A Conversation for Structure in Classical Music

Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 1

Steve K.

Nice entry, a valiant attempt to cover a huge topic. Too bad audio examples can't be included on H2G2.

I recently listened to a series of lectures titled "More than Mozart" by Richard Freedman (Barnes & Noble Audio). He makes an interesting distinction between sectional and continuous musical forms.

The former is the most common, I think, and includes most, if not all, of the forms in the entry. My favorite is a binary piece by Mozart titled "Theme and Variation", one page of music for solo keyboard. The first half starts out tonal and veers into a chromatic finish. The second half starts out chromatic and veers back to ... well, what else, tonal. My music theory prof points to a single quarter rest just before the finale that makes the whole thing humorous. Only Mozart ... smiley - jester

Continuous form is not so common, I think, but it does include one of my all time favorites, Bach's C Major Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier. "After a brief introductory section establishing the main tonal center, Bach begins an extremely long (and increasingly circuitous) tour of musical space: sequence after sequence cycles us in a downward spiral, then a series of almost magical chromatic inflections." But no repeated sections. Only Bach ... smiley - magic

Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 2


I agree it would be an advantage to be able add our own music here.
Are either of you composers?

My only criticism (if you can call it that, it isn't a criticism really) is re:

"With a good structure, the music takes the listener on a musical journey, with a beginning, middle and end."

My compositions very rarely have an ending, a bit like Mozart's loud crashes really, it makes the old ladies in the audience sit up and think...smiley - biggrin

Have a nice day smiley - magicsmiley - musicalnote

Hope you and your wife have a Happy Valentine's day, Gnomon smiley - loveblush

Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 3

Steve K.

I am not a composer, my interest in music is as a soundtrack element for short videos, typically animations. So I do use software to create digital music, typically starting with pre-exisiting material (loops, MIDI clips, etc.)

Your comment about no ending reminds me of something else my music theory prof said, regarding the "tonic" or fundamental note/chord of a key. At one point, all music was said to follow this chord progression:

I ... V I

So a composition starts with a given harmony/chord (I), meanders all around the wheel of fifths (...) and ends back on the home chord/key with a V - I cadence (so we know when to applaud smiley - applause). But one fine day it was discovered that the tonic was dead. And it was Wagner who killed it, going off into musical space and never returning to the tonic.

Incidentally, I think Wagner was also more interested in music as secondary, supportive to the action on stage.

Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 4


Sorry, didn't see this. I am not a composer for a living but I do compose. I also play the violin.smiley - smiley

I agree that Wagner is sometimes very suprising to listen to sometimes. You're never quite sure what he'll do next, if you see what I mean.

Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 5

Steve K.

I am not a big fan of opera, but some of Wagner's music is way up on my list of alltime favorites, e.g. "Ride of the Valkyries" which was used to great effect in the movie "Apocalypse Now".

He was very innovative, as my theory prof emphasized regarding "Tristan und Isolde" which has the "Tristan chord". Apparently the theorists could not think of anything else to call it, and Wagner took the position it was not HIS job to analyze his own genius ... smiley - whistle

You can hear it in context here:


Sectional vs. Continuous Forms

Post 6


Wagner is a devil to play as well; sometimes he has four or five separate melodies playing at once, making it very easy to get lost. It creates the most magnificent effect though.

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