A to Z: Repetition Is…

Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing.
Karlheinz Stockhausen

Composer and musical theorist Karlheinz Stockhausen is talking about music. But repetition is in every aspect of life, and every aspect has its own rhythm. Tomorrow follows today. Another day will come after tomorrow and so on. Unless, of course, Armageddon descends upon us.

You take one step, then the next. You keep doing so until you reach your destination. One sip of water is often not enough; you must chew your food more than once. You hardly ever think about these actions. That’s because they’re repetitive.

I know something about art and zilch about music (though, I’m a dedicated listener). But I know creating rhythm relies on repetition. In fact, repetition is an underlying principle in all arts. It is the basis of patterns (See here and here.)

Using patterns achieves harmony. The human gaze recognizes repetitions in lines, colors, forms or shapes (some  basic elements of art). Patterns are often reassuring. Maybe, they also appeal to our sense of beauty (whether innate or cultural).

Sometimes, though, repetitions are boring. Even downright annoying. You want to get away from them.

Jardin de Plante, Paris
Jardin des Plantes, Paris, Photo: RJourney

In addition to harmony, patterns produce movement. When you see that familiar photograph of trees growing smaller, doesn’t it suggest movement?

But look at this abstract painting by Kandinsky.  Do you see movement? For me, what stands out are circles of various sizes. They’re placed all over the canvas. Your gaze follows them. You sense continuous motion. But because the pattern isn’t familiar to me, I also find it a bit chaotic. You may, in fact, focus on entirely something else which gives you the sense of movement.

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), July 1923. Oil on canvas, 55 1/8 × 79 1/8 inches (140 × 201 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), July 1923. Oil on canvas, 55 1/8 × 79 1/8 inches (140 × 201 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
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4 Responses

  1. I enjoyed the post and I like the candid honesty about lack of knowledge in music (which I assure you is a field where I am USELESS) and yet the recognition of repetition. I love the choice trying to connect with as many #AtoZchallenge Bloggers as possible.
    ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from http://4covert2overt.blogspot.com/

    • Thank you for the visit. I do visual art and see patterns in it. Music is art, too, although it’s auditory so, it’s an easy leap to find repetition in music as well.

  2. Fascinating. I like your article. Repetition can be based on the body and its own rhythms like walking as you say. And there are those much larger rhythms of repetition in a lifetime.

    • I like that macro POV—repetition in a whole lifetime. We repeat mistakes and we certainly like to repeat pleasant experiences.

I love a dialogue. Tell me what you're thinking.