Repetition (music)
Repetition is important in music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, where sounds or sequences are often repeated. One often stated idea is that repetition should be in balance with the initial statements and variations
Variation (music)
In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

 in a piece. It may be called restatement, such as the restatement of a theme
Theme (music)
In music, a theme is the material, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based.-Characteristics:A theme may be perceivable as a complete musical expression in itself, separate from the work in which it is found . In contrast to an idea or motif, a theme is...

. While it plays a role in all music, with noise
In common use, the word noise means any unwanted sound. In both analog and digital electronics, noise is random unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the acoustic noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission with significant electrical noise...

 and musical tones lying along a spectrum from irregular to periodic
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 sounds,(Moravcsik, 114)(Rajagopal) it is especially prominent in specific styles. A literal repetition of a musical passage is often indicated by the use of a repeat sign, or the instructions da capo
Da capo
Da Capo is a musical term in Italian, meaning from the beginning . It is often abbreviated D.C. It is a composer or publisher's directive to repeat the previous part of music, often used to save space. In small pieces this might be the same thing as a repeat, but in larger works D.C...

 or dal segno
Dal Segno
In music notation, Dal segno is used as a navigation marker. From Italian for "from the sign," D.S. appears in sheet music and instructs a musician to repeat a passage starting from the sign shown at right, sometimes called the "segno" in English.Two common variants:*D.S...


Theodor Adorno criticized repetition and popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 as being psychotic and infantile. In contrast, Richard Middleton
Richard Middleton
Richard Middleton may refer to:*Richard Middleton , English theologian, philosopher and Lord Chancellor*Richard Barham Middleton , British poet and ghost story writer...

 (1990) argues that "while repetition is a feature of all music, of any sort, a high level of repetition may be a specific mark of 'the popular'" and that this allows an, "enabling" of "an inclusive rather than exclusive audience"(p.139). "There is no universal norm or convention" for the amount or type of repetition, "all music contains repetition - but in differing amounts and of an enormous variety of types." This is influenced by "the political economy of production; the 'psychic economy' of individuals; the musico-technological media of production and reproduction (oral, written, electric); and the weight of the syntactic conventions of music-historical traditions" (ibid, p.268).

Thus Middleton (also 1999) distinguishes between discursive
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

 and musematic repetition. A museme
A museme is a minimal unit of musical meaning, analogous to a morpheme in linguistics, "the basic unit of musical expression which in the framework of one given musical system is not further divisible without destruction of meaning." A museme may:...

 is a minimal unit of meaning, analgous to morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

 in linguistics, and musematic repetition is "at the level of the short figure
Figure (music)
A musical figure is the shortest idea in music, a short succession of notes, often recurring. It may have melodic pitch, harmonic progression and rhythmic . The 1964 Grove's Dictionary defines the figure as "the exact counterpart of the German 'motiv' and the French 'motif'": it produces a "single...

, often used to generate an entire structural framework
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

." Discursive repetition is "at the level of the phrase or section
Section (music)
In music, a section is "a complete, but not independent musical idea". Types of sections include the introduction or intro, exposition, recapitulation, verse, chorus or refrain, conclusion, coda or outro, fadeout, bridge or interlude...

, which generally functions as part of a larger-scale 'argument'." He gives "paradigmatic case[s]": the riff
The Resource Interchange File Format is a generic file container format for storing data in tagged chunks. It is primarily used to store multimedia such as sound and video, though it may also be used to store any arbitrary data....

 and the phrase
Phrase (music)
In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance...

. Musematic repetition includes circularity, synchronic
Synchronic may refer to:*Synchronicity*Synchronic analysis, in linguistics * Synchronic, an adjective referring to a quality of music....

 relations, and open-ness. Discursive repetition includes linearity, rational control, and self-sufficiency. Discursive repetition is most often nested (hierarchically) in larger repetitions and may be thought of as sectional, while musematic repetition may be thought of as additive
Additive function
In mathematics the term additive function has two different definitions, depending on the specific field of application.In algebra an additive function is a function that preserves the addition operation:for any two elements x and y in the domain. For example, any linear map is additive...

. (p.146-8) Put more simply, musematic repetition is simple repetition of precisely the same musical figure, such as a repeated chorus
A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song...

. Discursive repetition is, "both repetitive and non-repetitive," (Lott, p.174), such as the repetition of the same rhythmic figure with different notes.

During the Classical era, musical concert
A concert is a live performance before an audience. The performance may be by a single musician, sometimes then called a recital, or by a musical ensemble, such as an orchestra, a choir, or a musical band...

s were highly expected events, and because someone who liked a piece of music could not listen to it again, musicians had to think of a way to make the music sink in. Therefore, they would repeat parts of their song at times, making music like sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

 very repetitive, without being dull.(Bowen)

Repetition is important in musical form
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

. The repetition of any section of ternary form results in expanded ternary form
Ternary form
Ternary form, sometimes called song form, is a three-part musical form, usually schematicized as A-B-A. The first and third parts are musically identical, or very nearly so, while the second part in some way provides a contrast with them...

 and in binary form the repetition of the first section at the end of the second results in rounded binary form
Binary form
Binary form is a musical form in two related sections, both of which are usually repeated. Binary is also a structure used to choreograph dance....

.(Benward & Saker, 315) Schenker
Heinrich Schenker
Heinrich Schenker was a music theorist, best known for his approach to musical analysis, now usually called Schenkerian analysis....

 argued that musical technique
Musical technique
Musical technique is the ability of instrumental and vocal musicians to exert optimal control of the their instrument or vocal cords in order to produce the precise musical effects they desire. Improving one's technique generally entails practicing exercises that improve one's muscular sensitivity...

's, "most striking and distinctive characteristic" is repetition (Kivy, 327) while Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

 argues that a high level of interest in repetition and variation (analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

 and difference
Différance - French term coined by Jacques Derrida and homophonous with the word "différence". Différance plays on the fact that the French word différer means both "to defer" and "to differ." Derrida first uses the term différance in his 1963 paper "Cogito et histoire de la folie"...

, recognition and the unknown) is characteristic of all musicians, especially contemporary
Contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.-Categorization:...

, and the dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

 [conversation] between the two creates musical form.(Campbell, 154)

Types of repetition include "exact repetition" (aaa), "repetition after digression" (aba or aba'), and "nonrepetition" (abcd). Copland
Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers"...

 and Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Edward Slatkin is an American conductor and composer.-Early life and education:Slatkin was born in Los Angeles to a musical family that came from areas of the Russian Empire now in Ukraine. His father Felix Slatkin was the violinist, conductor and founder of the Hollywood String Quartet,...

 offer "Au clair de la lune" and "Ach! du lieber Augustin" as examples of aba, and "The Seeds of Love" as an example of the last.(Copland & Slatkin)

At the tone level, repetition creates a drone
Drone (music)
In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also used to refer to any part of a musical instrument that is just used to produce such an effect.-A musical effect:A drone...


See also

  • Cycle (music)
    Cycle (music)
    A music cycle is when a section of a song/music is repeated.In music a cycle is a section which is repeated or repeatable indefinitely, with the end of a preceding repetition leading to the beginning of a succeeding repetition. Cycles may be melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, or based on some other...

  • Groove (popular music)
    Groove (popular music)
    Groove is the sense of propulsive rhythmic "feel" or sense of "swing" created by the interaction of the music played by a band's rhythm section . Groove is a consideration in genres such as salsa, funk, rock, fusion, and soul...

  • Ostinato
    In music, an ostinato is a motif or phrase, which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice. An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds, wherein each note always has the same weight or stress. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in...

  • Paradigmatic analysis
    Paradigmatic analysis
    Paradigmatic analysis is the analysis of paradigms embedded in the text rather than of the surface structure of the text which is termed syntagmatic analysis. Paradigmatic analysis often uses commutation tests, i.e...

  • Philip Glass
    Philip Glass
    Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

     (minimalist music
    Minimalist music
    Minimal music is a style of music associated with the work of American composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. It originated in the New York Downtown scene of the 1960s and was initially viewed as a form of experimental music called the New York Hypnotic School....

  • Repeat sign
  • Reprise
    Reprise is a fundamental device in the history of art. In literature, a reprise consists of the rewriting of another work; in music, a reprise is the repetition or reiteration of the opening material later in a composition as occurs in the recapitulation of sonata form, though—originally in the...

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