An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section I)

I Come for to Sing a group of folk musicians in Chicago, organized by Stracke, Win; the purpose was to produce concerts and further the exposure of folk music. Broonzy, Bill was one of the membership, which varied. Not to be confused with the magazine Come for to Sing, although it probably inspired the title.

I. (set-theory, linear) abbreviation for melodic-inversion (complement in set theory).ic. (set-theory) abbreviation for interval-class.

iambic see foot.

Ian & Sylvia Sylvia Fricker met Ian Tyson in Toronto in 1959, and they began performing their unique blend of traditional and composed songs. 1964 was a landmark year: they were married, recorded their third album with Vanguard, and had a hit with "Four Strong Winds" (by Ian). Another hit followed with "You Were on My Mind" (by Sylvia), and Ian’s "Some Day Soon" was a hit by Collins, Judy. Their albums of traditional songs remain a favorite with traddies; they were also among the first to record songs by Lightfoot, Gordon. In the 70s, they formed The Great Speckled Bird, a band named after a song by Acuff, Roy. In 1972, they then decided on separate solo careers, with Ian going on to modern C&W music, and Sylvia going on to write and perform many of her own songs, plus a stint as host of CBC’s "Touch the Earth" folk program. She is currently (1996) singing with the group "Quartet", and has received the Order of Canada.Ian, Janis (1951- ) (Janis Fink) grew up in the NY-NJ area and was briefly known as a protest singer in the 60s; she is known now mainly as a singer/songwriter. Her "Society’s Child" was in the top 20 in 1967. She continues to write, record, and perform; some of her songs have been recorded by Glen Campbell, Cher, and Roberta Flack. She also wrote the songs for the films "Foxes" and "The Bell Jar".

Ictus-the accent marking the rhythm; the intensity of delivery that distinguishes one note from others.

idiom. aspect of composition that is especially adapted to, or explores, an instrument's capabilities.

idiomatic. the degree of use of an instrument's special capabilities.

idiophone an instrument whose construction material generates the sound, such as a bell. It’s one of the four types of instruments; the others are membranophone, chordophone, and aerophone.

idiot list see cheat sheet.

Idyll-a simple, pastoral composition.

ilka (Scot.) each, every.

imitation. counterpoint in which two or more voices follow one another by a repetition of a melodic line; also known as imitative-counterpoint.

imitative-counterpoint. see imitation.


Impressionism-Impressionism was a term at first used mockingly to describe the work of the French painter Monet and his circle, who later made use of the word themselves. It was similarly used to describe an element of vagueness and imprecision coupled with a perceived excess of attention to colour in the early music of Debussy, who did not accept the criticism or the label, although his harmonic innovations and approach to composition have points in common with the ideals of Monet.

Impromptu-The word impromptu was first used as a title for a musical composition in 1822 by the Bohemian composer Vorisek for six piano pieces, to be imitated by Schubert's publisher in naming a set of four piano Impromptus, to be followed by four more, perhaps so named by the composer. Chopin used the title for four compositions in this seemingly improvised form, and there are further impromptus by other composers from that period onwards, generally, but not always, for a single instrument.

Improvisation-Improvisation was once a normal part of a performer's stock-in-trade. Many of the greatest composer-performers, from Bach to Mozart and Beethoven, were masters of improvisation, but in the 19th century this became a less common part of public performance, although it remained and remains a necessary skill for a church organist, traditionally required to provide a musical accompaniment of varying length to liturgical ritual. In baroque music the realisation of a figured bass, the improvisation of a keyboard part from a given series of chords, was a necessary musical accomplishment, while the improvisatory element in the addition of ornaments to a melodic part remained normal in opera and other kinds of solo performance.

incest songs hardly a popular topic for ballads, but they do exist. Both "The Bonny Hind" ( Child 50) and "Sheath and Knife" (Child 16) tell the story of a doomed affair between brother and sister.

inclusion. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear). see subset.

incremental songs a structural dramatic device often used in traditional ballads; in these songs, phrases or verses are repeated with small changes each time. Friedman, Albert gives the following example from the ballad "Fair Annie": "And she gaed down, and farther downHer love’s ship for to see,And the topmast and the mainmastShone like the silver free.And she’s gane down, and farther down,The bride’s ship to behold;And the topmast and the mainmastThey shone just like gold." Compare with cumulative songs.

indeterminacy. any musical performance where the outcome is unforeseen by the composer. Sometimes this is confused with chance or improvisation.

infra-diatonic scale. (Yasser) a pentatonic scale, such as C D F G A, plus two additional degrees, e.g., E B, the latter used as embellishments of the basic scale.

inharmonic. an overtone that does not correspond with an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency.

Instrumentation-Instrumentation is generally used to mean orchestration, the art of writing music for instruments, or, alternatively, the actual scoring of a particular composition.

intensity. the perceived loudness and tension (subjective).

Interlude-In the theatre an interlude performs the same function as an entr'acte, music between acts or scenes, designed to bridge a gap. It may also be used to indicate music played or sung between two other works or two sections of a work.

Intermezzo-Earlier signifying a comic interlude inserted between the acts of an opera seria, the 19th century intermezzo was often either a musical interlude in a larger composition or a piece of music in itself, often for solo piano. In this second sense it is used by Schumann and later by Brahms in their piano music, while both Mendelssohn and Brahms use the word as a movement title in chamber music.

International-Pitch-Notation (IPN). A system of pitch designation agreed upon internationally under the auspices of the Acoustical Society of America. In this system the international standard A=440 Hz is designated A4 and middle C is C4. All pitches are designated with capital letters and their octave placement by an accompanying Arabic number changing with each octave C. Thus, the lowest C on the piano is C1 (the A below that is A0). The first F# below middle C is F#3, etc.

Internet folk there is a wealth of folk resources on the various sections of the Internet, including both traddie and contemporary. Note that many of the Web sites listed include lots of links to others. Note also that newsgroups, Web pages, and mailing lists are often added, deleted, or changed, so your best bet is to look around. NORTHERN JOURNEY ONLINE: Gene Wilburn’s coverage of Canadian performers and venues. Plenty of links. CANADIAN FOLK FESTIVALS: with links to information about clubs. DIRTY LINEN FOLK CONCERT LISTINGS: from Dirty Linen magazine. THE SING OUT! HOME PAGE: information on the latest issue, back issues, subscriptions; also has a search function for performer venues. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER HOME PAGE: listings of the available services from the LOC; the catalog of published recordings alone is worth a visit. FOLK MUSIC HOME PAGE: Jay Glicksman’s eclectic page; large number of links to other sites, as well as mailing lists (see below for comments on mailing lists). HOME PAGE FOR STEVE GILLETTE AND CINDY MANGSEN: tour schedules, etc., and lots of links to other sites. CAPTAIN FIDDLE MUSIC and PUBLISHING: Ryan Thomson’s page for fiddle enthusiasts (plus other instruments, books, recordings, etc.). MAURO RAVERA’S FOLK MUSIC RESOURCES: a huge number of international links on all aspects of British and North American folk music. PEERS (PERIOD EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT): a vast number of links to period music, folk dances, crafts, and just about everything for fans of the traditional or historical. THE WOODY GUTHRIE PAGE: David Arkush’s page about Woody and many of the musicians who accompanied im. THE FOLK DEN: Roger McGuinn’s page for contemporary and traditional folk. APG HOME PAGE: Les Weller’s page on APG, which is basically fingerpicked guitar in the American folk tradition. Lots of tablature and discussions of techniques. APPALACHIAN STUDIES RESOURCES: Virginia Tech’s page of links to all things relating to Appalachian raditions. MORRIS RELATED INFO: the page for morris dancers - lots of info and links to related sites. EFDSS: Rhod Davies’ unofficial page of the English Folk Dance and Song Society ( EFDSS). FOLK MUSIC LINKS: lots of links from the folk music page out of Brisbane, Australia. NY PINEWOODS FOLK MUSIC CLUB: links re folk music and folk dance. FABULOUS FOLK: a huge number of links to folk resources. CONTEMPLATOR’S FOLK MUSIC MIDI PAGE: not only MIDI files, but lyrics as well. TURLOUGH CAROLAN WEB PAGE: with lots of links for fans of the remarkable arpist/composer. EVERY CELTIC THING ON THE WEB: test out the claim with this immense list of links. PLAYFORD’S 1651 ENGLISH DANCING MASTER: the text for the Playford dances, plus some MIDI files, plus the world’s longest Web address: SOCIETY FOR CREATIVE ANACHRONISM: researching and recreating the customs of pre-17th-century urope: LUTE PAGE FOR GUITARISTS: Conrad Leviston’s tutorials and tablature of Elizabethan music for guitar. REC.MUSIC.FOLK: a huge Usenet newsgroup. Hundreds of messages exchanged on every possible folk subject. Use the newsreader search function to look for other Usenet groups dedicated to specific topics, such as Celtic music, guitars, banjos, dulcimers, performers, etc. There are also folk mailing lists on Listservers. These send their messages directly to your email mailbox. An example would be Some familiarity with subscribing to mailing lists is required. They have the advantage that you don’t miss any messages, and the disadvantage that you have to clean out your mailbox routinely.

interpolation. the insertion of new pitches between pitches of a given theme; inserting new elements between those of any given linear-set.

interruption. (Schenker: Unterbrechung) The principle means of prolongation of the Ursatz achieved by pausing on the dominant before it continues with the fundamental line, the Urlinie. This pause is usually on the second scale degree and requires a return to the Kopfton. Most often the interruption occurs with a 3-2-1 Urlinie with a pause on the 2. The return to the Kopfton in sonata-form and in rounded-binary occurs at the beginning of the recapitulation.


intersection. (set-theory) element/s (usually pitch-classes) in common.

interval 1. (also "diad", "dyad") The distance between any two notes, counting inclusively. For instance, C to F is a fourth. Also, those two notes sounded together would be called an interval (as opposed to a chord). If the interval is sharped, it’s augmented. If it’s flatted, it’s minor or diminished. "Major" means that no sharps or flats have been applied - C to E, for instance, is often called a major third. See also inversion. 2. The intermission or break between sets.

Interval-In music an interval is the distance in pitch between two notes, counted from the lower note upwards, with the lower note as the first of the interval. The violin, for example, is tuned in intervals of a fifth, G to D, D to A and A to E, the double bass in fourths, from E to A, A to D and D to G. Harmonic intervals occur simultaneously, as when a violinist tunes the instrument, listening carefully to the sound of two adjacent strings played together. Melodic intervals occur between two notes played one after the other ; The distance between two pitches or notes. Intervals may be measured in a number of ways; e.g., by counting the number of semitones, subtracting frequencies, etc. Counting semitones is used in set theory. However, the most common method is by counting letter names; e.g. C,D,E,F includes 4 letters--thus, C to F is called a fourth and is always a fourth, no matter how the notes may be altered by sharps or flats. This is called the "general size" of the interval. However, each general interval may have several "specific sizes"; e.g. a third could be major, minor, diminished, augmented, etc. The specific size is determined by 1. the general size, and 2. the number of semitones it contains.

interval-class. [0,1,4] abbrev. ic (set-theory); the distance between two pitch-classes, measured as the shortest distance between them; G to D appears to be a fifth, but G down to D is a fourth; the ic of G to D is always a fourth since direction is irrelevant to ic and the fourth is smaller than the fifth. There are six interval-classes designated by the numbers 1 to 6 (semitones); e.g. a semitone = ic1 (also a major-seventh = ic1), a whole-step = ic2 (also the minor-seventh), and E C = ic4. There are no interval-classes larger than a tritone (ic6); see also: directed-interval-class and directed-interval.

interval-vector. (Forte) abbrev. IV (set-theory, nonlinear). an array of six digits representing the interval-class (ic) content of a chord, where the first digit indicates the quantity of ic1, the second digit = the quantity of ic2, the third digit = the quantity of ic3, the fourth digit = the quantity of ic4, the fifth digit= the quantity of ic5, and the sixth digit = the quantity of ic6. E.g., 001110 is the IV for a major chord, showing that it contains zero semitones (ic1), no ic2 (wholetones), one ic3 (minor 3rd), one ic4 (major 3rd), one ic5 (perfect 4th) and no tritones (ic6).

intonation 1. The accuracy with which an instrument or singer reproduces the scale. It’s quite a problem with fretted instruments, since small changes in the action or sweep of the neck can cause changes in the tuning as the player goes up the neck. Additionally, the bridge (if adjustable) can get out of position. One cure is to reset the bridge or adjust its saddle if adjustments can be made. Another is to reset the tension on the truss rod, which changes the sweep of the neck, assuming that the neck adjustment is a minor one - serious changes in the action call for skilled repair. An electronic tuner simplifies moving the bridge or adjusting the sweep. The adjustments are made in small increments until the 12th fret note is exactly one octave above the open string note. 2. The pitches of the notes of the scale in use - no scale is perfect, and the limitations of the various temperaments are listed briefly in equal-tempered scale, just intonation, natural scale, meantone scale, Pythagorean scale, comma of Pythagoras, wolf tone; Intonation is the exactness of pitch or lack of it in playing or singing. Collective intonation is that of a group of instruments, where slight individual variations in pitch can be lost in a generally more favourable effect.

intro 1. A spoken introduction to a song. The content depends on the performer. It may be curt, endless, or very funny. Traddies love long historical backgrounds to the song. 2. A bit of music played before the song or tune begins, almost always part of the main melody or a variant, although it can be a tricky instrumental run. See also shuffle and turnaround.

invariant. (Babbitt-2) (set-theory, linear) anything remaining unchanged after a transformation, e.g., in transposition the interval series may be invariant although the pitches change.

invariant-subset. (set-theory) the elements of a pc-set that remain unchanged after an operation of transposition, R, I, or RI (or a quadrate tranformation).

Invention-The two-part Inventions of Johann Sebastian Bach are contrapuntal two-voice keyboard compositions, and the word is often understood in this sense, although it had a less precise meaning in earlier music.

inverse. (set-theory, nonlinear) a set whose intervals are turned upside down (not to be confused with traditional chord inversion), e.g., D E G would become D F G; these are sets 3-5 and 3-5B. Many nonlinear sets have the property that, upon inversion, they become the same PCs, e.g., C D G inverted becomes G C D, set 3-9*. Therefore, these sets have no distinct nonlinear inverse. These sets have the property that if they are inverted they map into themselves (usually after a transposition), and this property is called a mirror.

inversion intervals are counted upward through the scale, and are counted inclusively. Thus, C to E is a third. However, if you put an E note below the C, finding this new interval means you also have to count upward, E-F-G-A-B-C - a sixth. This is an inversion.

inversion. 1. (harmonic) in tertian harmony, a chord whose bass note is not the root. 2. (contour or melodic) a reversal of direction in an interval series or chord (mirroring); e.g., intervals in an upward direction are changed to the same intervals downward. 3. (complement) an interval that when added to a given interval will complete the octave. See also inverse.

invertible-counterpoint. counterpoint where the upper and lower parts have been interchanged.

Ionian. an ancient mode consisting of T-T-S-T-T-T-S, equivalent to the modern major mode.

IPN (abbrev). see International-Pitch-Notation.

Irish music Irish traditional instrumental music first came to the public ear through the music of the Chieftains, thanks to their exposure in the Kubrick film "Barry Lyndon". What the public ear may not know is that there arehundreds of incredibly gifted musicians playing songs and tunes that bear no relation to the swill served up by the media around St Patrick’s Day. The Irish tradition is a enormous storehouse of wonderful music, with each county contributing its unique style. Many of the musically talented who were displaced to another country by the famine of the 1840s added greatly to that country’s folk repertoire. For instance, they had a great effect on the fiddle style of the Ottawa Valley. Such maudlin songs as "I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" and cheerful claptrap like "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" have nothing whatsoever to do with Irish folk music - they were written in the US. Irish ballads and songs, like most traditional music, have a hard-nosed determination to them - no dripping sentimentality in sight. Incidentally, the song "Danny Boy" is not Irish. It was written in the late 19th century by an Englishman (Fred Weatherly) about Scotland. Though it was set to a tune believed to be traditional Irish ("Londonderry Air"), there is some debate about its Irishness - the meter of the present version is unknown in any Irish music. Some of the confusion might have arisen from its arrangement by Grainger, Percy as "An Irish Tune from County Derry". The interested are referred to the tune’s entry in "The Oxford Companion to Music". See also O’Neill, Francis.

Irish pipes see bagpipes.

Irish Rovers after emigrating to Canada in the early 60s, the Rovers played various club and variety shows, but their success was made with their recording of "The Unicorn" by Silverstein, Shel. They had a CBC TV show in the 70s, and put their profits into a Toronto pub known as, obviously, "The Unicorn". They had another hit with "Wasn’t That a Party" by Paxton, Tom and have recorded ten albums.


iso-. (prefix) the same in succession.

isomelos. a repeating pitch series or pitch-class series (or any of their transpositions) as a distinctive overall compositional feature, i.e., a repetition of an interval or directed-interval series. Isomelos is the principle feature of serial composition and of passacaglias.

isometric characterizing a tune with simple rhythms throughout. Also called chordal style and homorhythmic. Most folksongs have simple rhythm (but see rubato).

isorhythm. (literally, same rhythm) a rhythmic pattern that is repeated successively.

isotrophy. (Xenakis) regions or planes of sound balanced in contrary motion. This may take the form of two sound masses moving in opposite directions.

Istesso tempo-L'istesso tempo, the same speed, is found as an instruction to the player to return to the previous speed of the music.

IT. inversion and transposition of a pc-set.

Italian-sixth. an augmented-sixth chord built on the raised fourth degree of the key; e.g. F# A-flat C in C-Major. Normally it occurs in first inversion as A-flat C F# forming the augmented-sixth that resolves to an octave on the dominant.

IV. abbrev for interval vector.

Ives, Burl (1910-1995) a singer/actor who had great success in the 50s with folk songs like Bluetail Fly, "Big Rock Candy Mountain", and "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". He was never much accepted by folkies after the 60s, perhaps because he sounded commercialised. Still, he contributed greatly to the folk music revival. Probably best known to folkies for "Wayfaring Stranger" and to the public for the 1962 hits "Little Bitty Tear" and "Funny Way of Laughin’".

Ives, Charles (1874-1954) unorthodox American composer. He used folksong, pop songs, marches and other American idioms in his works.

IWW the Industrial Workers of the World. Aka "wobblies". See union songs.