Music Theory
Acoustic Composition
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How does the function affect the form?

The specific role that a piece of music plays has a direct influence on the form. If you’ve ever seen a movie or a TV show then there’s no doubt you’ve experienced this first hand. Typically, when music needs to serve a specific purpose, stock forms are either elaborated upon or abandoned altogether. Generally, some patterns emerge depending on the function. For instance, call and response is a very popular form in religious ceremonies all over the globe, while film and theater music often tend to have rapidly changing forms that heighten the drama of the production.

In this section we’ll explore how Japanese Kabuki theater use music and dance to emphasize the script.


Nagauta is a type of Shosa-ongaku (on stage music) that typically accompanies dancing and singing. Pieces in this style are usually comprised of a series of short thematic moments or fantasies. Some interesting compositional techniques include the use of dynamic and tempo changes (crescendo, decrescendo, accelerando, and ritardando). The instrumentation is comprised of percussion and string instruments.


This style accompanies romantic scenes and serves as a stark contrast to Nagauta. The ensemble is made of reciters (tayu) that sing solo and unison lines and players (shamisen-kata) that use string instruments, flutes, and percussion instruments. Notice how the mood of the music changes in intensity based on the delivery of the words. Additionally, the melodic and rhythmic material are developed along with the text and gradually shift from one idea to the next.