually accompanied by acoustic guitar, especially bottleneck style. The country blues of the 20s to the 40s influenced the electric blues players of the northern cities (Muddy Waters, etc.). Famous country blues singers and writers include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Johnson, Robert, Blind Blake, Lewis, Furry, Blind Willie McTell, Broonzy, Bill and Davis, Rev. Gary. There are many others who are not thought of as strictly blues players, but who contributed much to the music. These include Leadbelly, and Hurt, John.

country dancing a communal dance with origins from centuries ago in Europe. The term is equally likely to be from the rural aspect or from "contredanse". Sharp, Cecil said that the characteristics of the dance are "simplicity and gaiety". The dances are usually performed in lines, with the couples crossing over, swinging partners, etc. Country dancing in folk music tends to be informal, unlike the Scottish country dance, in which full regalia is worn. Contra-dancing is a more complex form of the country dance and probably derives from court dances. The tunes published by John Playford in the 1650 "Playford Dancing Master" are still performed today, although many of them are not the informal type of country dance, but like contra-dance, probably derive from the royal courts. The dances are more structured than the energetic country dance, and the dancers often wear period costumes. The squaredance derives from country dancing.

Country Gardens the well-known song "An English Country Garden" was originally a cotswold morris dance tune called "Country Gardens", first published in the early 18th century. It was collected in the Cotswold hills by Sharp, Cecil and later given to Grainger, Percy and was arranged and published by Grainger in the early 20th century. The genteel words were added later. Also the tune used for the song "The Vicar of Bray".

Country Gentlemen formed in 1957, the Country Gentlemen had an innovative approach to bluegrass. They incorporated jazz, folk songs, etc. They recorded widely in the 60s and 70s and played at many folk festivals. They performed as regular guests on Ian Tyson’s Canadian TV program.

country to folkies and old-timey fans, "country" has something of a different meaning from the mainstream definition. It generally refers to the rural folk music of Appalachia and the US south, as popularised by such groups as the Carter Family or the Delmore Brothers. In the 40s and 50s, country underwent a change with the music of people like Williams, Hank and Wills, Bob and the Nashville sound was on its way. In this lexicon, "country" usually refers to the old-timey definition unless noted otherwise.

coupling. (Schenker: Koppelung) an octave transfer permitting a line to extend its register and prolong motion towards a goal. Hoherlegung and Tieferlegung are similar transfers, higher and lower reapectively, at an interval other than an octave. However, due to their similar functions, it is here suggested that these also be classified as couplings.

courante a baroque court dance, usually in ¾ or 3/8; the French version was in 3/2, with hemiola.

Courante-The French courante, a triple-time dance movement found frequently in the baroque dance suite, generally follows the allemande, the opening German dance. It is sometimes not distinguished from the Italian corrente, although the corrente is generally simpler in texture and rhythm than its French counterpart.

course two or three strings in place of one, as on the lute or 12-string guitar. The 12-string, for instance, has six courses, while the lute may have seven or nine or more. The strings of the course may be tuned in unison or in octaves.

courting dulcimer see dulcimer, courting.

cover a song re-issued by someone other than the original artist. For example, the songs of popular writers like Dylan, Bob have been covered by hundreds of other performers. In 50s R&B, much black music was covered by white artists.

cowbell exactly that, an elongated bell less than a foot long and mounted on a drum kit. The sound is piercing, but with short sustain.

cowboy songs in general, these tend to be songs of the American southwest, and in many cases, were collected by people like the Lomaxes (see Lomax, John). They vary from the well-worn "Streets of Laredo" to modern compositions about the cowboy past, such as Bruce Phillips’ "Goodnight Loving Trail".