Melody

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A bar from J. S. Bach's Fugue No. 17 in A-flat, BWV 862, from The Well-Tempered Clavier (Part I), an example of counterpoint. The two voices (melodies) on each staff can be distinguished by the direction of the stems and beams.
Voice 1
Voice 2
Voice 3
Voice 4 BachFugueBar.png
A bar from J. S. Bach's Fugue No. 17 in A-flat, BWV 862, from The Well-Tempered Clavier (Part I), an example of counterpoint. The two voices (melodies) on each staff can be distinguished by the direction of the stems and beams.
Voice 1
Voice 2
Voice 3
Voice 4

A melody (from Greek μελῳδία, melōidía, "singing, chanting"), [1] also tune, voice or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include other musical elements such as tonal color. It is the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Contents

Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a composition in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape.

Function and elements

Johann Philipp Kirnberger argued:

The true goal of music—its proper enterprise—is melody. All the parts of harmony have as their ultimate purpose only beautiful melody. Therefore, the question of which is the more significant, melody or harmony, is futile. Beyond doubt, the means is subordinate to the end.

Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1771) [2]

The Norwegian composer Marcus Paus has argued:

Melody is to music what a scent is to the senses: it jogs our memory. It gives face to form, and identity and character to the process and proceedings. It is not only a musical subject, but a manifestation of the musically subjective. It carries and radiates personality with as much clarity and poignancy as harmony and rhythm combined. As such a powerful tool of communication, melody serves not only as protagonist in its own drama, but as messenger from the author to the audience.

Marcus Paus (2017) [3]

Given the many and varied elements and styles of melody "many extant explanations [of melody] confine us to specific stylistic models, and they are too exclusive." [4] Paul Narveson claimed in 1984 that more than three-quarters of melodic topics had not been explored thoroughly. [5]

The melodies existing in most European music written before the 20th century, and popular music throughout the 20th century, featured "fixed and easily discernible frequency patterns", recurring "events, often periodic, at all structural levels" and "recurrence of durations and patterns of durations". [4]

Melodies in the 20th century "utilized a greater variety of pitch resources than ha[d] been the custom in any other historical period of Western music." While the diatonic scale was still used, the chromatic scale became "widely employed." [4] Composers also allotted a structural role to "the qualitative dimensions" that previously had been "almost exclusively reserved for pitch and rhythm". Kliewer states, "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality (timbre), texture, and loudness. [4] Though the same melody may be recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres and dynamics, the latter may still be an "element of linear ordering." [4]

Examples

"Pop Goes the Weasel" melody Pop Goes the Weasel melody.PNG
"Pop Goes the Weasel" melody
Melody from Anton Webern's Variations for orchestra, Op. 30 (pp. 23-24) Webern Variations melody.png
Melody from Anton Webern's Variations for orchestra, Op. 30 (pp. 23–24)

Different musical styles use melody in different ways. For example:

See also

Related Research Articles

Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music whose music focuses on mood and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture". "Impressionism" is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th-century French painting after Monet's Impression, Sunrise. Composers were labeled Impressionists by analogy to the Impressionist painters who use starkly contrasting colors, effect of light on an object, blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective, etc. to make the observer focus their attention on the overall impression.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Music</span> Form of art using sound

In the most general of terms, Music is the arrangement of sound to create some combination of form, harmony, melody, rhythm, or otherwise expressive content. Definitions of music vary depending on culture, though it is an aspect of all human societies and a cultural universal. While scholars agree that music is defined by a few specific elements, there is no consensus on their precise definitions. The creation of music is commonly divided into musical composition, musical improvisation, and musical performance, though the topic itself extends into academic disciplines, criticism, philosophy, psychology, and therapeutic contexts. Music may be performed or improvised using a vast range of instruments, including the human voice, thus is often credited for it's extreme versatility, and opportunity for creativity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harmony</span> Aspect of music

In music, harmony is the concept of combining different sounds together in order to create new, distinct musical ideas. Theories of harmony seek to describe or explain the effects created by distinct pitches or tones coinciding with one another; harmonic objects such as chords, textures and tonalities are identified, defined, and categorized in the development of these theories. Harmony is broadly understood to involve both a "vertical" dimension (frequency-space) and a "horizontal" dimension (time-space), and often overlaps with related musical concepts such as melody, timbre, and form.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atonality</span> Music that lacks a tonal center or key

Atonality in its broadest sense is music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality, in this sense, usually describes compositions written from about the early 20th-century to the present day, where a hierarchy of harmonies focusing on a single, central triad is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale function independently of one another. More narrowly, the term atonality describes music that does not conform to the system of tonal hierarchies that characterized European classical music between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. "The repertory of atonal music is characterized by the occurrence of pitches in novel combinations, as well as by the occurrence of familiar pitch combinations in unfamiliar environments".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Music theory</span> Study of the practices and possibilities of music

Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. The Oxford Companion to Music describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory": The first is the "rudiments", that are needed to understand music notation ; the second is learning scholars' views on music from antiquity to the present; the third is a sub-topic of musicology that "seeks to define processes and general principles in music". The musicological approach to theory differs from music analysis "in that it takes as its starting-point not the individual work or performance but the fundamental materials from which it is built."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timbre</span> Quality of a musical note or sound or tone

In music, timbre, also known as tone color or tone quality, is the perceived sound quality of a musical note, sound or tone. Timbre distinguishes different types of sound production, such as choir voices and musical instruments. It also enables listeners to distinguish different instruments in the same category.

Articles related to music include:

In music, duration is an amount of time or how long or short a note, phrase, section, or composition lasts. "Duration is the length of time a pitch, or tone, is sounded." A note may last less than a second, while a symphony may last more than an hour. One of the fundamental features of rhythm, or encompassing rhythm, duration is also central to meter and musical form. Release plays an important part in determining the timbre of a musical instrument and is affected by articulation.

In music, an ostinato is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include classical compositions such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (1971), and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monophony</span> Musical texture

In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody, typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player without accompanying harmony or chords. Many folk songs and traditional songs are monophonic. A melody is also considered to be monophonic if a group of singers sings the same melody together at the unison or with the same melody notes duplicated at the octave. If an entire melody is played by two or more instruments or sung by a choir with a fixed interval, such as a perfect fifth, it is also said to be monophony. The musical texture of a song or musical piece is determined by assessing whether varying components are used, such as an accompaniment part or polyphonic melody lines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tonality</span> Harmonic structure with a central pitch

Tonality is the arrangement of pitches and/or chords of a musical work in a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, attractions, and directionality. In this hierarchy the single pitch or triad with the greatest stability is called the tonic. The root of the tonic triad forms the name given to the key, so in the key of C major the tone C can be both the tonic of the scale and the root of the tonic triad. The tonic can be a different tone in the same scale, when the work is said to be in one of the modes of the scale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bassline</span> Low-pitched instrumental part

Bassline is the term used in many styles of music, such as blues, jazz, funk, dub and electronic, traditional, and classical music, for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard.

In music, texture is how the tempo, melodic, and harmonic materials are combined in a musical composition, determining the overall quality of the sound in a piece. The texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width, between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. For example, a thick texture contains many 'layers' of instruments. One of these layers could be a string section or another brass. The thickness also is changed by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be changed by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used. The types categorized by number and relationship of parts are analyzed and determined through the labeling of primary textural elements: primary melody (PM), secondary melody (SM), parallel supporting melody (PSM), static support (SS), harmonic support (HS), rhythmic support (RS), and harmonic and rhythmic support (HRS).

Ear training is a music theory study in which musicians learn aural skills to identify pitches, intervals, melody, chords, rhythms, solfeges, and other basic elements of music, solely by hearing. Someone who can identify pitch accurately without context is said to have "perfect pitch". The application of this skill is somewhat analogous to taking dictation in written/spoken language. As a process, ear training is in essence the inverse of sight-reading, the latter being analogous to reading a written text aloud without prior opportunity to review the material. Ear training is typically a component of formal musical training and is a fundamental, essential skill required in music schools.

In European art music, the common-practice period was the period of about 250 years during which the tonal system was regarded as the only basis for composition. It began when composers' use of the tonal system had clearly superseded earlier systems, and ended when some composers began using significantly modified versions of the tonal system, and began developing other systems as well. Most features of common practice persisted from the mid-Baroque period through the Classical and Romantic periods, roughly from 1650 to 1900. There was much stylistic evolution during these centuries, with patterns and conventions flourishing and then declining, such as the sonata form. The most prominent unifying feature throughout the period is a harmonic language to which music theorists can today apply Roman numeral chord analysis; however, the "common" in common practice does not directly refer to any type of harmony, rather it refers to the fact that for over two hundred years only one system was used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phrase (music)</span> Unit of musical meter

In music theory, a phrase is a unit of musical meter that has a complete musical sense of its own, built from figures, motifs, and cells, and combining to form melodies, periods and larger sections.

A phrase is a substantial musical thought, which ends with a musical punctuation called a cadence. Phrases are created in music through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Homophony</span> Texture in music

In music, homophony is a texture in which a primary part is supported by one or more additional strands that provide the harmony. One melody predominates while the other parts play either single notes or an elaborate accompaniment. This differentiation of roles contrasts with equal-voice polyphony and monophony. Historically, homophony and its differentiated roles for parts emerged in tandem with tonality, which gave distinct harmonic functions to the soprano, bass and inner voices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steps and skips</span> Difference in pitch between two consecutive notes of a musical scale

In music, a step, or conjunct motion, is the difference in pitch between two consecutive notes of a musical scale. In other words, it is the interval between two consecutive scale degrees. Any larger interval is called a skip, or disjunct motion.

In music, tension is the anticipation music creates in a listener's mind for relaxation or release. For example, tension may be produced through reiteration, increase in dynamic level, gradual motion to a higher or lower pitch, or (partial) syncopations between consonance and dissonance.

Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony is a music theory of harmony in sub-Saharan African music based on the principles of homophonic parallelism, homophonic polyphony, counter-melody and ostinato-variation. Polyphony is common in African music and heterophony is a common technique as well. Although these principles of traditional African music are of Pan-African validity, the degree to which they are used in one area over another varies. Specific techniques that used to generate harmony in Africa are the "span process", "pedal notes", "rhythmic harmony", "harmony by imitation", and "scalar clusters".

References

  1. μελῳδία . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. Forte, Allen (1979). Tonal Harmony in Concept & Practice, p. 203. ISBN   0-03-020756-8.
  3. Paus, Marcus (6 November 2017). "Why melody matters". Gramophone .
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, pp. 270–301. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN   0-13-049346-5.
  5. Narveson, Paul (1984). Theory of Melody. ISBN   0-8191-3834-7.
  6. Marquis, G. Weston (1964). Twentieth Century Music Idioms, p. 2. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Inglewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Further reading