A song is a musical form of expression based on sound and silence, generally considered a single (and often standalone) work of music intended to be sung by the human voice with distinct and fixed pitches, patterns, and form. Written words created specifically for music or for which music is specifically created, are called lyrics. If poetry, a pre-existing poem, is set to composed music in classical music, that is an art song. Songs that are sung on repeated pitches without distinct contours and patterns that rise and fall are called chants. Chants may be slightly or highly ornamented. Songs may be sung by one singer or more than one, by a singer with background singers who accompany with minor parts, or by a group. Songs composed for personal use, for casual group activities, in simple style, are referred to as folk songs. Songs that are composed for professional entertainers are called popular songs, in that they do not require an education to necessarily appreciate, and that they have broad appeal to many people. These songs are composed with the intent to earn money by professional songwriters, composers and lyricists. Art songs are composed by trained classical composers for concert performance. Songs may also appear in plays, musical theatre, stage shows of any form, and within operas.
A song may be for a solo singer, a duet, trio, or larger ensemble involving more voices singing in harmony, although the term is generally not used for large classical music vocal forms including opera and oratorio, which use terms such as aria and recitative instead.〔Luise Eitel Peake. 1980. "Song". ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', sixth edition, 20 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie, Vol. 17: 510-523. London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries. ISBN 1-56159-174-2.〕 Songs with more than one voice to a part are considered choral works. Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms, depending on the criteria used. Songs may be written for one or more singers to sing without instumental ccompaniment or they may be written for performance with instrumental accompaniment. The accompaniment used for a song depends on the genre of music and, in classical styles, the instructions of the composer as set out in the musical score. Songs may be accompanied by a single accompanist playing piano or guitar, by a small ensemble (e.g., a jazz quartet, a basso continuo group, a big band, a rock or pop band or a rhythm section) or even a big band (for a jazz song) or orchestra (for a classical aria). One division is between "art songs", "pop songs", and traditional music, with "folk songs". Other common methods of classification are by purpose (sacred vs secular), by style (dance, ballad, Lied, etc.), or by time of origin (Renaissance, Contemporary, etc.). Songs may be learned and passed on "by ear" (as in traditional folk songs); from a recording or lead sheet (in jazz and pop) or from detailed music notation (in classical music).
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