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What is the correct way of saying that the song grew louder gradually?

  1. His song rose in a crescendo

  2. His song rose to a crescendo.

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    "Rose to a crescendo" is not correct since it's not a destination but a process of getting louder. It's completely appropriate to say, alternatively though, "His song crescendoed to a glorious fortissimo at its climax." – Kristina Lopez Nov 4 '14 at 17:19
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    @KristinaLopez lovely example. – Joel Anair Nov 4 '14 at 20:18
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Because a song can rise both in pitch and in volume, for clarity you might consider simply using crescendo as a verb:

His song crescendoed.

As for the two options you presented, I would choose "in a crescendo" because the crescendo represents the change in volume, not just the final level. As @mikeagg pointed out, the song may have risen to a climax.

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If the song gradually grew louder then it rose in a crescendo. It possibly rose to a climax.

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To a musician, crescendo is an instruction to get louder, and a crescendo is the action of getting louder. In this context, rose to a crescendo is nonsense.

However, like many technical terms, crescendo has been adopted into common language, with a different meaning; in this case, something like climax; so rose to a crescendo is a common expression.

Rose in a crescendo is a possible phrase, preserving the musical meaning, but it is not very likely, because the musical crescendo already conveys the sense of increase. I don't think it would be said with the general meaning of crescendo.

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    I agree, both as to the literal paradox and to the change in meaning due to the crossover to common language. The problem with "rose [in or to] a crescendo" is exactly the same as the problem of "fell [in or to] a diminuendo": The Italian instruction is inherent in the simple English verb, so you'd do better to modify the verb with something like "gradually [or quickly] rose." The phrase "reached a crescendo" has a similar problem, although that might be taken to refer to the specific place in a piece of sheet music where the instruction "Crescendo" ("Begin to increase volume") appears. – Sven Yargs Nov 4 '14 at 17:35

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