Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Melody and Musical Theme

“…one who has talent may be able to write a melody without technical advice. But such melodies seldom possess the perfection of higher art.”
Arnold Schoenberg

While this remark may have been directed toward musically uneducated composers such as me, I do wish I could fathom what Schoenberg considered, “…the perfection of higher art.”

What types of melodies did Schoenberg consider as higher art? And what criteria in particular was used to define melodic perfection?

Having had some time to reflect upon the outcomes after making my own feeble attempts at melody and theme writing, I now concur that Schoenberg was probably correct. In this contemplative reflection therefore, I shall presume Schoenberg’s definition of “technical advice” to mean the cumulative imparting of musical knowledge from teacher to student.

The one comforting word in Schoenberg’s statement is the word seldom, rather than never, which always leaves the door open to possible.

My own constricted definition of creating melodic perfection is: inerrantly choosing what note should best follow the preceding note as well as their individual durations, knowing what harmonic changes and progressions should be made and understanding which rhythmic structures should be used to hold the musical ideas together within a deliberately selected form and structure. That particular ability to do all these facets musically well simultaneously should produce the perfection of higher art that Schoenberg alludes to.

But are these requirements alone all that are necessary? No. I do not believe these traits alone are sufficient. My biases and absolutes in musical understanding are barriers that prejudice and limit my defining of melodic perfection, harmonic progressions and rhythmic patterns within form and structure.

A composer must be blessed with a gift of inspiration that works together with an ability to reach outside and beyond limitations imposed by innate barriers and then create music nonetheless. Inspiration and creativity can be discussed, analyzed and explained, but I do not believe these two traits can be taught because they are unique to the individual.

A true artist is one who can clearly express and translate ideas, thoughts and emotions into a chosen medium and leave with the audience with absolutely no doubt about the message that the work was conceived and created to convey.

The Oddblock Station Agent
December 28, 2009

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