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In music, a melody (from Greek μελῳδία - melōidía, "singing, chanting"[1]), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity. In its most literal sense a melody is a sequence of pitches and durations, while more figuratively the term has occasionally been extended to include successions of other musical elements such as tone color.

Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a song or piece in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjuct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape. "Many extant explanations [of melody] confine us to specific stylistic models, and they are too exclusive."[2]


[edit] Elements

The melodies existent in most European music written before the 20th century, and popular music throughout the 20th century, featured recurring "events, often periodic, at all structural levels" and "recurrence of durations and patterns of durations".[2]

Prior to the 20th century, music was often characterized by "fixed and easily discernible frequency patterns", while later on composers have "utilized a greater variety of pitch resources than has been the custom in any other historical period of Western music." While materials from the diatonic scale are still used, the twelve-tone scale became "widely employed."[2] DeLone states, "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality (timbre), texture, and loudness.[2]

However, quality is not an essential element of melody, as the same melody is recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres, textures, and loudness.

Melodies in the 20th century were increasingly reliant "upon the qualitative dimensions" with those dimensions "in pre-twentieth century music were almost exclusively reserved for pitch and rhythm" such as being an "element of linear ordering" rather than a highlight to "the more predominant pitch and rhythmic aspects."[2]

See Klangfarbenmelodie and Musique concrète.

[edit] Examples

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

Melody from Anton Webern's Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30 (pp. 23-24)

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Apel, Willi. Harvard Dictionary of Music
  • Edwards, Arthur C. The Art of Melody, p.xix-xxx. Includes "a catalog of sample definitions." (ibid)
  • Holst, Imogen. Tune, Faber and Faber, London, 1962.
  • Smits van Waesberghe, J. A Textbook of Melody. Includes "an attempt to formulate a theory of melody." (ibid)

[edit] References

  1. ^ Meloidia, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
  2. ^ a b c d e *DeLone et al. (Eds.) (1975). Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, chap. 4, p.270-301. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.

[edit] External links

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