Climax in Music

We have often heard this term concerning films, theater plays, festivals etc. But what does it mean in music?

What is a Climax in Music?

Climax is a part of a musical composition where music reaches its highest tension. The listener’s attention is attracted mainly to this part. The point is that human perception is more active at the beginning of a composition. The best way to support listener’s attention is to achieve a climax at the time when listener’s perception is deadened enough.

'Climax in Music' is more accurately referred to as Culmination in Music. You'll find that the worlds leading musicologist schools use the term 'Culmination in Music' instead of 'Climax in Music'.

How does it work?

Composers try to use all possible methods to create the emotional tension: high register, loudest sounding, participation of all musical instruments the composition has been written for, etc.  Even a simple melody has a climax; usually it is one of its high tones being pointed up by greater duration and downbeat position.

It doesn’t mean that a climax is sure to be loud. Sometimes a concept of a composition requires a low climax. It could be recognized from a special state that keeps a listener in suspense.

Culmination Types in MusicDifferent Climax Types in Music

A musical composition could have several points of climax. It creates sort of emotional ups and downs that focus listener’s attention on it. But there is always the main one where music reaches its emotional peak. Sometimes it could be found between the middle part and the ending of a composition; this part of a musical structure is called the Golden Section Point. Composers of the Classical and Romantic era had often used this method; that’s why their compositions have had an unbeaten effect upon listeners’ hearts.

At the same time we can find a lot of compositions that starts from a climax; then musical emotions abate, and become calmer; after that a composition finishes on a quite note. On the contrary, some composers delay a climactic point to the very end of a composition. Naturally, it depends on the author’s message.

A climax is an excellent way to express an art concept. When a composer can manage it properly the effect is really amazing!