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Topic: The death of melody

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  1. #1

    The death of melody

    A few years ago I was playing something I had composed for my step mother to which after listening her response was "That sounds good but what is the melody". I had spent so much time creating cool phrases but an actual melody wasn't exactly defined. Anymore, I see very little actual hummable melodies in film scores. I know some people dislike John Williams but as for creating memorable tunes he is one of the greats. I got into music because I played way too many video games growing up. The music of Final Fantasy composed by Nobuo Uematsu is easily my biggest influence. For me, the main deciding factor whether nor not I enjoy a score (film or game) is whether or not there is a present dynamic melody. I don't want to get too opinionated here but if you were to compare the scores of Danny Elfman's Batman versus Hans Zimmer's I think you'll find Danny Elfman's to be instantly more memorable. That is not to say that one is superior to the other but it is to say that IMO a memorable melody can be just as effective at enhancing a scene or conveying a mood as an abstract arrangement.

    So my question is this, does anyone else feel that the creation of memorable melodies is either a dying or changing art?

  2. #2

    Re: The death of melody

    Oh! I LOVE this discussion but I may be a bit too opinionated on this topic for the modern day composer so I am going to let others respond first (maybe.)
    ~Rod

  3. #3

    Re: The death of melody

    It's a difficult answer for me because I like both forms, melodic and abstract.

  4. #4

    Re: The death of melody

    well, I get told by some that my music has no melodies, and that it sounds "random"...

    meanwhile, I can't get performed by "contemporary music societies" because my music is "far too tonal".

    go figure.

    the "death of melody" has been announced at every major turning point in western music... Bach was the "death of melody", Beethoven was the "death of melody", Mahler was the "death of melody", and obviously, the 20th century saw the "cremation and scattering of the ashes of melody".

    If millions of people can swoon over Justin Bieber and "sing along" with his "songs", I think melody is doing just fine, no thanks to Bieber.

  5. #5

    Re: The death of melody

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    If millions of people can swoon over Justin Bieber and "sing along" with his "songs", I think melody is doing just fine, no thanks to Bieber.
    very well said Michael,

    Ba-by, Ba-by, Ba-by OH!


  6. #6

    Re: The death of melody

    Try humming Debussy.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  7. #7

    Re: The death of melody

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    well, I get told by some that my music has no melodies, and that it sounds "random"...

    meanwhile, I can't get performed by "contemporary music societies" because my music is "far too tonal".

    go figure.

    the "death of melody" has been announced at every major turning point in western music... Bach was the "death of melody", Beethoven was the "death of melody", Mahler was the "death of melody", and obviously, the 20th century saw the "cremation and scattering of the ashes of melody".

    If millions of people can swoon over Justin Bieber and "sing along" with his "songs", I think melody is doing just fine, no thanks to Bieber.
    Could you explain more about you not being able to get performed by contemporary music societies? What do you consider to be a contemporary music society?
    ~Rod

  8. #8

    Cool Re: The death of melody

    I mostly had film and video games in mind when I made the post (Though I could argue that the existence of rap itself might prove the point

    I just can't think of a film I watched recently where I could leave the theater humming any of the tunes. In my opinion, the disney tunes I grew up on are far more memorable than any of the children's movies nowadays, though that could be because I heard them so many times. I loved the movie Tangled but I would take Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin's score over it any day. And those movie all have the same composer.

    When Nobuo Uematsu left square you could definitely notice the presence of melody leaving with him. I can't hum a single tune from Final Fantasy 12 except for the song at the end which I later found out was written by Uematsu.

    I still can't decide if I didn't enjoy FF13 because of the music or because I'm getting too old.....

  9. #9

    Re: The death of melody

    try the score to John Carter of Mars... very lush, quite beautiful, and nicely developed. (damn, now I feel like watching John Carter tonight!)
    It's not quite as good as a Williams score, but still, better than ... well, I won't name anyone.

    How about the score to Thor? I love the main theme, VERY beautiful.. though a bit over-used and under-developed during the film.

    Alan Silvestri tends to follow closely in the footsteps of John Williams with lyrical dramatic film scores.

    The score to "Treasure Planet" is very beautiful. By James Newton Howard. Same goes with all of his scores to M. Night Shyamalan's films.

  10. #10

    Re: The death of melody

    Dane! It's been since forever that you've been here - THANks for the appearance, and for posting a good, interesting topic.

    Here are some random thoughts in response, meant to be just things to think about, without drawing any speicifc conclusions:

    --For the most part, old movies used to feature strong, melodic soundtracks. Even run-of-the-mill movies would have some really rich scores composed by classically trained musicians writing in the romantic European tradition. Listening now, of course they sound old fashioned, even corny, they were So emotional and grand. But, they were strong on melody lines.

    --Even when those classic scores were written, they were actually old fashioned, out of date. Starting early in the 20th Century, serious music was veering sharply away from the constraints of melody lines and traditional Western theory. But movies have always been part of the pop culture, making no claims to be part of the "serious art" culture. Movie music has mostly been "low brow" in comparison to the important serious music written contemporaneously. Films can of course manage to be great pieces of art, but really only in comparison with other films rather than with other less pop oriented art forms.

    --It's quoted all the time that good movie music should help heighten the emotional content of a scene without drawing attention to itself. The same piece of common wisdom says "As soon as we notice the music, it's failed to fulfill its function." - Well, I've never totally bought that as a truism, but at the same time it's made sense to me up to a point.

    --Movies used to feature melodies which became extremely popular on their own. The theme from "Laura" is a classic example. Later on, the theme song from "Around The World in 80 Days" was a pop hit, and still later, everyone could hum the themes from "Dr. Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia." Even though there have been movies since then with strong melodic content in their soundtracks, it's been rare for movies to have strong, bonafide "hits" as pictures like that.

    --For quite awhile now, the emphasis in movie music has been for it to be strictly atmospheric. Driving rhythms for action, slowly shifting textures for suspense, we all know what I mean. This type of composing Does fulfill the above criteria better than melodic material because it usually isn't consciously noticed by the audience, while something with a tune Does attract attention and could be said to be more of a distraction than a support.

    --Using the example you brought up of Elfman's "Batman," it was just a short motive. It sticks in our head because it was simple and repeated so many times, so it's melodic, sort of - but it's not as if people left the theatre humming the entire opening theme the way they Did leave "Around The World..." humming a Song.

    --I don't really think much about most movie music. It works in context of the movie, but a lot of it doesn't stand on its own really, and I think that's fine. Simple, atmospheric pieces that support the dramatic context, that's good movie work even if it's not great composing work.

    --Melody in pop music has really changed also. The Beatles were at the tail end of the Tin Pan Alley era, and everything they wrote was highly melodic and very memorable. But pop rock changed after that. I remember a big time rock star, whoever it was, saying that whenever he finds himself writing an actual melody, he gets embarrassed - it's not Hip to write an actual melody. Pop music which is still melodic is considered corny by most younger people - you find it in modern Country and Western, which is the closest thing to '60's and '70's pop of the Beatles ilk. And of course the highly melodic music still being written, like for the stage - that's Way un-cool with large portions of the public now.

    --If you're really worried about the death of melody - you'd have to go back 100 years when melody wasn't any longer fashionable in serious musical circles.

    And--so on!

    Randy

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