An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section S2)

Segovia, Andres (1893-1987) Segovia was a famous 20th-century Spanish classical guitarist. He was self-taught, and literally revolutionized the classical guitar and its repertoire, particularly in his transcriptions of the works of Bach. His name has become a term for excellence in guitar playing, or it can be used ironically; for example, saying to a guitarist who has just blown a few clams, "Nice going, Segovia."

segue (pron. "seg-way") literally, "to follow". One piece ending and another immediately beginning would be a segue. A medley is a series of segues.

Seguidilla-The seguidilla or seguidillas is a fairly quick triple-metre Spanish dance. There is a famous imitation of the form in Carmen's seguidilla in the first act of Bizet's opera Carmen.

Seldom Scene a bluegrass, or if you prefer, newgrass group formed in 1971 by the Country Gentlemen’s John Duffey. Popular through festival appearances and recordings.

semi-acoustic see acoustic.

semibreve see notation, British.

semi-combinatorial set. (Babbitt) (set-theory, linear) "a set so constructed that one of its transformations other than that of the retrograde can be transposed so that its first six notes are equivalent with regard to content, to the last six notes of the original set."

Semi-opera-The term semi-opera has been coined to describe the English dramatic works of the later 17th century that combined spoken drama with a significant element of music, as in Purcell's King Arthur, with a text by Dryden, or in the same composer's The Fairy Queen, an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

semiquaver see notation, British.

semitone one-half of a whole tone. Each fret on a guitar, banjo or mandolin is a semitone. There are 12 semitones in an octave, and in the major scale of C, they occur between E and F, B and C. A semitone up is a sharp and a semitone down is a flat. The pitch increase for a semitone is about 1.0595 in our common equal-tempered scale, and the pitch decrease for a flat is the reciprocal, about 0.9438. See also cent, twelfth root of two. In older scale systems, the semitone was derived from the harmonic series; see temperament for further references.

semitone. the smallest interval in the chromatic-scale. In equal-temperament it is mathematically tuned to the twelfth root of 2.


Sempre-Sempre (Italian: always) is found in directions to performers, as in sempre piano, always soft.

Senza-Senza (Italian: without) is found in directions to performers, particularly in phrases such as senza sordino, without mute.

Septet-A septet is a composition for seven players or the name for a group of seven players.

Serenade-A serenade (= German: Serenade, Ständchen) is often similar in form to the divertimento. Etymologically a piece for evening performance, usually outdoors, the counterpart of the morning Aubade, the title came to have a much more general meaning, although it often suggests a piece of music in honour of someone or something, an extension of the traditional performance of a lover beneath the window of his mistress.

serial. (set-theory, linear) a compositional type consisting of a fixed order of elements.

Serialism-Serialism is the important 20th century compositional technique that uses, as a basis of unity, a series of the twelve semitones of the octave in a certain order, which may then be taken in retrograde form, in inversion and in retrograde inversion, and also in transposition. The technique, an extension of late romantic chromaticism, was formulated by Arnold Schoenberg in the 1920s followed by his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern, and thereafter by many other composers. Problems arise for the listener in the difficulty of hearing the series, however visually apparent from the written score.

series. (set-theory, linear) syn: row, ordered-set. a linear order, usually an ordering of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale.


session man see sideman.

set any performance on stage - it usually consists of a set of songs about 30 to 60 minutes in length. Most folk clubs feature one or more short (three song) guest sets or an opening act by the residents, followed by two one-hour sets by the featured performer.

set. 1. a collection of things; 2. (Babbitt) (set-theory, linear) an ordering of the twelve tones; 3. (set-theory, nonlinear) a group of pcs.

set-aspect. (Perle) (set-theory, linear) one of the four transformations: P,R,I,RI.

set-complex. 1. (Babbitt) (set-theory, linear) the 48 forms, including transpositions, of a twelve tone row. 2. (set-theory, nonlinear) see set-complex-k.

set-complex-K. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear) a set of sets associated by virtue of the inclusion (subset) relation with a nexus-set or to its complement.

set-complex-Kh. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear) a special subcomplex of the set-complex-K in which each set bears the inclusion (subset) relation with the nexus-set and its complement.

set-theory. (Forte, Babbitt, et al) theory dealing with the relations existing between pitch-class sets. Set-theory divides into two categories: 1. nonlinear set-theory is that which deals with pc-sets where temporal order is not relevant, such as in chords. Allen Forte is the primary authority in the field, especially in his The Structure of Atonal Music (Yale: 1973). It is essentially a generalization of the principles of traditional harmony to include post tonal harmony; 2. linear-set theory deals with those sets whose temporal order is essential. Milton Babbitt is the primary authority in this field. It is concerned with tone-rows, their properties, and compositional treatment.

seventh 1. The seventh note of the scale, counting inclusively; for example, in the key of C the seventh is B. 2. The interval formed by playing two notes a seventh apart. In this case the term refers to a flatted seventh; for instance, C to Bb. If the upper note is not flatted, the interval is called a "major seventh". 3. A chord formed by adding a flatted seventh to a major chord; for example, C7 contains the notes C-E-G-Bb.

seventh chord.a tertian chord consisting of a root, third, fifth and seventh. It is an extension of the basic triad by adding the seventh.

Sextet-A sextet is a composition for six players or the name of a group of six players.

Sforzando-with sudden accent.

shades dark glasses worn indoors by performers unable to go the distance.

shake see trill.

Shakers a religious sect, an offshoot of the Quakers, who left Manchester to travel to Massachusetts in the late 18th century. They formed communities all over New England, with a few as far west as Ohio. Their way of life was ascetic and isolationist, together with the philosophy that everything should be done as perfectly as possible while retaining simplicity. Their beautiful style of furniture has been endlessly copied and is a popular type of reproduction cabinetry today. They wound down in the late-19th century, and by the early 20th, only a handful remained in New England. The name comes from "shaking Quakers", a reference to the intensity of their religious ceremonies. The formal name is "United Society of Believers". Many of their songs can be found in traditional songbooks, with the best-known being "Simple Gifts". Aaron Copland (1900-1990) included it in his orchestral "Appalachian Spring", and Carter, Sydney used it as the basis of his "Lord of the Dance". It is currently popular as the theme music of many TV programs and commercials, which some might consider to be a case of hijacking. The lines are always worth a quote: "Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free,Tis a gift to come down to where we ought to be..."

shanties there is some discussion whether it should be a "shanty" (also "shantey") song (the forecastle of a ship was called a shanty) or a "chantey" (since they are, after all, chants). There are three main types of shanties. Capstan shanty: a capstan is a large drum used to wind up the anchor chain. The men walking around it to wind it up sang a smooth, flowing song to pace themselves. Halyard, pulling, short-drag, or rope shanty: pulling on the many sailing ship ropes to adjust the sails required a song with sharply punctuated rhythm to coordinate the effort. Forecastle shanty: (mispronounced (aren’t all sailor terms?) as "foke-sul") songs the sailors might have sung when they were just hanging around, which they did a lot of. Another name for this is "forebitter". The "bits" were large wooden protusions used for belaying ropes, and on which the sailors presumably sat when off-duty. Today’s performances of shanties are rather up-tempo and elaborate. At the time the songs were used for their intended purposes, they may have been rather rough, and probably were considerably more bawdy than the present versions. They were probably also slower, since their purpose is pacing. Shanties are generally performed unaccompanied, although the contemporaneous accounts mention fiddlers setting the pace. The concertina is often depicted as an instrument sailors used, but there’s some doubt if this was true; concertinas were expensive and their steel reeds prone to rust.

shape note a medieval system in which the time value was indicated by the shape of the note body. See also sacred harp, in which the system survives.

shape see chord shape.

sharp 1. (v.) To increase a note’s pitch by one semitone, the smallest precise unit in the musical scale (but see cent, microtone). 2. (n.) The symbol for a sharp, which looks like a "#" and is placed on music notation to indicate the key or a note that’s to be sharped. See also double sharp.


Sharp, Cecil (1859-1924) English folklorist, collector of over 5,000 songs, ballads and many morris dances. He also collected songs in the Appalachian regions. His collections are considered to have saved English folksong from oblivion. He wrote that in the 1880s, " was generally assumed that we had no folk songs of our own." (See the last part of collectors for comments on this.) He was the source of the morris tune Country Gardens, which he collected and gave to Grainger, Percy for arranging. With Herbert MacIlwaine, he published "The Morris Book" (1906), descriptions of and notations for various Cotswold morris dances. Cecil Sharp House in London was dedicated to his memory, and serves as the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society ( EFDSS). He was the founder of the "dance" part, and it was integrated with the already-existing folksong society. See also Karpeles, Maud.

Sharp-A sharp, represented by the sign #, added before a note, raises its pitch by a semitone. In general terms music that is sharp may be simply out of tune, at too high a pitch.

sharped a note increased in pitch by one semitone. See also sharp. Its opposite is flatted. Sometimes seen as "sharpened", which sounds a little odd.

shawm a medieval woodwind instrument somewhat like the oboe.

Shea, Red (pron. "Shay") Red Shea played lead guitar for Lightfoot (see Lightfoot, Gordon) for years, both on stage and on recordings. His fluid, inventive, complex fingerpicking is a source of amazement and inspiration to guitarists of all skill levels.

sheene see shoon.

shielen (Scot.) small house, hut.

shilling 1. In the old and new British systems, a coin equal to one-twentieth of a pound. 2. In the old recruiting methods in the UK, the acceptance of the King’s (or Queen’s) shilling from a recruiter was the equivalent of signing yourself into the military. See anti-recruiting songs. There is a story that beer tankards sometimes have glass bottoms so that the drinker could see if the recruiter’s shilling had been slipped into the beer. Since the glass bottom is also said to be for revealing an armed opponent coming at you, the story has to be considered fanciful until someone comes up with evidence.

Shines, Johnny (1915- ) a Mississippi bluesman who also plays the electric Chicago style, and plays country blues on the folk festival and club circuit. Johnson, Robert was a close friend and they travelled extensively together; Johnny said in an interview that they never played together in public - when busking, they would go their separate ways and meet later. He has recorded extensively for Biograph and Testament.

ship of the line the sail-powered warships of times past weren’t too maneuverable, so naval battles used to be setpiece affairs, with one line of ships sailing past another and blasting away. The largest battleships (such as a 98) were at the head of the line, and because of this were known as "capital ships".

shithot musicians said to be shithot have such technical skill and inventiveness that they have arrived, they command awe, and they may become gaffers. An accolade equivalent to knighthood. On the other hand, musical brilliance may not hold audiences for long. A traddie may remark to a baffled neophyte "Well, sure, he’s shithot, but he sucks", which may refer to stage manner or general attitude, or perhaps something indefinable.

shoon (UK, also "shone", "schon", "sheene") shoes.

shore (UK) often part of the name of a mine, as in "Walker Shore", from the song "Byker Hill".

short octave from the late 1400s to the mid-1600s, organs were often made with a lowest octave that omitted sharps and flats, although it didn’t omit the black keys - there were five white keys and three blacks for the notes of the octave. They saved a bundle of money on pipes and the associated mechanisms. Little harm was done to the music, since the organs of the time were tuned in a temperament that limited the number of keys anyway.

short-drag see shanties.

shuffle 1. A repeated rhythmic figure used as fill, usually behind a vocal to avoid sounding intrusively busy. Also used as an intro by fiddlers - a simple, rapid rhythm on one string might be used to lead in to a tune. 2. A dance step in clogging.

shuttle a polished piece of wood like a miniature boat, thrown from one end of a manual loom to the other to carry the thread across the fabric.

sibilance sound systems with excessive treble response will over-emphasize the "s" or "ch" sounds, producing a hissing sound called sibilance. Rock mixers seem to like it.

siccan (Scot.) such a, as in "siccan sight it ne’er was seen".

Siciliana-The siciliana or siciliano (= French: sicilienne) had its probable origin in a Sicilian shepherd dance or song. It came to be associated in the later 17th century with the pastoral, particularly in the Christmas Concerto of the period. The siciliana is normally in compound dotted rhythm and is slow and sometimes melancholy in mood.

side drum a drum just large enough to be carried at the side of the drummer, used widely in parades, etc. Fairly bassy in tone, it’s also popular for song accompaniment.

side in general, a morris team. Specifically, the minimum set of dancers required for a dance, usually six (although there are dances for eight). Twelve dancers would perform a dance as two sides.

Side-drum-The side-drum or snare drum is military in origin. It is a small drum, played with two wooden sticks, with a band of gut strings or wires that can be stretched across the under-surface of the drum to add a rattling effect when it is struck.

sideman (also "session man") someone of either sex who accompanies the main singer or group on a recording. The term includes both support vocals and instrumental work. Good sidemen are held in a certain amount of awe for their virtuosity. See Shea, Red.

sight reading reading music notation. Usually, it refers to the ability to sing a melody directly from notation.

Silber, Irwin (1925- ) in the late 40s, Irwin began working with the new People’s Songs and the People’s Songs Bulletin. When this closed, it was decided to start another magazine called Sing Out! and the first issue was in 1950 with Irwin as editor. He continued in that position until 1967. Together with Asch, Moses he co-founded Oak Publications. He has written or edited many books on folk music and folklore.

silkie (Scot.) seal. In the seal legends, the silkie is often half-man, half-seal, or a seal in the water and a man on land; see skerry.

siller (Scot.) silver.

silver-headed pin see pin.

Silverstein, Shel (1932- ) cartoonist, author of children’s books, and a superb songwriter. Other artists have recorded many of his songs, including "The Unicorn", "25 Minutes to Go", "A Boy Named Sue", "Susan’s Floor", and countless others. He has also written clever parodies of folk songs, including one about a train that "got there on time and it did not crash." (See train songs if the joke is lost.)

similarity-relations. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear) ways in which two non-equivalent sets of the same cardinality may be compared. Forte describes three basic types of maximum similarity relations, when two sets have all but one pc in common (after transposition). However, he regards this first type, Rp, to be less significant than two other relationships that are more particular in regard to ic. Both have the same interval content (IV) in four out of six IV positions. The remaining two numbers may be interchanged (R1) or they may not be interchanged (R2). In Larry Solomon's Music Analysis System (1976) R1=is symbolised X and R2=is symbolised O; see also Solomon's R-relation.

similar-motion. part-writing in which two voices move in the same direction.

Simile-to continue to do something in the same way it was formerly notated such as pedaling or stacattos.

Simon & Garfunkel Paul Simon (1942- ) and Art Garfunkel (1942- ) made their first recording of pop-rock music in 1957 ("Hey! School Girl") as Tom and Jerry. After some time spent in the folk revival scene, they (as Simon & Garfunkel) made "Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.", an acoustic folk-oriented album for Columbia that included the song "Sounds of Silence". In 1965, Paul recorded "The Paul Simon Songbook", an acoustic collection of his compositions. Later that year, Tom Wilson, a producer with Columbia, added electric tracks to "Sounds of Silence", and its success led to folk-oriented but pop-arranged albums, with many of the songs re-arranged from the "Songbook" album. Paul’s folk influences can be heard in the songs he learned during a stay in England, such as the traditional "Scarborough Fair" (from Carthy, Martin) and "Angie" (from Graham, Davey).

simple meter a time signature with two beats per measure, such as 2/8, 2/4, or 2/2, or three beats per measure, such as 3/2, ¾, or 3/8, or four beats per measure, such as 4/8 or 4/4. Multiples of these (6/8, 12/8) indicates compound meter.

simple rhythm the same rhythm under one time signature throughout all or part of a work. Opposite polyrhythm, polymeter.

simple-interval. an interval of an octave or less.

simple-meter. a meter that is not subdivided into units of three.

simultaneity. all pitches sounding at the same time.

sine-tone. [1,4] a pitch having a fundamental but no overtones; the simplest sound.

Sinfonia concertante-The sinfonia concertante is a concerto that uses two or more solo instruments. The title was used in the later 18th century by Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries, and has occasionally been used by composers since then.

Sinfonia-Sinfonia (Italian: symphony) in earlier usage indicated a passage or piece of instrumental music, sometimes an introductory piece, leading later to the Italian overture, known as the sinfonia before the opera, the origin of the Italian symphony.

Sinfonietta-A sinfonietta is a small symphony. The word is sometimes used to indicate a small orchestra.

Sing Out! the premier magazine about folk music, started in 1950 (with editor Irwin Silber and a new song on the cover - "If I Had a Hammer") and now (1994) more successful than ever, with the latest issue being 152 pages. Features articles, songs, how-to-play tutorials, bios of folk musicians, reviews, calendars, etc. See also Rise Up Singing. Its predecessor was "The People’s Songs Bulletin", founded by, among others, Seeger, Pete and Guthrie, Woody. See also People’s Songs. In SO’s early years, contributors included Pete, Woody, Walter Lowenfels, Lomax, Alan, Betty Sanders, Reynolds, Malvina and many more. Woody Guthrie was quoted as saying that there’s more good stuff on one page of Sing Out! than "all the dopey, dreamy junk dished up from the Broadways of the world."

singaround a get-together at a house or club for the purpose of individual and/or group singing. Also called "song circle" or "round robin", since the singing tends to go around the room in a circle. Singarounds are extremely popular at present (1994) and seem to be the counterpart to the many folk clubs and coffeehouses of the 60s and 70s. If there’s an emphasis on instruments, it may be called a jam session or just jam. There are no formal rules, although being a slave to a songbook or lyric sheet is frowned on (see Rise Up Singing). Some singer’s circles don’t like instruments, but this is usually made clear to begin with.

single string (also "single-string") to play melodic parts on a stringed instrument, usually as lead, as opposed to chording. Not that the occasional chord doesn’t get in there as well.