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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.

Written words created specifically for music, or for which music is specifically created, are called lyrics. If a pre-existing poem is set to composed music in classical music it is an art song. Songs that are sung on repeated pitches without distinct contours and patterns that rise and fall are called chants. Songs composed in a simple style that are learned informally "by ear" are often referred to as folk songs. Songs that are composed for professional singers who sell their recordings or live shows to the mass market are called popular songs. These songs, which have broad appeal, are often composed by professional songwriters, composers, and lyricists. Art songs are composed by trained classical composers for concert or recital performances. Songs are performed live and recorded on audio or video (or, in some cases, a song may be performed live and simultaneously recorded). Songs may also appear in plays, musical theatre, stage shows of any form, and within operas, films, and TV shows.

A song may be for a solo singer, a lead singer supported by background singers, a duet, trio, or larger ensemble involving more voices singing in harmony, although the term is generally not used for large classical music vocal forms including opera and oratorio, which use terms such as aria and recitative instead. A song can be sung without accompaniment by instrumentalists (a cappella) or accompanied by instruments. In popular music, a singer may perform with an acoustic guitarist, pianist, organist, accordionist, or a backing band. In jazz, a singer may perform with a single pianist, a small combo (such as a trio or quartet), or with a big band. A Classical singer may perform with a single pianist, a small ensemble, or an orchestra. In jazz and blues, singers often learn songs "by ear" and they may improvise some melody lines. In Classical music, melodies are written by composers in sheet music format, so singers learn to read music.

Songs with more than one voice to a part singing in polyphony or harmony are considered choral works. Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms and types, depending on the criteria used. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals, such as Mendelssohn's 19th century Songs Without Words pieces for solo piano.

Song Media

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The Nine Songs: Illustrations to the poems of Qu Yuan (343–277 B.C.)

The Nine Songs: Illustrations to the poems of Qu Yuan (343–277 B.C.)

Unidentified Artist Chinese Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) (?)

Songs from BL Harley 2253, ff. 71v-72

Songs from BL Harley 2253, ff. 71v-72

A song about the good effects of the spring; a song about Isomen; a ditty in which the poet repents of his former sinful life. Image taken from ff. 71v-72 of Various texts including secular and religious lyrics... More

Song of songs from BL Add 15282, f. 296v

Song of songs from BL Add 15282, f. 296v

Initial-word panel ~Shir~ (song) with Gothic architectural structure inhabited by a unicorn and a bear, in colours. Image taken from f. 296v of Pentateuch (the 'Duke of Sussex's German Pentateuch') with Targum ... More

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs of the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs of the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Study for an Engraving of "Songs in the Opera of Flora"

Hubert François Gravelot (French, Paris 1699–1773 Paris)

A New humorous song, on the Cherokee chiefs Inscribed to the ladies of Great Britain : To the tune of, Caesar and Pompey were both of the horned / / by H. Howard., British Cartoon Print

A New humorous song, on the Cherokee chiefs Inscribed to the ladies of...

A broadside comprising seven verses in letterpress below an engraving, representing three Red Indian Chiefs in their national costumes; these men are named, "The Stalking Turkey", "The Pouting Pidgeon", "The Ma... More

The election, a medley, humbly inscribed to Squire Lilliput, professor of scurrility

The election, a medley, humbly inscribed to Squire Lilliput, professor...

Cartoon shows the old courthouse in Philadelphia during the October 1, 1764 election where a line of men wait at the steps on the right to enter the courthouse and cast their votes; in the foreground, many men,... More

The desponding hero of the Coldstream - a military madrigal, British Cartoon Print

The desponding hero of the Coldstream - a military madrigal, British C...

Print shows dejected members of the Coldstream Guards sitting around a banquet table bemoaning a possible assignment in America. Includes five stanzas of verse. Title from item. Forms part of: British Cartoon ... More

The gig / Wells del., British Cartoon Print

The gig / Wells del., British Cartoon Print

Print shows two British sailors waving banners labeled "Rodney," one smokes a long clay pipe, between them is a Dutchman, his hands behind his back, sitting in the bottom portion of a toy top, he says, "Mine he... More

Utilité particuliére, du vaisseau volant Divers utilités, du vaisseau volant.

Utilité particuliére, du vaisseau volant Divers utilités, du vaisseau ...

Two songs illustrated with humorous pictures of men using flying machines for various purposes. The left panel shows a man fleeing from his creditors, while the four vignettes to the right depict a clergyman, a... More

portrait from "P. W.s Bottle Companion; a collection of convivial songs, etc"

portrait from "P. W.s Bottle Companion; a collection of convivial song...

This image has been taken from scan 000006 from "P. W.s Bottle Companion; a collection of convivial songs, etc". The title and subject terms of this image have been generated from tags, created by users of the ... More

[Title page; Songs of Innocence and of Experiences; showing the two contrary states of the human soul; showing Adam & Eve]

[Title page; Songs of Innocence and of Experiences; showing the two co...

Hand-colored engraving by William Blake. Reference copy may be in LCQJ, Winter 1980. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Caption card tracings: Bible O.T.; Title pages; Publ. Ind.

music from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads now extant relative to that ... outlaw. To which are prefixed historical anecdotes of his life. [Edited by J. Ritson. With wood engravings by Thomas Bewick.]]"

music from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs,...

This image has been taken from scan 000522 from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads now extant relative to that ... outlaw. To which are prefixed historical anecdotes of his ... More

music from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads now extant relative to that ... outlaw. To which are prefixed historical anecdotes of his life. [Edited by J. Ritson. With wood engravings by Thomas Bewick.]]"

music from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs,...

This image has been taken from scan 000456 from "[Robin Hood; a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads now extant relative to that ... outlaw. To which are prefixed historical anecdotes of his ... More

marbling from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera, entitled: Sketches from life; or, The wandering Bard"

marbling from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera...

This image has been taken from scan 000005 from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera, entitled: Sketches from life; or, The wandering Bard". The title and subject terms of this image have be... More

Loyal Songs of Itako (Chūkō itakobushi), Katsushika Hokusai

Loyal Songs of Itako (Chūkō itakobushi), Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1760–1849 Tokyo (Edo)) Edo period (1615–1868)

marbling from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera, entitled: Sketches from life; or, The wandering Bard"

marbling from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera...

This image has been taken from scan 000004 from "The songs, odes, ballads, duets, and glees, in an opera, entitled: Sketches from life; or, The wandering Bard". The title and subject terms of this image have be... More

[ Facsimile of first newspaper printing of The star spangled banner]

[ Facsimile of first newspaper printing of The star spangled banner]

Published in the" Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser." Part of an assortment of uncatalogued clippings and photostats relating to the Star Spangled Banner, housed in the Music Division.