Musical form

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The term Musical form (or musical architecture) refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, In the tenth edition of The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy Scholes defines musical form as "a series of strategies designed to find a successful mean between the opposite extremes of unrelieved repetition and unrelieved alteration.


  • Form is supposed to cover the shape or structure of of the work; content its substance, meaning, ideas, or expressive effects. When the nineteenth-century music critic Eduard Hanslick declared, in an influential phrase, that music is 'forms put into motion through sounds,' he was suggesting that music's real content lies in its form.
  • The term "chorus form" is often used to denote a type of performance - typically in jazz or rhythm 'n' blues, but also sometimes in country music and rock 'n' roll - where a given structural unit is repeated an indefinite number of times. The unit itself may be sectionally elaborate, as in the case of most Tin Pan Alley ballads. It may be twelve-bar blues, or something similar, as in the case of many R&B and rock 'n' roll numbers: here, a three-line AAB lyric, set to a three-phrase melody, is underpinned by a single gestural sweep in the harmony. Occasionally - as in some funk, dub reggae, and hip-hop, for example - it may approach the status of open-ended process.
  • There is an idea, the basis of an internal structure, expanded and split into different shapes or groups of sound constantly changing in shape, direction, and speed, attracted and repulsed by various forces. The form of the work is a consequence of this interaction. Possible musical forms are as limitless as the exterior forms of crystals."
  • Form is a theatrical event of a certain length, and the length itself may be unpredictable.
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