tenor

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tenor,

highest natural male voicevoice,
sound produced by living beings. The source of the sound in human speaking and singing is the vibration of the vocal cords, which are inside the larynx, and the production of the sounds is called phonation.
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. In medieval polyphony, tenor was the name given to the voice that had the cantus firmus, a preexisting melody, often a fragment of plainsong, to which other voices in counterpoint were added. The cantus was arranged in notes of long duration, hence the term tenor, from the Latin tenere, to hold. In about the 12th cent., when this practice arose, the various parts in polyphonic music were roughly equal in range, and it was some centuries later that tenor came to denote a voice of any certain range. The male alto range is termed countertenorcountertenor,
a male singing voice in the alto range. Singing in this range requires either a special vocal technique called falsetto, or a high extension of the tenor range.
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. In certain families of instruments the member whose register corresponds to that of the tenor voice is called tenor, e.g., tenor horn and tenor trombone.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tenor

 

(1) A high male singing voice with a range from C below middle C to A above. The main types of tenor are the lyric tenor, or tenore di grazia, and the dramatic tenor, or tenore di forza. The lyric tenor is characterized by its soft timbre, ability to sing tuneful melodies, and mobility. The dramatic tenor is distinguished by great force and breadth of sound over the entire range. There is also a lyric-dramatic tenor and an alto, which reaches E above high C.

(2) A musical wind instrument used in wind bands. The term also refers to some musical instruments, usually of middle register, belonging to a given family—as, for example, the tenor saxophone or tenor dombra.

(3) In the Middle Ages, from the 12th century, the voice in contrapuntal composition that carried the main melody, or cantus firmus. At first the tenor was a low voice; with the addition of the bass, it became the middle voice of a polyphonic work.

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

tenor

1. Music
a. the male voice intermediate between alto and baritone, having a range approximately from the B a ninth below middle C to the G a fifth above it
b. a singer with such a voice
c. a saxophone, horn, recorder, etc., intermediate in compass and size between the alto and baritone or bass
d. (as modifier): a tenor sax
2. 
a. (in early polyphonic music) the part singing the melody or the cantus firmus
b. (in four-part harmony) the second lowest part lying directly above the bass
3. Bell-ringing
a. the heaviest and lowest-pitched bell in a ring
b. (as modifier): a tenor bell
4. Law
a. the exact words of a deed, etc., as distinct from their effect
b. an exact copy or transcript
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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