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#957550 - 09/29/07 02:47 PM Melody, a missing subject  
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Isn’t “Melody” (not counterpoint) a missing although fundamental subject in classical music education? I find there’s so much to say about melody as it is for harmony –may be more- but when I studied I went on three years of harmony but not a single one of melody which is surprising. Any ideas?

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#957551 - 09/29/07 03:02 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Szabolcsi's 'A History of Melody' is good. There are plenty of texts on how to write a melody but as 20th century was pretty much atonal there isn't a lot of interest.


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#957552 - 09/29/07 03:06 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Atonal music can still have melody (depends on how you define it, anyway). If it is defined as a line someone could sing, well, any singer's part in any atonal vocal work is melody, right? (countermelodies are still melodies) A melody doesn't necessarily have to move to a certain tonic note -- so modal melodies work, too.

That being said, there might be a lack of "melody" in many atonal works -- but it's not because the music is atonal.


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#957553 - 09/29/07 03:25 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Have a look at some of the Bach chorales. They are the meat and potatoes of music theory classes; wonderful music; but the melodies are awful.

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What makes these so great is not the melodies (which Bach didn't write; they were Church melodies that he put into 4-voice settings). The melodies are very simple, often don't have a large range, and often stagnate around a few pitches.

What makes them great is the inventive harmonic progressions; the rhythm/direction of the bass lines; the smooth voice-leading; the use of motives in all the voices; etc.

So it would make sense, to me, that when the focus is on Bach chorales, there won't be any focus on melody, which really isn't very important here. The focus will all be, as you say, on harmony.

Also, melody has been viewed in the classical world, and not just recently, as being superficial and shallow. What's seen as the real meat of the work is the harmony; if the harmony is simple, then the music is shallow, no matter how elaborate the melody (which is usually reduced to its bare harmonic bones).

Just a few ideas.


Sam
#957554 - 09/29/07 03:27 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Well, if you want to talk non-diatonic then there was plenty of study of melody in my day - in the form of tone rows. But in that case harmony wouldn't quite mean the same either.

Sam, aren't you overdoing the chorales a bit?

Also, those shallow 'melodies',as you call them, were hallowed ground for Bach.


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#957555 - 09/29/07 03:30 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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In the mean time, popular music remains tonal with a strong emphasis on melody and rhythm, sometimes at the expense of harmony. I wonder if this has something to do with the strong polarization between popular and classical.


Sam
#957556 - 09/29/07 03:32 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Sam, aren't you overdoing the chorales a bit?
Perhaps; yet they play such a key role in the study of music theory. I much prefer other music, and yet at the same time I have to wonder why the chorales are so central.


Sam
#957557 - 09/29/07 03:35 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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I think Sam, you may be a little over impressed. I wouldn't say they supply a key role in music theory. Maybe in yours.


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#957558 - 09/29/07 03:43 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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I'm in my 3rd semester of music theory; all 3 semesters focus on Bach chorales. This semester in particular, there are more examples from Beethoven and Mozart, but the strong focus is still on the chorales. Beethoven and Mozart are always stripped down to the bones, so that the professors can show how the principles in Bach's chorales are present in other music, too.

Last year, I did 2 semesters of a sight-reading course; we went through a lot of different styles, but there was always an emphasis on sight-reading Bach chorales. Whenever the subject of sight-reading arises here at Piano World, the Bach chorales are always mentioned.

It's not a question of how important they are to us as individuals; it's not a question of whether or not we like them or prefer them to other music. At least where I am studying, they are for whatever reasons placed at the heart of the music theory/sight-reading departments, so one of my goals is to understand *why* other people feel they are so important to be studied in such depth. I'm starting to understand this more, although, as do you, I still prefer other, later music.


Sam
#957559 - 09/29/07 03:49 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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It's that traditionally Bach is studied for his counterpoint. It was very much the focus of his life.


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#957560 - 09/29/07 03:51 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Tunes are viewed as shallow and superficial. Tune is a melody without a harmony, or one that doesn't need harmony. Melody was never viewed as shallow or superficial. It's just normally not useful to consider melodies outside their harmonic context. Romantics used long and elaborate melodies. That's why they had trouble with classical development in their formalized sonatas. Beethoven used short melodies, because they were better suited to his purposes.

Also, modal is tonal, and tonal is modal. Without a tonic, there's no modal. Tonal is just a convenient term for the increasingly cadential music that used two of the seven modes (although the other in altered form to get a leading tone at the 7th scale degree).

#957561 - 09/29/07 03:58 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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My Collins English Dictionary defines tune as "a melody, especially one for which harmony is not essential." It's not essential, I suppose, because it's so strongly implied by the tune, and because the tune is attractive as it stands. Too much harmonizing would only spoil it. But that's usually all it is, attractive. Of course there are a few exceptions, such as the plaintive shepherd's tune in Tristan & Isolde. Although I must say it wouldn't have the same significance if it wasn't a fitting part of a larger work.

#957562 - 09/29/07 04:57 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
Melody was never viewed as shallow or superficial.
Here's some concrete evidence:

"Music has taken a bad turn; these young people have no idea how to write a melody, they just give us shavings, which they dress up to look like a lion's mane and shake at us... It's as if they avoid melodies, for fear of having perhaps stolen them from someone else." --Richard Wagner, Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), June 21, 1880

#957563 - 09/29/07 05:03 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Melody is the most important part of music. It is what people remember when they hear a song. No one remembers the chord progression for Mary Had a Little Lamb, nor do they recognize a piece by its harmonic progression. They remember the melody. It is what they sing. The melody gives the context. I recommend reading Leonard Bernstein's book "The Unanswered Question" which talks a bit about this as well.

Melody, I think, is often understated in classical studies, but a pianist who does not "sing" the melody in his/her head while playing will not give it proper emphasis in the correct areas. Certain scale degrees of a Major scale, for instance, have certain functions. If one does not understand these funcitons on at least a gut level, the opportunity to enhance the meaning of the melody will be lost. I hear so many pianists rush through a melody without any adherence to this heirarchy -- every note is equal -- and so the melody becomes uninteresting to the listener as well.

Listen to the great singers of the past (Tetrazzini, Tebaldi, Callas, Corelli, etc.). They knew what notes were important and how to make the most out of a simply melody.


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#957564 - 09/29/07 05:09 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Thanks.
Melody is an antique, mythical and universal rendition of music art. It can perfectly subsist alone, without the canvas of harmonies. Rhythm and melody may be considered the father and the mother of music.
Due to it’s probable origins in verbal expression, in some way, melody represents the individual, the person, a kind of uniqueness.
May be we, as a musical civilization, lost the power, the ethos and the importance of pure melodies but this tradition is not completely lost, as we could wrongly assume.

What I can’t understand is why Melody is not a serious matter of study in our colleges and universities.

#957565 - 09/29/07 05:28 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Cultor, more likely verbal expression has its origins in melodic expression.


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#957566 - 09/29/07 05:45 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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May I suggest that often melody can seem to subsist alone, because you unconsciously recall its harmonic context? But try to imagine hearing a pure melody for the first time. Not all melodies imply the harmony. Without harmonic context, it's often not clear what are the functions of the notes of the melody. In other words, you wouldn't feel the tonal tensions that should be felt, and you wouldn't necessarily even know whether the tone in question is at the sixth scale degree or at the third scale degree, for example.

Harmony is often essential in defining the functional properties of the melody. You can have a melody that uses just three tones. If those tones are E, F, and G, how do you know how to perceive it? The harmony wouldn't necessarily be implied. The tonality isn't known. It might be F major, but it could just as well be F minor, or C major, it might be A minor, it might be D minor. Often harmony is essential to the character of the melody.

#957567 - 09/29/07 06:24 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Some theories here. Thanks again.
But what I can’t understand is why there’s not a formal end extensive study of melody in our institutions, as the importance of it in musical history can not, and must not be disregarded.
This is the Grove index to the topic:

Melody

1. Definition and origins.
2. Early history.
3. General concepts.
4. Structure and design.
5. Sacred monophony.
6. Metre and tonality.
7. Harmonic melody: instrumental-vocal.
8. Melody and scale.
9. Style and function.
10. Melodic texture.
11. Absolute melody?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

#957568 - 09/29/07 07:36 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
May I suggest that often melody can seem to subsist alone, because you unconsciously recall its harmonic context? But try to imagine hearing a pure melody for the first time. Not all melodies imply the harmony. Without harmonic context, it's often not clear what are the functions of the notes of the melody. In other words, you wouldn't feel the tonal tensions that should be felt, and you wouldn't necessarily even know whether the tone in question is at the sixth scale degree or at the third scale degree, for example.

Harmony is often essential in defining the functional properties of the melody. You can have a melody that uses just three tones. If those tones are E, F, and G, how do you know how to perceive it? The harmony wouldn't necessarily be implied. The tonality isn't known. It might be F major, but it could just as well be F minor, or C major, it might be A minor, it might be D minor. Often harmony is essential to the character of the melody.
For some melodies, I would agree on this 100%. As a voice teacher as well, sometimes my students learn their songs without the harmonic context, and then when they come to sing at their lesson I play the accompaniment. Sometimes they are shocked by what they hear, becuase their mind filled in a harmonic context that was most likely equally valid, but not what was written. These are often the case for Romantic and later period melodies. However, who needs harmonic context for Ring Around the Rosey, Happy Birthday, and many other folk tunes?


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#957569 - 09/29/07 11:36 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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The following music, properly interpreted as ‘praying’ by Christians, should not be heard harmonically:

Salve Regina .

Those modes and melismas can be traced as far as the early, although scarce, examples of Egyptian music.
Somewhere in history the antique melodic tradition was lost and with it all the power of single intervals began to fade away. Today we sing and play on the restricted background of twelve tones harmonies and equally tempered keyboards, sort of a mediocre and accepted virtuality.
In spite of it, the tradition is there, the history is there, our natural hearing is there, all waiting to be reborn. But musical institutions seem to be in denial. I can’t understand why.
That’s the point: why doesn't Melody deserve a better place in music teaching.

#957570 - 09/29/07 11:48 PM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Cultor:
The following music, properly interpreted as ‘praying’ by Christians, should not be heard harmonically:

Salve Regina .

Those modes and melismas can be traced as far as the early, although scarce, examples of Egyptian music.
Somewhere in history the antique melodic tradition was lost and with it all the power of single intervals began to fade away. Today we sing and play on the restricted background of twelve tones harmonies and equally tempered keyboards, sort of a mediocre and accepted virtuality.
In spite of it, the tradition is there, the history is there, our natural hearing is there, all waiting to be reborn. But musical institutions seem to be in denial. I can’t understand why.
That’s the point.
I can give you my theory on that, but I'm sure others will disagree. My idea is that it is becuase of the modren sentiment in classical music. People do not play piano (or sing, or play instruments) the way they did centuries ago. The modern musician plays with less rubato and more 'precise' for lack of a better word. I think because of this, one loses the natural cadences (melodic, not harmonic) that occur in a piece, just as it occurs naturally in speech. Opera has been the last vestige of this tradition, but even that is being invaded by slavish exactitude over expression.


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#957571 - 09/30/07 12:02 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Cultor:
The following music, properly interpreted as ‘praying’ by Christians, should not be heard harmonically:

Salve Regina .
The tonic in this melody is clearly felt from the beginning and often explicitly stated, so I would say that the notes of the melody don't need harmony to support them. Pure melody can have essentially harmonic elements, because intervals are what create both harmony and melody. An F minor chord feels like an F minor chord even if you don't play all the notes at the same time, and rather start by playing F, then move on to A-flat, then C, then finally the F above.

#957572 - 09/30/07 12:02 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Morodiene:

Are you implying that the mathematical paradigm finally invaded our humanistic, artistic fields?
I would agree on that. We propose a measure, we map, and then we give more importance to the map than to the actual object. We are mapping our world making it a virtual non ethical thing. Somewhere in the future, when the map is complete, or we think it is, we run the risk of forgetting the world as it was.
One more reason of the importance to teach Melody in schools: not to forget our ancient roots.
I will sign with Greenpeace and fight the battle of "You damned! Respect musical ethos ecology!".

#957573 - 09/30/07 12:06 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Antonius:

You are mapping the piece.

#957574 - 09/30/07 12:14 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
Quote
Originally posted by Cultor:
[b] The following music, properly interpreted as ‘praying’ by Christians, should not be heard harmonically:

Salve Regina .
The tonic in this melody is clearly felt from the beginning and often explicitly stated, so I would say that the notes of the melody don't need harmony to support them. Pure melody can have essentially harmonic elements, because intervals are what create both harmony and melody. An F minor chord feels like an F minor chord even if you don't play all the notes at the same time, and rather start by playing F, then move on to A-flat, then C, then finally the F above. [/b]
I could expand on this by saying that the F minor chord is still there (at least in spirit) if you play (going up) F, G, A-flat, B-flat, C, (then back down) B-flat, A-flat, G, F. This is true if the notes that outline the chord fall on beats, as will happen in common time if all of the notes are 8th notes. The F gets the downbeat in both bars, and is both the first and the last note, so the tonality is also clearly felt.

#957575 - 09/30/07 12:16 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Cultor:
Antonius:

You are mapping the piece.
But even a single tone implies a harmony, because of the harmonics of the note (overtone series). If you play C, you will also hear the notes E and G if you listen carefully.

#957576 - 09/30/07 12:28 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Antonius:

May be your hearing is harmonically contaminated. May be your/our ideas are politically or religiously or historically contaminated.
Think about it for a moment please. If you are searching harmonic functions in this music you will surely find them because they are already in your mind.
It takes a dozen or hundred of rehearing –and rethinking- to free ourselves from our ‘education’.

#957577 - 09/30/07 12:32 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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Quote
Originally posted by Antonius Hamus:
The F gets the downbeat in both bars, and is both the first and the last note, so the tonality is also clearly felt.
In fact, 'established' might be a better word, although then the 'clearly' should be removed. In any case, the tonality is felt much earlier than the end, although not strongly. It's felt because we always tend to take the first pitch as a reference, and because in this case the following notes outline the tonic chord. (Not mapping, but explaining why something is felt.)

#957578 - 09/30/07 12:37 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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The overtone series isn't a cultural construct, but a physical reality. I can't free myself from something that is fundamental to reality, I can only become less sensitive to it. But why would I want that? I can also become more sensitive to it. That would seem like a better way to go.

If you want to understand your musical experiences, you need to be willing to question your own theories as well, and eventually look into acoustics.

#957579 - 09/30/07 12:52 AM Re: Melody, a missing subject  
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As you like it.

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