Abstract and Keywords
Form is one of the most foundational concepts in music theory, but identifying a suitably precise and meaningful definition of the term proves challenging. This essay does not attempt to offer a singular definition, but rather seeks to explore aspects of the term’s history and origin, exemplifying its usage (and its implications for writing on music) across a broad repertoire from Machaut to Miles Davis. Form is predictive, regulative, and heuristic. Despite its central place in much musical thought and practice, however, it is form’s instability and openness to appropriation and change that is arguably its most persistent characteristic.
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