Example: Prelude no. 2 from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”.

That piece sounds like it has no rests. It’s a constant flow of music the entire time. I love pieces like that. I want to know if there’s a specific name for pieces like that. I want to find sheet music for pieces like that.

However, the piece mentioned above is way out of my league. To get an idea of how well I can play the piano, the hardest piece I’ve learned is “Aria in D Minor” by Scarlatti.

  • CPE Bach's Solfeggietto, Chopin's Minute Waltz, Beethoven's Appassionata movement 3. (Not necessarily easy, just seem to fit what you are thinking from different time periods.)
    – djechlin
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:11
  • And the scherzo from Prokofiev's second piano concerto. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:30
  • Prelude #1 from WTC has a constant flow and is substantially easier than #2.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


Moto Perpetuo or Perpetuum mobile. Per the Wikipedia:

literally meaning "perpetual motion", has two distinct meanings: pieces of music, or parts of pieces, characterised by a continuous steady stream of notes, usually at a rapid tempo, or whole pieces, or large parts of pieces, which are to be played repeatedly, often an indefinite number of times.

  • @Shevliakovic - thanks, I like to give OPs a bit to do themselves. We all learn more that way. At least, I always have...And there wasn't an answer without lots of ellipses...
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 10:03
  • 2
    I got that you intended to do something like, but the answer was going to end up on the Low Quality queue, and might receive some comments to expand etc Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 11:28
  • Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Cafe Orchestra is frequently heard background music on This American Life. It's a beautiful piece. It's also deceptively hard to tap your foot to. It sounds like 4/4, but it's not. It's 15/8! Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 21:04
  • 2
    I agree that this is a good term to use, but in the case of Bach and other composers another useful term is fortspinnung. This is a frequent baroque term which translates as "forward spinning" or something like that. The precise meaning is debated, but it refers to the general tendency of baroque music (especially preludes and toccatas and such) to constantly push forward and elide cadences until the end. Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 12:45
  • Two favorite recordings of Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo": Wynton Marsalis and Sergei Nakariakov.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 3:30

I think you have a slight misconception of how a feeling of rest is given in music. Yes, baroque music did have the tendency to just go on but that does not mean it could not have places of rest.

The effect of rest or pause can be given by just the use of a longer note value. If you have a piece in 3/4 time and it is mostly quavers and crotchet the use of a minim note will also give the effect of a rest.

So even if a piece has a "...a constant flow of music the entire time." that does not entirely mean it has no moments where a pause is present.

There is the issue of suspense also. If there is no gradually slowing down of music then the effect of a cadence is lost. There is a natural tendency to have a build up of tension as your phrases near its end and then a release of tension when the leading tone resolve in the new phrase.

If there is mono tempo then it is not really possible to build and release this tension but as I say rest are not the only way to give this effect.

PS to the mods I realise that this answer is more to answer the misconception that the OP may have. The only reason why I did not comment is because of length.

  • 3
    That said, OP's example is rather to the point - the first section of the piece in question is something like 27 bars of straight 16-th notes.
    – J...
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 12:25
  • Also Kleine Fuge in G minor--BWV 578--or many fugues in general.
    – Mark C
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 21:51

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