Kim Lajoie's blog

Amazement and anticipation

by Kim Lajoie on December 29, 2014

Amazement is a departure from minor or dissonant tonality of aggression. Instead, high energy and instability are used to create a sense of surprise or wonder. This can be difficult to do well – the new material must be familiar to the listener. The best way to do this is to express ‘amazement’ later in the song, using significant musical material (such as melodies or sounds) that were presented earlier in the song.

Surprise is a more extreme expression of amazement. This is achieved by adding sudden changes to the unstable musical texture – the more sudden, the more surprising. The key is to combine the sudden changes with instability to create musical progressions and structural punctuation that has a high degree of unpredictability.

Anticipation is one of the most difficult emotions to express in music. It is a sense that something is coming – an expectation that something will happen, but an uncertainty of exactly what it will be. The difficulty is in finding the right balance. If the music is too predictable, the anticipation will turn to boredom. The music is too unpredictable, the anticipation will turn to confusion.

Anticipation is often expressed as a low energy section of music directly following a previous high energy section. For extended periods of anticipation, a gradual increase in energy works well to guide the listener’s expectations. Unstable textures also work well. Instability creates a desire in the listener for the song to resolve to stability – especially after prior stability earlier in the song.

-Kim.

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