Musical Form

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Musical Form


in a broad philosophical and aesthetic sense, the set of interacting and interrelated expressive means that endow music with a particular ideational and artistic content. When this content is given primacy, form is not passive but possesses its own immanent logic, with historically developed regularities. An important role in the emergence of these patterns is played by the national and social roots of a culture, which provide a foundation for the shaping of the norms of musical language, the most important component of form in an aesthetic sense.

In a narrower sense, musical form is the plan of composition, or structure, of a musical work. Although the form of each composition is, to some degree, unique, there are historically determined norms of musical form, including the period, simple and compound binary form, ternary form, rondo form, and sonata form. The smallest meaningful and structural unit of a musical form is the motif. The theme is a fundamental, self-contained component of a form. The relation between themes, the manner of their development (and in many cases, the development of a single theme) create the foundation for the structure of a musical work. There are a number of basic principles according to which forms are devised: the exposition of the thematic material, its exact or varied repetition, its continuation, its development, and its juxtaposition with new, often contrasting material. An important role is played by the principle of recapitulation, the repetition of earlier material after a section incorporating the development of old material or the exposition of new material. The principles for devising forms may interact —that is, continuation may be combined with variation, and in many instances, contrasting material may be similar to a theme presented earlier.

The prominent Soviet music scholar B. V. Asaf’ev formulated the thesis of the two aspects of musical form. Because it is created in time, form is always a special process, during which other themes appear, are developed, and are compared with other themes. Asaf ev refers to this aspect of musical form as a process, which gives rise to a particular structure consisting of a number of sections corresponding to the separate stages of the process. The emergence of a stable structure is the essence of the second aspect of form, the “crystallized” aspect. For many decades, both foreign and Russian musicology studied only this aspect of form. After the publication of Asaf ev’s book, Musical Form as a Process (1930–47), the Soviet school began to treat musical form as a combination of the two aspects. Thus, Soviet theory considers the process of devising musical forms as a content process that ultimately reveals the artistic and aesthetic idea of a composition.


Skrebkov, S. S. Analiz muzykal’nykh proizvedenii Moscow, 1958.
Mazel’, L. A. Stroenie muzykal’nykh proizvedenii. Moscow, 1960.
Tsukkerman, V. Muzykal’nye zhanry i osnovy muzykal’nykh form. Moscow, 1964.
Muzykal’naia forma . Moscow, 1965.
Mazel’, L. A., and V. A. Tsukkerman. Analiz muzykal’nykh form, part 1. Moscow, 1967.
Voprosy muzykal’noi formy, issues 1, 2. Moscow, 1967–72.
Asaf ev, B. (Igor’ Glebov). Muzykal’naia forma kak protsess (books 1–2, 3rd ed.). Leningrad, 1971.
Sposobin, I. Muzykal’naia forma, 5th ed. Moscow, 1972.


References in periodicals archive ?
For a while, this beautiful and ambitious musical form enjoyed massive worldly success.
From "Keep Your Identity Safe", a vital lesson for 21st century children in musical form, to "Back at School" and more songs celebrating the joys of learning, Rock-n-Roll Yearbook is a choice pick for encouraging young people to go to school with a smile
Musical esthetics falls naturally into four divisions; the musical medium, the musical form, the musical message, and the musical response.
With his librettist James Lapine he has reworked what we understand as the musical form.
Some of his most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form and making radical departures in harmony.
REQUIEMS4C, "And I also like that there's lot of thinking about the next life in the requiem, the afterlife - be it in hell or heaven - which brings in tomorrow, " Over the years the requiem's musical form has developed from being a plainsong in the Catholic Church to greater works created by composers in the 19th century and onwards.
This age-old musical form has ensured its survival once more by adapting, as this documentary as part of Folk Night reveals.
The Notting Hill-born musician - who has been honoured with an Ivor Novello award, a BBC Radio lifetime achievement gong and the Orville H Gibson award for best acoustic guitar player - has always been a guitarist par excellence and none more so on this, where he is back on top musical form both lyrically and musically.
The format may seem familiar, but "Benito Bautista's Serenade" is an infectiously winning example of the "Buena Vista Social Chib"-style docu, involving a fading musical form and a group of older men who are its last practitioners.
The greatest challenge was just all of the things that have to come together; the live singing was very daunting, the weight loss, staying calm while tackling iconic literature and musical form.
And while an understanding of form is inseparable from that of harmony (defined in its broadest terms as the putting together of musical sounds), it is possible to understand and be able to apply the vocabulary of musical form independently of acquiring the techniques of analysing the intricacies of Western harmonic practice.
This festival is an effort towards reviving people's interest towards this musical form.