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date: 21 April 2021


  • J. Peter Burkholder


A term borrowed from the visual arts, where it refers to the act of pasting diverse objects, fragments or clippings on to a background, or to the work of art that results. Musical collage is the juxtaposition of multiple quotations, styles or textures so that each element maintains its individuality and the elements are perceived as excerpted from many sources and arranged together, rather than sharing common origins. Other words used for this effect include ‘montage’, ‘assemblage’ and ‘bricolage’. The term ‘collage’ has been applied to music with a variety of meanings, mostly to describe 20th-century works that borrow musical material from multiple sources.

Collage is distinct from Quodlibet, Medley, Potpourri, Centonization and other traditional procedures in that the diverse elements do not fit smoothly together. The wit of a quodlibet derives in large part from the incongruity of hearing in smooth counterpoint or quick succession tunes that one would not have thought to link together, and the pleasure of a medley lies in the smooth joining of familiar melodies that seem to belong together. Elements in a collage often differ in key, timbre, texture, metre or tempo, and lack of fit is an important factor in preserving the individuality of each and conveying the impression of a diverse assemblage....

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International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music
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