A song is a relatively short musical composition for the human voice (possibly accompanied by other musical instruments), which features words (lyrics). The words are typically of a poetic, rhyming nature, although they may be religious verses or free prose. Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms, depending on the criteria used. A common division is between "art songs" and "folk songs", the latter being of anonymous origin and culturally associated. Other common methods of classification are by purpose (sacred vs secular), by style (dance, ballad, lieder, etc.) or by time of origin (Renaissance, Contemporary, etc). The performer of a song is called a "singer" or "vocalist", the act is called singing.
Art songs are songs created for performance in their own right, usually with piano accompaniment, although they can also have other types of accompaniment such as an orchestra or string quartet. Generally they are defined as having an identified author(s) and require serious voice training. The German word for song, "Lied" (plural: "Lieder"), is used in French and English-speaking communities to refer to the serious art song, whereas in German-speaking communities the word "Kunstlied" (plural: "Kunstlieder") is used to distinguish art song from folk song ("Volkslied").
Folk songs are songs of anonymous origin that are transmitted orally. They are frequently a major aspect of national or cultural identity. Art songs often become folk songs when people forget who the author was. Folk songs are also frequently transmitted non-orally (that is, as sheet music), especially in the modern era.
For a list of influential songs, see:
- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll
- The Grammy Hall of Fame Award (also includes many albums)
- The annual Eurovision Song Contest includes a list of winners
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