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Topic: musical narrative

  1. #1

    musical narrative

    What is the correct musical term to describe the "lineair musical narrative"? I don't mean lyrics or the main melody of a piece. But the bits and parts of the music that catches the attention the most that the listener focusses on, from A to B, start to finish. It's part of how you orchestrate. It isn't always the highest pitch instrument or that instruments specific tonecolor that gets all the focus, it always completely depends on the context of what the other instruments are doing as well.
    One moment that could be a high string line over mid-low brass, then the next moment a melody by an arpeggiating bassoon over a few pp high note legato strings could take all the attention, then the next it could be the french horn continuing the main melody while the clarinet takes over afterwards, an oboe doubling it at a lower dynamics, whereafter the oboe takes over. Then, the cellos and basses could start a staccato rhythmic pattern on top of the strings/woodwind parts doing harmony and essentially "stealing" the attention. Is there a better/academic word for it? For this kind of "musical narrative" in a composition that the listener by instinct automatically follows?

  2. #2

    Re: musical narrative

    An interesting question! I have no idea what the correct term for this is, or if there even is one. But I think of it as "variation." To me, variation is one of the key principles of composition and orchestration. Everything can and should be varied: the tempo, meter, dynamics, instrumental groups, pitch range, emotional content, harmony, etc. Perhaps the term "form" comes closest to what you are looking for, at least as I see it. When all the above is done in a pleasing manner, the piece can be said to have good form. A piece that has good form holds together well. The various sections make sense, fitting together in a logical, artistic way. "Integrity" is another word that comes to mind. You could even say "flow." Everything contributing to the overall impression, and when done well it seems that every instrument and group is present in the right proportion and place. For me, the composer who best epitomizes this was Mozart. Every note is necessary, and never are there too many. Each instrument plays at the right time, in the right register, and so on. It's why his music frequently is described as "perfect." It's not only as good as he could make it, it's as good as anyone could make it. Then again, you could easily say the same thing about Bach. They just haven't made a movie about him yet...
    michael diemer

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