The Lure of Melody

When a piece of music has no words, and perhaps no title that you can remember, there is only one way of reminding someone of it. You have go hum or whistle or sing or play the tune or a part of the tune. "By their tunes ye shall know them." It applies equally to Beethoven and Berlin, to Josef Haydn and to Victor Herbert.

Recognition is the first step toward musical appreciation. We like the things that we recognize. "Popular music is familiar music," and the whole problem of making good music popular is simply that of making it familiar.

Actually no music exists which can stand constant repetition. The problem of musical taste is to steer clear of the obvious and at the same time avoid such slavish devotion to any one composition as may eventually create boredom, regardless of intrinsic merit.

The careful housewife solves the same problem in the arrangement of her meals. No matter how fond her clients may be of a certain dish, she sees to it that it does not appear too often on her bill of fare, and particularly not in succession.

Inserting one extra note gives us the old fivetone scale, which was used most effectively in the modern tune of Stumbling. The composer worked his trick with rhythm rather than melody, simply shifting his accent from one note to another, as he repeated the five-tone formula three times in succession:

This suggests the possibilities of a merely superficial analysis of the music that you may hear at any time. You will find constant relationships of this sort, running through all kinds of melodies, and often you will be surprised at the close kinship between a so-called "classic" and the most obvious of jazz tunes.

No comments: