Musical argument

A musical argument is a means of creating tension through the relation of expressive content and musical form:

Traditional dialectal[lower-alpha 1] music is representational: the musical form relates to an expressive content and is a means of creating a growing tension; this is what is usually called the musical argument.

Wim Mertens (1999)[1]

Experimental musics may use process or indeterminacy rather than argument.[2]

The musical argument may be characterized as the primary flow and current idea being presented in a piece:

The very definition of musical argument is something that keeps going, and you uncover new details and new combinations. A musical argument is not the same as a verbal argument. A verbal argument implies that there's [sic] two sides; a musical argument makes the two sides one thing, like counterpoint. A fugue is like that; a double fugue, at least, takes two different ideas and shows you how they relate, and it shows you how they're the same thing.

Phil Lesh (1982)[3]

Thus one may hear of a musical argument being interrupted, extended, or repeated.

See also


  1. The purpose of the dialectic method of reasoning is resolution of disagreement through rational discussion between opposing viewpoints.


  1. Mertens, Wim (1999). American Minimal Music: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, reprinted edition (London: Kahn & Averill), p.88. ISBN 1871082005. Quoted in LaBelle, Brandon (2006). Background Noise (London and New York: Continuum), p.7. ISBN 9780826418449.
  2. LaBelle (2006), p.7.
  3. Gans, David (2002). Conversations With The Dead, p.166. ISBN 9780306810992.
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