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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Too much of a good thing

Repetition, unacceptable in fiction, is vital to much music. But it doesn’t always work. It does in the Hallelujah chorus but not in Ravel’s Bolero. (Or perhaps it works rather too well, which adds up to the same thing.) For me repetition turns Hey Jude into sheer monotony and it doesn’t help the first movement of Schubert’s eighth symphony (Unfinished).

I’m in dangerous waters here. Mrs LdP disagrees about the Unfinished and millions support her. Even if you’ve never heard the symphony, ten-to-one you’ll love the waltz-time theme Schubert employs. And employs. And employs. Dah dah, di-dah di-dah… Until I for one start biting my nails. Beautifully orchestrated you understand.

Repetition in the Unfinished is integral and untouchable. Keyboard music is another matter. Bach’s Goldberg lasts about an hour; some pianists play all the repetitions, some are more selective though possible fatigue is rarely cited.

Songs – often four lines to a verse – are a form of repetition but only tend to be burdensome if the words are second-rate. Best to sing them in german when in England, and english when in Germany.

It’s no coincidence we limit ourselves to the first verse of the national anthem.


  1. Miles Davis.
    Album: A kind of Blue.
    Track: So What.
    9.25 minutes based on a two notes riff. Star line up. Works well for me.

  2. Sometimes it works for its sound alone and perhaps for its surprise factor. Remember "A rose is a rose is a rose ...." Perhaps someone should set Gertrude Stein to music.

  3. Both: As I said, sometimes it works. But as far as singing is concerned the invention of "la-la" was where the rot set in.