What is a “through-composed” song?

I decided to write about this subject because I am writing choral music and most of my works are through-composed. So what does that mean? It basically means that you start setting a text to music and you write original music until you reach the end of the text without following any particular structure. You just follow the text and use the music to enhance the communication of those ideas, to highlight certain parts and to add emotion and meaning to the message. Schubert wrote 600 songs and they were through-composed, changing the music for every stanza of the poem, according to the mood. Click here to hear”Caminante”, a work commisioned by the Culver City Middle School Choir. It is through-composed.

In the popular music world, most songs have the same music for every verse, with a chorus that repeats. It has other elements, of course, but repetition is an important factor. I like to through-compose works because it allows me to express more fully the sentiments of a poem or a text. That does not mean that I haven’t composed songs that include a repeating chorus. My Hanukkah song, which you can hear by clicking here, A Hanukkah Gathering, has three verses with different melodies and a chorus that repeats after every verse. But I try to give different melodies to different verses even when I have a chorus. It takes longer to learn the song for a choir but I think the variety makes the music more interesting.

Do you have any question about music, especially classical music? Let me know. I’ll try to answer it. Ta-ta for now.

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