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Coda (Italian for "tail", plural code) is a term used in music in a number of different senses, primarily to designate a passage which brings a piece (or one movement thereof) to a conclusion.

Contents

Coda as a section of a movement

The presence of a coda as a structural element in a music movement is especially clear in works written in particular musical forms. In a sonata form movement, the recapitulation section will generally follow the exposition in its thematic content, while adhering to the home key. The recapitulation often ends with a passage that sounds like a termination, paralleling the music that ended the exposition; thus any music coming after this termination will be perceived as extra material; i.e. as a coda. In works in variation form, the coda occurs following the last variation and will be very noticeable as the first music not based on the theme.

Codas were commonly used in both sonata form and variation movements during the Classical era. One of the ways that Beethoven extended and intensified Classical practice was to expand the coda sections, producing a final section sometimes of equal musical weight to the foregoing exposition, development and recapitulation sections and completing the musical argument. For one famous example, see Symphony No. 8 (Beethoven).[1]

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The musical function of codas

Charles Burkhart (2005, 12) suggests that the reason codas are common, even necessary, is that in the climax of the main body of a piece a "particularly effortful passage", often an expanded phrase, is often created by "working an idea through to its structural conclusions" and that after all this momentum is created a coda is required to "look back" on the main body, allow listeners to "take it all in", and "create a sense of balance."

In music notation

Coda sign

In music notation, the coda symbol is used as a navigation marker, similarly to the dal Segno sign. It looks like a set of crosshairs. It is encountered mainly in transcriptions of popular music, and is used where the exit from a repeated section is within that section rather than at the end. The instruction "To Coda" indicated that the performer is to jump to the separate section headed with the symbol. This symbol is not normally found in works by classical composers such as Haydn or Mozart but in more modern scores for a concert band or jazz big band.

Cauda

Cauda, the Latin root of coda, is used in the study of conductus of the 12th and 13th centuries. The cauda was a long melisma on one of the last syllables of the text, repeated in each strophe. Conducti were traditionally divided into two groups, conductus cum cauda and conductus sine cauda (Latin: "conductus with cauda", "conductus without cauda"), based on the presence of the melisma. The cauda thus provided a conclusionary role, also similar to the modern coda.

Codetta

Codetta (Italian for "little tail," the diminutive form) has a similar purpose to the coda, but on a smaller scale, concluding a section of a work instead of the work as a whole. Typically, a codetta concludes the exposition and recapitulation sections of a work in sonata form, following the second (modulated) theme, or the closing theme (if there is one). Thus, in the exposition, it usually appears in the secondary key, but in the recapitulation, in the primary key. The codetta ordinarily closes with a perfect cadence in the appropriate key, confirming the tonality. If the exposition is repeated, the codetta is also, but sometimes it has its ending slightly changed, depending on whether it leads back to the exposition or into the development sections.

Codas in popular music

Many songs in rock and other genres of popular music have sections identifiable as codas. A coda in these genres is sometimes referred to as an outro and in jazz and modern church music as a tag. See also fade out.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ For discussion of this coda, and of codas in general, see Rosen (1988).

References

  • Burkhart, Charles. "The Phrase Rhythm of Chopin's A-flat Major Mazurka, Op. 59, No. 2" in Stein, Deborah (2005). Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517010-5.
  • Rosen, Charles (1988) Sonata Forms, 2nd edition. New York: Norton.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


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