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Block Construction

  Block construction, in music, is a method of composing. Instead of structuring a piece by continually varying a few short motives or chord-patterns so that, in effect, the music is a stream of continuous variation (for instance the opening movement of Beethoven\'s Fifth Symphony) the composer begins by creating a number of short blocks of sound. These are then assembled, largely unvaried. Instead of proceeding by variation, the piece uses juxtaposition and contrast; each reappearance of a block is given new colour by, and gives new colour to, its surroundings. (Stravinsky\'s Petrushka is a case in point.) The method is much used in folk music, and was a favourite resource in European art music in the baroque period. It fell out of use in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when developmental styles were preferred, but in the 20th century it has once again become standard. It is one way of writing serial music, and was also favoured by such eminent 20th-century ‘traditionalists’ as Bartók, Messiaen, Stravinsky and Tippett. KMcL  



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