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Table of Contents
AN OVERVIEW OF MELODY
When Leonard Bernstein took the helm of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the late 1950s, he began hosting the “Young People’s Concerts.” The series ran for over two decades. Each concert featured Bernstein explaining a musical topic or discussing (and performing) works by a modern composer such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Holst, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives.
Ball’s hefty chapter on melody picks up nearly every thread of the traditional theories of melody and untangles them. This provides a very solid foundation for anyone hoping to build a full understanding of the musical and psychological bases of melody.
Reicha served as professor of counterpoint and Fugue at the Paris Conservatoire, where his writings gained a reputation as ground-breaking and highly effective. Anyone who loves do dig deeply into a subject and finds alternative perspectives invigorating will find this book highly rewarding.
Similar in scope and approach to Reicha’s Treatise on Melody, this recent book painstakingly works through just about every aspect of music that affects melody. (As I’m listing this on the FOM site, I need to comment that Perricone, whom I know and respect, doesn’t mention melodic figures.) Each chapter provides ample examples and assignments.
“Are there common Rules for the Design of a Catchy Melodic Figure?” by Christoph Anzenbacher LINK
Is melodic figuration tied to memorability? Christoph Anzenbacher explores factors that may explain why some melodies stick with us, while others fade quickly from memory.
(from the author’s website) “The techniques of Forward Motion derive from universal laws of music first illuminated by Johann Bach over 200 years ago. These laws, based on the physics of sound and rhythm, apply to all music no matter their genre and/or geographical or temporal placement.” Of all the resources on melody and figuration I’ve come across, this book has the most in common with the underlying principles found in Figuring Out Melody.
This web page contains an extensive outline of the component parts of music, which aims to help composers keep hold of their bearings as they create melody. There are many good things here. It’s worth a visit. Regarding melodic structure, be sure to click on: “Contour, Continuity, and Reduction.”
Eugene Narmour’s ground-breaking volumes, The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures and The Analysis and Cognition of Melodic Complexity are influential and widely read throughout the world. LINK
Narmour has served as the President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, and has been a guest professor and lecturer at Oxford University, Stanford University, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. provides a summary of Naramour’s work on melody (the volumes cited above).
In melodies from a wide variety of cultures, a large pitch interval tends to be followed by a change of direction. Although this tendency is often attributed to listeners’ expectations, it might arise more simply from constraints on melodic ranginess or tessitura. Skips tend toward the extremes of a melody’s tessitura, and from those extremes, a melody has little choice but to retreat by changing direction. Statistical analyses of vocal melodies from four different continents are consistent with this simple explanation.
MELODY AND PSYCHOLOGY
ONLINE THEORY RESOURCE
Music Theory for the 21st Century. This site has 35 chapters that cover the basic issues in an undergraduate theory program. It’s well organized. And there are exercises to check that you understand the material covered.
MusicaPoetica.net contains an extensive list of rhetorical and musical figures, as well as a full bibliography.
Figures of Musica Poetica in the Passacaglias of Dieterich Buxtehude and J.S Bach is especially helpful to anyone who wants to get a contextual introduction to Musica Poetica and the Doctrine of the Affections.
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