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Through-composed electronic music?
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Author Through-composed electronic music?
Daisuk
I came across this term a couple of days ago, "through composed music", to quote the Wikipedia article:

"In music theory about musical form, the term through-composed means that the music is relatively continuous, non-sectional, and/or non-repetitive."

I've been experimenting with making music like this a few times myself, although it's difficult to stay away from repeated sounds. But I really like music pieces that starts at point A, goes through B and ends up at C, with something completely different to what it started with. Let's say there's a few elements carrying the first section, which transitions into a second section where different elements carry it, and then over to yet another different section where other elements carry yet - YET, that it contains some sort of flow or semblance throughout.

I guess you could say some improv music is a bit like this (and a LOT of prog rock), but I'm not really interested in that. I'd love to hear some examples of (preferably electronic) music that is composed this way (so not improvised). Anyone got any examples they want to share?

Don't really mean to be spamming my own stuff, but here's a track I made that tried to follow this structure, just as a point of reference (though how good of a reference it is, I'm not sure). smile

[s]http://soundcloud.com/happyleaguecactus/changingvoices[/s]
the bad producer
I've not heard of "through composed music" before, something to look into. So not much to say, other than how much I enjoyed this track you made!
Daisuk
Yeah, I'd never heard of it before either! Judging from the response, I'm guessing it's not a very common thing.

Thanks for the compliment on the track and for listening! smile
pixelmechanic
It's quite common in more 'academic' electroacoustic music where form often develops out of materials.

Much of my work is through composed...

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-mutesolo

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-radiosilence-mstr

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-nctrn-mstr

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-tramps-quickmix

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-ocd-dc
lilakmonoke
"through composed music" is a weird term, as if there is "not composed music" on the other end of the spectrum. maybe there is?
Savage
You can think of 'through-composed' music as a piece that was continuously composed all the way 'through' the piece; that is, the composer never goes back to a section that was already composed and reuses anything. No traditional 'verses', 'choruses', etc.; you're just composing linearly all the way through the piece.

I looked up the Wikipedia article you mentioned to see what it said, and Franz Schubert's Erlkönig is a very good example mentioned. It's a 'Lied' (song) that tells the story of a child being abducted from its father by an 'elf king' (the 'Erlkönig'), and there are lines in the song sung by the characters of the father, the child, and the elf king. I checked out the score to it, and nothing ever repeats in the song. The melody just goes on and on as its sung by each character without any of it repeating. You can find scores of Erlkönig on the International Music Score Library Project. From 'Scores' at the top of the webpage, just go to 'Composers', then in the S's find 'Schubert, Franz', and in his list of compositions, find 'Erlkönig'. You'll find a number of scores for it there. A piano/vocals example ought to show you how it's written. There's probably a recording of it to be found there, too.

There is a more contemporary example, but I can't remember the title. Perhaps someone more familiar with the works of Prince can provide a title, but Prince was presented with a challenge to write a song that had no repeats in it. So he wrote a song that had a string of twenty-some different chords in it, none of which ever repeated. Prince would've had to 'through-compose' such a song, going from one chord to the next, never 'backing up', in order to get them all to fit linearly in a musical way. I wish I could remember the title, but I'm not that familiar with Prince. I know a Prince fan who told me about it, but he's not available right now. Perhaps there is a Prince fan here that can give the title. I tried googling it, but the Purple One yanked nearly everything of his off the Internet before he died, and none of the 'best of' lists I could find had anything about any such song.

I wouldn't be able to provide you with any works of my own as examples because I tend to use sections of a piece over again. I sometimes use a form of composition called a 'rondo' that typically has three sections -- an A section, a B section, and a C section -- and the sections are strung together (typically) like A B A C A. Because sections repeat in a rondo, it would be an example of what is not 'through-composed'.

I found the question intriguing because, as I said, nearly all of my own compositions involve sections that are reused in various combinations. About all that I've done that could be considered 'through-composed' are some aleatoric pieces that I couldn't repeat if I had to. So thanks for the lead to new information, and I hope this helps you out some. Maybe I'll give a shot to a through-composed piece sometime.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
I always thought that "through composed" simply meant that every part was composed, and nothing was left to improvisation. However, looking at the definition from several different sources, I guess I was wrong.

As such, there is actually very little "through composed" music, since almost every musical form requires some level of repetition, even if the repeats are not identical.
Daisuk
pixelmechanic wrote:
It's quite common in more 'academic' electroacoustic music where form often develops out of materials.

Much of my work is through composed...

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-mutesolo

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-radiosilence-mstr

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-nctrn-mstr

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-tramps-quickmix

https://soundcloud.com/pixelmechanic/jr-ocd-dc


Hey, thanks for sharing! Have you consciously composed these though? Sounds a lot like improvisation. Weird, weird stuff. smile

Savage wrote:
You can think of 'through-composed' music as a piece that was continuously composed all the way 'through' the piece; that is, the composer never goes back to a section that was already composed and reuses anything. No traditional 'verses', 'choruses', etc.; you're just composing linearly all the way through the piece.

I looked up the Wikipedia article you mentioned to see what it said, and Franz Schubert's Erlkönig is a very good example mentioned. It's a 'Lied' (song) that tells the story of a child being abducted from its father by an 'elf king' (the 'Erlkönig'), and there are lines in the song sung by the characters of the father, the child, and the elf king. I checked out the score to it, and nothing ever repeats in the song. The melody just goes on and on as its sung by each character without any of it repeating. You can find scores of Erlkönig on the International Music Score Library Project. From 'Scores' at the top of the webpage, just go to 'Composers', then in the S's find 'Schubert, Franz', and in his list of compositions, find 'Erlkönig'. You'll find a number of scores for it there. A piano/vocals example ought to show you how it's written. There's probably a recording of it to be found there, too.

There is a more contemporary example, but I can't remember the title. Perhaps someone more familiar with the works of Prince can provide a title, but Prince was presented with a challenge to write a song that had no repeats in it. So he wrote a song that had a string of twenty-some different chords in it, none of which ever repeated. Prince would've had to 'through-compose' such a song, going from one chord to the next, never 'backing up', in order to get them all to fit linearly in a musical way. I wish I could remember the title, but I'm not that familiar with Prince. I know a Prince fan who told me about it, but he's not available right now. Perhaps there is a Prince fan here that can give the title. I tried googling it, but the Purple One yanked nearly everything of his off the Internet before he died, and none of the 'best of' lists I could find had anything about any such song.

I wouldn't be able to provide you with any works of my own as examples because I tend to use sections of a piece over again. I sometimes use a form of composition called a 'rondo' that typically has three sections -- an A section, a B section, and a C section -- and the sections are strung together (typically) like A B A C A. Because sections repeat in a rondo, it would be an example of what is not 'through-composed'.

I found the question intriguing because, as I said, nearly all of my own compositions involve sections that are reused in various combinations. About all that I've done that could be considered 'through-composed' are some aleatoric pieces that I couldn't repeat if I had to. So thanks for the lead to new information, and I hope this helps you out some. Maybe I'll give a shot to a through-composed piece sometime.


Thanks for chipping in! Yeah, I think a type of rondo might be what I'm interested in, like you move from one section to a new one (but never revert back to the first section), and the elements within a section can be repeating of course, otherwise it'll be very free-jazzy, and maybe not so interesting. It depends, I guess. Do you know what the Prince song is called? I'd love to hear it. smile

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
I always thought that "through composed" simply meant that every part was composed, and nothing was left to improvisation. However, looking at the definition from several different sources, I guess I was wrong.

As such, there is actually very little "through composed" music, since almost every musical form requires some level of repetition, even if the repeats are not identical.


Yeah, you're right. I've tried finding examples of through composed music, found some by a few classical composers, but no new music at all.

I guess what I would be interested in hearing is music that have sections that have repeating elements, but that the sections change throughout the song, and you never repeat back to a section that has passed. Probably a bit too specific a request to really find anything though. But I really want to make a series of tracks myself focusing on this approach, see how it goes. smile
lilakmonoke
Quote:
You can think of 'through-composed' music as a piece that was continuously composed all the way 'through' the piece; that is, the composer never goes back to a section that was already composed and reuses anything. No traditional 'verses', 'choruses', etc.; you're just composing linearly all the way through the piece.


that doesnt make sense at all because when you are repeating something you are not "reusing" it but your are composing "the same context". A B A C is actually (A vs B) vs (A vs C) ...

even if you use a totally different frequency for all notes your brain will still find some relationship so "through composed" is not different from any other music.

am i making any sense?

here is a good example: thats exponential fm with totally random parameters and random note lengths, guaranteed no two tones are the same ...

[s]http://soundcloud.com/lilakmonoke/nohmansland[/s]
pixelmechanic
Daisuk wrote:
pixelmechanic wrote:


Much of my work is through composed...



Hey, thanks for sharing! Have you consciously composed these though? Sounds a lot like improvisation. Weird, weird stuff. smile


I think the reason they sounds improvised is because they're all performed gestures.

They're mostly made up of heavily edited and re-ordered chunks of improvisations. Something like Mute|Solo is pieced together in chunks of audio between 250ms - 4 seconds long. Most of the material was made in a couple of days, but it took a couple of weeks to edit together.

Radio|Silence, Tramps and NCTRN are all being played from graphic scores with quite precisely defined gestures and interactions between parts.

I made Radio|Silence over a period of about 8 weeks or so, again using very short to short (250ms - 8seconds) chunks of improv to make an audio guide, which I then notated for three performers using a spectromorphological notation, and we play that live.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
I have figured out that some of the music I really like is through-composed. Virtually all of Charles Wuorinen's music seems to be that way, since there are no themes and nothing ever seems to repeat. My favorite piece of his is the third piano concerto, composed in 1983:



Some other through-composed music which I enjoy is pretty much all of Messiaen's "bird music" -- most of Messiaen's music has themes and is composed in blocks, but the pure bird music seems fully through-composed -- here's an example, from "Catalogue d'Oiseaux" composed in the late 50s:



Another composer who seems to have composed without recognizable themes or repetition is Boulez. Here is a cracking little piece, Derive I from 1984:



There are repeated gestures here for sure, but I'm not sure they are ever repeated exactly. It took me a while to get into Boulez, but now I'm completely hooked. 99.999% of all "classical" music lovers have absolutely no idea how to appreciate this music, but if they put in the effort I believe they'd discover something fundamental and important.
cycad73
Boulez sounds highly structured and thankfully so. The structures are simply different from those with which most "classical" music lovers learn to be familiar.

It's a matter of suspending judgment and experiencing anew as raw sensory experience, as raw affect that one can use to intensify one's own feelings and experiences.

Hatred of music is what is learned, and then must be unlearned. It is the unlearning which is difficult, not appreciating the music prior to learning to hate it.

A five year old can probably appreciate Boulez and what they appreciate in it is not invalid. They will certainly bring different things than we do but in some way it is an even more authentic form of listening. I didn't have this specific opportunity but remember when I was five years old liking more than anything some art by Klee and Kandinsky in a book, prior to learning that modern art was an evil consipiracy, and then having to unlearn this again.

Susan Sontag wrote an interesting article on this, Against Interpretation (1964): http://shifter-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Sontag-Against- Interpretation.pdf let's just learn to value the lived experience of art rather than an experience mediated through interpretive aesthetic judgment "the revenge of intellect upon the world". That is, art becomes something we take into ourselves in order to intensify our own lived experience rather than some object that we hold at a distance and intellectually grasp. Sontag's approach is invariably one-sided (art can never really be separated from its context) but performs nonetheless a valuable shift in thinking towards a more balanced assessment.

Music like Boulez, although most of it over 50 years old remains alien because it is never performed (outside of major cities, or perhaps even outside of Paris or maybe NYC) and it is always described as something antagonistic to culture rather than arising necessarily from culture. The dominant culture never refers to the pieces themselves, always some straw-man idea of the cacophonous and atonal, some abstract idea of absolutely no intrinsic value, a pure empty negativity, so people become used to this and load themselves up with these images as prior judgments, which prevent them from really listening to the music as pure sensation, which prevent any experience "against interpretation". This de-acculturation happens not at once, rarely through a critical article or analysis, it's a death by a thousand cuts (snide remarks) propagated by the most viral/basic elements of culture.

This creates feedback cycles, the more "alien" that this music is characterized, the less opportunity the public has to become familiar with it through performances, and the more it is constantly trivialized and degraded The "alien" character is then tool to prevent any kind of public support for the arts.

Anyway, this digression inside, I don't think that "through-composed" music , or even an idea of composition without technological mediation is a valid concept.

First of all, fully notated music with pen and paper is a technology (an important one enabling the kind of complexities that emerged in Palestrina and Bach); second there is necessarily a high degree of structure (counterpoint, harmony) in traditional Western music, whether or not repetition is involved; third, even traditional acts of composition are habituated in the sense that the notes already suggest themselves to some degree, in terms of implicit volition.

The third sense requires elaboration: As there is really no essential difference between a habit and a prosthetic technology (both serve as frames that limit choice, and thus focus compositional effort) , there simply is no criterion we can use to separate what we call "through-composed" from its alternative. Indeed, even if assistive technologies (sequencers, algorithmic composition) are used to develop a piece the composer still takes responsibility for the entirety of it, for every note, for every sound, for every sample in the recording. It's a moot distinction.

And just like Bach, it is quite natural for composers to take advantage of the most advanced technologies -- music has always evolved and changed -- sometimes we think for the worse, but the change itself is unavoidable.
ziggomatic
This feels applicable so I'll go ahead and post it:

I think this through-music concept is what draws my interest in Aphex Twin's music so much, especially doing this purely with all hardware instruments outside of a computer (Syro era). My favorites of these tracks constantly evolve and never go back to repeat previous sections. There is so much depth to the way he does this that you can really listen through the same track for years and still hear so many new elements unfolding.

Even more impressive is his explanation of how he composed & sequenced each song and every instrument to record in one single take, basically a "Live to 2" approach. Here is one of my all time favorites, I cannot even begin to imagine the meticulous sequencing work that goes into making a track like this:

Koekepan
Most of my music is through-composed.

Well, let me restate that. My live music is heavily sequencer and improvisation based, because that works better and is more adaptable for a crowd setting. My studio music is through-composed because there I try to communicate a sense of place or time.
GuyaGuy
lilakmonoke wrote:
Quote:
You can think of 'through-composed' music as a piece that was continuously composed all the way 'through' the piece; that is, the composer never goes back to a section that was already composed and reuses anything. No traditional 'verses', 'choruses', etc.; you're just composing linearly all the way through the piece.


that doesnt make sense at all because when you are repeating something you are not "reusing" it but your are composing "the same context". A B A C is actually (A vs B) vs (A vs C) ...

even if you use a totally different frequency for all notes your brain will still find some relationship so "through composed" is not different from any other music.

am i making any sense?

here is a good example: thats exponential fm with totally random parameters and random note lengths, guaranteed no two tones are the same ...

[s]http://soundcloud.com/lilakmonoke/nohmansland[/s]

That's what would be called "all A." Savage is talking about sections of a musical composition, not individual notes. So where most pop songs are verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge /chorus/chorus, a through-composed song or piece would be Part A/Part B/Part C/Part D/Part E. However, in many/most cases it actually ends up being something like Part A (x4)/Part B (x8) etc. because the individual parts are indeed repeated--just not returned to after introducing the next part.
GuyaGuy
Boards of Canada has several through-composed songs, e.g. Kaini Industries, Rue the Whirl, Aquarias, Music is Math.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
cycad73 wrote:
Boulez sounds highly structured and thankfully so. The structures are simply different from those with which most "classical" music lovers learn to be familiar.

It's a matter of suspending judgment and experiencing anew as raw sensory experience, as raw affect that one can use to intensify one's own feelings and experiences.

Hatred of music is what is learned, and then must be unlearned. It is the unlearning which is difficult, not appreciating the music prior to learning to hate it.

A five year old can probably appreciate Boulez and what they appreciate in it is not invalid. They will certainly bring different things than we do but in some way it is an even more authentic form of listening. I didn't have this specific opportunity but remember when I was five years old liking more than anything some art by Klee and Kandinsky in a book, prior to learning that modern art was an evil consipiracy, and then having to unlearn this again.

Susan Sontag wrote an interesting article on this, Against Interpretation (1964): http://shifter-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Sontag-Against- Interpretation.pdf let's just learn to value the lived experience of art rather than an experience mediated through interpretive aesthetic judgment "the revenge of intellect upon the world". That is, art becomes something we take into ourselves in order to intensify our own lived experience rather than some object that we hold at a distance and intellectually grasp. Sontag's approach is invariably one-sided (art can never really be separated from its context) but performs nonetheless a valuable shift in thinking towards a more balanced assessment.

Music like Boulez, although most of it over 50 years old remains alien because it is never performed (outside of major cities, or perhaps even outside of Paris or maybe NYC) and it is always described as something antagonistic to culture rather than arising necessarily from culture. The dominant culture never refers to the pieces themselves, always some straw-man idea of the cacophonous and atonal, some abstract idea of absolutely no intrinsic value, a pure empty negativity, so people become used to this and load themselves up with these images as prior judgments, which prevent them from really listening to the music as pure sensation, which prevent any experience "against interpretation". This de-acculturation happens not at once, rarely through a critical article or analysis, it's a death by a thousand cuts (snide remarks) propagated by the most viral/basic elements of culture.

This creates feedback cycles, the more "alien" that this music is characterized, the less opportunity the public has to become familiar with it through performances, and the more it is constantly trivialized and degraded The "alien" character is then tool to prevent any kind of public support for the arts.

Anyway, this digression inside, I don't think that "through-composed" music , or even an idea of composition without technological mediation is a valid concept.

First of all, fully notated music with pen and paper is a technology (an important one enabling the kind of complexities that emerged in Palestrina and Bach); second there is necessarily a high degree of structure (counterpoint, harmony) in traditional Western music, whether or not repetition is involved; third, even traditional acts of composition are habituated in the sense that the notes already suggest themselves to some degree, in terms of implicit volition.

The third sense requires elaboration: As there is really no essential difference between a habit and a prosthetic technology (both serve as frames that limit choice, and thus focus compositional effort) , there simply is no criterion we can use to separate what we call "through-composed" from its alternative. Indeed, even if assistive technologies (sequencers, algorithmic composition) are used to develop a piece the composer still takes responsibility for the entirety of it, for every note, for every sound, for every sample in the recording. It's a moot distinction.

And just like Bach, it is quite natural for composers to take advantage of the most advanced technologies -- music has always evolved and changed -- sometimes we think for the worse, but the change itself is unavoidable.


That's just about the most intelligent posting I've ever read on Muffs in all of my 7+ years on this forum. I also completely agree with the first part of it. It reminds me of what Gertrude Stein said about Picasso. She said that Picasso was her favorite artist, and when someone asked her why, she said "because I like looking at his paintings more than others" or words to that effect. Messiaen is my favorite composer because I like listening to his music more than any other. It's just that simple. Anything beyond that is intellectual blather. Nelson Baboon was right about me all along, I guess -- the best music is the music we like to listen to the most.
Daisuk
Well, this thread certainly picked up! Great contributions, people. I'm enjoying every bit posted. Don't have the time to write a long reply now, just getting in to tell everyone to keep it up. Boulez is on my radar, and I'm making it a point not to read anything about it beforehand! Mr. Green
spinach_pizza
cycad73 wrote:

It's a matter of suspending judgment and experiencing anew as raw sensory experience, as raw affect that one can use to intensify one's own feelings and experiences.

Hatred of music is what is learned, and then must be unlearned. It is the unlearning which is difficult, not appreciating the music prior to learning to hate it.

A five year old can probably appreciate Boulez and what they appreciate in it is not invalid. They will certainly bring different things than we do but in some way it is an even more authentic form of listening. I didn't have this specific opportunity but remember when I was five years old liking more than anything some art by Klee and Kandinsky in a book, prior to learning that modern art was an evil consipiracy, and then having to unlearn this again.

Susan Sontag wrote an interesting article on this, Against Interpretation (1964): http://shifter-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Sontag-Against- Interpretation.pdf let's just learn to value the lived experience of art rather than an experience mediated through interpretive aesthetic judgment "the revenge of intellect upon the world". That is, art becomes something we take into ourselves in order to intensify our own lived experience rather than some object that we hold at a distance and intellectually grasp. Sontag's approach is invariably one-sided (art can never really be separated from its context) but performs nonetheless a valuable shift in thinking towards a more balanced assessment.



An argument against program notes at concerts. Although cast as being informative and educational, these notes could be comparable to putting on blinders before the music starts.
GuyaGuy
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:


That's just about the most intelligent posting I've ever read on Muffs in all of my 7+ years on this forum. I also completely agree with the first part of it. It reminds me of what Gertrude Stein said about Picasso. She said that Picasso was her favorite artist, and when someone asked her why, she said "because I like looking at his paintings more than others" or words to that effect. Messiaen is my favorite composer because I like listening to his music more than any other. It's just that simple. Anything beyond that is intellectual blather. Nelson Baboon was right about me all along, I guess -- the best music is the music we like to listen to the most.


Except that he's making an argument on a completely different topic. The thread is about through-composed music, which is music where each verse or stanza has unique music. cycad73 seems to be arguing against a music that is "thoroughly composed," which is something completely different.
dogoftears
curtis roads
morton subotnick

how bout autechre- "sublimit" from untilted?

GuyaGuy
Clark too--often a long A section followed by a B and C.

ztutz
Pretty much all opera falls into this category - the form fits the function!
lilakmonoke
Quote:
So where most pop songs are verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge /chorus/chorus, a through-composed song or piece would be Part A/Part B/Part C/Part D/Part E. However, in many/most cases it actually ends up being something like Part A (x4)/Part B (x8) etc. because the individual parts are indeed repeated--just not returned to after introducing the next part.


exactly! what im trying to say is that every part, however small or big in a piece of music is only valid in its relation to other parts. so ABAC is no different from ABCDEF, the former is just more structured. its a different "language"

this reminds me of steward copeland in the 80s, searching for 4/4 in africa and discovering "compound rhythms". forward to part 3 at 5:57

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