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Antecedent and Consequence

No, it’s not a new hit reality series on TV. Rather, the term describes two parts of a melody which complement each other, with the first (the antecedent) requiring the second (the consequence) to complete a specific musical passage. The two parts have long been informally called “question” and “answer.” One famous example is in classical music, during the opening of the second movement of Beethoven’s “Archduke Trio.” The first four bars are played by cello, and the second four (the “answer”) by the violin. This example may seem archaic, but haven’t you often seen two rock guitar players exchange licks back and forth? Or maybe heard a jazz piece, where the pianist and guitarist will each play a subtle variation upon the melody, with the piano playing the first phrase, and the guitar answering by either restating the piano part, or more typically, improvising a response? If you have, you’ve experienced today’s Word for the Day.

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