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Through-Composed Music: Definition, Form & Songs

Through-Composed Music: Definition, Form & Songs
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Instructor: Erika Svanoe

Erika has taught several college music courses and has a doctorate of musical arts in conducting.

In this lesson, you will learn about what make a piece of music through-composed. You will learn about the form of through-composed music and become familiar with some examples in this style.

Definition of Through-Composed Music

Through-composed music, in its most general sense, refers to music that is written all the way through without repetition or return of musical material. Most music has some kind of form, which is the way a piece of music is organized. Most forms in music have some kind of repetition or return to the large sections of the music. In through-composed music, the music is continuously changing as it progresses.

Imagine a woman jogging down a road from one point to another. She starts in one location, and as she runs, the scenery constantly changes. Unlike a jogger going around the same track over and over, she keeps moving forward. Upon her destination, she has not seen the same houses or trees more than once. Through-composed music is like this woman's jog. The music constantly changes, without repetition.

While the general definition of through-composed can apply to any music, the term is more specifically used to describe songs. A song is a short piece of music for solo voice. Songs generally have lyrics, which are the words that are sung in the song. How the music and lyrics work together will determine if a song is through-composed or strophic.

A strophic song reuses a melody with new lyrics, while a through-composed song will have new music for new lyrics. If we think back to our jogger, a strophic song would be like running around a track, returning to run the same point and seeing the same things over and over. Let's take a closer look at the differences between through-composed and strophic forms.

Differences Between Strophic and Through-Composed Songs

In strophic music, the same melody is used with new lyrics. 'Oh! Susanna' is an example of a strophic song. You can see that there are four verses, or 'sections', of lyrics. Each verse uses the same melody. This return of the melody is what makes this song strophic.

strophic

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