Author Topic: [discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music  (Read 10358 times)

Offline Louigi Verona

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I am now reading a book on music which amongst all things speaks about repetition in music and explores why music of many so-called primitive cultures is repetitive and why a lot of modern musicians are returning to repetition.

Before I share the most curious information from that book (it is written by a very known Russian composer and thinker, Martynov), I would like to address this question to everyone here, specifically:

1. What do you think are the origins of repetition?
2. What role do you think repetition plays or may play in music?

Offline psishock

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2009, 13:09:15 »
1. rhythm and/or good chain of melodies. (when we didn't had instruments, we did sung vocal stuff, but it's the same generally)
2. well mostly lazyness/out of structure ideas. It's much easier to do monotonic repetitive stuff, than trying to bring something new and variable all the time to the listener. Most hardest is to make those variable stuff blend together, and still sound seamless.
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Offline LPChip

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2009, 13:22:59 »
1. Repetition has the benefit of getting you to learn a song quickly, and the pattern you use in your song can easilly be recognised as your song. People hear a fragment of your song and they instantly think about you.

2. See 1. X)
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Offline maleek

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2009, 14:02:37 »
The questions seems to be able to be considered on many levels. Any way: repetition has been used in shamanic religious rites as a transportation to other states of consciousness. I think there is a lot in common with electronic music and tribal music in this sense, that repletion is used for a "hypnotic" effect on the listener. In my world, techno is close by as a reference.

The origin of repetitive music is probably a fascination by humans in a primitive and rhythmic simplicity, which in itself is the origin of music itself I believe. Think of the heart-beat as the primal beat of existence.

(cleared out a few typos)

Offline g

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2009, 14:50:52 »
1) I agree with LPChip
2) I agree with LPChip

Offline maleek

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2009, 12:38:14 »
I wrote a blog post inspired by this subject. It can be read here.

I hope that this discussion will continue, and that I will be able to read more about Martynov's thoughts.

Offline Louigi Verona

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2009, 20:17:40 »
I haven't finished reading the book yet - it is very complex meaning that it is a lot of information which needs processing and that takes time.

However, here's what I already know and what was new information to me (although I never considered repetition in general to be "primitive" in a sense of poor quality or any other negative sense).

In the earlier world music was not considered to be an expression of human feelings - music was viewed as a method of correlation with cosmos and it's base sounding.

For that reason the whole thinking about music was different. The goal was not to create a unique or original composition, the goal was to try to be as close as possible to the canon, which were archetypes of what was believed to be the sound of cosmos. These archetypes, usually very basic and yet very fundamental, were often repeated - repetition here was not only (and in some cases not at all) a method of putting one into trance, but a focus on a musical archetype, a focus on the canon and correlation with it.

As with many things about early periods of our civilization, things are not as "primitive" as we often believe them to be. In fact, lots of things our ancestors did they filled with profound sense and interconnected together.

In our present culture it is considered to be a talent if you go as far away as possible from the archetype - basically, new things are valued. In the culture of our far away ancestors this was viewed as great loss of contact with the cosmos. But yet I underline again - music was viewed as something completely different - a path, not entertainment.

Actually, such views are not as old as one might think - Romans, for instance, did not welcome new music and chromatic music was considered to be not beautiful. It would be superficial to consider this to be the result of a habit, let alone fashion.

Anyway, these are very small excerpts, I do hope I was able to pass on the idea.

The main idea of the book is "The end of times of composers". From what I told you above you might understand what is meant by that - that the method of differing from the archetype is coming to an end and the music turns back to what it was in the early times in form of minimalism, repetition and such stuff seen as a strong movement and direction of the modern music.

There )

Offline Louigi Verona

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2009, 20:19:49 »
And here is the person himself playing the new type of music. Don't ask what it means yet - I am less than 100 pages into the book =)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U86ymu5zZdA

Offline psishock

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2009, 22:03:40 »
I dunno, music is a form of expression (like drawing for instance) and i don't like the idea of simplicity and minimal-repetitive stuff (not speaking about quality, i've heard a lot of nicely made minimal music, they are just not me, that is all). Layered, complex and variable what is appealing to my ears, they are keeping the mind locked and focused to the music all the time. You can listen to them all the time, dig into the background, hidden stuff and find something interesting with every listening, because the brain is slowly catching up with the layers, and separates them.
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Offline Louigi Verona

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2009, 04:36:53 »
Music is a form of expression today. Do remember that music is viewed very differently even today in the east. Our culture, at least western one, is very individualistic and disconnected from nature. There is no need now to judge whether that's good or bad, but this is how it is and it is very difficult to understand what other ways of living there may be. So do not be quick to dismiss the beauty of correlation with the cosmos.
Also, I do not believe such music to be dull. It is canonical, not necessarily minimal or always repetitive. Repetition is not as simple a technique as it may seem.

Offline g

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2009, 06:26:37 »
Quote from: "psishock"
I dunno, music is a form of expression (like drawing for instance) and i don't like the idea of simplicity and minimal-repetitive stuff.

To me, minimalistic music is more about just keeping the essence of a piece than about repetition. But all good music needs repetition; be it a motif, a chorus, a steady beat or a bassline. How else could one get into the groove? ;)

Offline Sam_Zen

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2009, 23:17:09 »
Repetition is the basic of musical sound. Without repetition of a waveform, no sound at a certain frequency.

Repeating patterns is another thing, of course percussion is a very obvious way.
But also repeating vocal choruses can bring a certain 'groove', like african children do.

Whether repeating a pattern will lead to boredom or a kind of trance, depends on the quality of the pattern.
If it's not leading into a trance, then the listener will get an urgent need for a change.

So this asks from the composer a clever play of dosage. When to apply some change or not.
To avoid this point of boredom (so causing a 'mind-zap') the composer has to play with the tension.
Random things cause a need for a repetition, repeated things cause a need for a change.
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Offline uncloned

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2009, 04:46:46 »
Some really deep thought here LV.

I need to ponder it - and I see very much the point of how music was a means and not an end. I have not heard of this point of view before but the truth seems self-evident now I have heard it.

I respect the thinking of our elders and I think there is much wisdom to be found.

And this fits into your idea of the composer not owning the music.

As I said deep thought required.

Offline PPH

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2009, 13:44:32 »
Here's my opinion. I'm going to answer in reverse order, because I think #2 is needed to explain #1.

2. Music cannot exist without repetition. For something to be "musical", it must at least have rythm, or some degree of something recognizable as rythm. And rythm implies repetition. That's why primitive music was repetitive. It is natural that the first music that existed concentrantes in the very feature that causes a group of sounds to be recognizes as music. Of couse, someone may collect a number of non-repetitive, non-rythmic sounds and say "this is music". The question is: would someone else, without being told that that is music, recognize it as music? I think not?

1. I think the question is about "repetition in music", not repetition in general, right? And I think that the origin of rythm, which implies repetition, is the origin of music. When someone started repeating patterns, knocking stuff rythmically, music was born. Music and repetition have the same origin ,because the former cannot exist without the latter.

Additional comment: too much repetition is boring. However, repetition is necessary. Good music requires a balance between repetition and variation. That's why a lot of music is based on varying themes, thus imitating without exactly repeating. The mind is rewarded when it expects something to happen and that happens, but it also likes to be surprised from time to time, and it also likes to find repetitions with subtle differences.

There's an iteresting book on the subject of how the brain processes music. It's called "This is your brain on music". It combines information on music, acoustics, psychoacoustics and neurology.
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Offline rncekel

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[discussion] repetition - its origins and role in music
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2009, 11:50:24 »
In short:
Repetition is the image of eternity in music.
Music try to express man thoughts and feelings, so there is a need for both repetition and variation.