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Air (music)

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Title: Air (music)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Reel (dance), Jig, Ceol Meadhonach, Ceòl Beag, Early music of the British Isles
Collection: 16Th-Century Music Genres, 17Th-Century Music Genres, 18Th-Century Music Genres, Song Forms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Air (music)

Air (Italian: "aria"; also ayr, ayre in French), a variant of the musical song form (in opera, cantata and oratorio often referred to as aria), is the name of various song-like vocal or instrumental compositions, and can also be applied to the interchangeable melodies of folk songs and ballads.


  • English lute ayres 1
  • Baroque and classical airs 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4

English lute ayres

Lute ayres emerged in the court of Elizabeth I of England toward the end of the 16th century and enjoyed considerable popularity until the 1620s. Probably based on Italian monody and French air de cour, they were solo songs, occasionally with more (usually three) parts, accompanied on a lute.[1] (p. 306). Their popularity began with the publication of John Dowland's (1563–1626) First Booke of Songs or Ayres (1597). His most famous ayres include Come again, Flow my tears, I saw my Lady weepe, and In darkness let me dwell.[1] The genre was further developed by Thomas Campion (1567–1620) whose Books of Airs (1601) (co-written with Philip Rosseter) contains over 100 lute songs and was reprinted four times in the 1610s.[2] Although this printing boom died out in the 1620s, ayres continued to be written and performed and were often incorporated into court masques.[1] (p. 309).

Baroque and classical airs

By the 18th century, composers wrote airs for HWV 348, part of Handel's Water Music collection, is another frequently performed air.

See also


  1. ^ a b c G. J. Buelow, History of Baroque Music: Music in the 17th and First Half of the 18th Centuries, Indiana University Press, 2004
  2. ^ C. MacClintock, Readings in the history of music in performance, Indiana University Press, 1982, p. 194.
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