Songs without words

I was interested to read an article by Frank J. Oteri in New Music Box today that resonated with me. He complains that increasingly all music is being described as ‘songs’. I’m grateful to know that I’m not the only one who calls a song a song, and an instrumental piece, a piece or composition. It’s only since coming to the US in fact, that this has been an issue at all. When I began to teach piano, I was astonished when some of my students referred to their pieces as songs. I’d love to know how this started- any ideas?

3 Responses to “Songs without words”

  1. Encyclopedia Brittanica says:

    The Romantic movement made the 19th century a golden age for the art song, notably the German lied. In the 20th century the popular song displaced the more cultivated art song, and popular music is today synonymous with popular song.

    I think the equation simply eventually started flowing the other direction – equating the term song (as in popular song) with music (as in any kind of music). Almost all popular music involves lyrics, and so the use of song to mean music simply points up that pop songs account for the overwhelming majority of what modern individuals know to be music.

    Thank heavens I have you to correct me.

  2. I was going to say the same thing that Robert said.

    When teaching beginning violin students, they all refer to their pieces as “songs.” It’s only after they’ve been studying for a while (that is, getting to a point where they know better) that they drop songs and call pieces whatever they happen to be: jigs, reels, sonatas, and so on.

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