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I find it very pleasant when a song (mostly progressive rock songs, in my case) ends by looping through a somewhat repeating theme before fading out.

Good examples would be:

  • Gentle Giant - Three Friends (from "Three Friends" album)
  • Dream Theater - Scarred (from "Awake" album)

(I am sure there are dozens of other examples but these two are very representative).

The question is: regarding compositional structure, is there a specific name to describe that?

3

It's called a Repeat and Fade. It's hardly a compositional structure, more a cop-out for having not being able to think of a good ending :-)

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    Actually that is completely wrong. Fading out is a very strong psychological device. Surely you are not suggesting that many of the greatest pop composers that fade out their material are simply taking an easy way out? After all, They can't fade them out life and have to play and ending... why wouldn't they just do in the recording then? – user2691 Sep 30 '16 at 22:23
  • Absolutely — a studio fade can be quite effective. That said, you can do a fade when performing live, but it's usually used quite differently than what a studio fade would be. – tptcat Sep 30 '16 at 23:40
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    Seems to me like the "cop-out" comment was meant as a joke, especially given the use of the smiley. – Phil Freihofner Oct 1 '16 at 0:26
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    Earliest example I know of a fade-out: "The Planets" by Gustave Holst, 1916. In a live performance, the chorus is off-stage and the door is slowly and silently closed. Holst didn't give the effect a name, as far as I know. – Mark Lutton Oct 1 '16 at 2:12
  • I accepted the answer because even Wikipedia mentions the term, but I'm still unsure if the cop-out part was ironic or not ;-P – heltonbiker Oct 1 '16 at 23:15
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As has been mentioned in some other posts it is also called a vamp.

  • A vamp is more typically a repeated section waiting for a cue in order to carry on. 'Vamp until ready' is frequently seen in theatre music. I've never seen 'Vamp and fade'. 'Vamp' also refers to a type of 'oom-pah' piano part. Sort of the equivalent of 'just strumming' on a guitar. That's probably enough things for 'vamp' to mean. Let's allow a Repeat and Fade to be called just that. – Laurence Payne Jul 2 '17 at 12:08
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I just had the same question, here are a couple answers I found on Wikipedia.

al niente: to nothing; fading to silence.

perdendo or perdendosi: losing volume, fading into nothing, dying away

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