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Elements of Music

18 19 BasIc MElody steps and leaps, contour and gesture A melody is created by the succession of tones through time. Step by step, note by note, an outline is formed, a path carved. Gestures appear, like the inflections used in speech, or the dialectic of rising and falling tones, or the contrast of high and low notes. A distant leap feels large and grandiose, a small one more fluid and gentle. Curved or jagged contours can be suggested. Melodies are normally a mixture of small steps and larger leaps, with a leap in one direction inducing a yearning for completion by a step in the opposite direction, leaving a gap to be filled in. The continuous nature of melody means that when notes stray far, the listener, following the path to find out where it leads, likes them to remain connected and return. This is often manifested by a rhythmic intertwining of tones in and out of the stations of the scale. The expressivity of a melody comes in part by the tension and release of the intermediary notes of the scale, their rhythmic placement on a strong or weak beat intensifying or diminishing their effect. Sometimes a melody can act as two melodies, by leaping up and down, thus alternately maintaining two independent threads, each on their own pitch level or register. Other melodies rely on pitches predominantly rising or falling for their effect. Melodies in vocal music are either melismatic, with many pitches to one syllable, or syllabic, with one pitch per syllable. Silent pauses, or rests caesura are essential to melodies. They allow time for breath, reflection, and interaction with the music. Listeners wait for the next event, suspended, anticipating. A well placed rest in a theme can be a powerful musical moment. Above Melodies are easily expressed visually. They weave between the strong stations of the scale and the weaker, transitional parts, which contribute to the tensionality and expressive shape of any melody. Upper Neighbor Decorates a station from above, weak beat Trill Trill Mordent Turn Grace note Lower Neighbor Decorates a station from below, weak beat Passing Tone Acts as a bridge between two stations, weak beat Cambiata A neighbor group, upper and lower, often dissonances decorating a station Escape Tone schappe A nonstation note that escapes a step in one direction and leaps in the other Appoggiatura A nonstation event that leans on a station, strong beat Nonstation notes can be either accented or unaccented, falling on strong or weak beats except the appoggiatura, which is always accented. When they occur on strong beats, they compete more strongly with the stations to convey the harmony. Above Melodic ornaments and embellishments, such as from left to right trills, mordents, turns, and grace notes, are also melodic formulae, on the smallest scale.
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