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rubato

(from Italian rubare, "to rob"), in music, subtle rhythmic manipulation and nuance in performance. For greater musical expression, the performer may stretch certain beats, measures, or phrases and compact others. The technique is seldom indicated on a musical score but may be utilized according to the performer's discretion. Rubato may affect only the melody (as in jazz) or the entire musical texture

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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