Refrain

A refrain (from Vulgar Latin refringere, "to repeat", and later from Old French refraindre) is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

The use of refrains is particularly associated with where the verse-chorus-verse song structure typically places a refrain in almost every song. The refrain or chorus often sharply contrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, and assumes a higher level of dynamics and activity, often with added instrumentation. Chorus form, or strophic form, is a sectional and/or additive way of structuring a piece of music based on the repetition of one formal section or block played repeatedly. See also verse-chorus form.

In music, a refrain has two parts: the lyrics of the song, and the melody. Sometimes refrains vary their words slightly when repeated; recognisability is given to the refrain by the fact that it is always sung to the same tune, and the rhymes, if present, are preserved despite the variations of the words. Such a refrain is featured in "The Star-Spangled Banner," which contains a refrain which is introduced by a different phrase in each verse, but which always ends:

O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

A similar refrain is found in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which affirms in successive verses that "Our God," or "His Truth." is "marching on."

Refrains usually, but not always, come at the end of the verse. Some songs, especially ballads, incorporate refrains into each verse. For example, one version of the traditional ballad The Cruel Sister includes a refrain mid-verse:

There lived a lady by the North Sea shore,
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Two daughters were the babes she bore.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
As one grew bright as is the sun,
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
So coal black grew the other one.
Fa la la la la la la la.
. . .

(Note : the refrain of 'Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' is not traditionally associated with the ballad of The Cruel Sister (Child #10). This was the work of 'pop-folk' group Pentangle on their 1970 LP 'Cruel Sister' which has subsequently been picked up by many folk singers as being traditional. Both the melody and the refrain come from the ballad known as Riddles Wisely Expounded (Child #1).)

Here, the refrain is syntactically independent of the narrative poem in the song, and has no obvious relationship to its subject, and indeed little inherent meaning at all. The device can also convey material which relates to the subject of the poem. Such a refrain is found in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Troy Town:

Heavenborn Helen, Sparta's queen,
O Troy Town!
Had two breasts of heavenly sheen,
The sun and moon of the heart's desire:
All Love's lordship lay between,
A sheen on the breasts I Love.
O Troy's down,
Tall Troy's on fire!
. . .

Phrases of apparent nonsense in refrains (Lay the bent to the bonny broom?), and solfege syllables such as fa la la, familiar from the Christmas carol Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, have given rise to much speculation. Some believe that the traditional refrain Hob a derry down O encountered in some English folksongs is in fact an ancient Celtic phrase meaning "dance around the oak tree." These suggestions remain controversial.

Read more about Refrain:  In Popular Music, Arranger's Chorus, Shout Chorus

Other articles related to "refrain":

Symphony No. 2 (Lutosławski) - Instrumentation
... Three Flutes, five tom-toms, and celesta 4-7 Refrain two oboes and English Horn 8-9 2 ... stopped horns, side drum, parade drum, bass drum, harp 10-12 Refrain two oboes and English horn 13-14 3 ... Three clarinets, vibraphone, piano 15-17 Refrain English horn and two bassoons 18-19 4 ...
Sweet Place
... The heaven of heavens, the throne Of spotless majesty! Refrain O happy place! When shall I be, my God, with Thee, To see Thy face? The stranger homeward bends, And ... Refrain Earth’s but a sorry tent, Pitched but a few frail days, A short leased tenement Heaven’s still my song, my praise ... Refrain No tears from any eyes Drop in that holy choir But death itself there dies, And sighs themselves expire ...
Scattered Practices - Track Listing
... Going Sailing Refrain 1" – 140 "Concrete and Plastic" – 3.33 "Books on Tape" – 458 "Going Sailing Refrain 2" – 149 "Going Sailing Refrain 3 ...
La Donna è Mobile - Libretto
... Refrain La donna è mobil' ... felice appieno chi su quel seno non liba amore! Refrain La donna è mobil' Qual piuma al vento, muta d'accento e di pensier'! Woman is flighty ... Refrain Woman is flighty ...

Famous quotes containing the word refrain:

    Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct ... and to refrain from destruction.
    Simone Weil (1909–1943)

    The innocence of those who grind the faces of the poor, but refrain from pinching the bottoms of their neighbour’s wives! The innocence of Ford, the innocence of Rockefeller! The nineteenth century was the Age of Innocence—that sort of innocence. With the result that we’re now almost ready to say that a man is seldom more innocently employed than when making love.
    Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)

    It is accordance with our determination to refrain from aggression and build up a sentiment and practice among nations more favorable to peace ... that we have incurred the consent of fourteen important nations to the negotiation of a treaty condemning recourse to war, renouncing it as an instrument of national policy.
    Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933)