The Repetition Scale

Imagine the day December 31, 2015, as a solid path you can walk along. What if at the very end of it, right before it turns into January 1, there was a sign saying “Da Capo”? Or to take this idea a step further into the land of surreal dreams, what if on the night of the Sylvester, through all those fireworks burning in the sky, you suddenly saw a glowing repeat sign shining directly on you?

A glowing repeat sign shining through the fireworks

In music, when we arrive to the end of a movement or a section where there is a repeat sign, we usually take it as an option – with the repeat or without? If we choose to go back and play again the same section, we might use the repetition to do some things a bit differently, or we might just do exactly the same once again. If there was a repeat sign at the end of year 2015, I would have to think carefully how to interpret it.

A couple of days into the new year, I’m thinking that every beginning is a repetition in potential, and that repetitions create forms. A – B – A is the most common form in music: the reappearance of A is what allows us to remember a tune and hum it joyfully long after the music had ceased – this is what creates structure. The question of what to repeat and how is perhaps one of the most basic and essential questions in art.

I would like to sort the events of this passing year and place them on a “repetition scale”: on one end I’ll place things which I have done once but would never ever do again, while on the other end I’ll place things I believe I should be repeating infinitely without changing anything. In between I’ll place down all kinds of repetitions and variations.

The Repetition Scale

I want to devote time to sort not just events, but also thoughts and attitudes: thoughts I wish to think again and thoughts I would try hard to desert. And outfits! Carefully decide which ones I should be wearing often and which ones I should forever avoid. Such decisions might not be as simple as it sounds.

After some practice I might recruit my improved analytical skills and use them to sort out all musical activity of the past year. Things such as my last recital program, a specific phrasing I used or the new type of strings I was using, will all be sorted and placed on the repetition scale. Whether I’m practicing cello, interpreting a piece or composing electronic beats, I’m dealing with repetition-related choices all the time.

More than creating a form, a repetition allows us to be creative, change something, improve or enhance what was already said or done. “Repeat or not repeat? ” is a question which might make some complex, maybe even threatening questions just a drop simpler. Though my invented scale is a rather extreme analytical way of doing it, I think every once in while it can be fruitful to dedicate some thought to all those repetitions we do, all the habits and forms we create. Some of them are wonderful, but some need flexibility and movement.

Here is a sentence which should always be repeated:

to sing a melody while looking at the mirror sounds beautiful [now repeat]

I’m starting my 2016 with a new track, made of hundreds of repetitions and variations of the same very short sample from…well, just wait till the end – you’ll recognise it.

Happy new year everyone!