Volume in Music

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Volume, also referred to as dynamics, is one of the most important components of sound. Composers use volume as a way of controlling the emotional content and shape of a piece. It is interesting to note, however, that early composers did not generally mark their scores with instructions about volume until well into the 17th century, but depended upon the musicians to determine the appropriate levels of volume for a specific performance space. Composers started writing indications for dynamic levels in scores at about the same time period that significant improvements were taking place in the construction of various instruments. Instruments began to be manufactured in ways that allowed for a greater range of volume and volume control than had been previously possible. Symbols to indicate volume and dynamic changes were created by the most widely respected group of composers and musicians in the Western world during the 17th century: the Italians. At first, dynamic indications were used sparingly, but starting in the late 18th century, Italian terms for volume (dynamics) started to be widely used by composers regardless of their nationality. It is important to remember that dynamics can refer to the overall loudness or softness of music, as well as to the process of gradual change between volume levels. Volume, therefore, not only covers the loudness or softness of sound at a particular point in time, but more importantly, also refers to the infinitely subtle shadings that are possible between discrete dynamic levels. Volume gradation is one is one of the most important expressive elements available to composers and performers. Additional factors can influence dynamic change include energy, number of instruments, and distance from the sound source to the listener. Although these factors are closely related to each other, we will examine them separately. According to the laws of physics, the amount of energy initially applied to a body sets that body in motion....
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