Through-composed music is relatively continuous, non-sectional, and/or non-repetitive. A song is said to be through-composed if it has different music for each stanza of the lyrics. This is in contrast to strophic form, in which each stanza is set to the same music. Sometimes the German durchkomponiert is used to indicate the same concept.

In general usage, a 'through-composed' work is one based on run-on movements without internal repetitions. (The distinction is especially characteristic of the literature of the art-song, where such works are contrasted with strophic settings.)
—Webster (2004), [1]

Many examples of this form can be found in Schubert's "Lieder", where the words of a poem are set to music and each line is different, and "Der Erlkönig" (The Erl-King), in which the setting proceeds to a different musical arrangement for each new stanza and whenever the piece comes to each character, the character portrays its own voice register and tonality. Also Haydn's 'Farewell Symphony'.[1]

"Happiness Is a Warm Gun", by The Beatles, is an example of this form's application in popular music. No section of Ary Barroso's 1939 samba "Brazil" repeats; however, a second set of lyrics in Portuguese allows the melody to be sung through twice.

The term is also applied to opera and other dramatic works involving music, to indicate the extent of music (as opposed to recitative and dialogue). For example the musicals of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber have been part of a modern trend towards through-composed works, rather than collections of songs. In musical theater, works with no spoken dialogue, such as Les Misérables are usually referred to by the term "through-sung."

A work composed chronologically (from the beginning of the piece to the end, in order) without a precompositional formal plan is also through-composed.


  1. ^ a b Webster, James (2004). Haydn's 'Farewell' Symphony and the Idea of Classical Style: Through-Composition and Cyclic Integration in his Instrumental Music, p.7. Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis. ISBN 9780521612012.

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