Period (music)

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Period (two five-bar phrases) in Haydn's Feldpartita. Play (help*info)
The second phrase is built of parallel (similar) melodic material, distinguished by an authentic cadence answering the half cadence at the end of the first phrase. Haydn - Feldpartita period.png
Period (two five-bar phrases) in Haydn's Feldpartita. Loudspeaker.svg Play   The second phrase is built of parallel (similar) melodic material, distinguished by an authentic cadence answering the half cadence at the end of the first phrase.
Period (two four-bar phrases) in Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique), second movement. Play (help*info)
Second phrase built from new material, "gives the effect of greater freedom of melodic thought." Beethoven - Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 13, second movement period.png
Period (two four-bar phrases) in Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique), second movement. Loudspeaker.svg Play   Second phrase built from new material, "gives the effect of greater freedom of melodic thought."

In music, the term period refers to certain types of recurrence in small-scale formal structure. In twentieth-century music scholarship, the term is usually used as defined by the Oxford Companion to Music: "a period consists of two phrases, antecedent and consequent, each of which begins with the same basic motif." [3] Earlier usage varied somewhat, but usually referred to similar notions of symmetry, recurrence, and closure. The concept of a musical period originates in comparisons between music structure and rhetoric at least as early as the 16th century. [4]


Western art music

Diagram of a typical period consisting of two phrases Period phrase-commonalities.png
Diagram of a typical period consisting of two phrases

In Western art music or Classical music, a period is a group of phrases consisting usually of at least one antecedent phrase and one consequent phrase totaling about 8 bars in length (though this varies depending on meter and tempo). Generally, the antecedent ends in a weaker and the consequent in a stronger cadence; often, the antecedent ends in a half cadence while the consequent ends in an authentic cadence. Frequently, the consequent strongly parallels the antecedent, even sharing most of the material save the final bars. In other cases, the consequent may differ greatly (for example, the period in the beginning of the second movement of the Pathetique Sonata ).

The 1958 Encyclopédie Fasquelle defines a period as follows:

Another definition is as follows:


A double period is, "a group of at least four which the first two phrases form the antecedent and the third and fourth phrases together form the consequent." [10]

When analyzing Classical music, contemporary music theorists usually employ a more specific formal definition, such as the following by William Caplin:

"Greensleeves": sectional binary form (first phrase ends with the tonic). Play (help*info) Greensleeves sectional binary form.png
"Greensleeves": sectional binary form (first phrase ends with the tonic). Loudspeaker.svg Play  

Sub-Saharan music and music of the African diaspora

Period in a single bar. Standard pattern written in simple meter (4/4) and compound meter (12/8). Play duple (help*info)
, Play triple (help*info)
, and Play both (help*info)
for comparison. Standard pattern.png
Period in a single bar. Standard pattern written in simple meter (4/4) and compound meter (12/8). Loudspeaker.svg Play duple  , Loudspeaker.svg Play triple  , and Loudspeaker.svg Play both   for comparison.

Bell patterns

The second definition of period in the New Harvard Dictionary of Music states: "A musical element that is in some way repeated," applying "to the units of any parameter of music that embody repetitions at any level." [13] In some sub-Saharan music and music of the African diaspora, the bell pattern embodies this definition of period. [14] The bell pattern (also known as a key pattern, [15] [16] guide pattern, [17] phrasing referent, [18] timeline, [19] or asymmetrical timeline [20] ) is repeated throughout the entire piece, and is the principal unit of musical time and rhythmic structure by which all other elements are arranged. [21] [22] The period is often a single bar (four main beats). [23] [24]

The seven-stroke standard bell pattern is one of the most commonly used representations of the musical period in sub-Saharan music. [25] The first three strokes of the bell are antecedent, and the remaining four strokes are consequent. The consequent diametrically opposes the antecedent. [26] [27]


Period in two bars. Clave written in 2/4 Son clave 3 side and 2 side-B.png
Period in two bars. Clave written in 2/4

Cuban musicologist Emilio Grenet represents the period in two bars of 2/4. In explaining the structure of music guided by the five-stroke African bell pattern known in Cuba as clave (Spanish for 'key' or 'code'), Grenet uses what could be considered a definition of period: "We find that all its melodic design is constructed on a rhythmic pattern of two bars, as though both were only one, the first is antecedent, strong, and the second is consequent, weak." [28]

As Grenet and many others describe the period, the cross-rhythmic antecedent ('tresillo') is strong and the on-beat resolution is weak. This is the opposite of Western harmonic theory, where resolution is described as strong. Despite this difference, both the harmonic and rhythmic periods have consequent resolution. In simplest terms, that resolution occurs harmonically when the tonic is sounded, and in clave-based rhythm when the last main beat is sounded. [29] Metric consonance is achieved when the last stroke of clave coincides with the last main beat (last quarter note) of the consequent bar. [30]

The antecedent bar has three strokes and is called the three-side of clave. The consequent bar has two strokes and is called the two-side. [31] The three-side gives the impression of asking a question, which is answered by the two-side. The two sides of clave cycle in a type of repeating call and response.

[With] clave . . . the two bars are not at odds, but rather, they are balanced opposites like positive and negative, expansive and contractive or the poles of a magnet. As the pattern is repeated, an alternation from one polarity to the other takes place creating pulse and rhythmic drive. Were the pattern to be suddenly reversed, the rhythm would be destroyed as in a reversing of one magnet within a series . . . the patterns are held in place according to both the internal relationships between the drums and their relationship with clave . . . Should the drums fall out of clave (and in contemporary practice they sometimes do) the internal momentum of the rhythm will be dissipated and perhaps even broken—Amira and Cornelius (1992). [32]

An actual key pattern does not need to be played in order for a key pattern to define the period. [33] [34]

See also


  1. 1 2 White, John D. (1976). The Analysis of Music, p. 44. ISBN   0-13-033233-X.
  2. White (1976), p. 45.
  3. Whittall, Arnold. "period." The Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford Music Online . Oxford University Press. Accessed August 4, 2015.
  4. Ratner, Leonard G. "Period." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online . Oxford University Press. Accessed April 22, 2015.
  5. Benjamin, Thomas; Horvit, Michael; and Nelson, Robert (2003). Techniques and Materials of Music, p. 252. 7th edition. Thomson Schirmer. ISBN   0495500542.
  6. Cooper, Paul (1973). Perspectives in Music Theory, p. 48. Dodd, Mead, and Co. ISBN   0396067522.
  7. Kostka, Stefan and Payne, Dorothy (1995). Tonal Harmony, p. 162. Third edition. McGraw-Hill. ISBN   0073000566.
  8. Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987).[ page needed ] Translated by Carolyn Abbate (1990). ISBN   0-691-02714-5.
  9. (1969). Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cited in Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990),[ page needed ].
  10. White (1976), p. 46.
  11. Caplin, William (1998). Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (1998), p. 12. Oxford. ISBN   9780195143997/ ISBN   9780195355758.
  12. Kostka and Payne (1995), p. 336.
  13. New Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986: 625) ed. Don Michael Randel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [ ISBN missing ]
  14. "The time span of the bell rhythm and its division into beats establish meter, a concept that implies a musical period" Locke, David "Improvisation in West African Musics" Music Educators Journal, Vol. 66, No. 5, (Jan., 1980), pp. 125–33. Published by: MENC: The National Association for Music Education.
  15. Novotney, Eugene N. (1998: 165) Thesis: The 3:2 Relationship as the Foundation of Timelines in West African Musics, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois.
  16. Peñalosa, David (2012: 255) The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN   1-886502-80-3.
  17. Gerstin, Julian (2013) "Rhythmic Structures in the African Continuum" Analytical Approaches to World Music. [ full citation needed ]
  18. Agawu, Kofi (2003: 73) Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions. New York: Routledge. ISBN   9780415943895.
  19. Nketia, Kwabena (1961: 78) African Music in Ghana. Accra: Longmans.
  20. Kubik, Gerhard (1999: 54) Africa and the Blues. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN   1-57806-145-8.
  21. "A regular and recurrent rhythm pattern played on the bell provides the time referent by which members of the performing group reckon the alignment of their rhythm patterns, song melodies, and dance movements. Not only is the basic musical period established by the bell pattern but its distinctive rhythmic shape influences all aspects of the music and dance." Locke, David (1982: 217–18) "Principles of Off-Beat Timing and Cross-Rhythm in Southern Ewe Dance Drumming," Society for Ethnomusicology Journal, November, p. 217.
  22. "Whether performed individually or shared as a collective experience, the music is nonetheless rigidly controlled by a recurrent rhythm often associated with the role of the bell pattern typical of West and Central African drumming" Anku, Wille (2000: 1) "Circles and Time: A Theory of Structural Organization of Rhythm in African Music," Society for Music Theory 6, no. 1.
  23. Ladzekpo, C.K. (1995: Web) "Main Beat Schemes." Foundation Course in African Music.
  24. Locke, David "Agbadza: The Critical Edition" Tufts University. [ full citation needed ]
  25. Jones, A.M. (1959: 211–12) Studies in African Music. [ full citation needed ]
  26. Novotney (1998)
  27. Peñalosa (2012: 59).
  28. Grenet, Emilio, translated by R. Phillips (1939: XV). Popular Cuban Music New York: Bourne Inc. ISBN   9780849033520.
  29. C.K. Ladzekpo considers cross-rhythm to be rhythmic conflict or an alternate motion, and a main beat concurrence to be a moment of resolution. Ladzekpo, C.K. (1995: Web) "Technique of Composite Rhythm" Foundation Course in African Music.
  30. Peñalosa (2012: 104).
  31. "[The] clave pattern has two opposing rhythm cells: the first cell consists of three strokes, or the rhythm cell, which is called 'tresillo' (Spanish tres = three). This rhythmically syncopated part of the clave is called the three-side or the strong part of the clave. The second cell has two strokes and is called the two-side or the weak part of the clave . . . The different accent types in the melodic line typically encounter with the clave strokes, which have some special name. Some of the clave strokes are accented both in more traditional tambores batá -music and in more modern salsa styles. Because of the popularity of these strokes, some special terms have been used to identify them. The second stroke of the strong part of the clave is called 'bombo'. It is the most often accented clave stroke in my research material. Accenting it clearly identifies the three-side of the clave (Peñalosa The Clave Matrix 2009, 93–94). The second common clave stroke accented among these improvisations is the third stroke of the strong part of the clave. This stroke is called 'ponche.' In Cuban popular genres, this stroke is often accented in unison breaks that transition between the song sections (Peñalosa 2009, 95; Mauleón 1993, 169)" Iivari, Ville (2011: 1, 5) The Relation Between Clave Pattern and Violin Improvisation in Santería’s Religious Feasts. Department of Musicology, University of Turku, Finland. Web.;jsessionid=07038526F10A06DE7ED190AD5B1744D7
  32. Amira, John and Steven Cornelius (1992: 23, 24) The Music of Santeria; Traditional Rhythms of the Batá Drums. Tempe, AZ: White Cliffs. ISBN   0-941677-24-9
  33. Jones (1959: 197–98)
  34. Gerard, Charley, and Marty Sheller (1989 :14) Salsa! The Rhythm of Latin Music. Crown Point, Indiana: White Cliffs. ISBN   9780941677097.

Related Research Articles

Syncopation is a musical term meaning a variety of rhythms played together to make a piece of music, making part or all of a tune or piece of music off-beat. More simply, syncopation is "a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm": a "placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur". It is the correlation of at least two sets of time intervals.

Salsa music Latin American dance music genre

Salsa music is a popular dance music genre that initially arose in New York City during the 1960s. Salsa is the product of various Cuban musical genres including the Afro-Cuban son montuno, guaracha, cha cha chá, mambo, and Puerto Rican plena and bomba. Latin jazz has had a significant influence on salsa arrangers, piano guajeos, and instrumental soloists.

Polyrhythm Simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms

Polyrhythm is the simultaneous use of two or more rhythms that are not readily perceived as deriving from one another, or as simple manifestations of the same meter. The rhythmic layers may be the basis of an entire piece of music (cross-rhythm), or a momentary section. Polyrhythms can be distinguished from irrational rhythms, which can occur within the context of a single part; polyrhythms require at least two rhythms to be played concurrently, one of which is typically an irrational rhythm. Concurrently in this context means within the same rhythmic cycle. The underlying pulse, whether explicit or implicit can be considered one of the concurrent rhythms. For example, the son clave is poly-rhythmic because its 3 section suggests a different meter from the pulse of the entire pattern.

In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions, such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997).

Clave (rhythm)

The clave is a rhythmic pattern used as a tool for temporal organization in Afro-Cuban music. In Spanish, clave literally means key, clef, code, or keystone. It is present in a variety of genres such as Abakuá music, rumba, conga, son, mambo, salsa, songo, timba and Afro-Cuban jazz. The five-stroke clave pattern represents the structural core of many Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Timbales Shallow single-headed drums with a metal casing

Timbales or pailas are shallow single-headed drums with metal casing. They are shallower than single-headed tom-toms, and usually tuned much higher, especially for their size. The player uses a variety of stick strokes, rim shots, and rolls to produce a wide range of percussive expression during solos and at transitional sections of music, and usually plays the shells of the drum or auxiliary percussion such as a cowbell or cymbal to keep time in other parts of the song.

In music, the terms additive and divisive are used to distinguish two types of both rhythm and meter:

Phrase (music) Musical unit

In music theory, a phrase is a unit of musical meter that has a complete musical sense of its own, built from figures, motifs, and cells, and combining to form melodies, periods and larger sections.

A phrase is a substantial musical thought, which ends with a musical punctuation called a cadence. Phrases are created in music through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Ewe music is the music of the Ewe people of Togo, Ghana, and Benin, West Africa. Instrumentation is primarily percussive and rhythmically the music features great metrical complexity. Its highest form is in dance music including a drum orchestra, but there are also work, play, and other songs. Ewe music is featured in A. M. Jones's Studies in African Music.

Afro-Cuban jazz is the earliest form of Latin jazz. It mixes Afro-Cuban clave-based rhythms with jazz harmonies and techniques of improvisation. Afro-Cuban jazz emerged in the early 1940s with the Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo "Machito" in the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans in New York City. In 1947, the collaborations of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and percussionist Chano Pozo brought Afro-Cuban rhythms and instruments, such as the tumbadora and the bongo, into the East Coast jazz scene. Early combinations of jazz with Cuban music, such as "Manteca" and "Mangó Mangüé", were commonly referred to as "Cubop" for Cuban bebop.

Cycle has several meanings in the field of music. Acoustically, it refers to one complete vibration, the base unit of Hertz being one cycle per second. Theoretically, an interval cycle is a collection of pitch classes created by a sequence of identical intervals. Individual pieces that aggregate into larger works are considered cycles, for example, the movements of a suite, symphony, sonata, or string quartet. This definition can apply to everything from settings of the Mass or a song cycle to an opera cycle. Cycle also applies to the complete performance of an individual composer's work in one genre.

Contradanza is the Spanish and Spanish-American version of the contradanse, which was an internationally popular style of music and dance in the 18th century, derived from the English country dance and adopted at the court of France. Contradanza was brought to America and there took on folkloric forms that still exist in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Panama and Ecuador.

Guaguancó is a subgenre of Cuban rumba, combining percussion, voices, and dance. There are two main styles: Havana and Matanzas.

Ewe drumming refers to the drumming ensembles of the Ewe people of Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The Ewe are known for their experience in drumming throughout West Africa. The sophisticated cross rhythms and polyrhythms in Ewe drumming are similar to those in Afro-Caribbean music and late jazz. The original purpose of Ewe drumming were sung or performed by warriors. Now the songs and performed to celebrate or for recreational use. For example, Agbadza was originally used as a warrior dance but is now used to celebrate events.

In music of Afro-Cuban origin, tumbao is the basic rhythm played on the bass. In North America, the basic conga drum pattern used in popular music is also called tumbao. In the contemporary form of Cuban popular dance music known as timba, piano guajeos are known as tumbaos.

Bell pattern

A bell pattern is a rhythmic pattern of striking a hand-held bell or other instrument of the idiophone family, to make it emit a sound at desired intervals. It is often a key pattern, in most cases it is a metal bell, such as an agogô, gankoqui, or cowbell, or a hollowed piece of wood, or wooden claves. In band music, bell patterns are also played on the metal shell of the timbales, and drum kit cymbals.

In music, a cross-beat or cross-rhythm is a specific form of polyrhythm. The term cross rhythm was introduced in 1934 by the musicologist Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980). It refers to when the rhythmic conflict found in polyrhythms is the basis of an entire musical piece.

Rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan African music is characterised by a "strong rhythmic interest" that exhibits common characteristics in all regions of this vast territory, so that Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) has described the many local approaches as constituting one main system. C. K. Ladzekpo also affirms the profound homogeneity of approach. West African rhythmic techniques carried over the Atlantic were fundamental ingredients in various musical styles of the Americas: samba, forró, maracatu and coco in Brazil, Afro-Cuban music and Afro-American musical genres such as blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, funk, soul, reggae, hip hop, and rock and roll were thereby of immense importance in 20th century popular music. The drum is renowned throughout Africa.

Tresillo is a rhythmic pattern used in Latin American music. It is a more basic form of the rhythmic figure known as the habanera.

Quinto (drum) Highest-pitched conga drum

The quinto is the smallest and highest pitched type of conga drum. It is used as the lead drum in Cuban rumba styles such as guaguancó, yambú, columbia and guarapachangueo, and it is also present in congas de comparsa. Quinto phrases are played in both triple-pulse and duple-pulse structures. In columbia, triple pulse is the primary structure and duple pulse is secondary. In yambú and guaguancó duple-pulse is primary and triple-pulse is secondary.