Musical Form

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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 ?
He understood both the relatively straightforward musical architecture of the work and, more importantly, its stark, restrained expressive language.
As students understand small or micro-beat groupings, they are ready to investigate how smaller ideas combine to form larger rhythmic units or macro-beats as the foundation of musical architecture. American composer, Walter Piston, said, "The sense of motion forward to the next downbeat, imparted by the anacrusis, seems to be continually present in melodies possessing unmistakable vitality, such as those of J.S.Bach.
The fourth chapter of Mapping the Landscape, Remapping the Text, "Gerardo Diego's Musical Architecture: Imagen and Manual de espumas," is the weakest of this book, and it was not until I read the conclusion that I saw how all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
But whether one accepts every rule in Viertel's exegesis of American musical architecture, his book is invaluable in its summaries and discussions of specific shows we might not know (or not remember well) but should.
Musical architecture, especially in the guise of sonata form, is seen by many as the key to Beethoven's "insulation against the contamination of history" (p.
His ability to illuminate and invigorate musical architecture is exemplary.
The introduction to Ripening is interpreted by Peek in an extremely pliant manner, without striving for more precise rhythmisation and phrasing (Neumann), yet by no means does he have any trouble building the musical architecture in the most complicated Czech score of the first third of the 20th century, to which the middle parts had to be sacrificed.
SUMMARY: Disagreeing with Jerrold Levinson's claim that being conscious of broadspan musical form is not essential to understanding music, I will argue that our awareness of musical architecture is significant to achieve comprehension.
Whether or not he intended it to be more than that--a theological testament--can be ascertained only from an analysis of the musical architecture and compositional decisions.
Louis Symphony Orchestra with what appeared to be a firm grasp of the musical architecture of the piece.
"I believe that this symphony in the end is about feelings, and while there's clearly a musical architecture which must be very carefully put together, I also believe there's an emotional architecture to the work that interests me even more.
Dahlhaus distinguished an `associative' mode of listening as appropriate for the perception of Wagner's network of motivic relations, in contrast to a more classically oriented `tectonic listening' that discerns musical architecture retrospectively (p.