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Music sentence. Cadence. Period.

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Sentence in the 'music speech' consists of 2-3 phrases, divided by caesura (comma). Cadence is the completion of a sentence, it’s similar to a point or a question mark in the 'common speech'.

Melodic cadence is the melodic completion of a sentence and harmonic cadence is the harmonic completion of a sentence. By position cadence may be the middle (at the end of the first sentence) and the concluding (at the end of the last sentence).

The middle melodic cadence is usually actualized by an unstable note with a big time duration. It is more like a question mark. Such end of the first sentence requires an answer (see the end of the first sentence in Example 1). And the answer is the melodic cadence in the last sequence. As a rule it is actualized by the tonic of long duration on an up-beat. Concluding cadence is like a sentence end point (see the end of the second sentence in the Example 1).

By completion degree a harmonic cadence may be a full or a half. Half cadence is the harmonic end of a sentence by dominant chord, rarely by subdominant chord. As a rule the middle cadence (end of the first sentence) is half cadence. Mostly the half cadence is actualized by V5/3 and V7 chords. These chords sound strenuously and have a tendency to resolve to tonic. Half cadence is similar to the question mark but not to the sentence end point. Such cadence requires an answer. As a rule the answer is a full cadence at the end of the last sentence. Full cadence is the harmonic end by the tonic triad T5/3. In this case the chord should have a arrangement where in the Soprano voice a tonic is located. Most of the times the full cadence has a position at the last sentence end (see the end of the second sentence in Example 1 and Example 2). It is the goal of harmonic progression of the whole period.

The Dominant chord at the first sentence end makes the harmonic effluence, tension that resolves at the period end to tonic. At the harmonic level this combines two sentences into one whole, which is the period.

A sentence consists of 2-3 phrases. In turn a period consists of 2-3 sentences.

To compose a sentence or a period the methods similar to creating a phrase are used. Namely 'repeating' and 'comparison'.

A phrase as a core for the future melody character is located at the beginning of the period. The next phrase is the result of the previous phrase development. For example, to compose the first motive of the second phrase, we may get the first motive of the first phrase and invert it or sequence it or take its rhythm and invent a new intonation content, or just repeat it etc (see methods of motive development). The second phrase second motive can be a completely new one, it will have a contrast rhythm compared to the second phrase first motive rhythm. You may also compose the second phrase second motive with the methods of motive development (variation, sequencing, repeating, extraction, inversion etc) applied to the just created second phrase first motive. Feel free to choose the initial motive and its methods. The third phrase (it may be the second sentence first phrase) is the result of the first or the second phrase of the first sentence development or by combination of the first and the second phrase motives. And so on. It is usual, that the second phrase is the result of the first phrase development, the third phrase is the result of the second phrase development and thus the whole melody is the continuous result of the phrases development.

As the phrases consist of motives, we should consider the melody form primarily on the motive level.

"Any melody is the result of development of the main thematic motives-cores that form the well-known rhythm and intonation symmetry."

One or more motives-cores are placed at the beginning of a melody. Such motives define the further melody character. Then the motive developed from first one is placed. Then the next motive developed from any previous motive follows. And so on. Thus melody is the result motives development.

Melody form can be noted as scheme. Small letters are used for motives definition, for example a, a1, a2, b, c. Where 'a1' is the motive developed from motive 'a' by any method of motive developing – sequence, exact repeating, variation, extraction and other. Motive 'b' is a new motive, probably contrast to motive 'a'. Capital letters are used for phrase definition – A, A1, B, C. Where A1 is a phrase developed from phrase A, B1 – from B and so on.

Here’s an example for the statement above. Figure 1 shows a period scheme. Period consists of two sentences. Each sentence consists of two phrases. Each phrase consists of two motives. The first motive ‘a’ in the phrase A is the motive-core. The second motive is the result of the first motive ‘a’ development. For example, to get the motive ‘a1’ we may sequence the motive ‘a’, invert it, or just keep the motive ‘a’ intonation context and compose a new rhythm for it. The first motive in the phrase B is contrast to motive ‘a’. For example, it may consist of only hops, whereas the motive ‘a’ is a flowing scale-to-scale movement. Rhythm may be a contrast too. For example, the motive ‘a’ rhythm consists of equal durations, whereas the motive ‘b’ rhythm is an alteration of long and short durations. To compose the motive ‘c’, the second motive of phrase B, you may revert the motive ‘b’ rhythm (the first duration becomes the last one, the second – the pre-last etc.), then compose a new intonation context for the new rhythm, which will be a contrast to the intonation context of the ‘b’ motive. For example, the motive ‘c’ notes will have a position on an octave higher than the motive ‘b’ notes. Although we have used the motive ‘b’ rhythm to compose the ‘c’ motive, we have as a result the completely new, unrecognizable motive and therefore we call it ‘c’, not ‘b1’. Phrase A1 is derivative to the phrase A. On the motive level it means, that to compose A1 phrase we use the phrase A motives. In our case we’ve just changed the places of ‘a’ and ‘a1’ motives of phrase A and thus composed the A1 phrase. C is the last phrase. The first motive of the C phrase is derivative to the motive ‘c’, the second motive of the B phrase. For instance, we may invert the ‘c’ motive and then sequence it to get the ‘c1’ motive. Or we may keep just a few motive ‘c’ notes and thus get the ‘c1’ motive. The second motive of the C phrase is derivative to ‘a’ motive. For example, to get a motive ‘a2’ we simply repeat the ‘a’ motive but one octave lower.

 Figure 1.

It is rare when all phrases of a melody are developed from one phrase. The scheme of such melody is A-A1-A2-A3. Also it is rare when a melody consists of contrast phrases only. The scheme of such melody is A-B-C-D. There are some commonly used schemes:

  • A-A1-A2-B
  • A-B-A-B1
  • A-B-C-B1
  • A-B-B1-A1
  • A-B-B1-C

These schemes can be used not only on phrase level, but on the motive level.

If we consider a melody as the sound wave then the best description of its progression is the following quotation from composition basics manual:

"As a rule the melody progression is wave-like; it’s the alteration of the upward and downward movement of the distinct sounds, forming the one whole. The ups and downs usually obey to one top, which is the culmination. This top is usually the result of the straight and continual increase of the sound wave or it’s the result of the stair step gradual progression of the sound wave. Culmination may have any position depending on the subject matter."

The period structure may be very different. The most typical is the period consisting of two sentences. Such a period may be square and non-square. The square period is the one that has the total number of measures within the sentences and the period equal to number 2 degree. For instance, 4 measures in the first sentence + 4 measures in the second sentence or 8+8 or 16+16.

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