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In music, perpetuum mobile (Latin and English pronunciation /pəːˌpɛtjʊəm ˈməʊbɪleɪ, ˈməʊbɪli; literally, "perpetual motion"), moto perpetuo (Italian), mouvement perpétuel (French), movimento perpétuo (Portuguese) movimiento perpetuo (Spanish), carries two distinct meanings: first, as pieces or parts of pieces of music characterised by a continuous stream of notes, usually at a rapid tempo; and also as whole pieces, or large parts of pieces, which are to be played in a repititious fashion, often an indefinite number of times.
Types of perpetuum mobile composition
As a distinct composition, perpetuum mobile can be defined as one in which part or most of the piece is intended to be repeated an often unspecified number of times, without the "motion" of the melody being halted when a repeat begins.
Canon are often intended to be performed in a moto perpetuo fashion, and can thus be called canon perpetuus.
In some cases the repeats of a "perpetuum mobile" piece are at a different pitch, while a modulation or a chord progression occurs during the repeatable part. Some of the riddle canons of Bach's Das Musikalische Opfer are examples of this particular kind of perpetuum mobile/canon perpetuus.
Perpetuum mobile as a genre of separate musical compositions was at the height of its popularity by the end of the 19th century. Such pieces would often be performed as virtuoso encores, in some cases increasing the tempo along the repeats.
Perpetuum mobile pieces of both kinds include:
- The finale of Haydn's String Quartet No. 53 in D major ("The Lark"), Op. 64, No. 5
- The finale of Beethoven's 22nd piano sonata, and large segments of the finales of his Tempest and Appassionata sonatas (although these are not very fast; the Tempest and the 22nd sonata are only marked Allegretto, and the Appassionata is marked Allegro ma non troppo)
- The second of Franz Schubert's Impromptus, D. 899
- The fourth of Franz Schubert's moments musicaux (likewise not very fast, marked Moderato)
- The finale of Carl Maria von Weber's Piano Sonata No. 1
- Charles-Valentin Alkan's Le chemin de fer, op. 27, for piano
- Felix Mendelssohn's Perpetuum mobile, op. 119, for piano
- Ottokar Novacek's Perpetuum Mobile, for violin and piano
- Nicolò Paganini's Moto perpetuo Op. 11 (No. 6) for violin[a]
- Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, an interlude for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan
- Johann Strauss II's Perpetuum Mobile: musikalischer Scherz for orchestra
- Robert Schumann's Hasche-Mann from Kinderszenen
- Bedřich Smetana's Album Leaf No.3 from Six Album Leaves Op. 2
- Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, third movement
- Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, third movement
- Mouvement (from Images, Set 1), a 1905 piano composition by Claude Debussy
- The second movement of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1912–1913)
- Trois Mouvements perpétuels, a 1918 piano composition by Francis Poulenc
- The end of the opera Wozzeck, Act III Scene 5, by Alban Berg (1914–1924)
- The last movement of Maurice Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1923–1927)
- The organ solo (movement 7) from Janáček's Glagolitic Mass (1926)
- The last movement of the Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber (1939)
- The last movement of Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (1943)
- Prelude no. 2 in A minor from 24 Preludes and Fugues by Dmitri Shostakovich (1950–1951). Also the third movement of his Symphony No. 8 in C minor
- The final movement of Benjamin Britten's Cello Sonata in C Major Op. 65 (1960). Also the third movement of his Suite for Violin and Piano Op. 6 (1935), the finale of his first solo cello suite (1964) and the penultimate movement of his third cello suite (1972)
- Arvo Pärt's orchestral Perpetuum mobile (1963)
- "Perpetuum Mobile" by Michael Roberts, used as the startup music for Thames Television and earlier ABC Television
- "Perpetuum Mobile for pedals alone" a showpiece for Organ by Wilhelm Middelschulte
- "Fracture", a moto perpetuo piece based on the whole-tone scale composed by guitarist Robert Fripp and included on the 1974 album Starless and Bible Black
- "Canto Ostinato" by Simeon ten Holt (1976)
- John Adams's Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)
- "Perpetuum Mobile" by Penguin Cafe Orchestra (1987)
- "Equus" by Eric Whitacre (2000)
- The album Perpetuum Mobile by the German avant garde group Einstürzende Neubauten has some examples of the concept
- Neil Peart's drum solo "Moto perpetuo" on Rush's 2011 album Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
- "Fade Into Darkness" (previously known as "Penguin") by Avicii (2010; inspired by Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Perpetuum Mobile")
- "Collide" by Leona Lewis and Avicii, based on "Perpetuum Mobile" by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and "Fade Into Darkness" by Avicii
- "Salute to ABC - Start-ups - Transdiffusion". www.transdiffusion.org. Retrieved 2018-02-13.