Elision and ellipsis


Audio: elision and ellipsis (0:08)

Elision and ellipsis
Figure: elision and ellipsis

elision and ellipsis plays elision and ellipsis variants of the original melodic idea on an English horn or cor anglais. The elision and ellipsis figure shows the score:

  • Bar 1: the original melodic idea.
  • Bar 2: the third note is omitted and the gap filled by extending the value of the second note.
  • Bar 3: the fifth note is omitted and the gap filled by extending the value of the fourth note, E, which is a substitute for the original note D.
  • Bar 4: the fifth note and the rest are omitted and the third and fourth notes are both extended in value.

Elision and ellipsis both omit notes from a melody but do it in different ways.

Elision omits one or more notes in a melody and shifts the rest of the melody to fill the gap left by the omitted note. Elision automatically changes the rhythm of a melody. It results in a significant variation.

Ellipsis also omits one or more notes in a melody but leaves the gap intact. Unlike elision, ellipsis does not change the rhythm as the duration of the melody is unchanged. The gap can be left intact by filling it with silence using a rest. Or the value of an existing note can be extended to fill the gap. Or the gap can be filled by another note which is, in effect, a way of substituting one note for another.

Taking notes out of a melody sounds like minimalism gone bad. Taken to its extreme it could result in an entirely silent piece of music. If this is appealing, then have a listen, or not, as the case may be, to the infamous example of four minutes and thirty-three seconds.