Interpolation (music)

This article is about interpolation in music. For other uses, see Interpolation (disambiguation).

Interpolation (also known as replayed), especially in 20th-century music and later, is an abrupt change of musical elements, with the (almost immediate) resumption of the main theme or idea.[1] Pieces that are cited as featuring interpolation, among other techniques, are Music for Brass Quintet by Gunther Schuller and Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki, both 1960–61.[1]

In classical music

For music of the Classical period, interpolation is defined in the context of a musical sentence or period as "unrelated material inserted between two logically succeeding functions".[2]

This device is commonly used to extend what would normally be a regular phrase into an irregular and extended phrase. Such expansion by interpolation is achieved by the addition of extra music in the middle of a phrase (commonly through the use of sequence). A clear example exists in the second movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 10, K.330.

Formerly, in the sung portions of the Mass, such as the introit or kyrie, it was permissible, especially during the medieval period, to amplify a liturgical formula by interpolating a farse (from Medieval Latin farsa, forcemeat),[3] also called trope.[4] This might consist of an explanatory phrase or verse, usually in the form of an addition or paraphrase, often in the vernacular.

In the classical suite, consisting strictly of the allemande, courante, saraband and gigue, composers often interpolated a gavotte, bourrée, minuet, musette or passepied.

In popular music

Interpolation has been used by one artist to refer to the addition of new material in a performance or recording of a previously existing piece of music.[5][6][7]

In hip hop music

In hip hop music, interpolation refers to using a melody – or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) – from a previously recorded song, but re-recording the melody instead of sampling it. Often used when the original artist or label declines to license the actual sample, since re-recordings (covers) are subject to compulsory licenses.

Example: "Ghetto Supastar" by Pras features a hook sung by Mýa that was originally written in the song "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.


  1. 1 2 Wittlich, Gary E. (ed.) (1975). Aspects of Twentieth-century Music, p.48 n.12 and p.49. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.
  2. William E. Caplin, Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, p. 255. ISBN 0-19-514399-X.
  3. Farse: Definition with Farse Pictures and Photos. Lexicus – Word Definitions for Puzzlers and Word Lovers.
  4. Catholic Encyclopedia: Trope. New Advent.
  5. James Montgomery, with additional reporting by Jem Aswad and Steven Roberts. Oct 3 2007 4:18 PM EDT. "Wu-Tang Clan's 'First-Ever Cleared Beatles Sample' Claim Is Incorrect", MTV News.
  6. Is Hip Hop Dead?, Mickey Hess, p.90, Praeger Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0-275-99461-9.
  7. Eric Grandy. October 4 at 11:08 AM. Line Out: "The Week in Samples", The Stranger.

External links

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