Lyrics

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Lyrics in sheet music. This is a homorhythmic (i.e., hymn-style) arrangement of a traditional piece entitled "Adeste Fideles", in standard two-staff format for mixed voices. Play (help*info) Adeste Fideles sheet music sample.svg
Lyrics in sheet music. This is a homorhythmic (i.e., hymn-style) arrangement of a traditional piece entitled "Adeste Fideles", in standard two-staff format for mixed voices. Loudspeaker.svg Play  

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 (often with a variation of rhyming words) that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.

Contents

Etymology

A lyrist on the Standard of Ur, c. 2500 BC. Ur lyre.jpg
A lyrist on the Standard of Ur, c.2500 BC.

"Lyric" derives via Latin lyricus from the Greek λυρικός (lyrikós), [1] the adjectival form of lyre. [2] It first appeared in English in the mid-16th century in reference to the Earl of Surrey's translations of Petrarch and to his own sonnets. [3] Greek lyric poetry had been defined by the manner in which it was sung accompanied by the lyre or cithara, [4] as opposed to the chanted formal epics or the more passionate elegies accompanied by the flute. The personal nature of many of the verses of the Nine Lyric Poets led to the present sense of "lyric poetry" but the original Greek sense of "lyric poetry""poetry accompanied by the lyre" i.e. "words set to music"eventually led to its use as "lyrics", first attested in Stainer and Barrett's 1876 Dictionary of Musical Terms. [5] Stainer and Barrett used the word as a singular substantive: "Lyric, poetry or blank verse intended to be set to music and sung". By the 1930s, the present use of the plurale tantum "lyrics" had begun; it has been standard since the 1950s for many writers. [1] The singular form "lyric" is still used to mean the complete words to a song by authorities such as Alec Wilder, [6] Robert Gottlieb, [7] and Stephen Sondheim. [8] However, the singular form is also commonly used to refer to a specific line (or phrase) within a song's lyrics.

Poems

The differences between poem and song may become less meaningful where verse is set to music, to the point that any distinction becomes untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have lyrics.

However, the verse may pre-date its tune (in the way that "Rule Britannia" was set to music, and "And did those feet in ancient time" has become the hymn "Jerusalem"), or the tune may be lost over time but the words survive, matched by a number of different tunes (this is particularly common with hymns and ballads).

Possible classifications proliferate (under anthem, ballad, blues, carol, folk song, hymn, libretto, lied, lullaby, march, praise song, round, spiritual). Nursery rhymes may be songs, or doggerel: the term doesn't imply a distinction. The ghazal is a sung form that is considered primarily poetic. See also rapping, roots of hip hop music.

Analogously, verse drama might normally be judged (at its best) as poetry, but not consisting of poems (see dramatic verse).

In Baroque music, melodies and their lyrics were prose. Rather than paired lines they consist of rhetorical sentences or paragraphs consisting of an opening gesture, an amplification (often featuring sequence), and a close (featuring a cadence); in German Vordersatz- Fortspinnung -Epilog. [9] For example:

When I was a child,                                  [opening gesture] I spoke as a child,                                  [amplification...] I understood as a child,                             [...] I thought as a child;                                [...] But when I became a man, I put away childish things. [close] - 1 Corinthians 13:11

Shifter

In the lyrics of popular music a "shifter" [10] is a word, often a pronoun, "where reference varies according to who is speaking, when and where", [11] such as "I", "you", "my", "our". For example, who is the "my" of "My Generation"?

See Royalties

Currently, there are many websites featuring song lyrics. This offering, however, is controversial, since some sites include copyrighted lyrics offered without the holder's permission. The U.S. Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents sheet music companies, launched a legal campaign against such websites in December 2005. The MPA's president, Lauren Keiser, said the free lyrics web sites are "completely illegal" and wanted some website operators jailed. [12]

Lyrics licenses could be obtained worldwide through one of the two aggregators: LyricFind and Musixmatch. The first company to provide licensed lyrics was Yahoo!, quickly followed by MetroLyrics. More and more lyric websites are beginning to provide licensed lyrics, such as SongMeanings and LyricWiki. [13]

Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content, causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics. [14] In the latest attempt to crack down unlicensed lyrics web sites a federal court has ordered LiveUniverse, a network of websites run by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, to cease operating four sites offering unlicensed song lyrics. [15]

Academic study

Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary. Lyrics often contain political, social, and economic themes—as well as aesthetic elements—and so can communicate culturally significant messages. These messages can be explicit, or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on tonality and contrast are particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry Christopher Ricks famously published Dylan's Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of Bob Dylan; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.

Search engines

Search risk

A 2009 report published by McAfee found that, in terms of potential exposure to malware, lyrics-related searches and searches containing the word "free" are the most likely to have risky results from search engines, both in terms of average risk of all results, and maximum risk of any result. [16]

Google

Beginning in late 2014, Google changed its search results pages to include song lyrics. When users search for a name of a song, Google can now display the lyrics directly in the search results page. [17] When users search for a specific song's lyrics, most results show the lyrics directly through a Google search by using Google Play. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Alcaeus of Mytilene Greek lyric poet

Alcaeus of Mytilene was a lyric poet from the Greek island of Lesbos who is credited with inventing the Alcaic stanza. He was included in the canonical list of nine lyric poets by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. He was a contemporary and an alleged lover of Sappho, with whom he may have exchanged poems. He was born into the aristocratic governing class of Mytilene, the main city of Lesbos, where he was involved in political disputes and feuds.

Hymn religious song for the purpose of adoration or prayer to address deity

A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means "a song of praise". A writer of hymns is known as a hymnist. The singing or composition of hymns is called hymnody. Collections of hymns are known as hymnals or hymn books. Hymns may or may not include instrumental accompaniment.

Lyric may refer to:

Song Musical composition for human voice

A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition and variation of sections.

Libretto Text used in an extended musical work such as an opera or musical

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Archilochus Ancient Greek lyric poet

Archilochus was a Greek lyric poet from the island of Paros in the Archaic period. He is celebrated for his versatile and innovative use of poetic meters, and is the earliest known Greek author to compose almost entirely on the theme of his own emotions and experiences.

Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. It is not equivalent to song lyrics, though they are often in the lyric mode. The term derives from a form of Ancient Greek literature, the lyric, which was defined by its musical accompaniment, usually on a stringed instrument known as a lyre. The term owes its importance in literary theory to the division developed by Aristotle between three broad categories of poetry: lyrical, dramatic, and epic.

Chinese poetry

Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language. While this last term comprises Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Yue Chinese, and other historical and vernacular forms of the language, its poetry generally falls into one of two primary types, Classical Chinese poetry and Modern Chinese poetry.

<i>John Browns Body</i> United States marching song about the abolitionist John Brown

"John Brown's Body" is a United States marching song about the abolitionist John Brown. The song was popular in the Union during the American Civil War. The tune arose out of the folk hymn tradition of the American camp meeting movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. According to an 1889 account, the original John Brown lyrics were a collective effort by a group of Union soldiers who were referring both to the famous John Brown and also, humorously, to a Sergeant John Brown of their own battalion. Various other authors have published additional verses or claimed credit for originating the John Brown lyrics and tune.

Battle Hymn of the Republic American patriotic song written by Julia Ward Howe

The "Battle Hymn of the Republic", also known as "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" outside of the United States, is a popular American patriotic song by the abolitionist writer Julia Ward Howe.

Refrain Repeated lines in music or poetry

A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry — the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

On Ilkla Moor Baht at Folk song from Yorkshire, England

"On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" is a folk song from Yorkshire, England. It is sung in the Yorkshire dialect, and is considered the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire. According to tradition, the words were composed by members of a church choir on an outing to Ilkley Moor near Ilkley, West Yorkshire. It is classified as numbers 2143 and 19808 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

Strophic form

Strophic form – also called verse-repeating form, chorus form, AAA song form, or one-part song form – is a song structure in which all verses or stanzas of the text are sung to the same music. The opposite of strophic form, with new music written for every stanza, is called through-composed.

Anacreon Ancient Greek lyric poet

Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and erotic poems. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of Nine Lyric Poets. Anacreon wrote all of his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect. Like all early lyric poetry, it was composed to be sung or recited to the accompaniment of music, usually the lyre. Anacreon's poetry touched on universal themes of love, infatuation, disappointment, revelry, parties, festivals and the observations of everyday people and life.

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, 32-bar form, verse–chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the 12-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 one or more guitar solos in the song, often found after the middle chorus part. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or a solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

Music of ancient Greece

The music of ancient Greece was almost universally present in ancient Greek society, from marriages, funerals, and religious ceremonies to theatre, folk music, and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry. It thus played an integral role in the lives of ancient Greeks. There are significant fragments of actual Greek musical notation as well as many literary references to ancient Greek music, such that some things can be known—or reasonably surmised—about what the music sounded like, the general role of music in society, the economics of music, the importance of a professional caste of musicians, etc. Even archaeological remains reveal an abundance of depictions on ceramics, for example, of music being performed.

History of poetry

Poetry as an art form predates written text. The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns, and other types of song such as chants. As such poetry is a verbal art. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are recorded prayers, or stories about religious subject matter, but they also include historical accounts, instructions for everyday activities, love songs, and fiction. Many scholars, particularly those researching the Homeric tradition and the oral epics of the Balkans, suggest that early writing shows clear traces of older oral traditions, including the use of repeated phrases as building blocks in larger poetic units. A rhythmic and repetitious form would make a long story easier to remember and retell, before writing was available as a reminder. Thus many ancient works, from the Vedas to the Odyssey, appear to have been composed in poetic form to aid memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry appears among the earliest records of most literate cultures, with poetic fragments found on early monoliths, runestones and stelae.

Epinikion Genre of poetry

The epinikion or epinicion is a genre of occasional poetry also known in English as a victory ode. In ancient Greece, the epinikion most often took the form of a choral lyric, commissioned for and performed at the celebration of an athletic victory in the Panhellenic Games and sometimes in honor of a victory in war. Major poets in the genre are Simonides, Bacchylides, and Pindar.

Greek lyric

Greek lyric is the body of lyric poetry written in dialects of Ancient Greek. It is primarily associated with the early 7th to the early 5th centuries BC, sometimes called the "Lyric Age of Greece", but continued to be written into the Hellenistic and Imperial periods.

Choral poetry is a type of lyric poetry that was created by the ancient Greeks and performed by choruses. Originally, it was accompanied by a lyre, a string instrument like a small U-shaped harp commonly used during Greek classical antiquity and later periods.

References

  1. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary 1st ed. lyric, adj. and n." 1903. Accessed 15 Jan 2014.
  2. Liddell, Henry & al. A Greek–English Lexicon 9th ed., "λυρικός". Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1996. Hosted at the Perseus Project. Accessed 15 Jan 2014.
  3. Sidney, Philip. An Apologie for Poetrie op. cit. OED (1903).
  4. Miller, Andrew. Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation , pp. xii ff. Hackett Publishing (Indianapolis), 1996. ISBN   978-0872202917.
  5. Stainer, John & al. A Dictionary of Musical Terms, p. 276. (London), 1876.
  6. Wilder, Alec (1972). American Popular Song. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0195014457.
  7. Gottlieb, Robert (2000). Reading Lyrics. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN   9780375400810.
  8. Sondheim, Stephen (2011). Finishing the Hat. New York: Knopf. ISBN   9780679439073.
  9. Kelly, Thomas Forest (2011). Early Music: A Very Short Introduction, p.53. ISBN   978-0-19-973076-6.
  10. Durant (1984). Cited in Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN   0-335-15275-9.
  11. Middleton (1990), p.167.
  12. "Song sites face legal crackdown". BBC News. 12 December 2005. Retrieved 7 January 2007.
  13. "Advertising on SongMeanings". SongMeanings . Retrieved 21 July 2012. All of our lyrics are legally licensed through LyricFind.
  14. Plambeck, Joseph (May 9, 2010). "Lyrics Sites at Center of Fight Over Royalties". The New York Times . Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  15. "Court Orders LiveUniverse to Shutter Unlicensed Lyrics Sites". Digital Media Wire. August 11, 2010. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
  16. Keats, Shane; Koshy, Eipe (2009). "The Web's Most Dangerous Search Terms" (PDF). McAfee . Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  17. Jose, Pagliery (23 December 2014). "Google now displays song lyrics in search results". CNN.com. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  18. "Google Play". play.google.com. Retrieved 2016-04-15.

Further reading