An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section S1)

sackbut a medieval horn, like a trombone.

sacred harp also known as "shape note", "patent" and "buckwheat", this is a style of hymn singing that arose in 18th-century New England and is still popular in folk circles today. Many of the folk groups of the 60s revival performed up-tempo versions, all full of references to "Mount Zion", "River Jordan" and so on. Unfortunately, they traded zest of performance for the very quality that made the hymns so popular, which was a type of counterpoint much more complex than folk music but simpler than classical. The hymns were often called "fuguing" songs to distinguish them from the more elaborate fugue; see round. The harmonies used depended much on the interval of the fourth, which is known as "quartal" harmony. Since the songs were taken up by many different denominations, they have been called "religious folk music". The name "sacred harp" is obscure, although it’s said to be from a popular 1844 songbook of the same name (where didit get the name?). The term "shape note" derives from the special notation sometimes used, which gave pitch values according to the shape of the note body, despite the fact that it duplicated information (the usual five-line staff was still used). Singers used the syllables "fa-so-la-fa-so-la-mi-fa" instead of the familar do-re-mis; see hexachord for the origin of this system. Later in the 19th century, singers went to the current seven syllables, but the fasola system is still occasionally used by revivalist sacred harpists. Examples of sacred harp songs still popular today are "Waters of Babylon" and "David’s Lamentation" (aka "Absolom"), both by {Billings, William}, whose compositions contributed much to the style. Many of the song names in sacred harp have nothing to do with the lyrical content. There are names like "Kittery" and "Judea". The reason for this is that many of the texts were set to various melodies, and to distinguish the versions the composers chose local place names, names from the Bible, etc. Another example is the hymn "Captain Kidd", which has nothing at all to do with Kidd, though the tune is the same as the well-known song (which you can also find, along with its relatives, in song family). The use of familiar folk tunes no doubt eased the learning of new hymns.

saddle if the bridge on a stringed instrument has a separate top part to support and locate the strings, this is called a saddle. They are usually small plastic or ebony strips. The advantage is that the removable saddle is easily modified to change the string spacing or height, unlike the permanently-mounted bridge itself.

Sainte-Marie, Buffy (1941- ) A Cree Indian, born in Saskatchewan and raised in New England, she was greatly successful through her concerts and Vanguard recordings of the 60s; she’s perhaps best known for her songs "Until It’s Time for You to Go", "Many a Mile" by Sky, Patrick, for her heartfelt song about the plight of native peoples, "My Country Tis of Thy People Are Dying", and for her "Universal Soldier". Still performing and recording, she is active in the native people’s movement in both the US and Canada.

sair (Scot.) sore, sorely.

Saltarello-The saltarello is a rapid Italian dance in triple metre, examples of which survive from the Middle Ages. The rhythm and energy of the dance are similar to those of the tarantella. A well known example appears in the final movement of Mendelssohn's 'Italian' Symphony.

Salvation Army pitch see pitch.

Sandburg, Carl (1878-1967) the famous poet and historian was also a collector of American folk songs. He published "The American Songbag" (1927) and "New American Songbook". The books contain many folk standards, such as "I Ride an Old Paint", "The John B. Sails" (aka "The Sloop John B." or "Wreck of the John B."), "Careless Love", "Wanderin’", and lots of others that form the basic repertoire of American tradiional music. His recordings for Caedmon, Decca and Columbia were a great source of beautiful songs that were previously neglected, and were no doubt the popular source of "The Ship That Never Returned" (see Work, Henry Clay), "Eating Goober Peas", "The Horse Named Bill" and many others.

Sarabande-The sarabande is a slow dance in triple metre, generally found in the baroque instrumental suite. The dance seems to have been Latin American in origin, imported from Latin America to Spain in the 16th century.2. a court dance in triple meter originating in the 16th century.

sark (UK) shirt. See also cutty.

SATB songbooks with vocal arrangements for Soprano-Alto-Tenor- Baritone usually have this on the cover. The order shown is from highest-pitched to lowest (though there is a bass range below the baritone). Most men are tenors and most women are altos. See also vocal ranges.

Satie, Erik (1866-1925) French composer whose works were briefly popular among music fans (especially composers and instrumentalists) in the 60s and 70s. It’s difficult to describe his music: it’s either brilliantly adventuresome or incredibly aimless, depending on your point of view. Most of his works used a sort of modal approach that never settled down to any sort of keynote or satisfying resolution, leading one critic to write that "Satie brings a new meaning to the word ‘boring’."

saut (Scot.) salt.

Sautillé-Fast spiccato that is created by the bow's own elasticity.

Savakus, Russ (?-1984) a commercial bass player, Russ had a great interest in folk music, and during the 60s and 70s, he recorded with just about everyone in American folk music: Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mimi and Richard Farina, and many more.

Saxophone-The saxophone, a single-reed instrument, was invented in the middle of the 19th century by Adolphe Sax. It is used widely in jazz, and has never been a permanent member of the symphony orchestra. Notable use is made of the saxophone by Ravel in his Boléro and in his orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and other composers have used the instrument for special effects.

SCA see Society for Creative Anachronism.

scale a series of notes spanning a certain interval. There are many possible types of scales, but the current one is seven notes plus an octave note. The scale can be extended in either direction by adding more octaves as desired, which means that the seven notes will repeat after the octave (see octave equivalence). For centuries the scale had only six notes, as described under hexachord; see also pentatonic scale for a five-note scale widely used in folk. Usually the scales are either the major scale or minor scale. The major scale is the familiar do-re-mi system (see also sol-fa). How high or low in pitch you start the do-re-mis determines the key. There is no separate equivalent to the do-re-mi labels in the minor scale; the same symbols are used - see below. See also Guido d’Arezzo for the attributed origin of the do-re-mi names. The sequence of the major scale is tone-tone- semitone-tone-tone- tone-semitone. This is from C to shining C on the white keys of the piano. The sequence of the minor scale is tone-semitone-tone-tone-semitone- tone-tone. This is from A to A on the white keys of the piano (the key of A minor), or in the key of C, C D Eb F G Ab Bb C. This is called the "natural" or "pure" minor (note: throughout this lexicon, "natural" and "pure" are often used with reference to the physics of scale intervals - a different meaning entirely). There are three other types of minor scales, the ascending and descending melodic, and the harmonic. Folkies don’t make a distinction; they use the minor key shown above, and add sharps or flats as required by the tune. For reference:

Ascending Melodic: C D Eb F G A B C

Descending Melodic:

C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (same as natural)


C D Eb F G Ab B C

There are some scales with popular names, like "blues" or "Gypsy". These scales change one or more notes, either all the time, or as an accidental. For instance, one version of the blues scale often flats the 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes, but also keeps the unflatted notes (making, in effect, an 11-note scale). One "Gypsy" scale has a flatted second and a flatted sixth; another has a flatted third, sharped fourth, and flatted sixth. For other types of scales, see mode, whole-tone scale. For brief descriptions of the derivation of the scale, see temperament, equal-tempered scale, Pythagorean scale, just intonation, natural scale, meantone scale.

scale length the distance from the nut of a stringed instrument to the bridge or saddle; the length of the string that actually sounds when played open. With fretted instruments, it’s commonly believed that the halfway point along the string is an octave, but this is true only of the harmonic on the open string; pressing the string down onto the fretboard or fingerboard stretches it and raises the pitch slightly, so the octave fret is a bit shy of the halfway point to compensate for this.

Scale-A scale is a sequence of notes placed in ascending or descending order by step 2. a group of pitch-classes arranged in ascending or descending order. E.g., take the pc-set G, C#, A, F#, D, B, E and arrange it as E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E (with E as tonic) and you have an E Dorian scale.

scan to get the meter of the lyrics to agree with the meter of the melody (for some of the terminology, see foot). For instance, the beginning of "Candlemas Eve" (see herbs) doesn’t scan if you apply the ordinary accenting of the words: "Down with the rosemary and baysDown with the mistletoe..." However, the trick is that "rosemary" is pronounced "rosemarie" in the song. That makes it scan nicely, with the accents falling like this (the apostrophes indicate the downbeats): "Down’ with’ the’ rose’ mar’-y’ and’ bays’Down’ with’ the’ mis’-tle’-toe’..." See foot for other examples of meter in lyrics. Scansion is every which way in traditional music, often because the singers didn’t know or care how it worked, though they sometimes inserted nonsense syllables to accommodate scanning. Often, a magical effect is produced in the best of the big ballads, as in the great "Matty Groves", in which Lord Arlen has discovered Matty in bed with his wife. You can almost see Matty’s apprehension from the lumpy scansion: "I won’t get up, I shan’t get up,I won’t get up for my life,For you have two of the finest swords,And I not so much as a knife." And immediately the scanning returns to normal to portray Arlen’s icy menace: "It’s true I have two beaten swords,And they cost me deep in the purse.You shall have the better of them,And I shall take the worst." And, of course: There was a songwriter named Dan,Whose lyrics just never would scan.He said, "I do fineUntil the last line, And then I always try to cram as much into it as I possibly can."

scansion (n.) the principle of getting lyrics to scan.

scat singing the jazz technique of substituting nonsense syllables for song lyrics (oodlee aw bop doo wah...). Compare with mouth music, diddling.

Scheintonarten. (Schenker: see foregound-keys)

Scherzando-literally- joking or jesting. Played in a light-hearted manner.

Scherzo-A scherzo is a light-hearted movement found from the early 17th century in various forms, but used by Beethoven as an alternative to the minuet in symphonies, sonatas and other instrumental forms. Chopin expanded the form very considerably. The diminutive scherzino or scherzetto is occasionally found, while scherzando occurs as a direction to performers. The scherzo, like the minuet, is generally used to frame a trio section of contrasted material.

Scherzoso-in a light-hearted manner.

Schicht. (Schenker: layer or level) a level of compositional structure other than the Ursatz.

schottische (Ger., "Scottish", pron. in English "shotteesh") two-in- a-measure round dance. One of many types of country dancing. Occasionally called the "German polka".

scop Old English bard.

Score-A musical score is written music that shows all parts. A conductor's score, for example, may have as many as thirty different simultaneous instrumental parts on one page, normally having the woodwind at the top, followed below by the brass, the percussion and the strings. A distinction is made between a vocal score, which gives voice parts with a simplified two-stave version of any instrumental parts, and a full score, which includes all vocal and instrumental parts generally on separate staves. To score a work is to write it out in score. A symphony, for example, might be sketched in short score, on two staves, and later orchestrated or scored for the required instruments.

Scotch snap see Scots snap.

Scots snap an ornament so often used in Scottish music that its presence practically ensures the origin of the tune. Aka "Scotch snap". It consists of a short note immediately followed by a longer one, or vice versa. In notation (usually), a sixteenth followed by a dotted eighth, or vice versa. In "My Bonny Lassy", for instance, the Scots snap occurs on "heart are" and "pounding" in the first line "Drums in my heart are pounding". (This is set to the tune of "Scotland the Brave". If you ever see a pipe band in a news clip, they will be playing either "Scotland the Brave" or "Amazing Grace". That’s the news clip for ya.)

Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832) the famous poet was attracted to traditional ballad styles, and these influenced a great deal of his work. He’s known to traddies for his tasteful rewrites, such as "Bonnie Dundee" and the reworking of "John of Hazelgreen" ( Child 293) into "Jock of Hazeldean". His works on traditional songs, such as "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", are widely quoted throughout the Child collection. One of the most beautifully-written ballads in all of folk music is "The Wife of Usher’s Well" ( Child 79). The particular version in question (Child’s "A", one of many, some not so good) is taken from Scott’s "Minstrelsy". It’s interesting to speculate whether or not Scott had a hand in rewriting it. It takes a special touch to produce lyrics of such power and beauty while keeping the traditional aspects, and Scott was a master at this.

scraper a rhythm instrument consisting of a piece of wood or other material with a series of notches in it; a rod is drawn back and forth across it.

scratch band (also "pickup band") a band put together on the spot from any musicians who are available. They’re often extraordinarily good. Since most large get-togethers eventually lead to country dancing, scratch bands are the norm.

scratch team a morris side put together in the same way as a scratch band.

Scruggs style a distinctive clawhammer banjo style, also called "Scruggs picking" and named after Scruggs, Earl. Fingerpicks on the thumb and first two fingers ( three finger picking) facilitate the rapid, complex picking patterns. It’s distinct from frailing, an old-timey banjo style.

Scruggs tuner a cam that can be adjusted to press on a banjo string near the tuning peg, allowing rapid tuning changes for particular styles of playing.

Scruggs, Earl (1924- ) North Carolina bluegrass banjo player who played with Monroe, Bill until he and Flatt, Lester left to form a group, the Foggy Mountain Boys, in 1948. They recorded many traditional bluegrass and mountain tunes from the 50s to the present, becoming known as Flatt and Scruggs along the way. The intricate and flowing Scruggs style set new standards for the banjo. The two tunes Flatt & Scruggs may be most remembered for are "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from the film "Bonny and Clyde" and the theme from "The Beverley Hillbillies".

Scruggs, Randy son of Scruggs, Earl. With brother Gary, he made albums of up-tempo folk and bluegrass in the early 70s, using guitar, voice, and banjo.

seanachie (pron. "shawn-a-kee". Also "shanachie") 1. Irish for storyteller, usually in the sense of someone entrusted to pass on a community’s oral tradition. 2. A US record label that specialises in folk recordings.

Sebastian, John (1944- ) singer-songwriter-guitarist and a veteran of the Greenwich Village 60s folk scene. He left the Even Dozen Jug Band to form the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1965. Since then, he has made many appearances and continues to perform. He has also written film scores.

second 1. The second note of the scale, counting inclusively; for instance, the note D in the key of C. 2. An interval consisting of two notes one whole tone apart; for instance, C to D.

second guitar usually, a guitarist supporting a vocalist who is also playing guitar. Generally, the second guitar plays lead, although it could also be rhythm chords. Lead guitar is sometimes called single string playing (even if chords get played as well).

second species. counterpoint in which the rhythm is 2:1, e.g., eighth notes against quarters.

secondary leading-tone. [1,3] the leading-tone of a note in the key other than tonic.

secondary-dominant. a dominant of a diatonic chord other than tonic.

secondary-set. (Babbitt) (set-theory, linear) a twelve tone row formed from the first hexachord of one set-form(1) combined with the second hexachord of another set-form where the two are combinatorial.

second-inversion. a tertian chord whose fifth is in the bass.

secundal. anything that can be arranged in seconds (interval-class).

Seeger, Charles (1886-1979) eminent folklorist, father of Mike, Peggy, and Pete. A favorite quote from one of his works, in which he discussed the meaning of "folk" and the folkies’ relation to them: "...thus, musically speaking, the people of the United States are divided into two classes: a majority that does not know it is folk; a minority that thinks it isn’t." He collected many of his writings in a book, "Studies of a Musicologist, 1935-75".

Seeger, Mike (1933- ) the brother of Pete. As a member of the New Lost City Ramblers, and a multi-instrumentalist, Mike brought old-timey music, blues, ballads, and every kind of American traditional music to a huge audience during (and long after) the folk revival of the 60s. He has also made a tremendous effort to locate many fine traditional musicians who would otherwise never have had wide exposure, and brought many to the audiences of major festivals. He is on several record labels, including Folkways, Mercury, Vanguard, etc.

Seeger, Peggy (1935- ) the sister of Pete and Mike Seeger. She has played piano, guitar, and banjo since she was a child, and in 1956 she went to England to appear in a TV production, where she met {MacColl, Ewan}, whom she later married. They toured together, and produced the famous "radio-ballads" for the BBC. She has recorded dozens of LPs of traditional and contemporary songs, both solo and with Ewan or others. As a songwriter, her best-known work (other than the songs co-authored with Ewan, such as "Ballad of Springhill") is "I’m Gonna Be an Engineer".

Seeger, Pete (1919- ) Arlo Guthrie wrote in 1992, "You can’t put in words what Pete taught us all." In any event, it’s impossible to describe even the mechanics of Pete’s contribution to traditional and contemporary folk music in one tiny entry, but we’ll have to make do: Pete travelled widely in the 30s and 40s with people like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, singing American traditional songs of all types, and in the process, popularizing the banjo and 12-string guitar as folk instruments. He joined the Almanac Singers, People’s Songs and the Weavers; in the late 50s he set out on his illustrious solo career. He is also a superb songwriter. Some of his best work includes "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (the version we know is Pete’s original, but with verses 4 and 5 from Hickerson, Joe), "If I Had a Hammer" (with Lee Hays), and "Turn, Turn, Turn" (a setting of words from Ecclesiastes). His song from the late 60s called "Waist-deep in the Big Muddy" was a rather strong putdown of Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam war, and probably kept him off commercial TV (but see Rainbow Quest). He has written extensively for Sing Out! ("Appleseeds") and has published a number of books, such as "The Incompleat Folksinger", "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", and "Henscratches and Flyspecks". Perhaps no other person has had such a profound effect in stimulating interest in traditional and contemporary folk music. Truly a legend in his own time.

segment. [1,4] (set-theory, linear) a contiguous part of a series.

segmental-invariance. (set-theory, linear) a contiguous part of an ordered-set that remains constant after a transformation.

segmentation. (set-theory, linear) the division of a twelve-tone-row into 2, 3, or 4, etc. segments, normally of equal length.