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Introduction to musical form/compositional structure

Probably, the best way to appreciate something is to understand it, and that goes for music. I noticed that all of this talk about good 'compositional structure' on ANUS can be confusing to newbies who don't already grasp it or are unaware of it. Others spout off things about 'compositional structure' or 'structural music', etc., and can grasp it, but can barely explain it to themselves.

It shouldn't take an entire music theory course! So this is for you:


If you don't learn anything new from it, share it with someone who will!

Any similar links would be welcome here, by the way.

Good starting place.

One thing it leaves out, is that variations on previous sections are usually labeled as "prime," which is indicated with a mark next to the letter, for example:

A prime



A third variation on the original A section that differs from A prime would be called "A double prime" or A'' (two marks).

And obviously, you simply increase the numbering and markings as more variations of the same section occur.

For new sections that are not derived from previous material, you simply go up the letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, etc.

Time's effect on the material
May 26, 2009, 01:28:03 AM
I'm relatively new to this kooky "art-music" stuff. But this Anthony Brandt fellow explains things well, and if you have time, take a look:

What I'm focused on here are these articles though~

The effect of time (repetition, etc.) on music. A justification for lengthy "repetitive" music that bores the ADD-afflicted:

And a supplemental writing - "How Music Makes Sense", featuring explainations of PHRASES and MOTIVES (motifs).

Repetitive motifs that return unaffected by time show up everywhere. Apocalyptic Warrior by Massacra and most songs by Burzum are good examples of this effect in metal music.

What's noticeable is that most good metal just exploits the fact that humble simplicity can be very powerful:

Similarly, one of the guiding principles of
   art-music is repetition without
   redundancy. The music will repeat its main ideas,
   but constantly in new ways.


In classical music, the goal is similarly to maximize the
. That is, the goal is to take a limited
   number of ingredients and create the greatest possible
   variety. A composer such as Beethoven or Bartok can take just
   a few basic elements and create the musical equivalent of a complete meal of soup,
   main course, salad and dessert--all with distinctive flavors,
   so that you sometimes can't even recognize the presence of
   the same ingredients in every recipe.

It just works that way.

Sorry scenekids, your zany ADHD-core is no match for time.

Listening to explicit, literal repetition is like eating a
   simple carbohydrate: It is easily digested and quickly
   absorbed. That is why popular music has so much literal
   repetition: Its success depends on making an immediate
   impact. On the other hand, listening to transformed repetition
   is like eating a complex carbohydrate: It takes longer to
   digest. More of our attention is engaged: What changed? By how
   much? How fast did it happen? How long will it persist in the
   new form? Observations lead to interpretation: Why did it
   change? What are the consequences of what happened?

More and more, nutritionists are emphasizing that complex
   carbohydrates are healthier for our bodies. Similarly,
   transformed repetition may be healthier for our musical minds: It
   demands greater concentration, more astute observations and
   more careful reasoning--in short, more active
   listening. Learning to recognize and evaluate transformed
   repetition is a crucial aspect of music appreciation.

Children: Patience and attention are all that are needed on your behalf.

Is it difficult for you to muster up a little attention? Is that really so demanding?

Go listen to some Beethoven for once, you won't regret it.

Understanding form is vital, although in metal, the riffs need to be viewed as phrases complementing one another through successive broadening of scope, albeit in a somewhat recursive manner to preserve much of the verse/chorus "feel" of popular music.

repetition without redundancy

I don't think you can give any better advice than that.


repetition without redundancy

I don't think you can give any better advice than that.


This fits into Bruckner's idea of prismatic composition. While others went serialist, he was thinking of each piece has having a "scale" made of motifs, and trying to find ways to repeat those in different orders so they always enhanced the context of what went before. Sort of like a really good sestina in poetry.

Writing and understanding music on sheet may be a useful skill for one's musical need. This site can teach you the basics for writing and understanding sheet music and further helps to identify notes and build chords.