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Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...
for "it is silent". It is a musical term to indicate that an instrument or voice does not sound. In vocal polyphony and in orchestral scores, it usually indicates a long period of time, typically an entire movement. In more modern music such as jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...
, tacet tends to mark considerably shorter breaks.
It was common for early symphonies to leave out the brass or percussion in certain movements, especially slow (second) movements, and this is the instruction given in the parts for the player to wait until the end of the movement.
It is also commonly used in accompaniment music to indicate that the instrument does not play on a certain run through a portion of the music, i.e., "Tacet 1st Time."
A unique usage of this term is in John Cage's
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...
4′33″. A tacet is indicated for all three movements, for all instruments. The piece lasts a total of 4 minutes and 33 seconds, without a note actually being played.