Art form

There is no noise, only sound. — John Cage

Auditory art (Sound medium)

Ancient Greek, "Art of the Muses"

The word symphony, in the ancient music, signified the union of sounds forming a concert.1 When the whole concert was in unison, it was called a symphony; but when one-half of the performers were in the octave, or double octave, of the other half, it was called antiphony. At present the word symphony is often applied to overtures, and other instrumental compositions, consisting of a variety of movements, and designed for a full band.

The introductory, intermediary, and concluding instrumental passages in vocal compositions are also called symphonies. But the Germans use symphony as contra-distinguished to overture, which, according to its true meaning, ought to be dependent upon the piece to which it forms the introduction. It should contain the chief ideas of the piece, or at least indicate the fundamental disposition of the whole, on account of which most composers write their overtures after they have finished the pieces for which they are intended. The symphony, on the other hand, is an independent piece, and is therefore capable of a fuller development of musical ideas. Formerly the overture was used for the symphony. Sulzer, in his General Theory of the Fine Arts, says, "

The difficulty of executing an overture well, and the still greater difficulty of composing a good one, has given rise to the easier form of the symphony, which consisted originally of one or more fugue pieces, alternating with dancing music of various kinds, and was generally called partie. The overture, indeed, maintained itself still at the beginning of great pieces of church music and of operas, and the parties were used only in chamber music ; but people became tired of dancing music, unaccompanied by dancing, and were at last satisfied with two allegros, alternating with a slow passage. This species of composition was called a symphony, and used both in chamber music and before operas and pieces of church music. The instruments necessary to a symphony are the violin, tenor violin, and bass instruments: flutes, horns, may be added.

Among the old composers of symphonies, Benda, Bocherini, Dittersdorf, Pleyel, &c, were famous, but are now mostly forgotten. The greatest modern masters in this kind of composition are Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven.

Performing art

Organized compositions
Improvisational music
Aleatory forms


Pitch (melody and harmony)
Rhythm (tempo, meter, and articulation)
Sound dynamics
Timbre and texture (sonic qualities)


Tones (Ancient Greek and Indian)
- horizontally (melodies)
- vertically (harmonies)


Music and mathematics

Further reading

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