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#1607247 - 01/28/11 08:38 AM Two peeves about terminology  
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I have two current peeves about current terminology that I see in these forums and elsewhere. Am I marching to my own drum or might other readers agree with me?

1. "Scalar" According to my Shorter Oxford dictionary, and a Google search for "define:scalar", this word usually means a number, or a mathematical quantity that has only magnitude. The "wordnet" site from Princeton also has the definition "of or relating to a musical scale", but this is the only site to offer this, and does not offer a date of first use.

It seems to me that "scale" is always the proper word to be used, as in "here is a scale (-based) passage" vs. ".. scalar passage".

Why appropriate a word from another usage with a totally different meaning when the usual word "scale" will always serve adequately? To me, "scalar" sounds wrong and pompous when used in a musical context to mean a scale passage.
(btw I have a degree in maths so I know what the mathematical use of "scalar" does mean).


2. "Song" WHY DO SO MANY PPL CALL EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC A SONG???
A "Song" conventionally is a work of music for one or a few voices. For many voices it becomes a "chorus". If no voices are used then it is ipso facto an instrumental work, and can be referred to generically as a "work" , a "piece", an "opus", or specifically by whatever title the composer has given it (prelude, album leaf, impromptu, concerto, symphony, intermzzeo, rhapsody, etude, etc etc )

It really annoys me to see for example the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth called a "song"! ARGH!

OK! </rant> what do you think?


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#1607273 - 01/28/11 09:33 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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I say scalic to distinguish from the mathematical definition of scalar.

#1607274 - 01/28/11 09:34 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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“Scalar” as an adjective, avoids the dreary long-winded “ close sequence of notes in major and minor musical scales" ... most of us enjoy use of “scalar” in referring to Bach’s WTCs .

Your other beef is largely an “age” thing ... the younger generation talk of “songs” ... until they learn the Pianist Corner lore of springing an opus number (better still adding the genre, movement and measure) ... whenever I hear Beethoven’s 9th called a song, Sherlock Holmes identifies a teenager ... why not welcome them to the club?

#1607280 - 01/28/11 09:45 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Why appropriate a word from another usage with a totally different meaning when the usual word "scale" will always serve adequately? To me, "scalar" sounds wrong and pompous when used in a musical context to mean a scale passage.

Not to me, I've used it for a very long time.



"Song" WHY DO SO MANY PPL CALL EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC A SONG???

I agree with you there.


... one more thing, and completely unrelated, I find it extremely annoying when people yell, whistle and jeer instead of simply applauding to express their approval for a performance ... as long as we're ranting here. smile



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#1607292 - 01/28/11 10:06 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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You say ee-ther And I say eye-ther
You say nee-ther And I say ny-ther;
Ee-ther, eye-ther, Nee-ther, ny-ther, ...
Let’s call the whole thing off!

Thank you brothers George and Ira.

#1607294 - 01/28/11 10:08 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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If the performer deserves it I will applaud and cheer quite enthusiastically every once in a while. I certainly appreciate it when I'm the performer lol

#1607391 - 01/28/11 12:01 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Neither "scalar" or "scalic" exists in any music dictionary (print or on-line) that I have seen, although I still use "scalar" regularly instead of "scale-like;" I think many musicians do.

"Song" for every musical form undoubtedly comes from on-line music sources such as YouTube and iTunes. Since youth nowadays listens to and buys much - if not most - of their music from downloads, it's not surprising that the term has become ubiquitous among the younger, in spite of its total lack of precision and meaning.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 01/28/11 12:02 PM.

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#1607394 - 01/28/11 12:03 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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I just say "scale passage"



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#1607409 - 01/28/11 12:17 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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It doesn't need to. Dictionaries record usage, they don't proscribe it ;-). I've seen scalic in a number of musical journals but I've used it myself for ages. Its formation is grammatically correct so I see no reason why I shouldn't use it just cos it's not in a dictionary.

#1607415 - 01/28/11 12:26 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Since songs must be sung, why can't the final movement of Beethoven's 9th be, technically, a song? I agree that a piece that has no singing shouldn't be labeled a song, but when it does, calling it a song is really not erroneous. In this particular case, it was the first time a composer melded a symphony with a large chorus and soloists, so it's correct to call it both a "song" and a "symphony".


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#1607429 - 01/28/11 12:42 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Dont forget that once upon a time there were only two types of pieces. Sonatas and cantatas. Pieces that were played and pieces that were sung.

#1607439 - 01/28/11 12:54 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Neither "scalar" or "scalic" exists in any music dictionary (print or on-line) that I have seen, although I still use "scalar" regularly instead of "scale-like;" I think many musicians do.

The OED traces the musical sense of scalar to the early part of the 20th century, so that is almost as well established as the mathematical meaning, which dates to the mid-19th century. Interestingly, the oldest and original meaning of "scalar" was "like a ladder" (17th century). Scalic is also defined in OED as relating to musical scales. The earliest citation is 1933, so it's almost as old as the documented musical sense of scalar (1928).


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#1607441 - 01/28/11 12:55 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Are you serious? Not to be mean, but it's posts like these that leave me feeling like there is no place for me on these message boards. I am, what I would call, a "serious pianist for pleasure." I have played the piano since I was 8 years old and I'm now in my mid 30's. I play the piano every single day. I do not consider myself an adult beginner, although I relate much more to the tone and feeling of that forum than this one. I wish I could come here to gain insight, yet all I feel is judgement, condescension, and egotism over here. Please, I wish there was a middle forum for people like me. We could call it "amateur enthusiasts." Basically, pianist's corner without the pomp.

MM

#1607458 - 01/28/11 01:19 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: mathmom]  
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Originally Posted by mathmom
Are you serious? Not to be mean, but it's posts like these that leave me feeling like there is no place for me on these message boards.

mathmom: There is sometimes too much judgment and pomp on this forum. But, to be honest, I don't see it on this particular thread. The tone seems perfectly friendly. Maybe this kind of nit-picking ("song" vs. "piece", OED-based digging into "scalar") isn't your cup of tea, and that's fine-- not everyone is so "notation-nerdy". Personally I happen to love it, and I hope I never discuss it in anything but a fun, non-condescending way.

As for the OP: You'll get plenty of sympathy here on "song"; it's been discussed many times before. But you'll get little sympathy on "scalar". So what if it's used in mathematics in a completely different way? Mathematicians also have their own precise definitions for "normal", "connected", and "compact", but there's no confusion with the everyday use of these words. smile

-Jason



Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#1607522 - 01/28/11 02:50 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: packa]  
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Originally Posted by packa
Originally Posted by BruceD
Neither "scalar" or "scalic" exists in any music dictionary (print or on-line) that I have seen, although I still use "scalar" regularly instead of "scale-like;" I think many musicians do.

The OED traces the musical sense of scalar to the early part of the 20th century, so that is almost as well established as the mathematical meaning, which dates to the mid-19th century. Interestingly, the oldest and original meaning of "scalar" was "like a ladder" (17th century). Scalic is also defined in OED as relating to musical scales. The earliest citation is 1933, so it's almost as old as the documented musical sense of scalar (1928).


Language is a thing that changes over the years. No one talks like they did a century ago, and the same goes for the previous century. So now if a term that has been used for one thing is being applied to something completely different, how is this a problem? Is anyone confused that they mean math when they're talking scales? There are synonyms all over the place in English, and the only way to discern the meaning is to see the context of the sentence. I don't see that as a problem.


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#1607574 - 01/28/11 03:53 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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"Am I marching to my own drum or might other readers agree with me?"

Yes, some agree. Others disgree. While others, couldn't care less.

I can't speculate what the percentages are, but can only say, try to be tolerant of others. There's nothing you can do to change the world in this thread.


#1607613 - 01/28/11 05:06 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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I use the word scalar quite often to describe a passage of music made up of a scale or scales. If that sounds pompous, egotistic, and condescending, then you've got the wrong idea.


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#1607726 - 01/28/11 08:47 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Originally Posted by Toastburn
WHY DO SO MANY PPL CALL EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC A SONG???


Ahh. One of my pet peeves. Songs are sung, but I'm beginning to think the argument is like [Linked Image]

Sigh.


Best regards,

Deborah
#1607745 - 01/28/11 09:10 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: gooddog]  
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I don't mind "song" so much. It's when a kid leans over the orchestra pit and says "can you dplay that track again?"

#1607747 - 01/28/11 09:13 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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About the scalar thing, I don't really know anything about it.

But about people calling instrumental pieces "songs", I don't ever do it, but that's only because it ticks people off, not because it annoys me or I see anything wrong with it. I understand originally a song was just a piece of music featuring a singer. But language changes. You can't expect a word to mean exactly the same thing for all time. People nowadays use the word "song" to refer to a piece of music. That's what it means now. And personally I think we need a good word for that. Besides, there are so many different kinds of music that it gets tricky if you restrict the meaning of song to a piece of music with a singer. What about choral music, or music with choir and soloist? What about rap? What if you're just playing the instrumental accompaniment for a song - isn't that part of the song? What if you're playing an instrumental arrangement of a song - does it suddenly cease to be a song? What if there aren't words - if it's just humming? It's not as simple as sonata/cantata anymore.

#1607752 - 01/28/11 09:31 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]  
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Originally Posted by WinsomeAllegretto
I understand originally a song was just a piece of music featuring a singer. But language changes. You can't expect a word to mean exactly the same thing for all time. People nowadays use the word "song" to refer to a piece of music. That's what it means now. And personally I think we need a good word for that.
So what are we going to call one of those pieces for voice and piano written by Schubert, Schumann, Faure, Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Granados, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Copland, Barber? Those pieces which we used to call "songs"? Do we now have to call them "pieces for voice and piano"? "Song" was a perfectly good specific word for these gems of the repertoire.

*sigh*


Du holde Kunst...
#1607760 - 01/28/11 09:52 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]  
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Originally Posted by WinsomeAllegretto
I understand originally a song was just a piece of music featuring a singer. But language changes. You can't expect a word to mean exactly the same thing for all time....

This is true, meanings do change. But that hasn't happened with "song" yet, not in the classical community. By and large, almost all serious, knowledgeable classical musicians today use "song" only for sung music. If you call the Moonlight sonata a song, you will sound inexperienced and uneducated, fairly or not.

It's like using "ain't" in a job interview: people will start making assumptions about your education and level of sophistication. Because every word we use carries with it, like an aura, all of these implications and associations that go far beyond the dictionary definition of the word. In the case of "song", this isn't a snobbish thing or a bad thing. smile

-Jason



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#1607782 - 01/28/11 10:43 PM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Play me that Moe's art song that has them scalicky riffs, and I ain't taking no for an answer!

#1607812 - 01/29/11 12:53 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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Let's abolish the use of scalar in musical contexts, and instead start using scalene.

Seriously, I agree with the OP -- scalar outside of math does sound strange. Scale works fine as an adjective in my book.

Another term that's jarring when used non-mathematically is common denominator.

#1607821 - 01/29/11 01:14 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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All this scalar, scalic, scalene ... sound very fishy!!

#1607829 - 01/29/11 01:33 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Ferdinand]  
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Originally Posted by Ferdinand
Let's abolish the use of scalar in musical contexts, and instead start using scalene.

Seriously, I agree with the OP -- scalar outside of math does sound strange. Scale works fine as an adjective in my book.

Another term that's jarring when used non-mathematically is common denominator.

"scale passage" sounds terrible to me. smile I much prefer "scalar passage".

But there's no reason to think we all will agree on terminology any more than on composers or pianists....

-J



Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#1607833 - 01/29/11 01:37 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: btb]  
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Originally Posted by btb
All this scalar, scalic, scalene ... sound very fishy!!
A red herring, I think, btb...


Du holde Kunst...
#1607841 - 01/29/11 02:03 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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The big question is

why does a herring turn “red” when fried? ... and served with mash potatoes ... yum!!
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#1607845 - 01/29/11 02:11 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: Toastburn]  
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If they're french, call them melodies, if theyre german call them lieder, if theyre english call them english song. Context will help.

#1607848 - 01/29/11 02:24 AM Re: Two peeves about terminology [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425
Originally Posted by Ferdinand
Let's abolish the use of scalar in musical contexts, and instead start using scalene.

Seriously, I agree with the OP -- scalar outside of math does sound strange. Scale works fine as an adjective in my book.

Another term that's jarring when used non-mathematically is common denominator.

"scale passage" sounds terrible to me. smile I much prefer "scalar passage".

But there's no reason to think we all will agree on terminology any more than on composers or pianists....

-J


How do you feel about "octave passage" or "broken chord passage" ?

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