A descant, discant, or discantus is any of several different things in music, depending on the period in question; etymologically, the word means a voice (cantus) above or removed from others.

A descant is a form of medieval music in which one singer sang a fixed melody, and others accompanied with improvisations. The word in this sense comes from the term discantus supra librum (descant "above the book"), and is a form of Gregorian chant in which only the melody is notated but an improvised polyphony is understood. The discantus supra librum had specific rules governing the improvisation of the additional voices.

Later on, the term came to mean the treble or soprano singer in any group of voices, or the higher pitched line in a song. Eventually, by the Renaissance, descant referred generally to counterpoint. Nowadays the counterpoint meaning is the most common.

Descant can also refer to the highest pitched of a group of instruments, particularly the descant viol or recorder. Similarly, it can also be applied to the soprano clef. Descant can also refer to a high, florid melody sung by a few sopranos as a decoration for a hymn.

Descants in hymns

Hymn tune descants are counter-melodies, generally at a higher pitch than the main melody.

Although the English Hymnal of 1906 did not include descants, this influential hymnal, whose music editor was Ralph Vaughan Williams, served as a source of tunes for which the earliest known hymn tune descants were published. These were in collections compiled by Athelstan Riley, who wrote "The effect is thrilling; it gives the curious impression of an ethereal choir joining in the worship below; and those who hear it for the first time often turn and look up at the roof!"

Among composers of descants during 1915 to 1934 were Alan Gray, Geoffrey Shaw, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Several of their descants appear in what is possibly the earliest hymnal to include descants, Songs of Praise (London: Oxford University Press, 1925, enlarged, 1931, reprinted 1971).

During the last quarter of the twentieth century, new editions of hymnals increased the number of included descants. For example, the influential Hymnal 1940 (Episcopal) contains no descants, whereas its successor, The Hymnal 1982, contains 32. Among other currently used hymnals, The Worshiping Church contains 29 descants; The Presbyterian Hymnal, 19; The New Century Hymnal, 10; Chalice Hymnal, 21. The Vocal Descant Edition for Worship, Third Edition (GIA Publications, 1994) offers 254 descants by such composers as Donald Busarow, John Ferguson, Richard Hillert, Robert Hobby, Hal Hopson, David Hurd, Austin Lovelace, Ronald Nelson, Sam Batt Owens, Robert Powell, Richard Proulx, William P. Rowan, Carl Schalk, Randall Sensmeier, Scott Withrow, and Michael Young.

Further reading

  • Clark Kimberling, "Hymn Tune Descants, Part 1: 1915–1934", The Hymn 54 (no. 3) July 2003, pages 20–27. (Reprinted in Journal of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society 29 (February 2004) 17–20.)
  • Clark Kimberling, "Hymn Tune Descants, Part 2: 1935–2001", The Hymn 55 (no. 1) January 2004, pages 17–22.

External links

35 Engineer Regiment (United Kingdom)

35 Engineer Regiment is a unit of the British Army’s Royal Engineers under operational command (OPCOM) 8th Engineer Brigade, Force Troops Command. The Unit provides close support engineering under operational control (OPCON) to 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. It is located in Barker Barracks, Paderborn, Germany.

A Descant for Gossips

A Descant for Gossips is a 1983 Australian mini series about a school girl who becomes involved with two teachers. The adaptation is based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Thea Astley.

A Descant for Gossips (novel)

A Descant for Gossips (1960) is a novel by Australian author Thea Astley.


The balalaika (Russian: балала́йка, pronounced [bəɫɐˈɫajkə]) is a Russian stringed musical instrument with a characteristic triangular wooden, hollow body and three strings. Two strings are usually tuned to the same note and the third string is a perfect fourth higher. The higher-pitched balalaikas are used to play melodies and chords.The instrument generally has a short sustain, necessitating rapid strumming or plucking when it is used to play melodies. Balalaikas are often used for Russian folk music and dancing.

The balalaika family of instruments includes instruments of various sizes, from the highest-pitched to the lowest: the piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, secunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika, and contrabass balalaika. There are balalaika orchestras which consist solely of different balalaikas; these ensembles typically play Classical music that has been arranged for balalaikas. The prima balalaika is the most common; the piccolo is rare. There have also been descant and tenor balalaikas, but these are considered obsolete. All have three-sided bodies; spruce, evergreen, or fir tops; and backs made of three to nine wooden sections (usually maple). They are typically strung with three strings, and the necks are fretted.

The prima balalaika, secunda and alto are played either with the fingers or a plectrum (pick), depending on the music being played, and the bass and contrabass (equipped with extension legs that rest on the floor) are played with leather plectra. The rare piccolo instrument is usually played with a pick.

Bass recorder

A bass recorder is a wind instrument in F3 that belongs to the family of recorders.

The bass recorder plays an octave lower than the alto or treble recorder. In the recorder family it stands in between the tenor recorder and C great-bass (or quart-bass) recorder.

Due to the length of the instrument, the lowest tone, F, requires a key. On modern instruments, keys may also be provided for low F♯, G, and G♯, and sometimes for C and C♯ as well.

In the early 17th century, Michael Praetorius used the diminutive term "basset" (small bass) to describe this size of recorder as the lowest member of the "four-foot" consort, in which the instruments sound an octave higher than the corresponding human voices. Praetorius calls the next-lower instrument (bottom note B♭2) a "bass", and the instrument an octave lower than the basset (with bottom note F2) a Großbaß, or "large bass" (Praetorius 1619a, 34, and supplement plate IX; Sachs 1913, 50).

The bass is usually the lowest instrument of the recorder consort, but it may be used as an alto in "eight-foot" register in the so-called "great consort" or grand jeux, in which case two larger sizes of bass recorder take the lower parts and a tenor may be used as an optional descant (Baines 1967, 247).

Death of a Clown

"Death of a Clown" is a song by Dave Davies, member of British rock group The Kinks, released as his debut solo single in 1967. The song was co-written with his brother Ray Davies, who contributed the 5-bar "La la la" hook; Ray's first wife, Rasa, sings this phrase as well as descant in the second verse, while Ray himself sings harmony in the refrain. Nicky Hopkins played the distinctive introduction, using fingerpicks on the strings of a piano. The single was credited to Dave Davies but the song also appeared on the Kinks' album Something Else by The Kinks, released later in 1967.

Descant (magazine)

Descant (1970 – 2015) was a quarterly literary magazine that published new and established contemporary writers and visual artists from Canada and around the world, reflecting "a cosmopolitan awareness." It was established in 1970 as a mimeograph. Based in Toronto, in its later years Descant published two themed issues per year, and a winter and summer miscellany issue. From 2007 to 2014, Descant sponsored the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem.

The list of contributors to Descant includes numerous now-famous Canadian authors. Many of these are listed in Bibliomania (No. 133, summer 2006) and Bibliomania 2 (No. 135, winter 2006) and include: Margaret Atwood, bill bissett, Nicole Brossard, Anne Carson, Camilla Gibb, Barbara Gowdy, Dennis Lee, Daphne Marlatt, Anne Michaels, Michael Ondaatje, Al Purdy, Leon Rooke, Jane Urquhart and Jan Zwicky.

The last issue of Descant, No. 167, was launched at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar, in Toronto, in January 2015.A final party was held at Revival Bar in Toronto on March 25, 2015.The magazine's extensive archives are located in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

French horn

The French horn (since the 1930s known simply as the "horn" in some professional music circles) is a brass instrument made of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. The double horn in F/B♭ (technically a variety of German horn) is the horn most often used by players in professional orchestras and bands. A musician who plays a French horn is known as a horn player or hornist.

Pitch is controlled through the combination of the following factors: speed of air through the instrument (controlled by the player's lungs and thoracic diaphragm); diameter and tension of lip aperture (by the player's lip muscles—the embouchure) in the mouthpiece; plus, in a modern French horn, the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra sections of tubing. Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet's) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves. The backward-facing orientation of the bell relates to the perceived desirability to create a subdued sound in concert situations, in contrast to the more piercing quality of the trumpet. A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument (similar to a bugle). Pitch may also be controlled by the position of the hand in the bell, in effect reducing the bell's diameter. The pitch of any note can easily be raised or lowered by adjusting the hand position in the bell. The key of a natural horn can be changed by adding different crooks of different lengths.

Three valves control the flow of air in the single horn, which is tuned to F or less commonly B♭. The more common double horn has a fourth, trigger valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B♭ which expands the horn range to over four octaves and blends with flutes or clarinets in a woodwind ensemble. Triple horns with five valves are also made, usually tuned in F, B♭, and a descant E♭ or F. There are also double horns with five valves tuned in B♭, descant E♭ or F, and a stopping valve, which greatly simplifies the complicated and difficult hand-stopping technique, though these are rarer. Also common are descant doubles, which typically provide B♭ and alto F branches.

A crucial element in playing the horn deals with the mouthpiece. Most of the time, the mouthpiece is placed in the exact center of the lips, but, because of differences in the formation of the lips and teeth of different players, some tend to play with the mouthpiece slightly off center. Although the exact side-to-side placement of the mouthpiece varies for most horn players, the up-and-down placement of the mouthpiece is generally two-thirds on the upper lip and one-third on the lower lip. When playing higher notes, the majority of players exert a small degree of additional pressure on the lips using the mouthpiece. However, this is undesirable from the perspective of both endurance and tone: excessive mouthpiece pressure makes the horn sound forced and harsh, and decreases player's stamina due to the resulting constricted flow of blood to the lips and lip muscles.

Geoffrey Turton Shaw

Geoffrey Turton Shaw (14 November 1879 – 14 April 1943) was an English composer and musician specialising in Anglican church music. After Cambridge, where he was an organ scholar, he became a schoolmaster, then a schools inspector, while producing a stream of compositions, arrangements, and published collections of music. He was awarded the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Music.

Shaw worked with his brother Martin Shaw, also a composer, while his son Sebastian was a Shakespearean actor who is remembered for the Star Wars role of Anakin Skywalker.

Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103

Ihr werdet weinen und heulen (You shall weep and wail), BWV 103, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata for the third Sunday after Easter, called Jubilate (Jubilate Sunday).

Bach composed the cantata in his second year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig and first performed it on 22 April 1725. It is the first of nine cantatas on texts by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, which Bach composed at the end of his second annual cycle of cantatas in Leipzig. Based on the Gospel reading from the Farewell Discourse, where Jesus, announcing that he will leave, says "your sorrow shall be turned into joy", Bach contrasts music of sorrow and joy, notably in the unusual first movement, where he inserts an almost operatic recitative of Jesus in the fugal choral setting. The architecture of the movement combines elements of the usual concerto form with the more text-related older form of a motet. Bach scores an unusual flauto piccolo (descant recorder in D) as an obbligato instrument in an aria contemplating the sorrow of missing Jesus, who is addressed as a doctor who shall heal the wounds of sins. Bach scores a trumpet in only one movement, an aria expressing the joy about the predicted return of Jesus. The cantata in six movements closes with a chorale, the ninth stanza of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Barmherzger Vater, höchster Gott".

Karen Mulhallen

Karen Mulhallen (born 1942 in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada) is a Canadian educator, poet, essayist, critic and editor. She received her BA in 1963 from Waterloo Lutheran University, (now Wilfrid Laurier University) her MA (English) in 1967, and PhD (English) in 1975, both from the University of Toronto. She taught English at Ryerson University from 1967 to 2014. She served as the poetry review editor of The Canadian Forum from 1974 to 1979, and their features editor from 1975 to 1988. In 1973 Karen Mulhallen became editor-in-chief of Descant until its closure in 2015.

List of Artemis Fowl characters

This is a list of characters in the Artemis Fowl novel series by Eoin Colfer.

Sopranino recorder

The sopranino recorder is the second smallest recorder of the modern recorder family, and was the smallest before the 17th century.

This modern instrument has F5 as its lowest note, and its length is 20 cm. It is almost always made from soft European or tropical hardwoods, though sometimes it is also made of plastic.

Historically there were several sizes of recorder in this register, named differently in different periods and in different languages. In his Syntagma Musicum (1619), Michael Praetorius describes this size of recorder, only a whole tone higher, with G5 as its lowest pitch. He calls it exilent (highest) in Latin, and kleine Flöte (small flute), klein Flötlein (small little flute), or gar klein (really small) in German. According to Praetorius, it is the smallest of eight sizes of recorder in a complete "Accort oder Stimmwerk" (set of all voices), and sounds a quintadecima (a fifteenth—that is, two octaves) higher than a cornett (Praetorius 1619a, 13, 21, 34). Such a complete set includes a total of twenty-one instruments, including a pair of exilents, and two each of the two next larger sizes, Discantflöten in D5 and C5. However, Praetorius recommends restricting recorder ensembles to the five deepest sizes, because "die kleinen gar zu starck und laut schreien"—"the small ones scream so" (Praetorius 1619b, 158; Baines 1967, 248).

The sopranino in G is most probably the instrument Claudio Monteverdi calls for in L'Orfeo (1607), by the name flautino alla vigesima seconda (little flute at the third octave) (Lasocki 2001a).

In 18th-century England, the sizes of recorder smaller than the treble in F (which was called simply "flute") were named according to their interval above it, and often were notated as transposing instruments. The descant (or soprano) on C was called a "fifth flute", the instrument a whole tone higher still was the "sixth flute" (on D), and what is known today as sopranino was the "octave flute" (Lasocki 2001).

Soprano cornet

The soprano cornet is a brass musical instrument. Very similar to the standard B♭ cornet, it too is a transposing instrument, but pitched higher, in E♭.A single soprano cornet is usually seen in brass bands and silver bands and can often be found playing lead or descant parts in ensembles.

Soprano recorder

The soprano recorder in c2, also known as the descant, is the third-smallest instrument of the modern recorder family and is usually played as the highest voice in four-part ensembles (SATB = soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Since its finger spacing is relatively small, it is often used in music education for children first learning to play an instrument.

Swingin' Easy

Swingin' Easy is a 1957 studio album by the American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan.

On the second chorus of "All of Me" Vaughan bops in "a quite extraordinary fashion, covering more than two octaves" (from the sleeve notes). "Pennies from Heaven" is taken slower than is usual and Vaughan creates a brand new melody the second time around, a kind of descant improvising on the original tune.

Eight of the tracks, recorded on April 2, 1954, with John Malachi on piano and Joe Benjamin on bass, were originally released that year on a 10-inch LP entitled Images.

The initial Billboard review from November 1957 said the album was a "commentary on Miss Vaughan's high level of professionalism and ease in jazz environment. Relaxed quality is keynote here as the singer makes the difficult sound easy." The Billboard review highlighted "Words Can't Describe", which noted that it was given an "especially cogent reading".

Tenor recorder

The tenor recorder is a member of the recorder family. It has the same form as a soprano (or descant) recorder and an alto (or treble) recorder, but it produces a lower sound than either; a still lower sound is produced by the bass recorder.

The tenor recorder, like the soprano recorder, is tuned in C, but an octave lower. Because of its larger size, many tenors have keys to make it easier to play the lowest C, C♯, D, and D♯.

In modern notation, the tenor is written at sounding pitch, unlike most of the other recorder sizes, which (except sometimes the alto) are written an octave lower than they sound (Lasocki 2001).

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (opera)

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a one-act chamber opera by Michael Nyman to an English-language libretto by Christopher Rawlence, adapted from the case study of the same name by Oliver Sacks by Nyman, Rawlence, and Michael Morris. It was first performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, on 27 October 1986.

The minimalist score makes use of songs by Robert Schumann, in particular, "Ich grolle nicht" from Dichterliebe, in which Dr. S. accompanies Dr. P., singing the ossia as a descant. Mrs. P. plays the piano, the actor actually playing if possible.

Treble voice

A treble voice is a voice which takes the treble part. In the absence of a separate descant part, this is normally the highest-pitched part, and otherwise the second highest. The term is most often used today within the context of choral music in reference to youthful singers. The American Choral Directors Association defines a treble as "a singer, both male and female, ages eight to sixteen".While the term treble is gender neutral, the term is widely used in place of the term boy soprano within the United Kingdom. The term became widely used by English composers of polyphonic choral music during the English pre-Reformation and Reformation eras. At this time choral music written for the Church of England was often voiced in 5 parts with TrMATB (Treble, Meane, Alto, Tenor, Bass) being one of the most common voicings utilized by Thomas Tallis and his contemporaries.In the Baroque era the term treble was used differently than it is today. The term was used in operas, cantatas, choral works, and other compositions to refer to three different kinds of singers: adult women, boy sopranos, and castrati. The term is still used by opera composers today when a role requires a child vocalist.

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