Genre (music)

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In music genre denotes a type of composition . According to Hermann Danuser , the generic term "of logical classification systems [...] is located on a middle level. It combines different species located on a lower level into a family and, conversely, appears to be subsumable under a common umbrella term with other phenomena on the same logical level. [...] By dividing it into further types, a species becomes a genus for the next lower level, and conversely, a genus becomes a species by combining it with other genera to form an overarching category . "

“Genus” and “form” are to be understood differently. A form describes the compositional structure of a composition, for example the sonata main clause form . In contrast, in the structural structure of the sonata genre, the form of a sonata main clause is often found in the first movement. But a distinction is also made in form types and form schemes. Form types are historical ways of building up pieces, form schemes are abstractions that only affect one side of the structure, for example the rondo scheme .

In contrast, the doctrine of musical genres considers the criteria of scoring , text , function , place of performance , sentence structure , liturgy , style and tone .

The exact definition of the genus has been heavily debated scientifically, and there is no possibility of an exact general definition.

Genre and function of music

Designations for performance frameworks often overlap with the designations for what is performed there: Chamber music was once music in the aristocratic "chamber", but since the late 18th century seems to have been more defined by line-up, style, etc. The term Opéra comique denotes a Parisian theater institute of the 19th century and at the same time a genre of opera that was performed there. The minuet is a ballroom dance and at the same time a movement in the classical symphony .

Genre and performance framework correspond to one another and can only be separated to a limited extent: before the Romantic era, genres were closely tied to functional contexts, music was then music for use . The ties to certain types of genre always meant that the composer could restrict his compositional possibilities. B. in church sonatas or initially in the design of sacred oratorios, which should not be too operatic. Since the late 18th century, however, chamber music has also been playable in the bourgeois concert hall - almost across genres - and the Opéra comique could also be reproduced in German (provincial) theaters. This spatial emancipation often corresponds to the emancipation from its function, as in dance music , for example , which becomes a symphonic movement.

Such emancipation from functional music makes the genre pure or “absolute” (cf. Absolute Music ). It preserves something (like the aristocratic chamber as an aura ) and at the same time detaches it from its original context. According to the aesthetic claim, absoluteness aims at art as a “counter-world” detached from reality. It can hinder an unadorned view of historical facts in the 20th century and has been suspected of being ideological since the catastrophes of the 20th century.

Composers of the 20th century have broken away from all too narrow generic terms and have found hybrid mixed forms within the framework of classical genres (such as the chamber symphony) or within the framework of the arts (e.g. performance as a hybrid form of dance / theater and music) . In radical experiments, John Cage completely negated the concept of genre and work.

See also


  • Marc Honegger, Günther Massenkeil (ed.): The great lexicon of music. Volume 3: Elsbeth - Haitink. Updated special edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau a. a. 1987, ISBN 3-451-20948-9 , pp. 235-237.
  • Genre in Ludwig Finscher (ed.): The music in past and present , factual part
  • Genre in New Grove Dictionary
  • Carl Dahlhaus : What is a musical genre

Individual evidence

  1. Marc Honegger, Günther Massenkeil (ed.): The great lexicon of music. Volume 3: Elsbeth - Haitink. Updated special edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau a. a. 1987, ISBN 3-451-20948-9 , p. 235.
  2. ^ Hermann Danuser, Art. Genus, I., in: MGG Online, ed. by Laurenz Lütteken, Kassel, Stuttgart, New York: 2016ff., first published 1995, published online 2016.