This weeks musicology lecture examined ways in which it is possible to analyse popular music melody – specifically from a horizontal perspective. As will be seen in the PowerPoint and the audio stream of the lecture – I get some of these ideas from traditional music theory – while some are considerations of my own that I have developed over the years. To begin with – I have found the following techniques/descriptors to be useful for analysing melody.
- Question Phrase plus Answer Phrase = Sentence
- Sentence plus Sentence = Section
- Sections (For example verse plus chorus) build up to form Structural Form (for example AABA) and eventually Compositional Forms
Firstly – here is a Spotify playlist of the music used in the lecture.
A large part of the lecture was given over to considering how Question Phrases relate to Answer Phrases, and/or how Sentences relate to each other. For this – I devised the following vocabulary – please see the PowerPoint and audio stream for more detail – in particular for indicative musical examples.
- Rhythmic Sequence: Where the rhythm stays the same but the melody changes
- Tonal Sequence: Where the melody is repeated up or down a pre determined pitch.
- Direct Repetition: Where the Question Phrase is simply repeated
- Contextual Placement: Where the melody stays the same but the harmony changes.
- Rhythmic Displacement: where the melody is repeated, but commencing on a different beat.
- New Material: Where the Question Phrase is different to the Answer Phrase.
For me, much of the discussion centres on how many songs mix repetition with new material – something which is arguably an intuitive process for established songwriters/composers. If there is too much ‘sameness’ the work it would be boring – or if there is too much variation it could sound disjointed. These are generalizations of course – not hard and fast rules.
Once these techniques are more fully developed – I am going to spend some time considering (via a journal article) how they resonate with particular artists, styles, genres, etc, but in the meantime, I am interested in any comments, in addition to any interesting musical examples anyone may have. Also – are there any techniques that I have not covered in terms of the relation of Question Phrase to Answer Phrase?
More on this next week