What genres of music are there?

We immediately warn you that it is very difficult to answer in one article the question of what genres of music there are. Over the entire history of music, so many genres have accumulated that it is impossible to measure them with a yardstick: chorale, romance, cantata, waltz, symphony, ballet, opera, prelude, etc.

For decades, musicologists have been trying to classify musical genres (by the nature of content, by function, for example). But before we dwell on the typology, let’s clarify the very concept of genre.

What is a musical genre?

Genre is a kind of model with which specific music is correlated. It has certain conditions of execution, purpose, form and nature of content. So, the purpose of a lullaby is to calm the baby, so “swaying” intonations and a characteristic rhythm are typical for it; in a march – all expressive means of music are adapted to a clear step.

What are the genres of music: classification

The simplest classification of genres is based on the method of execution. These are two large groups:

  • instrumental (march, waltz, etude, sonata, fugue, symphony)
  • vocal genres (aria, song, romance, cantata, opera, musical).

Another typology of genres is related to the performance environment. It belongs to A. Sokhor, a scientist who claims that there are genres of music:

  • ritual and cult (psalms, mass, requiem) – they are characterized by generalized images, the dominance of the choral principle and the same mood among the majority of listeners;
  • mass household (varieties of song, march and dance: polka, waltz, ragtime, ballad, anthem) – characterized by a simple form and familiar intonations;
  • concert genres (oratorio, sonata, quartet, symphony) – typically performed in a concert hall, lyrical tone as the author’s self-expression;
  • theatrical genres (musical, opera, ballet) – require action, plot and scenery.

In addition, the genre itself can be divided into other genres. Thus, opera seria (“serious” opera) and opera buffa (comic) are also genres. At the same time, there are several more varieties of opera, which also form new genres (lyric opera, epic opera, operetta, etc.)

Genre names

You could write a whole book about what names music genres have and how they come about. Names can tell about the history of the genre: for example, the dance’s name “kryzhachok” is due to the fact that the dancers were positioned in a cross (from the Belarusian “kryzh” – cross). Nocturne (“night” – translated from French) was performed at night in the open air. Some names originate from the names of instruments (fanfare, musette), others from songs (Marseillaise, Camarina).

Often music receives the name of a genre when it is transferred to another environment: for example, folk dance to ballet. But it also happens the other way around: the composer takes the theme “Seasons” and writes a work, and then this theme becomes a genre with a certain form (4 seasons as 4 parts) and the nature of the content.

Instead of a conclusion

When talking about what genres of music there are, one cannot fail to mention a common mistake. There is confusion in concepts when styles such as classical, rock, jazz, hip-hop are called genres. It is important to remember here that genre is a scheme on the basis of which works are created, and style rather indicates the characteristics of the musical language of creation.

Author – Alexandra Ramm


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