Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tension & Release in AABA form

Tension and release is not only harmonic. For example, melodically speaking, rising phrases tend to create tension, and falling phrasing are resolving. Rhythmically ambiguous figures are tension-builders, while the return to the original beat is felt as a resolution. These are very basic ideas and I am not developing them with any great musical sophistication--something I couldn't do even if I wanted.

So applying these ideas to the AABA song form.

A: first four measures is like a question, second four measure like an answer.
A. A repetition of the same form, but at the end of measure 16, the resolution is deferred, instead we have the ...
B section, or bridge. Usually in a different key, which is felt to create tension. (For example, in Monk's "Bemsha Swing" the B section is identical to the A, but transposed up a fourth. This song is AABA but a 16 bar, not 32-bar, form. But the same principles apply.)
A: The 4th A section is identical to the first, Resolving the tension created in the bridge.

An example of Coltrane moving through this form is his own composition "Impressions," which can also be heard in the Village Vanguard sessions. Once again, he blurs the boundary between tension and resolution through a combination of great intensity and a great deal of repetitiveness. He never really plays the same thing twice, yet you feel that he is playing the same underlying thing over and over again. No other musician that I know of has explored the two extremes of relaxation and tension to the same degree--sometimes even in the same composition.

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