Repeated patterns in music – overrated?

Most of the music of our everyday lives has it, and I always say it’s king. It’s repetition. And it certainly is important. At least when it comes to any kind of music you want to get popular quickly among the crowds. It, however, is not the only way you can create music. Even enjoyable one. Music can be composed with avoiding or even completely omitting repeated patterns, even if it’s not going to be widely considered catchy and whistlable. But sometimes an artist is just not interested in those features. Because it can be a powerful, relieving freedom that comes with giving up on rules, even though trying to follow the rule of not having any rules can be just as restricting as the rules themselves. That’s why sooner or later – at least for most composers – these things usually settle into a balance.

Jazz with low reps

No need to repeat it - says the polar bearBut let’s see how different artists handled the rule of trying to remain repetition-less.

Jazz is probably our “safest” choice. Why? Because artists in this genre generally have the natural tendency to feel a certain kind of joy whenever they get the chance to push the envelope of conventions. That’s the case with “Bitches Brew” as well. Miles Davis and his fellow musicians get into long, improvised solos over seemingly endless, rocking or funky sounding grooves. And yes, about the only true repetition that can be found in this piece of music is the pulse of the drums.

Miles Davis – “Bitches Brew”:

Classical stuff

When it comes to classical music, it’s hard to neglect Arnold Schoenberg as one of the true masters of non-repetion. Even through his several different eras, the use of this musical device remained more or less constant in his work. Does his music hurt? You be the judge.

Arnold Schoenberg – “Erwartung”:

Pop, rock, or something else?

In pop and rock music, omitting repetition is a rather difficult task to fulfill, since most people – as I mentioned above – tend to prefer music with recurring parts and motifs. Mark Hollis, the driving force of the band Talk Talk managed to achieve the omittance of such repeated parts rather easily and elegantly.

Talk Talk – “Myrrhman”:

Yes, repeated patterns can be avoided completely in a musical composition. Don’t forget the fact though, that pressing the “play” button over and over on such a piece will introduce repetition again. And again. Yep. That’s how important it is.

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