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Is repetition in composition a good thing?
Yes 60%  60%  [ 3 ]
No 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
It depends on the piece 40%  40%  [ 2 ]
Not sure 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 5
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 Post subject: Repeats
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:51 am 
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Repeats, and why they make music in classical pieces interesting and not repetitive :)

This is something I have been thinking about lately :idea: Here is an essay to prove that repeats, used effectively in many pieces of classical music make music original instead of the other way around, repetitive and dull. What I use to think was that repeats are just a boring restatement of a musical idea. But now I think, after some analysis, repeats don’t just help restate an old idea, they restate a new idea.

Let’s take a look at Mozart’s K1. For the purposes of this essay I want to look at just the minuet and not the trio.
Figure 1 (unless otherwise stated in this essay, when I write measure info, assume I am referencing this)

The piece is set in G Major. There is a repeat at measure 12, so we return to the da capo. This might seem like an unnecessary compositional plan but here is my thinking. You are not just hearing the exact same thing over again.
The notes are the same, but how we hear the first 24 measures of this piece can be broken up in a number of different ways. One way the first 24 measures could be heard is: {the 1st beat of m.1 to the 1st beat of m.7; the beat 2 of m. 7 through the repeat to the first beat of m.18; then the 2nd beat of 18 to the 2nd beat of m.24} Here is an example of alternative phrasing to past the repeat signs:

Figure 2

If all we heard was exactly the same thing for two counts, it would be better punctuated with a four bar rest. For something to truly be “repeated” in its essence, I propose it needs four measures of rest between the next restatement (then you are literally hearing the same thing over again):

Figure 3

The way Mozart wrote the music, measures 13-24 are played immediately after a simple cadence at bar 12. The music doesn’t stop, there are no rests and we don’t stop listening to it there. You truly do comprehend measure 13 after 12. M. 1 isn’t the same as m. 13 (musically yes) but it’s not the same in sequence because when we hear m.1, we don’t hear m. 12 before it. Instead, we hear silence before m.1, as with every piece of music. At this point you might be thinking, ok, you can’t convince me--there is a clear separation between the first twelve measure and the 2nd 12 measures (zounds! It’s the CADENCE!)

The cadence does conclude the 2nd 12 beat phrase (from the beat 2 of m.7 to the beat 2 of m.12) (btw the 1st 12 beat phrase is the 1st 12 beats: beat 1 of m.1 to beat 1 of m.7), ending the phrase harmonically on d major (the dominant of g major), but remember, the piece doesn’t end at m.12. I propose that repetition isn’t just about the end of the phrase. Instead, repetition is about the end of the phrase compared to what follows it. In short, it’s the transition between the two sections. Here is an example of a transition that doesn’t work.

Figure 4

It’s m.11 and 12 and then the first three measures of Chopin’s Op. 64 No. 2 in c# minor. Odd, yes? I don’t know why I chose this Chopin Waltz, but the point is this—it simply doesn’t work. From a d-natural to a g-sharp? That’s a tritone. There’s nothing wrong with a tritone, ligeti uses it well in his pieces, but this is strange harmony. These transitions, written by Mozart are much more preferable harmonically:

Figure 5

12 beat phrase transitions from a d (m.12 beat 2) to a b (m.13 the the first 8th note), a M6 interval.

Figure 6

The 24 beat phrase transitions from a d (m.24 beat 2) to a d (m.25 the first 8th note), a P8 interval.

What do you think? Is there any truth to this? Or are repetitions just as boring as I originally thought? :lol:

~Riley

edit: I have removed the attachments to free space, if you would like to see them I can send you them in an email just ask me

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Last edited by pianoman342 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:50 pm 
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Yes, I think repetition is a good thing, for two main reasons.

The most important is that it helps the listener to assimilate the musical ideas expressed in the composition. The first time we just hear the notes whoosh over our heads, but when they come again, we recognise them as something we've heard before, and this familiarity helps us to listen to the material more attentively and to absorb it.

The other reason is that repetition provides opportunity for variation. It's not just that we make it more interesting by playing it slightly differently (louder or softer, with different articulation or ornamentation, or in the case of "real" variations with more substantial changes), but the fact that we don't change to something completely different but retain a link to what was there before, makes it easier to recognise the structure of the piece.


I'm afraid I don't really understand what you are trying to say in your essay, nor does the minuet seem a good choice of example. Mozart's minuet repeats because that's what minuets do, by definition, usually following the pattern AABBCCDDAB (where CCCDD is the trio).

We all know that a minuet is (as good as always) in triple time, and you omit to explain why you chose to present your examples by notating the minuet's first half in 2/4, though it seems to be that you want to introduce variation by disregarding the original 3/4 meter and playing it as if it were 2/4, and then playing it again with the bar lines shifted along by one beat. I think this is something a composer might want to try if writing a set of variations, but I don't really see the relevance to this minuet.

I do take your point that repetition even without internal variation incorporates variation by supplying a context to the repeat which wasn't present the first time around, but I'm not sure I would attach as much significance to this as you do.


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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:08 am 
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@ Rainer

Quote:
I'm afraid I don't really understand what you are trying to say in your essay, nor does the minuet seem a good choice of example. Mozart's minuet repeats because that's what minuets do, by definition, usually following the pattern AABBCCDDAB (where CCCDD is the trio).


What I was trying to say in my essay you say yourself (admittedly you can do a better job of explaining what I'm trying to say than I can :oops: )

Quote:
The most important is that it helps the listener to assimilate the musical ideas expressed in the composition. The first time we just hear the notes whoosh over our heads, but when they come again, we recognise them as something we've heard before, and this familiarity helps us to listen to the material more attentively and to absorb it.


that's the main idea :P

Now you say,

Quote:
We all know that a minuet is (as good as always) in triple time, and you omit to explain why you chose to present your examples by notating the minuet's first half in 2/4, though it seems to be that you want to introduce variation by disregarding the original 3/4 meter and playing it as if it were 2/4, and then playing it again with the bar lines shifted along by one beat. I think this is something a composer might want to try if writing a set of variations, but I don't really see the relevance to this minuet.


I admit, I was careless with copying the piece verbatim (no excuse there :oops: ), but this is an unusual minuet because it is not always in ¾ time.

Image

The upbeats in the original suggest that we momentarily shift to ¼, the measure before the repeat and the measure before the trio are both 2/4. They round out the triplet-quarter-quarter measure prior, though the time signature doesn't count for much in this piece, the first phrase is the first 12 beats, though despite it being divisible by 3, there aren't neat 4 - 3 beat phrases, because the emphasis doesn't belong on 1, as in a typical menuet, for example, the Bach Menuet in g major is purely in ¾. Perhaps that would have been a better choice, but why isn’t this Mozart piece a good example? There are some pieces that use repetition to a stunning effect, but this is just an essay on the basics of repetition, I’ll leave it to you to write one more advanced forms :lol: . Getting off topic, there is an opera by Wagner (I think it's from the ring cycle) that has an overture that has some IMO ingenious restatements :shock: 8) .

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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:59 am 
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pianoman342 wrote:
The upbeats in the original suggest that we momentarily shift to ¼, the measure before the repeat and the measure before the trio are both 2/4.
Oh no, they are not! Do not make the mistake of thinking that repeat signs always coincide with bar lines, or imply them when they don't. None of the repeat signs in this piece coincide with bar lines, all four of them (halfway through the minuet, at the end of the minuet, halfway through the trio, and at the end of the trio) appear two thirds of the way through the complete and proper 3/4 bars which contain them.
Quote:
... the time signature doesn't count for much in this piece, the first phrase is the first 12 beats, though despite it being divisible by 3, there aren't neat 4 - 3 beat phrases, because the emphasis doesn't belong on 1, as in a typical menuet,
That is arguable. It can be played by emphasizing beat 1 of each 3/4 bar, but of course the hemiolic ambivalence in the 5th complete bar of both halves of the minuet gives scope for varying the emphasis, and it can be varied in two ways (as in your figures 1 and 2). Since the usual minuet and trio rules call for both halves of the minuet to be played three times, one could indeed play them differently each time, once emphasizing the 3/4, once emphasizing the hemiolas one way, and once the other.
Quote:
for example, the Bach Menuet in g major is purely in ¾. Perhaps that would have been a better choice, but why isn’t this Mozart piece a good example?
It's not this particular minuet that's a bad choice, it's any minuet. Since your main question of your essay is whether a composer should or should not repeat, what I meant was that here we don't have a situation where the composer wrote a few phrases and then made a decision whether to repeat. Instead, he set out to write a minuet, a format which already requires repeats, and so the decision to repeat wasn't really his own, it was implicit in the genre.


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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:15 pm 
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I just cast my vote for "depends on the piece". I have never studied composition and so I can't get too detailed here. I understand there are formulas to follow in composing classical music, but don't composers sometimes ignore the 'rules' and do something different? I really don't know - just wondering about that. Like is it forbidden?

Shorter repeats are fine - gives us a chance to have fun with (attempting) to play with some slight variations. I don't like long repeats - like in sonatas. For example, playing a long Beethoven sonata - the first section may go for six pages and then you have to go back and play the whole thing again before you can move on. Mozart is better in some sonatas - one I played recently had repeats all over the place. Little four or five bar sections that would repeat. That's okay.

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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:26 pm 
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Music is not an inherently balanced art due to the function of time; when a phrase of music repeats, regardless of genre, the musical experience often does not stay the same, for the repeated body of music creates a greater sense of restlessness that propels it forward (often into something else); it increases the anticipation for the next part and increases the payoff when the repetition is escaped from. Even in the most banal dance music of nowadays, where a thumping beat is repeated 16-32 times before changing into something else through some fill-in, the change has a very strong impact that wouldn't have been so if it had not been repeated. I think it goes this way whether the repeat is localized (a particular melody being repeated) or large-scaled (e.g functional repeats; AABB). In general, I think repetition is good for music, as a possible tool for the composer used to suit whatever function, though of course some seem better suited for repetition than others. Ravel used it to great effect in his Bolero.

Not sure I agree with what you are saying though, Riley. As rainer says, phrases often repeat or transit mid-measure, on the downbeat of the preceding phrase, and so it doesn't seem to serve your essay very well. I'm also not sure about the 'difference on rhythmic emphasis with every repeat', isn't it up to the performer to decide whether or not to vary repeats, and what to emphasize? It's also possible for the listener to perceive a performance differently with each listen; concentrating on different aspects of the performance. I do agree that repetition changes the context of the beginning of the phrase in relation to its end, however.

@pianolady: Yeah, some of the repeats in Beethoven's sonatas are a bit much... the one in the Pathetique's 1st movement seems to take the wind out of its sails for some reason.


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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:43 pm 
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@ Rainer

Quote:
Oh no, they are not! Do not make the mistake of thinking that repeat signs always coincide with bar lines, or imply them when they don't. None of the repeat signs in this piece coincide with bar lines, all four of them (halfway through the minuet, at the end of the minuet, halfway through the trio, and at the end of the trio) appear two thirds of the way through the complete and proper 3/4 bars which contain them.


I don't understand what you mean. Do you mean that the 2/4 bars are related to the 1/4 measure (like an extension)? I'm not saying it is wrong, and I have seen this before where measures do not add up to the time signature at the front of the piece. A pianist need only fill in the blanks in these cases (or leave out the blanks as it were) :) .

Quote:
Instead, he (mozart) set out to write a minuet, a format which already requires repeats, and so the decision to repeat wasn't really his own, it was implicit in the genre.


This is true, the minuet has a pretty ready-made form. I think most pieces use repetition in some way, like Johnathan said, it can be localized or large-scaled. When I took theory classes in college I studied from "elements of music" by ralph turek. I emailed him once and asked him how I could be a better composer. He wrote me a lot of useful information, one thing he said was he said he thought of composing as making one of three choices over and over again: to restate a musical idea, to vary that idea, or to create a new idea--Repeat, Vary, Create." and this is coming from a man who has analyzed hundreds of pieces of music :)

@ Monica

Quote:
I just cast my vote for "depends on the piece".


That's a safe answer! :lol:

I think it does depend on the piece. I think there are etudes that exist only to build a technical skill, but they won't have the same use of repetition that a minuet or a sonata would :roll: (even though you might play them again and again to master the technique).

Quote:
but don't composers sometimes ignore the 'rules' and do something different? I really don't know - just wondering about that. Like is it forbidden?


I think generally speaking (forget repetition), many composers ignore the 'rules.' A performance of John Cages 4'33'' (a silent piece) can and will not have the same impact as listening to a performance of a Mozart sonata :) (though perhaps they are both pieces of "classical" music)

I think repetition is sometimes ignored by composers who want a through composed piece rather than a piece with form (which would probably have repetition). They say "constant repetition carries conviction" and so anything less than constant repetition still carries some conviction. I think that is what draws people to pieces with form more so than pieces that just cycle through new ideas without repeating any of them.

Quote:
Little four or five bar sections that would repeat. That's okay.


I agree, long repeats are harder for me to grasp mentally. Anything over 8 measures is too much for me :x

@ Johnathan

Quote:
isn't it up to the performer to decide whether or not to vary repeats, and what to emphasize?


It is the age old question, is it up to the performer on what to emphasize or is it up to the composer? There are some things that one cannot interpret, the notes, the tempo and whatever else is explicitly directed by the composer. No doubt there are some who take issue with even these directives :roll: I'm guilty of this no doubt :oops: with some composers who are not explicit about dynamics in their scores (for example, the composers who wrote before the pianoforte was invented) there seems to be a good reason to experiment with the dynamics or tempo, if not to commit an act of disrespect to the composer, instead to share a new interpretation that hasn't been heard before.

Some good discussion here. And if I still can't convince you guys that I am right, then so be it! :evil: :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Repeats
PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:49 pm 
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pianoman342 wrote:
Quote:
Oh no, they are not! Do not make the mistake of thinking that repeat signs always coincide with bar lines, or imply them when they don't. None of the repeat signs in this piece coincide with bar lines, all four of them (halfway through the minuet, at the end of the minuet, halfway through the trio, and at the end of the trio) appear two thirds of the way through the complete and proper 3/4 bars which contain them.

I don't understand what you mean. Do you mean that the 2/4 bars are related to the 1/4 measure (like an extension)?
Sort of. I mean that there are no 2/4 and 1/4 bars in the piece, it consists exclusively of 3/4 bars, which is why the time signature does not need to change. At the beginning of the piece there is what looks like a 1-beat bar, but you shouldn't think of it that way, you should think of it as an incomplete 3-beat bar in which the first two beats are "missing".

Because this first bar is incomplete, let's call it bar 0, so that bar 1 is the one in which the RH plays B-C-D, and bar 7 is the one with the triplet on the first beat. Bar 8 is a proper 3-beat bar which happens to have a repeat sign two thirds of the way through it, and you should not think of the repeat sign as incorporating a bar line which would chop this 3/4 bar into a 2/4 bar followed by a 1/4 bar.

So, the first two beats of bar 8 have the half note D in the RH, and the third beat has, well, that depends on whether we're repeating or going on. When repeating, we go back to the beginning and play bar 0, the RH B-G, which in this context then becomes the third beat of bar 8. When going on, of course the third beat of bar 8 is just the RH D-B which begins the second half of the minuet.
Quote:
I'm not saying it is wrong, and I have seen this before where measures do not add up to the time signature at the front of the piece.
You will generally find, in such circumstances, that the first and last incomplete measures of the piece, or of each relevant section of the piece, together add up to a proper full measure to match the time signature.


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