An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section H2)


harmonium see reed organ.

Harmonium-The harmonium, developed in the early 19th century from experiments in the last quarter of the century before, is a keyboard instrument that produces its sounds by means of air from bellows passing through free reeds, metal tongues that are made to vibrate. The instrument has a relatively small classical repertoire, its use either domestic or as a cheap substitute for the church organ. Dvorák wrote Bagatelles for two violins, cello and harmonium, and Schoenberg made some use of the harmonium in chamber arrangements of works of his own and in versions of two waltzes by Johann Strauss.

harmonization. the choice of chords to accompany a melodic line, chosen so that the melody notes are contained in the chords.

harmony singing in the singing of older songs, the harmony is usually very simple. Groups might sing most of a line in unison and/or octaves, and then switch to a parallel fourth or fifth for the closing cadence. Despite its simplicity, the effect can be powerful. In more recent songs, the unison and octave harmonies might also have some added thirds or sixths. See also parts of music.

harmony whenever two or more notes sound together, that’s harmony. Whether or not you’re pleased with the sound depends on contemporary taste, your preferences and so on. In medieval times they had an enormous list of shall-nots for harmonies (see tritone). They would have been shocked at our blues and ragtime harmonies. See also parts of music. Consonance and dissonance, the prime properties of harmony, are properly defined in terms of the music’s horizontal motion (melody), and not the pleasant/unpleasant common definition. Consonance is stable ( thirds, fifths, octaves), while the instability of the dissonance (all other intervals) urges a resolution to a consonance. However, folk music likes things simpler: If the sound is currently said to be pleasant, the harmony is consonant. If the sound is jarring, it’s dissonant. However, even dissonance is acceptable, since it makes for nice musical contrasts. For instance, the minor second in a chord (eg, a C major chord containing C-G-Eb-E, where the minor second is Eb and E) played by itself is rather sour sounding, but used in a ragtime progression, it nicely kicks off the next chord change. See also anticipation, bitonal, parallel, tritone.

harmony. the sound of tones in combination. The study of harmony makes up a large part of theory classes due to its importance and complexity in our traditional music. It is sometimes considered synonymous with the study of chords; Harmony describes the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes and the technique governing the construction of such chords and their arrangement in a succession of chords. Following the convention of writing music from left to right on a horizontal set of lines (staff or stave), harmony may be regarded as vertical, as opposed to counterpoint, which is horizontal. In other words harmony deals with chords, simultaneous sounds, and counterpoint with melody set against melody.

harp 1. An instrument that’s more-or-less triangular in shape and has a sound board at the bottom; the strings are plucked directly and can be reached from either side. There are many different sizes, from tiny handheld to the giant orchestral versions. 2. When used in the context of the blues, it always means the harmonica. 3. See also sacred harp. 4. The metal frame around the periphery of a piano or other instrument to take the strain of the string tension.

harpeggio (archaic) see arpeggio.

harpsichord (also "cembalo") much like a piano, but the keys pluck the strings with leather thongs (or "jacks", which is the rod holding the thong) instead of hitting them with hammers. The sound is abrupt and bright, but control of the loudness is difficult. Most of the harpsichord’s repertoire is from classical music, but it is played in folk music. Synthesizers usually have a setting for the harpsichord sound, and this is used to good effect in traditional song performances; The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument with strings running from front to back of its wing-shaped horizontal box and soundboard. Unlike the piano and the earlier clavichord with its hammers that strike the strings, the harpsichord has a mechanism by which the strings are plucked. The instrument seems to have existed in a simple form in the 14th century and assumed considerable importance from the early 16th until the fuller development of the pianoforte towards the end of the 18th century. Variations of dynamics on the harpsichord are possible through the use of stops that activate different lengths of string and by the use of a muting buff stop and of the two manuals often found on the instrument. In addition to its ubiquitous use in the music of the baroque period, the harpsichord has also been used by modern composers, since its revival at the end of the 19th century.

Harp-The harp is an instrument of great antiquity, represented from as early as 3000 B.C. in Sumeria. The form of the instrument has varied, but the modern double-action harp, a development of the early 19th century, is in general orchestral use. The strings are tuned in flats,starting from a bottom C flat, with seven pedals, each of which can change a given set of strings to a natural or a sharp. The C pedal, therefore, in its three positions, can make all the Cs on the instrument flat, natural or sharp. Other forms of harp survive. The Aeolian harp, with strings of the same length and pitch but of different thicknesses, was to be placed by an open window, its sounds produced by the wind blowing through the strings. Various forms of Celtic harp are still in use.

Hart, Tim in the late 60s, he performed traditional British music as a duo with Prior, Maddy; they recorded a two-volume set called "Folksongs of Old England", an album called "Summer Solstice", and then went on to form Steeleye Span.

Hartford, John (1937- ) first came to the public eye in the 60s through his exposure on the Glen Campbell and Smothers Brothers TV shows. He plays guitar, fiddle and banjo, and has demonstrated clogging steps at festivals. His best-known composition is "Gentle on My Mind".

haugh (Scot.) level ground beside a stream.

Hauptstimme. (Schoenberg) the principal or leading voice, abbreviated H in Schoenberg's scores.

Havens, Richie (1941- ) singer-songwriter-guitarist who began in the Greenwich Village folk revival of the 60s. He popularized "Handsome Johnny", a song by Lou Gossett Jr (who started off in the NYC folk scene before turning to acting). Other popular songs from his albums include "Just Like a Woman" (Dylan) and "Eleanor Rigby" (Beatles). His lush voice is complemented by a unique guitar style: he uses open tuning and rapid, intricate strumming, and he has an amazing left thumb - he hooks it over the neck, not just to fret a bass string as many do, but to fret whole chords. He has recorded extensively (A&M 1977, Elektra 1980, Rykodisc 1985) and is a favorite at clubs and festivals. He has appeared in a few films, 1972-87.

Hawaiian guitar a six-string guitar stopped with a steel bar to produce the familiar gliding tones. Compare with Dobro, National. The gliding from one note to an adjacent one is called portamento; the glide from one note to a distant one is a glissando.

Hawes, Bess Lomax (1921- ) sister of Lomax, Alan, Bess is both a collector and a singer-guitarist. She assisted in the production of the Lomaxes’ books, and joined the newly-formed Almanac Singers in the late 40s. She co-authored (with Jacqueline Steiner) "The MTA Song" about the same time (see folk process). She has played at major festivals and taught folklore at US universities.

hawker (Brit.) a street or door-to-door salesman. See also drummer.

Hawks see The Band.

Hays, Lee member of the Almanac Singers and later the Weavers. He co-authored "If I Had a Hammer" and "Wasn’t That a Time", which became the title of the Weaver’s biographical film (see movies). He died in 1981 during the editing of this film. His biography, "Lonesome Traveler" (Doris Willens, Norton Publishing) was published in 1987, and takes its name from one of his songs.

head 1. The plastic or animal-skin diaphragm stretched over the hoops of instruments like the drums or banjo. 2. An instrument amplifier that does not have loudspeakers of its own. So-called because it almost always sits on top of a large speaker near the performer.

head arrangement an arrangement of a song or tune worked out by a solo performer, or performers, by playing it until it sounds right, as opposed to one formally worked out on paper beforehand. Needless to say, most folk music consists of head arrangements.

Headline Singers a short-lived group formed in 1942, consisting of Guthrie, Woody, Leadbelly, Terry, Sonny, and McGhee, Brownie. What folkies wouldn’t give to hear what they sounded like.

headstock on a stringed instrument, the flat projection at the end of the neck that holds the machine heads (tuning pegs).

Heaney, Joe (1920- ) Irish traditional singer, and a seanachie, living in the US. He sings in the a cappella style in both English and Gaelic on his many albums. An important source for those interested in traditional vocal styles.


Heldentenor-The heroic tenor or Heldentenor is a tenor with a quality of voice suited to the heroic rôles of 19th century French Grand Opera and of the music-dramas of Wagner, as in the part of Tannhäuser in Wagner's opera of that name.

Hellerman, Fred one of the Weavers, later a solo performer (guitar, vocal) and composer. Two of his best-known songs are "Healing River" and "Man Come Into Egypt".

Helmholtz notation see octave notation.

Helms, Bobby (1933- ) country-style singer, best known to the public for "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Special Angel", and "Fraulein", which is a staple at folkie jam sessions.

hemiola (also "hemiolia") a baroque rhythmic device, consisting of a triplet in the space of two notes, in alternating measures with the twos, or it could be the reverse: two notes in the space of three, also in alternating measures with threes. It’s still used, with a usual example being "America" from "West Side Story" ("I like to be in...").

hemiola. a metric pattern of triple in a normally duple meter or, vice versa, a pattern of duple in a normally triple meter. Hemiola need not be confined to duple and triple meters, however. It is used applied to any type of metrical anomaly, when the rhythmic structure in a piece gives the impression that the meter is different from the actual time signature, this is a hemiola. For example, a piece in 4/4 time could have an eighth note run where every third eighth note is accented, giving the run a triplet feel, this is a hemiola.

hemiope (archaic) a three-hole whistle that could be played with one hand. The instrument is still in use by morris musicians, but the word has faded.

hemitonic including sharps and flats; opposite anhemitonic. Most folk music is hemitonic, though some modes and the pentatonic scale are devoid of sharps and flats.

Hemsworth, Wade (1916- ) singer-songwriter born in Brantford, Ont. He travelled widely in the northern areas of Ontario and Quebec, and wrote many songs about the experiences, including "The Blackfly Song", "Log Driver’s Waltz", and "The Wild Goose". He has appeared at various folk festivals, and his songs have been widely performed and published.

Henderson, Hamish during WWII, Hamish noted down ideas for poems, and published them after the war; in the early 50s he began collecting and studying the folklore of his native Scotland. The result was later to be the writing of many of his own songs, including the well-known "51st Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily" (set to the pipe tune "Farewell to the Creeks" and aka "Farewell to Sicily"), "John McLean’s March", "D-Day Dodgers" and others. He has published a book of WWII ballads, has recorded a large number of traditional singers, and has compiled a collection of the work of Robertson, Jeannie.

Henske, Judy popular on the US west coast in the early 60s, she joined the short-lived Whiskeyhill Singers in 1961. She recorded albums for Elektra, and then seemed to drop out of show business.

heptatonic scale any scale comprised of seven notes, not counting the octave. Our familiar major and minor scales are examples.

Herald, John with Weissberg, Eric and Bob Yellin, John formed the Greenbriar Boys bluegrass group in 1958 (when Eric left in 1959, he was replaced by Rinzler, Ralph). They backed Baez, Joan on the second of her albums for Vanguard. He has backed many people on guitar, including Ian & Sylvia. He has a solo album on Paramount.

herbs in times past, herbs were given prominence in folksong. Some of this was due to their culinary popularity, and some due to special symbolism. An example of the latter would be "Sprig of Thyme", in which the herb represents virginity: "Once I had a sprig of thyme,I thought it never would decay,Until a saucy sailor chanced upon my way,And he stole away my bonny sprig of thyme." "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" (aka "Scarborough Fair") is an example of herbal references (see copyright). Herbs and other plants also played an important part in seasonal ritual, just as the mistletoe and Easter lily do today. One of the most charming of the seasonal songs is the carol "Candlemas Eve" (Feb 1), written by English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674), of which the first verse is: "Down with the rosemary and bays,Down with the mistletoe,Instead of holly now upraise the greener box for show.The holly hitherto held sway, let box now domineer,Until the dancing Easter Day, or Easter’s Eve appear." The complete song can be found in the "Oxford Book of Carols". See also scan. See ritual for a carol that mentions herbs in the culinary sense.

hertz the unit used to denote frequency, abbreviation Hz. It refers to the number of cycles per second, and was formerly known as CPS.

Hertz. (abbrev. Hz) the unit of frequency, the number of vibrations per second.

Hester, Carolyn Texas singer who came to the NYC folk scene in the late 50s. She was popular at the clubs and festivals, and married Farina, Richard. She toured the US and Britain and recorded several albums. After forming a folk-rock band and touring in the mid-60s, followed by a return to simpler music in the 70s, she seems to have dropped out of the folk scene.

heterophony. a special type of monophonic texture where the voices move essentially in parallel octaves, unisons, fifths, or fourths, but one or more of the voices may be ornamented or played slightly out of time with the other voice/s.

hexachord from medieval music theory, a six-note scale of the form tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone, such as C D E F G A or G A B C D E. It was used from about the 11th century to about the 16th, and is said to have had its notes labelled ("ut-re-mi") by Guido d’Arezzo, who recommended the use of three hexachords based on C, F, and G. If the singers needed other notes, hexachords could be merged by pivoting on a common note. About the time of the Renaissance, another note was added to make a seven-note scale (eight with the octave). In the C system shown above, this seventh note was either "b-soft" (our Bb), or "b-hard" (our B natural). Compare with its more popular cousin in folk, the pentatonic scale. In England from the late 16th century, the notes of the hexachord were labelled fa-so-la-fa-so-la, which was called, not surprisingly, "fasola". The seventh note ("mi") was added about 1600 to give an octave. No one seemed worried by the repetition of the syllables or the out-of-place "mi", and instead of causing confusion, it was said by a 1654 Playford music tutor to ease things for its practitioners. Eventually it lost out to the do-re-mi system and the convenience of the movable do. The expanded hexachord and its fasola syllables survive in the music of sacred harp singing.

hexachord. (set-theory) a unit consisting of six pitch-classes, often used as segments of a twelve-tone row.

hexatonic scale any scale comprised of six notes, not counting the octave, such as the hexachord. Compare with pentatonic scale.

hey a figure in morris and country dancing. In the 16th-17th centuries, it was also a dance on its own (and sometimes spelled "hay").

Hibbs, Harry (1942-1989) acclaimed singer-songwriter-accordionist from Newfoundland. He toured Ontario, the Maritimes and the UK, and had his own TV show in the early 70s, playing his style of east-coast folk songs and tunes, plus his own songs. He recorded more than 10 LPs.

Hickerson, Joe (1935- ) singer and guitarist with albums on Folkways, Folk-Legacy, and others. Since the 60s, he has worked for the Library of Congress, and is currently (1996) head of their American Folklife Center. He plays at folk festivals, clubs, and folk societies as time permits. It’s of interest to note that "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" by Seeger, Pete originally had only three verses, and it was Joe who expanded it to the present form.

high C a word that seems to exist only in popular usage; no musical dictionaries mention it. Musicians use it occasionally to refer to the C one octave above middle C.

high hat see cymbal.