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Alt-J's first album ends with the song Taro -- a song whose outro leaves a very strong impression on me. The outro sounds like a very fitting ending to any album, because the music simply gives me that aforementioned sense of accomplishment, as if arriving after a journey. When I first heard the outro, I immediately knew that this was the last song on the album, simply because of some qualities in the music.

My question: is there a certain composing technique that causes the music to convey this sensation? If so, what is it? I am very interested in attempting to write something similar, just because this intrigues me to no end. :-)

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Don't really have an answer for this, Lee but I will check out the tune and see if I can come up with any ideas. However, there is a song by Robert Goulet "If I Ruled The World", the studio version's end gives me the same feeling of accomplishment. You should check that out and see if it does also convey that sense of accomplishment. – MrTheBard Jul 18 '14 at 17:58
I will check it out! This is really interesting to me. :) Also I found the proper word at last: conclusion. – Lee White Jul 18 '14 at 18:39
It is very easy. End on the root. – Neil Meyer Dec 3 '14 at 17:56

Without getting into an entire lecture, here are some things you can do to make someone feel as though a piece of music is being concluded:

  • Go to an extreme (pitch, dynamics, tempo, instrumentation) either to the most/high/loud or the soft/slow/low end for example.

  • Typically rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic motion slow down.

  • If there are motives or gestures, they typically reappear in their original or slightly altered form.

  • If the piece is exciting, ideas might be repeated over and over and over and over and over again to really drive the point home.

  • If there are cadences or the piece is tonal, they'll use stronger harmonic and rhythmic cadences that set up an expectation of final resolution.

Obviously these are just a few thoughts, but should provide a little clarification.

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There is an interesting irony here, because the song Lee linked to ("Taro") doesn't do any of the things that one would immediately think of as concluding: it doesn't actually bring the rhythm to a stop, nor does it end on the tonic chord. Instead it fades out on a repeating, open-ended cycle of simple diatonic chords (ii - I - vi - V).

I would guess that the sense of conclusion comes from the fact that everything but that simple cycle of chords is stripped away, layer by layer, until it alone is left to cycle, in effect endlessly, and then drift away from us into silence. This feels more like the way many things in the real world actually end: without a clear marker, fading into the next thing or into the flux of the world, so that we only realize afterward that it has been "over" for quite some time. Nice!

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+1 This is a technique I've noticed used several times, and it really is especially satisfying and melancholy. – Kevin Jul 19 '14 at 2:22

I would recommend a I64 V I cadence, with the bass going "so so do." For example in C major:

enter image description here

with a ritardando.

I see jjmusicnotes recommended cadences, and this one is the most common.

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