What is "vertical" development versus "horizontal" development in a piece ?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by ManicMiner, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. ManicMiner

    ManicMiner Member

    Nov 3, 2018
    Is vertical in terms of energy increase, and what does horizontal development mean ?
  2. kurtvanzo

    kurtvanzo Capt. Zorro

    I believe vertical means the instrumentation and density of a piece, while horizontal is it's development over time. Both interacting with each other obviously.
  3. jbuhler

    jbuhler Senior Member

    Jun 19, 2016
    I feel like vertical development is more about contrapuntal elaboration (additional relatively independent layers) than just instrumentation and density per se. I agree that horizontal development is the traditional mode of working through/working out material over time. A passacaglia is a form built primarily on vertical development, a sonata or fugue follows more horizontal development.
    Wally Garten and kurtvanzo like this.
  4. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

    Nov 2, 2011
    Vertical means you keep playing the same thing but adding more and more instruments/layers as the piece goes on. Horizontal means the piece itself evolves over time independently of any layering.

    To put it another way, a piece with only one monophonic instrument can only develop horizontally (if it develops at all).
  5. ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    It's a big question. " Pierre Boulez once described The Rite as a piece in which a "vertical chromaticism" stood opposed to a "horizontal diatonicism." By this he meant that while the vertical alignment is often chromatic, the individual parts are in themselves often simple and diatonic."(Van den Toorn p.129). If you listen to the beginning this is very obvious . Perhaps the most groundbreaking music making at the time occurs in the last two pages of the first movement. When the rhythms and pitches become almost Kaleidoscopic.

    Whereas if you listen to a piece of Mozart ( any Mozart ! ) you are hearing music aligned vertically. Rather than each instrument play an individual part they play a piece of a whole. Most often a chord tone as this music is basically traidic in nature ( with added chord tones and suspensions throughout ). In fact so much music from the Common Practice Period is basically Chords that are given Movement. From Handel to Holst, you can hear it as block chords with some figuration, Along with pedal and single lines.

    This started to change in the late romantic era and music became more linear , perhaps the most complete example would be Ligeti's Atmosphere where at key moments everyone in the orchestra is playing virtually the same set of pitches ( albeit with octave displacements for their instruments) but all shifted about by tiny amounts in timing . This gives us a Carpet of sound !

    the clusters you hear are all made up of very fast runs and tiny changes in pitches all displaced in time . If you look at the score you will see huge rows of notes across the entire orchestra in Divisi, but with each player starting on a different point . Perhaps the ultimate Linear piece !


    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 12:20 PM
  6. erica-grace

    erica-grace Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    So, how do you have both, at the same time?
  7. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

    Nov 2, 2011
    For example, you could have a repeated ostinato that you keep adding more layers too while at the same time have a melody/harmony that develops over time.
  8. mverta

    mverta One with the Force

    Jul 10, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Vertical development, as I refer to it in my masterclasses, is trying to substitute orchestration for composition - changing the sounds, but not the music; changing the way we say something, but not what we're saying, merely repeating ourselves. It's a type of development, but not a substitution for actual development, though it's often used that way, especially today. We add layer after layer after layer, but the story's not really going anywhere. Film music wise, this is in contrast to, I dunno, I guess everything written before about 1996.

    If you catch my Unleashed show on YouTube tomorrow, critiquing pieces people send in, you'll hear this come up about a million times :)
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 12:34 PM
  9. OP

    ManicMiner Member

    Nov 3, 2018
    Thanks, I've actually been watching previous unleashed videos this week. Just trying to get the glossary out so I'm on the same page, as I am pretty much a beginner in Orchestral/Cinematic. Another term used was "color change" which I presume is just a change in instrument/instrument type.
  10. mverta

    mverta One with the Force

    Jul 10, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Color usually refers to timbre/instruments/orchestration, but can totally be applied to harmony or chordal quality. It's a flexible term!
    Kyle Preston likes this.
  11. Consona

    Consona Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2011
    This is interesting, since every layer added brings something new, because people don't layer the same thing over and over again, they repeat the original thing, then bring a layer that plays something else. They just don't modulate, develop the original idea through fluent variations, etc.

    Take Zimmer's Time, isn't that like 4 chords without any modulation playing for over four and a half minutes, just adding layers and layers that are different from each other?

    Sometimes you can have a horizontal development that just skillfully milks the same idea over and over again through modulations, changing orchestration, etc., i.e. @mverta 's "changing the sounds, but not the music", but in a horizontal way.

    What makes a great piece, IMO, is when you can fluenty develop the original idea, very carefully, so you don't change it too much yet boldly enough to say something new over its development.

    The problem with vertical is not it's not saying anything new, the new layers are different from the original idea and other layers, the problem is, it's done in a block-y, clumsy, non-fluent way. The music does not flow, it just repeats itself and adds more layers, then very often abruptly changes into something totally different, and it's all done with very shallow harmonic language, so those new layers are kinda plain. What I hear when listening to golden era composers is fluency (they can develop ideas so incredibly well) and richness (melodies, harmonies, orchestration) of their music. That's something very different from what we hear in the majority of music these days.

    IMHO. :P
  12. muk

    muk Senior Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    In the classic sense 'vertical' basically means harmony. If you layer several notes on top of each other you get a chord, and a chord outlines a harmony.

    Horizontal development basically means melody and voice leading. It is talking about the shape of each individual line. If you follow what a viola is playing throughout a piece you follow its vertical development. It may play a melody at one point, then pause for three measures, then play a simple accompaniment figure etc.

    If you then examine the harmonic function of the viola at a certain point you look at its vertical function. It may be playing the fifth of a dominant chord at some point, then the root tone of the next chord and so on. These functions only become clear in context with the other instruments.

    A simple way to explain: place a ruler horizontally on a score. It follows one single instrument throughout the piece. Place the ruler vertically on the score. Now it shows what all instruments toghether are doing at one specific moment in the piece.
    ZenFaced, Dewdman42 and averystemmler like this.
  13. miket

    miket Senior Member

    May 17, 2016
    New York
    Bach's answer to your question:

    I don't know what the answer is, exactly, but it's definitely better than any you'll get here. ;)
  14. DarkestShadow

    DarkestShadow Senior Member

    That's something I have no idea why people care about it. Either you have a problem with vertical development or not. I mostly don't. I depends how well the track is done... some vertical developments are boring, others aren't.
    Of course if you literally have the same thing playing musically and just hulk it up with more instruments, it will mostly be fatiguing. But I've rarely ever heard that... although there are tracks who tread on the same thing musically for some time... Doesn't put the track on a blacklist in my mind.
    tehreal and Alex Niedt like this.
  15. tehreal

    tehreal Active Member

    Sep 6, 2017
    This piece has contains some nice elements of vertical composition. The timbral evolution is a main driver.

    Edit: I guess others are pointing out that this isn't actually "vertical development" in the common classical sense. Although some others have described as re-orchestration apparently it's not. Live and learn.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019 at 2:53 AM
    Divico likes this.
  16. muk

    muk Senior Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Actually it is an example of no vertical development at all, at least in the common use of the term. It's the same three chords over and over again with no harmonic development at all. 'Vertical development' in the usual sense does not mean orchestration/timbre etc - that is usually called, well, orchestration. Rather 'vertical development' means harmonic development. In a sonata form, for example, that would mean defining the tonic in the first theme zone, then modulation to the dominant, consolidate the dominant in the secondary theme zone and so on. That's what is meant by the term in its common usage, not orchestration.
    mikeh-375 and tehreal like this.
  17. Rob

    Rob Senior Member

    Aug 23, 2007
    I think there is no universal consensus on these terms... basically every now and then somebody decides to give their own names to things. Just go and listen to the music they have written and choose who to trust on this or invent your own lexicon... my personal view of course.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019 at 9:01 AM
    mikeh-375 and tehreal like this.
  18. tehreal

    tehreal Active Member

    Sep 6, 2017
    Thanks muk. Re-orchestration it is.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019 at 2:43 AM
    muk likes this.
  19. mikeh-375

    mikeh-375 Active Member

    Feb 8, 2016
    It could also mean developing harmony. Think of mirror harmony perhaps, or mutation of chord structure with chromatic principles and their implications. It could refer to developing harmony by widening or compressing the intervallic structure in order to open up new sound for exploration.
    I tend to agree with Rob above, make vertical development your own, but thinking along the lines I've just mentioned can often get you out of a rut and even if you aren't in one, the techniques are a handy tool to find material within.
    SchnookyPants likes this.
  20. marclawsonmusic

    marclawsonmusic Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2012
    I think James Horner must have been inspired by Ligeti for Star Trek 2! There is a lot of aleatoric / dissonant stuff on that soundtrack. I just heard some similar music in this Ligeti.

    Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

Share This Page