Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/262

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Few Artists seem to think this frightful difficulty worth the trouble of special study. More than one great German singer has, however, succeeded in overcoming it perfectly, and in winning rich laurels by his perseverance; notably, Herr Staudigl, whose rendering of the great Scene in 'Der Freischütz' was a triumph of Melodramatic Art. [App. p.716 "See also Ballad in Appendix, vol. iv. p. 530a."]

[ W. S. R. ]

MELODY is the general term which is vaguely used to denote successions of single notes which are musically effective. It is sometimes used as if synonymous with Tune or Air, but in point of fact many several portions of either Tunes or Airs may be accurately characterised as 'melody' which could not reasonably be made to carry the name of the whole of which they form only a part. Tunes and airs are for the most part constructively and definitely complete, and by following certain laws in the distribution of the phrases and the balance of the groups of rhythms, convey a total impression to the hearer; but melody has a more indefinite signification, and need not be a distinct artistic whole according to the accepted laws of art, though it is obvious that to be artistic it must conform to such laws as lie within its range. For example, the term 'melody' is often with justice applied to the inner parts of fine contrapuntal writing, and examples will occur to every one in numerous choruses and symphony movements and other instrumental works where it is so perfectly woven into the substance of the work that it cannot be singled out as a complete tune or air, though it nevertheless stands out from the rest by reason of its greater beauty.

Melody probably originated in declamation through recitative, to which it has the closest relationship. In early stages of musical art vocal music must have been almost exclusively in the form of recitative, which in some cases was evidently brought to a very high pitch of expressive perfection, and no doubt merged into melody at times, much as prose in passages of strong feeling occasionally merges into poetry. The lowest forms of recitative are merely approximations to musical sounds and intervals imitating the inflexions of the voice in speaking: from this there is a gradual rise to the accompanied recitative, of which we have an example of the highest melodious and artistic beauty in the 'Am Abend da es kühle war,' near the end of Bach's Matthäus Passion. In some cases an intermediate form between recitative and tunes or airs is distinguished as an Arioso, of which we have very beautiful examples in Bach's 'Johannes Passion,' and in several of his Cantatas, and in Mendelssohn's 'Elijah.' Moreover we have opportunities of comparing mere declamatory recitative and melody in juxtaposition, as both Bach and Mendelssohn adopted the device of breaking into melody in especially solemn parts of recitative; as in No. 17 of the Matthäus Passion to the words 'Nehmet, esset,' etc., and in Nos. 41 and 44 in 'St. Paul,' near the end of each.

It appears then that recitative and melody overlap. The former, in proportion as it approximates to speech in simple narration or description, tends to be disjointed and unsystematised; and in proportion as it tends, on the other hand, towards being musically expressive in relation to things which are fit to be musically embodied, it becomes melody. In fact the growth of melody out of recitative is by assuming greater regularity and continuity and more appreciable systematisation of groups of rhythms and intervals.

The elements of effect in melody are extremely various and complicated. In the present case it will only be possible to indicate in the slightest manner some of the outlines. In the matter of rhythm there are two things which play a part the rhythmic qualities of language, and dance rhythms. For example, a language which presents marked contrasts of emphasis in syllables which lie close together will infallibly produce corresponding rhythms in the national music; and though these may often be considerably smoothed out by civilisation and contact with other peoples, no small quantity pass into and are absorbed in the mass of general music, as characteristic Hungarian rhythms have done through the intervention of Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, and other distinguished composers. [See Magyar Music, p. 197.]

Dance-rhythms play an equally important part, and those rhythms and motions of sound which represent or are the musical counterpart of the more dignified gestures and motions of the body which accompany certain states of feeling, which, with the ancients and some mediæval peoples, formed a beautiful element in dancing, and are still travestied in modern ballets.

In the distribution of the intervals which separate the successive sounds, harmony and harmonic devices appear to have very powerful influence. Even in the times before harmony was a recognised power in music we are often surprised to meet with devices which appear to show a perception of the elements of tonal relationship, which may indicate that a sense of harmony was developing for a great length of time in the human mind before it was definitely recognised by musicians. However, in tunes of barbaric people who have no notion of harmony whatever, passages of melody also occur which to a modern eye look exceedingly like arpeggios or analyses of familiar harmonies: and as it is next to impossible for those who are saturated with the simpler harmonic successions to realise the feelings of people who knew of nothing beyond homophonic or single-toned music, we must conclude that the authors of these tunes had a feeling for the relations of notes to one another, pure and simple, which produced intervals similar to those which we derive from familiar harmonic combinations. Thus we are driven to express their melody in terms of harmony, and to analyse it on that basis: and we are moreover often unavoidably deceived in this, for transcribers of national and ancient tunes, being so habituated to harmonic music and to the scales which have been adopted