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In musicology, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing, however, in colloquial English song may refer to any piece of music. A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs. The lyrics (words) of songs are typically of a poetic, rhyming nature, although they may be religious verses or free prose.

A song may be for a solo singer, a duet, trio, or larger ensemble involving more voices. 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. One division is between "art songs", "pop songs", and "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.).

A song is a piece of music for accompanied or unaccompanied voice or voices or, "the act or art of singing," but the term is generally not used for large vocal forms including opera and oratorio[1]. However, the term is, "often found in various figurative and transferred sense (e.g. for the lyrical second subject of a sonata...)."[1] The word "song" has the same etymological root as the verb "to sing" and the OED defines the word to mean "that which is sung"[2].


Cultural types

Art songs

Art songs are songs created for performance in their own right, usually with piano accompaniment, although they can also have other types of accompaniment such as an orchestra or string quartet, and are always notated. Generally they have an identified author(s) and composer and require voice training for acceptable performances. German-speaking communities use the term art song ("Kunstlied") to distinguish "serious" compositions from folk song ("Volkslied"). The lyrics are often written by a poet or lyricist and the music separately by a composer. Art songs may be more formally complicated than popular or folk songs, though many early Lieder by the likes of Franz Schubert are in simple strophic form. They are often important to national identity.

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