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An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics, or singing, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to instrumentals. [1] [2] [3] The music is primarily or exclusively produced using musical instruments. An instrumental can exist in music notation, after it is written by a composer; in the mind of the composer (especially in cases where the composer himself will perform the piece, as in the case of a blues solo guitarist or a folk music fiddle player); as a piece that is performed live by a single instrumentalist or a musical ensemble, which could range in components from a duo or trio to a large Big Band, concert band or orchestra.

Musical composition aesthetic ordering and disposing of musical information

Musical composition, or simply composition, can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece, or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other instrumental musicians or singers. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all, and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing and/or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.

Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a "libretto" and their writer, as a "librettist". The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression. Rappers can also create lyrics that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.

Singing act of producing musical sounds with the voice

Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques. A person who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music that can be sung with or without accompaniment by musical instruments. Singing is often done in an ensemble of musicians, such as a choir of singers or a band of instrumentalists. Singers may perform as soloists or accompanied by anything from a single instrument up to a symphony orchestra or big band. Different singing styles include art music such as opera and Chinese opera, Indian music and religious music styles such as gospel, traditional music styles, world music, jazz, blues, gazal and popular music styles such as pop, rock, electronic dance music and filmi.


In a song that is otherwise sung, a section that is not sung but which is played by instruments can be called an instrumental interlude, or, if it occurs at the beginning of the song, before the singer starts to sing, an instrumental introduction. If the instrumental section highlights the skill, musicality, and often the virtuosity of a particular performer (or group of performers), the section may be called a "solo" (e.g., the guitar solo that is a key section of heavy metal music and hard rock songs). If the instruments are percussion instruments, the interlude can be called a percussion interlude or "percussion break". These interludes are a form of break in the song.

Song composition for voice(s)

A song is a musical composition intended to be sung by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition of sections. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals.

In music, the introduction is a passage or section which opens a movement or a separate piece, preceding the theme or lyrics. In popular music, this is often known as the song intro or just the intro. The introduction establishes melodic, harmonic or rhythmic material related to the main body of a piece.

Guitar solo

A guitar solo is a melodic passage, instrumental section, or entire piece of music written for a classical guitar, electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. In the 20th and 21st century traditional music and popular music such as blues, swing, jazz, jazz fusion, rock and metal guitar solos often contain virtuoso techniques and varying degrees of improvisation. Guitar solos on classical guitar, which are typically written in musical notation, are also used in classical music forms such as chamber music and concertos.

In commercial popular music, instrumental tracks are sometimes renderings, remixes of a corresponding release that features vocals, but they may also be compositions originally conceived without vocals. One example of a genre in which both vocal/instrumental and solely instrumental songs are produced is blues. A blues band often uses mostly songs that have lyrics that are sung, but during the band's show, they may also perform instrumental songs which only include electric guitar, harmonica, upright bass/electric bass and drum kit.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

A remix is a piece of media which has been altered or contorted from its original state by adding, removing, and changing pieces of the item. A song, piece of artwork, books, video, poem, or photograph can all be remixes. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Opposite concept

The opposite of instrumental music, that is, music for voices alone, without any accompaniment instruments, is a cappella, an Italian phrase that means "in the chapel". In early music, instruments such as trumpet and drums were considered outdoor instruments, and music for inside a chapel typically used quieter instruments, voices, or just voices alone. A capella music exists in both Classical music choir pieces (for choir without any accompanist piano or pipe organ) and in popular music styles such as doo wop groups and Barbershop quartets. For genres in which a non-vocal song or interlude is conceived using computers and software, rather than with acoustic musical instruments or electronic musical instruments, the term instrumental is still used for it.

Accompaniment musical parts which provide the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece

Accompaniment is the musical part which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece. There are many different styles and types of accompaniment in different genres and styles of music. In homophonic music, the main accompaniment approach used in popular music, a clear vocal melody is supported by subordinate chords. In popular music and traditional music, the accompaniment parts typically provide the "beat" for the music and outline the chord progression of the song or instrumental piece.

A cappella music is specifically group or solo singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It contrasts with cantata, which is usually accompanied singing. The term "a cappella" was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato style. In the 19th century, a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. The term is also used, albeit rarely, as a synonym for alla breve.

Early music music until the baroque

Early music generally comprises Medieval music (500–1400) and Renaissance music (1400–1600), but can also include Baroque music (1600–1750). Early music is a broad musical era in the history of Western art music.

Number-one instrumentals

TitleArtistCountryReached number-one
Frenesi Artie Shaw USDecember 21, 1940
Song of the Volga Boatmen Glenn Miller USMarch 19, 1941
Piano Concerto in B Flat Freddy Martin USOctober 4, 1941
A String of Pearls Glenn Miller USFebruary 7, 1942
Moonlight Cocktail Glenn Miller USFebruary 28, 1942
Heartaches Ted Weems USMarch 15, 1947
Twelfth Street Rag Pee Wee Hunt USAugust 28, 1948
Blue Tango Leroy Anderson USMay 17, 1952
The Song from Moulin Rouge [4] [5] Mantovani UKAugust 14, 1953
Oh Mein Papa [note 1] [5] [6] Eddie Calvert UKJanuary 8, 1954
Let's Have Another Party [5] [7] Winifred Atwell UKDecember 3, 1954
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [5] [6] Perez Prado UKApril 29, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [8] Perez Prado USApril 30, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [6] Eddie Calvert UKMay 27, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) Perez Prado GermanyOctober 8, 1955
Autumn Leaves Roger Williams USOctober 29, 1955
Lisbon Antigua Nelson Riddle USFebruary 25, 1956
The Poor People of Paris Les Baxter USMarch 17, 1956
The Poor People of Paris [5] [7] Winifred Atwell UKApril 13, 1956
Moonglow and Theme from Picnic Morris Stoloff USJune 2, 1956
Tequila [note 2] The Champs USMarch 17, 1958
Patricia [8] Perez Prado USJuly 28, 1958
Patricia Perez Prado GermanyOctober 18, 1958
Hoots Mon [note 3] [5] [9] Lord Rockingham's XI UKNovember 28, 1958
Side Saddle [5] [10] Russ Conway UKMarch 27, 1959
The Happy Organ [11] Dave "Baby" Cortez USMay 11, 1959
Roulette [5] [10] Russ Conway UKJune 19, 1959
Sleep Walk Santo & Johnny USSeptember 21, 1959
Theme from A Summer Place [12] Percy Faith USFebruary 22, 1960
Apache [5] [11] [13] The Shadows UKAugust 25, 1960
Wonderland by Night [12] Bert Kaempfert USJanuary 9, 1961
Calcutta [12] Lawrence Welk USFebruary 13, 1961
On the Rebound [5] [14] Floyd Cramer UKMay 18, 1961
Kon-Tiki [5] [15] The Shadows UKOctober 5, 1961
Mexico Bob Moore GermanyJanuary 27, 1962
Wonderful Land [5] [11] The Shadows UKMarch 22, 1962
Nut Rocker [5] [16] B. Bumble and the Stingers UKMay 17, 1962
Stranger on the Shore Acker Bilk US/UK
[note 4]
May 26, 1962
The Stripper [12] David Rose USJuly 7, 1962
Telstar [5] [11] The Tornados UKOctober 4, 1962
Telstar [17] The Tornados USDecember 22, 1962
Dance On! [5] [18] The Shadows UKJanuary 24, 1963
Diamonds [5] [13] [19] [20] Jet Harris and Tony Meehan UKJanuary 31, 1963
Telstar The Tornados FranceFebruary 9, 1963
Foot Tapper [5] [18] The Shadows UKMarch 29, 1963
Il Silenzio Nini Rosso GermanyJuly 19, 1965
A Taste of Honey [17] Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass USNovember 27, 1965
Love is Blue [21] Paul Mauriat USFebruary 10, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [21] Hugo Montenegro USJune 8, 1968
Grazing in the Grass [21] Hugh Masekela USJuly 20, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [5] [22] Hugo Montenegro, his Orchestra and ChorusUKNovember 13, 1968
Albatross [5] [11] Fleetwood Mac UKJanuary 29, 1969
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet [21] Henry Mancini USJune 28, 1969
Amazing Grace [5] [11] Royal Scots Dragoon Guards UKApril 15, 1972
Popcorn Hot Butter FranceJuly 13, 1972
Mouldy Old Dough [note 5] [11] Lieutenant Pigeon UKOctober 14, 1972
Frankenstein [21] The Edgar Winter Group USMay 26, 1973
Eye Level [5] [11] Simon Park Orchestra UKSeptember 29, 1973
Love's Theme [23] Love Unlimited Orchestra USFebruary 9, 1974
TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) [note 6] MFSB featuring The Three Degrees USApril 20, 1974
Pick Up the Pieces [note 7] [23] Average White Band USFebruary 22, 1975
The Hustle [note 8] [23] Van McCoy and the Soul City OrchestraUSJuly 26, 1975
Fly, Robin, Fly [note 9] Silver Convention USNovember 29, 1975
Theme from S.W.A.T. [23] Rhythm Heritage USFebruary 28, 1976
A Fifth of Beethoven [23] Walter Murphy USOctober 9, 1976
Gonna Fly Now [note 10] Bill Conti USJuly 2, 1977
Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band [note 4] Meco USOctober 1, 1977
Rise [23] Herb Alpert USOctober 20, 1979
One Step Beyond Madness FranceMarch 7, 1980
Chariots of Fire [23] Vangelis USMay 8, 1982
Miami Vice Theme [23] Jan Hammer USNovember 9, 1985
Song of Ocarina Jean-Philippe Audin and Diego ModenaFranceJanuary 18, 1992
Doop [note 11] [5] [24] Doop UKMarch 19, 1994
The X-Files Mark Snow FranceJune 8, 1996
Flat Beat [note 12] [5] [25] Mr. Oizo UKApril 3, 1999
Harlem Shake Baauer USMarch 2, 2013

Borderline cases

Some recordings which include brief or non-musical use of the human voice are typically considered instrumentals. Examples include songs with the following:

"Tequila" is a 1958 Mexican-flavored rock and roll instrumental written by Daniel Flores and recorded by the Champs. "Tequila" became a #1 hit on both the pop and R&B charts at the time of its release and continues to be strongly referenced in pop culture to this day.

"Topsy" was a 1938 instrumental release for bandleader Benny Goodman, written by Edgar Battle and Eddie Durham, which became a #14 pop hit. The tune had previously been recorded by Count Basie and His Orchestra on August 9th, 1937.

Wipe Out (instrumental) single

"Wipe Out" is an instrumental composed by Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller and Ron Wilson. It is a twelve-bar blues first performed and recorded by The Surfaris, who were elevated to international status with the release of the "Surfer Joe" and "Wipe Out" single in 1963.

Songs including actual musical—rhythmic, melodic, and lyrical—vocals might still be categorized as instrumentals if the vocals appear only as a short part of an extended piece (e.g., "Unchained Melody" (Les Baxter), "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", "Pick Up the Pieces", "The Hustle", "Fly, Robin, Fly", "Get Up and Boogie", "Do It Any Way You Wanna", and "Gonna Fly Now"), though this definition is loose and subjective.

Unchained Melody original song composed by Alex North, words by Hy Zaret

"Unchained Melody" is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. North wrote the music as a theme for the little-known prison film Unchained (1955), hence the song title. Todd Duncan sang the vocals for the film soundtrack. It has since become a standard and one of the most often recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers. According to the song's publishing administrator, over 1,500 recordings of "Unchained Melody" have been made by more than 670 artists, in multiple languages.

TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) 1974 single by MFSB

"TSOP " is a 1974 hit recording by MFSB featuring vocals by The Three Degrees. A classic example of the Philadelphia soul genre, it was written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff as the theme for the American musical television program Soul Train, which specialized in African American musical performers. The single was released on the Philadelphia International label. It was the first television theme song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and it is arguably the first disco song to reach that position.

Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band song) 1974 single by Average White Band

"Pick Up the Pieces" is a 1974 song by the Average White Band from their second album, AWB. On the single, songwriting credit was given to founding member and saxophonist Roger Ball and guitarist Hamish Stuart individually and the entire band collectively. It is essentially an instrumental, apart from the song's title being shouted at several points in the song.

Falling just outside of that definition is "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes.

See also


  1. Contains several vocal interjections of the title track.
  2. Features vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus.
  3. Contains several Scottish sounding grunts at the end of each chorus and immediately beforehand.
  4. 1 2 Stranger on the Shore hit #1 on the end of year UK charts, but NOT the weekly UK charts. Despite this, it is the highest selling instrumental single worldwide and in the UK; in the US, this honor falls to Meco's Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band.
  5. Contains vocal interjections before, during, and immediately after the choruses.
  6. Contains vocals at the beginning and during the fade-out.
  7. Contains vocal interjections at the end of the second and third verses.
  8. Contains screams of "do the hustle!" at the end of each chorus.
  9. Contains vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus and "up, up to the sky" as an ending.
  10. Contains vocals, which total thirty words and thus contains the most lyrics of any instrumental song to hit number 1.
  11. Contains, during its choruses, several nonsensical vocal interjections of the title.
  12. At the beginning, before the main piece begins, it features the lyrics "Oh yeah, I used to know Quentin, he's a real, he's a real jerk".

Related Research Articles

A songwriter is a professional that writes lyrics and composes musical compositions for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter that writes the lyrics/words are referred to as lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that songwriting is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be written by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

Kazoo American musical instrument

The kazoo is a musical instrument that adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes or hums into it. It is a type of mirliton, which is a membranophone, one of a class of instruments which modifies its player's voice by way of a vibrating membrane of goldbeater's skin or material with similar characteristics.

Multitrack recording process of mixing individual sound sources to a single recording

Multitrack recording (MTR)—also known as multitracking, double tracking, or tracking—is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking became possible in the mid-1950s when the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same reel-to-reel tape was developed. A "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on the tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized.

Iridescent (song) Linkin Park song

"Iridescent" is a song by American rock band Linkin Park. It was announced as the band's third US, fourth international and overall final single from their fourth studio album, A Thousand Suns, which was released on September 14, 2010. A music video for the song was directed by Joe Hahn, the band's turntablist. "Iridescent" serves as the theme song for the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, continuing the streak of the band's songs serving as the theme songs of the Transformers films. The song received positive reviews and became a moderate success.

"Echoes" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd, and the sixth and final track from their 1971 album Meddle. It was written in 1970 by all four members of the group. Containing several extended instrumental passages, largely ambient sound effects, and musical improvisation, the track has a running time of 23:31 and comprises the entire second side of the vinyl and cassette recordings.

Rhythm section group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and beat for the rest of the band

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band.

<i>A Day at the Races</i> (album) 1976 studio album by Queen

A Day at the Races is the fifth studio album by the British rock band Queen, released on 10 December 1976 by EMI Records in the United Kingdom and by Elektra Records in the United States. It was the band's first completely self-produced album, and the first not to feature producer Roy Thomas Baker. Recorded at Sarm East, The Manor and Wessex Studios in England, A Day at the Races was engineered by Mike Stone. The album serves as a companion album to the band's previous album, A Night at the Opera, both taking their names from Marx Brothers films, as well as sharing similar packaging and eclectic musical themes.

Session musician Profession; musician hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances

Session musicians, studio musicians, or backing musicians are musicians hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. Session musicians are usually not permanent members of a musical ensemble or band. They work behind the scenes and rarely achieve individual fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders. However, top session musicians are well known within the music industry, and some have become publicly recognized, such as the Wrecking Crew, and The Funk Brothers who worked with Motown Records.

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the twelve-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually a guitar solo in the song. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or the solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

<i>Pump</i> (album) 1989 studio album by Aerosmith

Pump is the tenth studio album by American rock band Aerosmith, released on September 12, 1989. The album was remastered and reissued in 2001.

Lovesong (The Cure song) original song written and composed by The Cure

"Lovesong" is a song originally recorded by the English alternative rock band The Cure, released as the third single from their eighth studio album Disintegration in 1989. The song saw considerable success in the United States, where it was a number two hit and the band's only top ten entry on the Billboard Hot 100; in the United Kingdom, the single charted at number 18.

The Unforgiven (song) power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica

"The Unforgiven" is a power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the second single from their eponymous fifth album Metallica. Though one of the slower tracks on the album, its chord progression is distinctly one of the heaviest. The song deals with the theme of the struggle of the individual against the efforts of those who would subjugate him.

Post-metal is a style of music that is rooted in heavy metal but explores approaches beyond the genre's conventions. It emerged in the 1990s through the work of bands such as Neurosis and Godflesh who transformed metal texture through experimental composition. Associated with and inspired by post-rock and post-hardcore, the genre employs the darkness and intensity of extreme metal but emphasizes atmosphere, emotion, and even "revelation", drawing on a wide range of sources including ambient, noise, psychedelic, progressive, and classical music to develop an expansive but introspective sound. Post-metal songs are typically long, with loose and layered structures that discard the verse–chorus form in favor of crescendos and repeating themes. The sound centres on guitars and drums; any vocals are usually screamed or growled and resemble an additional instrument.

Rosanna (song) 1982 Toto song

"Rosanna" is a song written by David Paich and performed by the American rock band Toto, the opening track and the first single from their 1982 album Toto IV. This song won the Record of the Year Grammy Award in the 1983 presentations. "Rosanna" was also nominated for the Song of the Year award.

Vocal harmony

Vocal harmony is a style of vocal music in which a consonant note or notes are simultaneously sung as a main melody in a predominantly homophonic texture. Vocal harmonies are used in many subgenres of European art music, including Classical choral music and opera and in the popular styles from many Western cultures ranging from folk songs and musical theater pieces to rock ballads. In the simplest style of vocal harmony, the main vocal melody is supported by a single backup vocal line, either at a pitch which is above or below the main vocal line, often in thirds or sixths which fit in with the chord progression used in the song. In more complex vocal harmony arrangements, different backup singers may sing two or even three other notes at the same time as each of the main melody notes, mostly with consonant, pleasing-sounding thirds, sixths, and fifths.

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

Band (rock and pop) small musical ensemble which performs rock music, pop music or a related genre

A rock band or pop band is a small musical ensemble which performs rock music, pop music or a related genre. The four-piece band is the most common configuration in rock and pop music. Before the development of the electronic keyboard, the configuration was typically two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. Another common formation is a vocalist who does not play an instrument, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, and a drummer. Instrumentally, these bands can be considered as trios.


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