Music is described as through-composed when it is relatively continuous, non-sectional, and/or non-repetitive. A song is said to be through-composed if it has different music for each stanza of the lyrics. This is in contrast to strophic form, in which each stanza is set to the same music. Sometimes the German durchkomponiert is used to indicate the same concept.
Many examples of this form can be found in Schubert's "Lieder" where the words of a poem are set to music, and each line is different. An example is Schubert's "The Erlking" in which the setting proceeds to a different musical arrangement for each new stanza. Whenever the piece comes to each character, the character portrays its own voice register and tonality.
The term is also applied to opera and other dramatic works involving music, to indicate the extent of music (as opposed to recitative and dialogue). For example the musicals of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber have been part of a modern trend towards through-composed works, rather than collections of songs. In musical theater, works with no spoken dialogue, such as Les Miserables are usually referred to by the term "through-sung."
A work composed chronologically (from the beginning of the piece to the end, in order) without a precompositional formal plan is also through-composed.