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  • Writer's pictureHolly Mead

Composing Music by William Russo: Chapter 3 / Part 3

In the last part of Chapter 3, we learn about musical addition, subtraction, context, and subfigurations!

Addition & Subtraction

When you add tones (e.g. passing, neighboring, anticipation, ornamentation, and/or auxiliary tones) to an original theme, this is called Addition. When you delete tones from your theme (and replace with rests and/or lengthen previous tones), this is called Subtraction.


Changing context in the musical sense is not so different from changing context in other realms! You can change the "context" of a melody by reharmonizing it (changing the chords), using different orchestration, tempos, dynamics, articulation, etc.


After a little poking around on the interwebs, it appears that the term subfiguration isn't widely used in the lexicon of composerly terms, but is essentially breaking a theme into separate identifiable figures that you can then transpose, reiterate (etc.) to create new material.

I had an inordinate amount of fun exploring these transformation tools by creating a theme, chopping it up into smaller figures, improvising at the piano, etc. Definitely a song-seed for my next album. Happy listening!

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