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Glossary

Acoustics – The science that deals with the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound.

Action – The mechanism in a piano that connects the keys to the strings.

Antisemitism – Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

Arpeggio – The notes of a chord played consecutively, usually in quick succession.

Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) – A prolific German composer and organist. His sacred and secular compositions for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments are considered among the greatest and most moving works of European art.

Ballad – A narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing.

Ballade – A musical composition, usually for piano, suggesting an epic poetic ballad.

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827) – A German composer of classical music, widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers. Beethoven lived mostly in Vienna, Austria, and continued composing even after he became deaf. His works form a bridge between the classical and romantic eras in music.

Blitzkrieg – A German word meaning “lightning war.”  It refers to the German bombing raids on London that started in September 1940 and continued through May 1941. 

The Blitz – The English abbreviation of the German word Blitzkrieg.

Bystander – A person who, when faced with a situation in which someone needs help, chooses not to get involved.

Cadenza – A passage that allows a soloist to shine while the orchestra remains silent.

Cantor – A synagogue officiant who sings or chants liturgical music and leads the congregation in prayer.

Chopin, Frédéric (1810-1849) – An influential composer, especially for the piano, and Poland’s most famous composer. Chopin's style emphasizes poetry, nuance, and expressiveness. He is considered one of the mainstays of romanticism in 19th-century classical music.

Chord – Three or more musical notes played simultaneously. The use of chords is the foundation for harmony.

Chromatic – A sequence of notes moving up or down by half-steps (i.e., half the distance of whole steps, such as do–re–mi.)

Classical music – Music made in the traditions of European religious and concert music, from roughly 1000 AD to the present day. This is distinct from the classical style in Western music, which rose to prominence from about 1730 to 1820, and in which bright contrasts in melody and harmony were prominent for the first time.

Con brio – A musical term meaning “with energy or spirit.”

Concerto – A musical work written for one or more solo instruments and orchestra.

Debussy, Claude (1862-1918) – A French composer who developed the style often called impressionist music (though he dismissed the term). Debussy’s compositions represent the transition from late-romantic music to 20th-century modernist music.

Debut – First public appearance by a musician.

Ear-training – What musicians do to improve their ability to identify the sounds of different chords, intervals, rhythms, and other elements of music.

Emigrant – An individual who leaves his or her native country permanently.

French resistance – The name used for resistance movements that fought the military occupation of France by Nazi Germany, and fought the undemocratic Vichy regime that controlled most of France after September 1940.

Fugue – A musical composition in which a theme is repeated by voices that enter successively and continue in a woven-together fashion.

Ghetto – The section of a city in which Jews were required to live after antisemitic laws forced them out of their homes. The term also refers to any section of a city where members of a particular minority group live because of social, legal, or economic pressure.

Grieg, Edvard (1843-1907) – A Norwegian composer and pianist who wrote during the romantic period of Western music. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A Minor and for his lyric pieces for the piano.

Hannukah – A Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days, usually in December, to mark the victory of the Jews in the first recorded battle for religious freedom. In 168 BCE, a small army of Jews led by Judah Maccabee overcame the might of their Syrian rulers in a struggle for the right to worship God in their own way. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on a Menorah, on each of the festival’s eight nights—one on the first night, two on the second night, and so on. The exact dates of the holiday are determined by the lunar calendar used in Judaism.

Harmony – The combination of notes to create chords, and the relationship between successive chords.

Herr Professor – In German, when addressing a person it is a mark of respect to add the word “Herr,” or “Mister,” before their profession. For women, the term of respect is “Frau,” meaning “Madam.”

The Holocaust – A Greek word that means “complete destruction by fire.” It refers to the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

Hostel – A supervised institutional residence.

Immigrant – An individual who settles in a foreign country.

Impressionist music – A movement in music occurring from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. As an artistic movement, impressionism sought to convey the atmosphere of an event, place, or thing, rather than a realistic portrayal of the subject itself.

Inspiration – The action or power of moving the intellect or emotions.

Judaism – The Jewish religion, a monotheistic religion based on the laws and teachings of the Torah and the Talmud. Also the Jewish way of life and observance of its morality, traditions, ceremonies, etc.

Kaddish – A prayer that is recited as part of the daily service or as a mourner’s prayer. The prayer praises God and reaffirms a belief in God.

Kind / Kinder – German words meaning "child" and "children."

Kindertransport – A German word meaning “child transport.” This was the name given to the rescue mission that began on December 1, 1938 and continued until shortly after the outbreak of World War II, during which Britain took in nearly 10,000 children from Nazi-occupied Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. Most of the children were Jewish. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms.

Kosher – A term referring to the laws and rules that guide which foods observant Jews may eat and how those foods may be prepared and served.

Kristallnacht – A German term meaning “night of broken glass,” referring to a massive nationwide pogrom in Germany and Austria on the night of November 9, 1938. Jewish citizens were attacked and their homes and stores vandalized in a spasm of violence that portended the events of the Holocaust.

Largo – A musical term meaning “at a very slow tempo.”

Legacy – A gift from one generation to those that follow.

Liebestraum – A German word meaning “dream of love.” Franz Liszt wrote three nocturnes for piano that he called Liebestraűme, or “Dreams of Love.”

Liszt, Franz (1811–1886) – A Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer of some of the most technically challenging piano compositions ever written.

Lyricism – Music that expresses direct personal emotion, especially in the manner of a song. An example is the gentle, melodic section of the Grieg Piano Concerto.

Meistersingerstrasse/Mahlerstrasse – Under the Nazis, street names that referred to Jews were often changed.  So Mahlerstrasse (Mahler Street), named for the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), who was Jewish, was changed to Meistersingerstrasse.  This is a reference to an opera called Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) by German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who was a favorite of the Nazis.

Menorah – A nine-branched candelabrum used in celebrating Hannukah. Eight candles represent the eight days of Hannukah; the ninth is a “servant” candle used to light the others.

Metronome – An instrument designed to mark exact time by a regularly repeated tick.

Mezuzah – A small metal or ceramic tube, containing a small piece of parchment, which is placed on the doorpost of a Jewish home. On the parchment, a quotation from the Bible calls on Jews to make their homes worthy of God’s presence.

Mitzvah – A Hebrew word that refers to the commandments given in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), or any Jewish law at all. The term “mitzvah” has also come to mean any act of human kindness, or a good deed.  

Monotheism – The doctrine or belief that there is one, single, universal, and all-encompassing God.

Nocturne – A piano composition that expresses a pensive, dreamy mood. The word is related to “nocturnal,” meaning night. 

Octave – A musical interval separated by the seven notes of the musical scale. The human ear tends to hear two notes separated by an octave as “the same,” even though one is higher (by exactly double the frequency) than the other.

Opus (Op.) – A musical work. Individual works in some composers’ output are assigned “opus numbers,” such as Op. 9. These numbers roughly reflect the order in which pieces were composed.

Ordinance – An authoritative decree or direction, or a law set forth by a governmental authority.

Outcast – A person who is cast out or refused acceptance by a social group.

Outsider – A person who does not belong to a particular group.

Partita – A combination of several musical pieces, played in a single sitting (sometimes called a suite).

Patriotism – The love of one’s country, often involving a willingness to sacrifice for it.

Perpetrator – Someone who commits or is responsible for a wrong against another person or persons.

Pogrom – An organized, violent attack on an ethnic, religious, or other minority group by members of the majority society. It may involve destruction of homes, businesses, and religious centers, as well as physical violence against people. The term has historically referred to attacks against Jews, but has also been applied to acts against other minority groups.

Prelude – A section of a musical work introducing the theme or main subject, or a separate concert piece for piano or orchestra based entirely on a short motif.

Presto con fuoco – An Italian musical term meaning “very fast, with fire.”

Quaker – A person belonging to the Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers or Friends), a loose-knit spiritual movement founded in England in the 17th century by people who were dissatisfied with the existing Christian churches. Quakers are opposed to war.

Rabbi – The official leader of a Jewish congregation.

Race – A term commonly used to distinguish one population of humans from other populations. The most widely used human racial categories are based on visible traits (especially skin color and facial features), genes, and self-identification.

Rachmaninoff, Sergei (1873–1943) – A Russian-American composer, pianist, and conductor. He was one of the great pianists of his generation, having legendary technical facilities and rhythmic drive.

Refugee – Someone who flees his or her homeland in fear of persecution and therefore cannot safely return home.

Reprise – In music, the repetition or return of a theme.

Resilience – The ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Resistance – Taking action to withstand or counteract force imposed by a person, group, or government. See also French resistance.

Romantic music – The period of European classical music running from the early 1800s to the first decade of the 20th century. The romantic tradition in the arts held that there are inescapable realities in the world that can only be reached through emotion, feeling, and intuition. Romantic music stressed these elements.

Saint-Saëns, Camille (1835–1921) – A French composer and performer whose long life spanned almost the entire romantic period of music.

Scale – A series of single notes progressing up or down stepwise.

Scherzo – A usually light-hearted section or movement of a longer musical piece such as a symphony. The word means “joke” in Italian. 

Scriabin, Alexander (1872-1915) – A prominent Russian composer and pianist.

Shabbat – The weekly day of rest in Judaism. It is observed from before sundown on Friday until after nightfall on Saturday.

Shema Yisroel – The first two words, meaning “Hear O Israel,” of a section of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) that is the centerpiece of all morning and evening Jewish prayer services. This declaration of faith is considered the most important prayer in Judaism, reaffirming one’s commitment to one God. The first sentence, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” is traditionally uttered prior to death.

Shoah – A Hebrew word meaning “catastrophe.” It refers to the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry during World War II.

Solfeggio (solfège) – A system that assigns syllables to the steps of the musical scale, useful in singing and ear-training. In order, the syllables are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, and Do (for the octave).

Sonata – An instrumental musical composition typically of three or four movements in contrasting forms and keys. A sonata is usually written for solo piano or for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment.

Steinway – A leading maker of pianos. The “D” model is a full-length grand piano for use in concert halls. Steinway Artists are outstanding pianists who choose to perform exclusively on Steinway pianos.

Synagogue – A Jewish place of religious worship where meetings are held and services are conducted.

Talmud – The textual record of discussions by rabbis on Jewish law, Jewish ethics, customs, legends and stories, which Jewish tradition considers authoritative.

Terezin – A concentration camp in Czechoslovakia where many prisoners turned to music for inspiration and comfort. (See the Historical Sidelight in the curriculum guide, pg. 37.) Terezin was a “model” concentration camp used by the Germans for propaganda, to show how well the Jews were being treated. In fact, it was a gateway to the death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Also known by its German name, Theresienstadt.

Tempo – The rate of speed of a musical piece or passage. Tempo is indicated by directions such as largo (slow), presto (quick), or allegro (merry), and sometimes by exact metronome markings.

Theory – An area of musical study concerned with the elements of music and methods for analyzing and composing music.

Timpani – Large percussion instruments, often called “kettle drums,” that can dramatically punctuate orchestral arrangements with a low, loud rumble akin to thunder. They consist of a skin (or “head”) stretched over large bowls, commonly made of copper.

Torah - A Hebrew word meaning "teaching," "instruction," or "law." It is the most important document of Judaism, revered by Jews through the ages. It primarily refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. For many Jews it is the primary guide to the relationship between God and man.

Triads – Three-note chords consisting of the first, third, and fifth notes of a scale.

Trill – Rapid alternation between notes that are a half-step or whole-step apart.

Upstander – An individual who acts to make a positive difference in the life of another individual or the community, often at risk to him or herself.

Universe of Obligation – A term in the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum referring to “the individuals and groups toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for amends.” It was first used by Helen Fein in the book Accounting for Genocide (1979, Free Press, p. 4).

Victim – A person who suffers directly or indirectly from the actions of individuals, groups, or nations.

Vinyl – A type of record, popular from the 1950s to the 1990s, most commonly used for mass-produced recordings of music.

Wigmore Hall – A concert hall specializing in classical music, on Wigmore Street in London, England.

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