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Fortspinnung (English: spinning-forth) is a German term conceived in 1915[1] to refer to a specific process of development of a musical motif. In this process, the motif is developed into an entire musical structure by using sequences, intervallic changes or simple repetitions.

It is also possible to use the fortspinnung form term that stands for a structure with three parts:

In Baroque music, melodies and their lyrics were prose. Rather than paired lines they consist of rhetorical sentences or paragraphs consisting of an opening gesture, an amplification (often featuring sequence), and a close (featuring a cadence); in German Vordersatz-Fortspinnung-Epilog.[2] For example:

When I was a child,                                  [opening gesture]
I spake as a child,                                  [amplification...]
I understood as a child,                             [...]
I thought as a child;                                [...]
But when I became a man, I put away childish things. [close]
 -1 Corinthians 13


The use of this process of development and musical structure is focused mainly in the Baroque period. Here is an example of the fortspinnung process in the first section of the Johann Sebastian Bach Invention No. 4 in D minor (BWV 775):[3]

Bach's Invention 4 (section). About this sound Play 

Even though it is a Baroque technique, it is also possible to find this process in scores from other composers in different periods, such as Johannes Brahms in the Romantic period:

Brahms' Intermezzo 4, Op. 76 (section) About this sound Play 


  1. ^ Fischer, Wilhelm (1915), »Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Wiener klassischen Stils«, Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 3, 24–84
  2. ^ Kelly, Thomas Forest (2011). Early Music: A Very Short Introduction, p.53. ISBN 978-0-19-973076-6.
  3. ^