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Theme and Variation and Writing a Good Melody

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Whitney George

on 1 August 2017

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Transcript of Theme and Variation and Writing a Good Melody

Theme and Variation
& Writing a Good Melody

How to Write a Good Melody

a good melody is a complete musical thought (like a sentence)
contains at least one ‘motif’, which is an *incomplete* idea.
motifs that are made of ‘basic ideas’
(example of a ‘motif’ is the first half of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mov’t No. 1)
a good basic idea
establishes the tonic key (the home key)
major OR minor tonality
establishes the motives that will be developed in the motive
the melody is divided into logical phrases (like when we breathe after we complete sentence, or pause at a coma
a balance between these phases (both ideas are linked together, but one is not more important than the other)
there is parallelism & contrast- contains both musical ideas that are different and similar
there’s a climax (usually at the 2/3rds point). The climax is the “high point” of the melody
most of the motion from note to note happens in STEPWISE motion
occasionally there can be a LEAP
it ends with a cadence- there’s a point of resolution
Techniques for Variation:

Inversion- all motion that was UP is now DOWN
Retrograde- playing ‘X’ BACKWARDS
Retrograde Inversion- inverting the motion from note to note AND playing it backwards
Diminution- playing ‘X’ at double the tempo (making it SHORTER)
Augmentation- playing ‘X’ at half the tempo (making it LONGER)
Theme & Variation as a Form
Variation is a technique where musical material is repeated in an altered form. Variations can take place in a number of musical dimensions including:
harmony/tonality
melody/counterpoint
rhythm/meter
timbre/orchestration
[ from the western classical cannon.. ]
Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)
Richard Wagner
(1813-1883)
‘Symphony No. 5’- Movement No. 1 (1804-1808)
the melody is made up of one motif that is TRANSPOSED to create a QUESTION/ANSWER format
from Beethoven’s Middle (Heroic) period, and exhibits EARLY ROMANTIC ERA traits
as the first movement of his symphony, it’s in SONATA ALLEGRO form
the texture shifts radically between monophonic texture to homophonic to polyphonic, even within the first theme area
is in a SIMPLE METER of 2/4
the DEVELOPMENT SECTION of this work relies heavily on techniques to VARY THE THEME

‘Die Walkure’- Ride of the Valkyries (1857)
like Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 5’, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ makes use of a strong motif to create the whole melody
the melody is in a basic BINARY form, meaning is made of two distinct parts
a QUESTION/ANSWER form is a type of BINARY form
is from the ROMANTIC ERA, and is extravagantly orchestrated
is in a 3/4 COMPOUND METER
the texture is consistently HOMOPHONIC
[ from popular music of the last century... ]
Scott Joplin
(1886-1917)
Juan Tizol/
Duke Ellington
(1899-1974)
‘The Entertainer’ (1902)
uses the MOTIVE (rhythmic) in the QUESTION and in the ANSWER
is in an extended form where the larger QUESTION and the ANSWER are made up of two smaller parts
is an example of a PIANO RAG
in a 2/4 or 4/4 meter
uses SYNCOPATION (temporary displacement of the beat)
associated with a repetitive form: INTRO-AA-BB-A-CC-DD
‘Caravan’ (1936)
is in a SIMPLE METER
the melody is mostly made up of notes that are in a STEPWISE motion (snakey)
ends with a clear cadence
is generally HOMOPHONIC in texture, although there is moments of POLYPHONY between the wind players
‘Tequila’ (1958)
is in a SIMPLE METER
strong use of a MOTIF, which is repeated
the CLIMAX of the melody actually includes a REST followed by the word ‘TEQUILA’ (an example of an ANTICLIMAX)
the SAXOPHONE SOLO which follows is a set of VARIATIONS on the MELODY
The Champs
‘I heard it through the Grapevine’ (1968)
is in a SIMPLE METER
is mostly made up of STEPWISE motion, with an OCCASSIONAL LEAP
ends with a clear cadence (the musical thought has come to a close)
is generally HOMOPHONIC in texture, although the ACCOMPANIMENT is very interesting, and almost melodic on its own (arguably polyphonic----=but are they both equal?)
Marvin Gaye
(1939-1984)
Stevie Wonder
(1950-)
‘Superstition’ (1972)
is in a SIMPLE METER
is mostly made up of STEPWISE motion with an OCCASIONAL LEAP
tension is created with various rhythmic SYNCOPATIONS
the texture ranges between HOMOPHONIC and POLYPHONIC
Michael Jackson
(1958-2009)
‘Billie Jean’ (1982)
is in a SIMPLE METER
is mostly made up of STEPWISE motion, with TWO leaps, the second being more important
ends with a clear CADENCE
some SYNCOPATION to create tension
texture is predominately HOMOPHONIC
Mozart, 12 variations K. 265
ornamentation
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