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Coloquially, crescendo is often used--inaccurately--to refer to this. Climax might be used, but a musical climax is not necessarily about volume, and this term is not included in the Oxford Dictionary of Music. I am looking for a word used by composers and/or musicologists to particularly refer to the loudest point in a musical composition.

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  • To be specific, I am thinking of the point at which a composer wishes the interpreter to play more loudly than at any other point in the composition. Therefore, it will likely include the notation "fff" or something more--Stravinsky's Firebird includes a "ffff" and Ligeti's Devil's Staircase includes a "ffffffff." So the question is, is there a term to describe the loudest point in any composition--i.e., that could be used to mean both Stravisnsky's "ffff" and Ligeti's "ffffffff"?
    – user28024
    Apr 24 '16 at 16:36
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    There really isn't any reason or need for such a term, as the loudest point - nor the quietest, or slowest, or fastest. That's irrelevant to the overall analysis of a piece. And BTW, that is not a colloquial use of "crescendo." If you've seen that in a novel or two, it's just been misused. Apr 25 '16 at 11:06
  • 1) Actually, the use of crescendo in this way is rampant--it far exceeds "a novel or two." This is one reason why it would be nice to have a real word to replace it. 2) Dynamics is irrelevant to the overall analysis of a piece? Funny that composers don't consider them irrelevant to the writing of a piece.
    – user28024
    Apr 25 '16 at 12:49
  • @CarlWitthoft To clarify, I am an editor, and I see "crescendo" routinely misused in this way. This is exactly what set me off on a search for the proper word. I can easily believe the word I'm looking for does not exist--that's probably why "crescendo" is misused--which would confirm that no such word is "needed." Still, it is clear that "the loudest" and "the slowest moments" are topics that are referred to in both analysis and reviews.
    – user28024
    Apr 25 '16 at 14:33
  • It sounds like you might be confusing the term for a marking for loudest possible volume and the highest volume in a specific piece of music. There is no end to the number of ffff...'s one can place in sheet music thought I've not seen one past 4. Also, the loudest volume in a piece may NOT always align with the "climax" of the music in the artistic sense of the term (thought they do often correlate). Which one were you referring to?
    – user50691
    Feb 5 at 13:10
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Unfortunately "rise to a crescendo" has now entered the English language. But I think musicians still know that a crescendo is the climb, not the summit!

If you find "climax" too vague and you specifically want to refer to the LOUDEST point of a piece, I think you'll have to say "loudest point". Or, if you're thinking in terms of compression, normalisation etc. the 'peak level'.

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I'd go for "dynamic peak". Interestingly, this commonly describes the location of the maximum, whereas the juxtaposition "peak dynamic" only refers to the value (such as fff).

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I can't really see that it necessarily has anything to do with volume or intensity, but solely the intention of the composer. The word 'climax' suggests an end, the word 'crescendo' describes the climb - perhaps we start a new thing here and start calling it 'parte migliore' - literally : the best bit!

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FFFF = Fortissississimo, loudest possible

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    1. lots of composers don't write such extreme dynamic markings (until the late romantic, even fff was rather outrageous, and in earlier music you may not even find more than f) 2. even if a work contains exactly one ffff, that may not actually be the loudest point. For example, if a symphony contains ffff for the strings somewhere, then this will sound very intense but not as loud as another place where timpani, cymbals and trombones together hit it at “merely” ff 3. dynamics are never written with uppercase letters. Jun 3 '20 at 15:20

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