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a. the cast of a play other than the principals; supporting players
b. (as modifier): an ensemble role
2. Music
a. a group of soloists singing or playing together
b. (as modifier): an ensemble passage
3. Music the degree of precision and unity exhibited by a group of instrumentalists or singers performing together
4. Physics
a. a set of systems (such as a set of collections of atoms) that are identical in all respects apart from the motions of their constituents
b. a single system (such as a collection of atoms) in which the properties are determined by the statistical behaviour of its constituents
5. (of a film or play) involving several separate but often interrelated story lines
6. involving no individual star but several actors whose roles are of equal importance
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(unity, consonance, harmony)

(1) In music ensemble refers to a chamber work for a small number of performers—instrumentalists or vocalists: duet (two performers), trio (three), quartet (four), quintet (five), sextet (six), septet (seven), octet (eight), nonet (nine), and others. Ensembles are also to be found in operas, operettas, oratorios, and cantatas.

(2) In the art of the theater the term “ensemble” signifies balanced and harmonious performances by the actors. Throughout the entire history of the theater the ensemble has arisen as a result of the excellent teamwork of highly professional actors’ groups. The theatrical realism at the end of the 19th century raised the ensemble style to the level of an artistic principle. A historically new phase in this regard was the activity of the so-called free theaters, especially that of the Moscow Art Theater. The system created bv K. S. Stanislavsky for an actor’s work on his role includes interrelationship, interaction, and an internal tie among the actors in the process of their creative work within the basic conditions of stagecraft. Having begun with the concept of ensemble as interpreting the play as a whole, the theater arrived at the assertion of the “deep ensemble” (V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko’s term). The ensemble method became the means for solving complex artistic problems, such as characteristics of environment and period, the structure of crowd scenes, the creation of an emotional atmosphere for the action (“mood”), the revelation of a “background plane,” and a “subtext.” In principle the modern theater is an ensemble theater. The level of stage culture in a production with any content or style is shown in the ensemble.

(3) A group of artists who perform as a single artistic collective, such as a song and dance ensemble, an ensemble of folk instruments, a folk dance ensemble, an ensemble of Soviet opera, and the like.



a complex of defensive installations in a fortified area, forming a strong point in which groups of fortifications are linked by a common underground unit. Before World War II, two ensembles were erected at the most important sectors of the Maginot Line. Artillery and machine gun towers, machine gun and gun caponieres and half-caponieres, antitank ditches and escarpments, and antipersonnel wire obstacles were located above ground in the ensembles. Below the ground, at a depth of up to 30 meters, control centers, storehouses, and living quarters for the garrison were built. All of the structures were linked by a network of underground galleries and vertical tunnels; they were camouflaged and provided with fire support.



a totality, a harmonious whole.

In architecture and urban construction the term “ensemble” refers to a harmonious unity in the spatial distribution of buildings and engineering constructions (bridges, quays, and the like), architectural paintings, sculpture, and green areas. As a rule, ensembles include roads, drainage systems, and other public amenities of the territory. An important role in planning an ensemble is played by the area’s natural conditions (relief, water resources, and so on). An architectural ensemble is achieved through the integrity of the spatial arrangement of the urban construction complex, the unity of scale, and the rhythm and the module of the buildings and installations that form the ensemble. An ensemble can be created at one time (on the basis of a single plan and in one style) or over a long period (by complementing the original composition with structures of a different style). In the latter case, the integrity of the ensemble is preserved only if the general principles of its construction are adhered to, in an organic combination of the new with the old (Russian monasteries, St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Dvortsovaia Square in Leningrad). To enhance the artistic quality of ensemble architecture and to reveal its ideological and imaginative essence, various kinds of plastic arts are often included in its composition. Such are the ensemble of the Decembrists Square with a monument to Peter I in Leningrad, the palace and park ensembles of the 17th and 18th centuries (Versailles, Petrodvorets, Kuskovo, and many others), and the Lenin Square ensemble in Yerevan (1926–58).

In decorative art, an ensemble may be an artistically integrated group of works, such as an ensemble of mural frescoes or of the decor and furnishings of an interior, of costumes, of jewelry, and the like. The volume and the spatial relationships of a decorative ensemble in an interior are in a large measure dictated by the architectural design of the building (its form, size, and proportions).




in statistical mechanics, a collection of an arbitrarily large number of identical many-particle physical systems (replicas of a given system) that are in identical macroscopic states. The microscopic states of each system may take on all values compatible with specified values of the macroscopic parameters that determine the system’s macroscopic state.

Examples of ensembles are the microcanonical ensemble, which is a collection of systems describing a single isolated system of specified total energy, the canonical ensemble, which is a collection of systems describing an individual system that is in thermal contact with a heat reservoir of a specified temperature, and the grand canonical ensemble, which is a collection of systems describing an individual system that is in contact with a heat reservoir and a reservoir of particles.

A fundamental concept of statistical mechanics, the ensemble permits the application of the methods of probability theory.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(statistical mechanics)
A collection of systems of particles used to describe an individual system; time averages of quantities describing the individual system are found by averaging over the systems in the ensemble at a fixed time.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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