Musical Form Study

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Correlli, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    print version

    Musical Form
    Musical form is the orderly arrangement of musical elements, in which its form unfolds over time. There are two fundamental characteristics of musical form:

    Repetition invokes a recollection of what was heard, and an anticipation of what is to come. It is used for recognizable detail and subtle patterns, which is only subliminally recognized. The listener knowingly or unknowingly understands this system, and has an effect on the interpretation of what is heard, remembered, and anticipated.

    Common Formal Patterns
    Musical form can exist on several levels of detail. This could be as simple as two major sections within a piece. Letters (AB) can represent a piece with two contrasting sections. Another type of pattern, (ABA) has three sections. The first and last sections are the same, but they contrast with the middle section.
    Example: “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” has three sections (ABA)

    Sectional Patterns
    Can be related to one another in four ways:
    -Exact Repetition – section is exactly repeated.
    -Variation of Repetition – section is elaborated.
    -Development of Repetition – rearrangement of the section.
    -Contrast – totally new section.
    These relationships can be found in many cultures.

    Repetition and Variation
    Simplest among formal patterns are the repetitive formulas of the psalm tones of Gregorian chant and of various tribal chants. Most jazz improvisations, for instance, are variations created to fit the harmonies of a given melody.

    Sectional Contrast
    Binary Form consists of two contrasting sections:
    Example: “Green-sleeves” (AA BB), second (A) is variation the first.

    Binary form may involve key change. Example: Section A begins in one key and ends in another; section B begins in the new key and ends in the original key; each section is repeated, giving the pattern (AA BB). Patterns with (ABA) can have improvisation variation in the repeated (A). (ABA) has often been called Song Form.

    In multi-movement work (sonata or symphony), patterns took the form (ABA):
    -(A) Initial minuet or scherzo.
    -(B) Contrast (also called a Trio).
    -(A) Repetition of the initial minuet.

    Within the ABA format, each minuet or scherzo is itself built on a two-part scheme (AB). (AABA) was used a lot in 20th century where section (B) being called a bridge. Example: “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles (AA BA BA). Other examples include:
    -(AB AC A)
    -(AB AC AD A)
    -(AB AC AB A)

    Development and Sonata Form (ABA)
    -(A) Exposition (opening): Initial pattern involves key change.
    -(B) Development (progression): Rearrangement of the initial pattern using many Key changes.
    -(A) Re-capitulation (ending): Restatement of the exposition material, but usually all in the initial key.

    Other Grouping Methods
    -(ABCD): No clear patterns of repeated sections, and has section of contrasting texture that is unified by rhythmic motives.
    -Counterpoint: Interlacing of melodies. The simplest example of melodic expression is the Round. Example: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” where each voice starts the melody after a given number of beats.

    Multi-movement Forms
    Multi-movement Forms is music that contains several movements (progressions) and each section is independent from one another. Also, each has there own form such as sonata form or rondo or variations. Example: Baroque suite and the classical symphony, sonata, and string quartet. Varity is provided by change in tempo between movements. Example: A common pattern is (slow, fast, slow, and fast).

    Form and Content
    Musical forms are defined by the particular patterns that are imposed on melody, harmony, and other musical elements.
    During the 19th century many forms were viewed as molds into which the themes of an individual composition were poured.
    But few compositions of the great composers adhered strictly to a stereotyped form.
    Form in the sense of overall pattern is usually viewed as inseparable from content.

    Standards and Form Components
    Musical form is not only about sectional patterns, but is the organization of melody, rhythm, harmony, and serialism. These types of patterns can exist on several hierarchical levels, which have unity, variety, and symmetry.

    -Melody: Has several traits, which include Melodic Contour (rise and fall in pitch), Range (pitch that can span many intervals), and Scale (each interval may extend to a wholetone or halftone from one another).

    -Time and Rhythm: Musical rhythm is usually organized in regularly recurring patterns. Such patterns regulate the motion (motive) of the music and aid the human ear in grasping its structure.

    -Harmony: Compatible (consonance) harmonies are those that sound stable. Incompatible (dissonance) harmonies sound unstable or seem to clash, and they tend to be resolved into consonant harmonies. Composers can use consonance and dissonance harmonies to create tension, which establishes a sense of beginning and end, of progression and calm.

    Tonic (root) – Open Consonance.
    Minor Second – Sharp Dissonance.
    Major Second – Mild Dissonance.
    Minor Third – Soft Consonance.
    Major Third - Soft Consonance.
    Perfect Fourth (sub-dominant) – Consonance or Dissonance.
    Augmented Fourth and Diminished Fifth – Neutral or Restless.
    Prefect Fifth (dominant) - Open Consonance.
    Augmented Fifth; Minor Sixth; Major Sixth; Diminished Seventh - Soft Consonance.
    Minor Seventh – Mild Dissonance.
    Major Seventh - Sharp Dissonance.
    Octave - Open Consonance.

    -Serialism: System of writing music using the Twelve Note System. This type of music is said to be Atonal, abandoning Tonality altogether, which avoids the primary Tonic note and all key relationships.
  2. groove100


    Jan 22, 2005
    this is good info..
  3. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Interesting. One nitpick: serialism and atonality are *not* the same thing, as you suggest. Serialism is a fairly strict system of composition in which you use pitches in a fixed selected order; atonal basically just means not sounding conventionally "tonal." In practice, most serial music sounds atonal to most of us, but you can have atonal music that has nothing at all to do with serialism.
  4. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Cheers about the serialism stuff. I'm still not 100% clear about it.

    I might have to hunt down some music scores, and really pull it to bits.
  5. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    just amended the definition on Serialism.

    interesting type of music.

    I wonder how a couple of bass guitars would sound

    using this type of technique.