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A painting on an ancient Greek vase depicts a music lesson (c. 510 BC).

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics (loudness and softness), and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the "color" of a musical sound). Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces (such as songs without instrumental accompaniment) and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; "art of the Muses"). See glossary of musical terminology. Read more...

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Photo portrait of the composer John Adams
Nixon in China is an opera in three acts by John Adams (pictured), with a libretto by Alice Goodman. Adams' first opera, it was inspired by U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972. The work premiered at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987, in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris. Goodman's libretto was the result of considerable research into Nixon's visit, though she disregarded most sources published after 1972.

Although sometimes described as "minimalist", the score displays a variety of musical styles, embracing minimalism after the manner of Philip Glass alongside passages echoing 19th-century composers such as Wagner and Johann Strauss. With these ingredients, Adams mixes Stravinskian 20th-century neoclassicism, jazz references, and big band sounds reminiscent of Nixon's youth in the 1930s.

Following the 1987 premiere, the opera received mixed reviews; some critics dismissed the work, predicting it would soon vanish. However, recent critical opinion has tended to recognize the work as a significant and lasting contribution to American opera.

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