|Themes > Arts > Music > Elements of Music > Titles of Music Compositions|
Danlee Mitchell and
Jack Logan, Ph.D.
Musical compositions are titled; that is, they are identified by a name. Due to the criteria imposed by the "logic" of musical terminology some titles are determined before the composition is begun while others may wait until the composition is finished. Below is a list of criteria by which a composer chooses a title for a composition:
1. Pieces for a ceremony or specific usage are titled for a purpose. Examples Mass, Cantata, Fanfare, March, Dance, et al.
2. Pieces using a compositional procedure may be titled by the name of the particular device, Examples Theme and Variations, Fugue, Passacaglia, Canon,Rondo, et al,
3. A piece can be titled for the medium that is performing the composition, Examples Symphony, String Quartet, Woodwind Quintet, Piano Trio, et al,
4. A piece may be titled for the genre that it represents. Examples Concerto Grosso, Canzona, Toccata, Prelude, Sonata, Hymn, et al,
5. Tonality can be added to any of the above. Examples Sonata in B flat major, Mass in D minor, et al,
6. A proper name may be added or substituted for any of the above. Examples The Stars and Stripes Forever(a march), The Windmill (a theme and variations), Lord Nelson Mass, Sonata in D Major (The Nightingale),
7. Pieces about a person or event may be titled with the proper name of the person or event. Examples Aida (an opera), Rodeo (a ballet), Symphony Fantastique (a dream), et al,
8. A series of sonatas, symphonies, string quartets, woodwind quartets may be numbered by order of sequence. Examples Sonata No. 5 in G Major, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, et al,
9. Compositions may be identified by their opus number. (Opus number is used for some 19th century composers to identify the chronological sequence of groups of compositions by their date of publication. Examples Sonata No. 10 in D Major, Op. 26, et al.
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