This is another guyed for all of you composers out there who are struggling. There are various parts of a composition besides just the beginning middle and end. Most compositions have a three-tier level of tension or emotional content as well.
The Three Sections of Tension in a Piece of Music
Intro Theme- In some compositions there is music that is part of the introduction that is rather laid back and soft. Right now, I’m thinking of “Sanctuary” by Frank Ticheli. It starts off with a subdued woodwind and horn section with minor tension that strains toward soft resolutions. This soft section continues until the composition shifts into a new and dissonant tonality that starts off in G major with non-chord tones interspersed in between the repetition of the G major tonality. This scenario is also true with many different compositions for band, orchestra, or another instrument group. Music in the intro theme is generally soft (I would like to say bubbling). Many compositions need this “bubbling” to work up to climaxes that wow performers and audiences.
This bubbling period is often characterized by soft, slow, “un-rhythmic” phrases (by unrhythmic, I mean there are not many overly complex rhythms in that section), melodious textures and calming dynamics.
There is usually a second section of the piece that bubbles up more. Here the first signs of more complex rhythmic motives. Say, you have all quarter note rhythms in the first section that are really subdued. Out of nowhere, a section with quarter and eighth notes would appear. Dynamics go from their softer points to a sort of mezzoforte, or another ‘medium’ overall dynamic. Minor fluctuations in dynamics will start to occur more frequently in the form of crescendos and decrescendos.
Finally, the complexity of the piece should build into a grand climax where you have instrument groups commanding musical attention of the ears of the audience and culminating in a breath-taking finish. Dynamics start at mezzo forte or forte and can either get louder or not. Putting bigger crescendos in this section and extending them over a greater number of measures will increase the climax’s effectiveness for the listeners. Following a number of crescendos, you finally reach the climax and nail-biting finish. All of the tension stored up in first two sections is released.
How Do You Do This?
You do all of this by layering parts and linking them together. Many parts are doubled. Riffs are duplicated in several places and in several different ways. When you start the piece, layering and doubling of instruments is at a minimum, but as you move through the piece, more layers are added thus, creating more harmonic and melodic tension. Finally, in the ‘Climax’ section of the piece, all the possible layers should be revealed and culminate in a resounding finish that leaves the audience with a vividly colorful picture that gives the audience emotional release through connection with the music. When you have this emotional connection with the audience, you have a piece that would clearly stand up to repeat performances over time.
Building and releasing tension through color in music makes you a terrific composer.