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Is it a solo or just a racket?

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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Ok- another one of those vaguely philosophical musical queries. What's the difference between playing a melody and just pumping out a load of notes? Ok- it's pretty obvious which is which when you hear it but why? What exactly makes one bunch of notes a tune, something hummable, part of a musical structure and another bunch of notes is... well... just a bunch of notes?
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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13,973
Ok- another one of those vaguely philosophical musical queries. What's the difference between playing a melody and just pumping out a load of notes?
I can't give a complete answer, but the way I think about it is a melody is not just notes, the rhythm of the notes is very important. If you are talking about impro rather than composing, a string of quavers and triplets such as you get in many bebop solos is not a good melody usually. It can be very good impro and inspiring, but I think the type of impro you get from Ornette Coleman on Shape of jazz To Come is actually more melodic. And the way lee Allen plays rock and roll solos (see the analysises on Taming the saxophone).

Ideally melody (in impro) needs to use as much of the devices you get in composition: tension, release, repetition, development, surprise, humour etc.

!!!!!! OFF Topic Alert !!!!!!

BTW your signature ("Well, if less is more, then just imagine how much more more will be" - Frasier Crane, Frasier) reminds of a couple of other things:

"If a glass of wine a day is good for you, think how much you will benefit from a couple of bottles a day"

"Moderation in all things, including moderation"
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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4,622
I think the type of impro you get from Ornette Coleman on Shape of jazz To Come is actually more melodic.
Totally with you on that- I've never really bought the ida that Ornette Coleman's as out there as a lot of folks seem to believe, he's always seemd to me to be very much rooted in calypso and R&B....
Your point on rhythm I suppose covers the tension and release aspect of things, which raises an interesting point in itself- tension/release seems to me to be easier to work with rhythmically rather than melodically... King Curtis' screams wouldn't nearly have had their dynamic power were it not for the heavily percussive way he played..... or would they?
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
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5,219
Being philosophical for a minute, also....how far does what we mean by "melody" also exist in the mind of the listener, especially if a solo/improvisation does not have an explicit "melody" as such. I personally prefer that a sols is primarily variations on a theme (the head) and that separate choruses are semi structured variations, with the odd "let rip" chorus.

My own trouble with "King John of the Coltrane's" was that he seemed to have too long a time to solo/improvise and lost his way/ got trapped in a haze of notes. Main problem with introspective improvisers - only appeals to introspective listeners who try hard to find meaning, where none may actually exist, at least objectively.

So I do prefer something at least with some overt sense of melody, and something that seems to exist as a variation on a theme....
Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 
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Der Wikinger

Member
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180
I am not sure I can define a melody, but it's like art -- I know what it is when I hear it; i.e. painting of Venus Di Milo v.s. nude pic in a porno mag.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
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5,219
I am not sure I can define a melody, but it's like art -- I know what it is when I hear it; i.e. painting of Venus Di Milo v.s. nude pic in a porno mag.
...but what if the girl in the porno mag is called "Melody"........:shocked:;}

By melody I would describe an overt melody, with an overt tune that the general public would be able to follow, whether or not it was liked. I would distinguish this from a more implicit melody which is likely to depend to a greater extent on the ability of any particular listener to relate to it, such that they can extract/read into it some form of melodic phrasing. This would be something of which I think would represent my subjective view of "Jazz" - music consisting of implicit melodies which can be inferred subjectively consequent on individual experience......

Anyway back to my "Work Song" improvisation on muted cornet......
Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

Andrew Sanders

Northern Commissioner for Caslm
Messages
2,773
how far does what we mean by "melody" also exist in the mind of the listener,
Tom:cool:
Tom has hit on something here. I've been wondering for a while how much our choices in music are governed by the culture in which we are living. We (most of us) have been immersed in the european/american tradition all our lives and can relate to that to a greater or lesser extent. However, when listening to music from other cultures what makes us go for the micro-tonality of say Indian music but find the music of the Balkans too much to bear.My partner at work calls them both "Screaming Abdabs" but he is from Hartlepool. I really like Joe Harriot but can't for the life of me warm to Ornette. Sorry Jules and Pete I have tried and tried!
Back to making my tuna, potato and onion hotpot.
Andy
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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I lean well away from Ornette Coleman too (Charlie Parker as well). Not music to me. think these guys appeal to people more on a technical high note count level, not as something to listen to for mood. But, each to his own. And on with the discussion.

I think there's a big difference between what one can technically call the melody, and what appeals to an individual. Bach, while not being my favourite, has many melodies and counter melodies running through his work. Skill is on the performer to bring them out, because a lot of players aren't capable of doing it. But it's the overall feel/style of a piece that will attract the listeners. And that for popular consumption means simple, catchy, emotive (often schmaltzy). And above all easy to listen to. We don't want to have to think about music...
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
196
I think that what makes a melody rather than a random collection of notes, is that a melody is constructed of phrases, and phrases are collections of notes that relate to one another in some way, so that the phrase proceeds along a route that you can feel evolving. Harmony comes in to it, though harmonic responses are related to the cultural background of the listener more than melody. Everyone appreciates a good tune, even if the music you're used to listening to is generally based on different intervals and harmony. Rhythm is very important, as Pete said, both in adding interest and providing a framework which in turn provides some way for the listener to predict what the musician is going to play. There is great satisfaction to be gained from a nicely- turned phrase coming out as you expected it, but also from the opposite; a nicely-turned phrase that you weren't expecting, but still related to what you were expecting. As others have said there is a great deal of collective cultural and individual subjectivity involved. The key point with melody is that it triggers a particular response (or set of responses) in the listener that textural or highly dense or rapid types of music don't; they provoke a different set of responses.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
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695
I think Mikec basically has done the work for us.

it seems to me that if a criterion is "hummable", then the melody must be produced within a certain framework. It becomes more approachable if its components can be delivered within a given key. It really doesn't matter much what the key is, but one effective way to makes things more interesting is a change to its relative minor (assuming it is in a major key in the first place). A tune is also more hummable if it is not consist entirely of hemi-demi-semi quavers. Intervals also are easier to handle when they are not excessively large. A third is easier to cope with than a seventh or a ninth.

I often listen to jazz programs on a local community radio station (FM 92.7). What I find is that many players concentrate on speed, and they play anything up and down the keys. One almost gets the feeling that these are bits they remember very clearly from their training. Less evident is an ability to create or pick up a theme, do something with it and hand it on in good order to the next player.

Composers of classical music spend time getting to the end-product. It can take them months or even years to complete the work. Mistakes can be identified at various stages of the process. Jazz musicians on the other hand compose on the hop. When they have embarked on something, they have to complete in real time as best they can.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,622
Very true, but one person's Soul is another's racket...
Very True. There's a good bit of film footage of Jimi Hendrix being berate by an interviewer for his feedback laced Star Spangled Banner for being disrespectful to the American national Anthem. Hendrix looks genuinely shocked & hurt "... Man, it sounds beautiful to me..". See also Albert Ayler, Captain Beefheart and numerous other who I love but bug the hell out of most folks I know (see also the Sandy Dillon Band..!)
 
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