What Is a Song?

A song is a piece of music performed by a single voice with or without instrumental accompaniment. It may be a solo, duet, trio or larger ensemble such as a choir; works for several voices in harmony are called choral songs. A singer can sing a song with a piano, acoustic guitar or other instrument and in various styles of music including classical, folk, rock, blues and jazz.

Speech and music have been combined since earliest times; music heightens the effect of words, allowing them to be pronounced with projection and passion that are difficult to achieve through speaking alone. Singing style differs both within and between cultures, reflecting such variables as ideals of social interaction and perceptions of the spirit world; some cultures value a relaxed and natural vocal quality with loosely articulated lyrics, while others cultivate a highly trained, tense sound with precisely enunciated words.

The term song is often used to distinguish art songs and folk songs from the broader category of popular music, although it is also applied to certain types of religious and liturgical singing. Some art songs are derived from a particular type of poetry, while folk songs can be composed in a wide variety of genres and styles.

In Russia, mass revolutionary songs, which arose in the wake of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent struggle for liberation, have become one of the most important genres of music. Examples include Dunaevskii’s “Song of the Homeland” and “Song of Kakhovka,” Blanter’s “Katiusha,” and A. V. Aleksandrov’s “Hymn of the Sacred War.”