MUSI 112: Listening to Music

Lecture 5

 - Melody: Notes, Scales, Nuts and Bolts


This lecture explores the basic nature of melody. Touching on historical periods ranging from ancient Greece to the present day, Professor Wright draws examples from musical worlds as disparate as nineteenth-century Europe and twentieth-century India, China, and America. Professor Wright puts forth a historical, technical, and holistic approach to understanding the way pitches and scales work in music. He concludes his lecture by bringing pitch and rhythm together in a discussion of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

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MUSI 112 - Lecture 5 - Melody: Notes, Scales, Nuts and Bolts

Chapter 1. The Nature of Melody [00:00:00]

Professor Craig Wright: Good morning, let us begin. Today we’re going to move away from the first dimension of music that we’ve been looking at, which is duration, or time, and begin to work with the second, which is pitch, and melody. And here’s an initial question for you. Think of the texture of music and think of these strands of high and low. Where does melody sit in the texture? Is it high, middle or low? Where is it? If you think about it conceptually, try to figure out, well, I got this board up here, this tapestry, or whatever, where’s my melody going to be in the texture: high, middle or low? Michael?

Student: It would be high.

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah, usually high. Now, here’s an interesting question for you, why is it usually high? There’s an acoustical reason for this. Why does the melody show up in the high range?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: I beg your pardon?

Student: It’s easier to hear.

Professor Craig Wright: It’s easier to hear in a high range. Why is it easier to hear in a high range? What about the acoustics here? Once again, the laws of acoustics. Why is it easier to hear in a high range? I could play for you, for example, a little bit of Mozart. It would sound like this. [plays piano] You like that? [plays piano] Sounds better up there, doesn’t it? Why is that the case? Yeah.

Student: Maybe you can put the frequency of the higher pitches as high so you can detect the sound quicker and [inaudible].

Professor Craig Wright: That’s it exactly. In a melody, we tend to have a lot of rhythmic activity there. It’s got to have activity to play itself out as melody. But because the way sound waves operate, we have these low sound waves taking a very long time to clear. The higher frequencies take a lot shorter time to clear. They’re short sound waves. They clear very quickly. So, we can hear a melody — we can hear a melody more clearly in this higher register and therefore, there is always the tendency to have the bass play long, low notes because those sounds take a long time to clear and melodies play faster notes because those sounds clear quickly and we can hear and enjoy the melody. All right, that’s just an opening thought about why melodies show up in the top part of the texture.

Chapter 2. The Development of Notes and the Scale [00:02:37]

Let’s talk about melody here and let’s talk about pitch. We said before that in Western music we have musical notation. And musical notation is relied on more in Western music than any other musical civilization around the world. And in the West, this whole idea of pitch notation goes back to the ninth century, when the monks and nuns in Benedictine abbeys in Switzerland and France and Germany and northern Italy started doing this; they started marking on parchment or slate the general course of a melody. Eventually, what they did was to separate these lines into more discreet places, or more discreet pitches.

Then around one thousand in northern Italy, an enterprising fellow named Guido of Arezzo came along and said, “Well, you know what? I can get this to show us how far up we are supposed to go, by placing it on some kind of grid here,” and this is this — as I said before, the beginning of the first graph in the history of the West. This grid of horizontal lines (and we will know that if we’re going from here to here), it’s got to be exactly this frequency, or at least this space. So, initially they came up with four lines and then eventually five and even six, and then they went back to five by the fifteenth century.

What they also did around the year one thousand was to identify — to label — these particular spots — spaces and lines. So they began to call this A and this B and this C and this D and this E, this F, this G. When they got up here, they stopped. Why did they stop? Why didn’t they keep right on going with G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P? Why don’t we sing Ms and Os and Ps today? Why did they stop? Any ideas? [plays piano] Roger?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah, they had this thing — they hit this thing called the octave. And, of course, there’s this — another acoustical phenomenon here we’ve talked about before, what’s the relationship within an octave? The string is vibrating higher when it’s exactly twice what the lower one is [doing]. So, they heard this and they heard this as essentially all one sound. So, if it’s a duplication of sound, let’s duplicate the letters. But you can look at manuscripts of the early eleventh century and see people singing Ps and Ls and Os and Ms and things like that. But eventually, they began to uniformly adopt this system of what’s called “octave duplication.”

And every musical culture around the world — and I’ve talked with ethnomusicologists about this particular point — every musical culture around the world, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Indian, African whatever, they all use this phenomenon of octave duplication in their music — octave duplication in the music. But how they divide up this sonic space within the octave can vary rather considerably. Some Arabic music seems to have as many as fourteen gradations within the octave. Now, we’re going to listen to a piece of music here from the tradition of classical India and I thought we might have a sitar player in here. Somebody — I got wind of the fact we might have a classical Indian musician in our class, somebody that had studied the sitar and might be able to come in and play one for us. But we don’t have that, so we’re going to use something on our CDs by the world famous sitarist, Ravi Shankar. Okay, you’ve probably heard of him. He’s actually quite old now. He must be — surely he’s in his eighties. He was very famous when I was in graduate school tons and tons of years ago. So — but he is the venerable sitar player. And here is the pattern, the raga. We’ll call it a scale. It’s not really a scale but a raga that he is using. It’s got only six notes within the octave. [plays piano]

Professor Craig Wright: And the six notes are — [plays piano] — that particular pattern. Doesn’t sound like any scale we’ve ever heard of. So, let’s listen to Ravi Shankar play a bit of a raga using a six-note scale. [music] Okay, so that gives you a flavor of that and you have that, of course, on your CD number six, fifteen. So that’s a bit of sitar music. Now, we’re going to play another six-note scale. Let’s go onto that one when Lynda gets set. And this, of course, is sung by Nora Jones. And, as you know from reading the textbook, why do I mention Nora Jones? Or why do we play Nora Jones right after Ravi Shankar?

Student: It’s his daughter.

Professor Craig Wright: It’s his daughter. Isn’t that interesting? Every Saturday morning I’m going through Stop ‘N Shop and there’s Nora Jones in the background playing. I’m going down the pasta aisle or whatever, and I have the daughter of Ravi Shankar over my shoulder. What a world, huh? So, we’re going to listen to just a couple of seconds here of a blues tune sung by Nora Jones. [music]

Okay, so we’ll just cut off here. But what she’s working off of here — we’re not going to listen to the whole thing — is this idea of a blues scale. [plays piano] And so on. How’s that operate? One, two, three, four, five, six. With this one, sometimes major and sometimes minor. We’ll come back to that part. So, that’s another six-note scale but a different sort of pattern, a different kind of pattern. It’s a blues scale pattern. It’s kind of between the major and minor that we’ll talk about a little bit later on. So, two different forms of a six-note pattern, let’s go to a five-note pattern.

If you’ve ever visited parts of Indonesia — which I have not — and if you’ve ever visited parts of China — which I have not — I am told that you will hear this kind of music. It’s played by a traditional Chinese instrument called the erhu. This I have seen around the world many times and heard. It’s a two-stringed instrument that produces a particularly beautiful, vibrant tone. So, we’re going to listen to an erhu playing. I think this is track — if you want to pursue it, it’s track — six-CD — track sixteen. Let’s listen to an erhu play a melody by a traditional Chinese composer — we call him in English “Abbing” and you can read about him there in your textbook. [music]

Okay, so let’s see — let’s pick that up. [plays piano]

Five notes within the octave just there. So, it’s a penta — what we call a pentatonic scale. And that’s used in a lot of Far East cultures — the pentatonic scale, just a five-note scale there. Okay, so we have — there’s a whole idea of octave duplication — sometimes six notes, sometimes five notes. We in the west have settled on a seven-note scale. Why did that happen? Well, we have this idea of a seven-note major and seven-note minor. Why seven notes? Well, for the answer to that we have to go back to ancient Greek music theory, and when you read about this — it’s really turgid stuff — but believe it or not, I teach a course on this at the graduate level. We have to read — poor Lynda has to take this kind of stuff — reading Aristoxenus and things like this.

So, what we’re dealing here with is a situation where the ancient Greeks were very much into mathematics as a way of explaining the world and explaining music in particular [through number]. And they thought these ratios were primary. So, they had the ratio of two to one, which gave them the octave, and three to two, which gave them the fifth, and four to three, which gave them the fourth. They also, because the system worked out better for their purposes, then jumped to nine to eight, which gave them the whole tone. So, they started out there and let’s say they were working down here. They filled in the octave up above and then they filled in the fifth and then they filled in the fourth and then they came down a whole step and then they went up a fourth from that whole step and then up a fourth from that, and they were filling in in this fashion. Interestingly enough — and you ever wonder this? — sometimes somebody will wander by a keyboard and say, “That’s odd.” What’s the great oddity about the keyboard? What’s strange about this keyboard? It’s very asymmetrical, right? Marcus?

Student: It’s missing [inaudible].

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah, it’s missing some notes in here. It’s missing something in here, and it’s missing — well what these are were the cracks. After the Greeks laid out their fifths and fourths and whole steps, they had these little leftovers. They called them leimmas. They had these little leftovers in there and that’s why we end up with these small distances between B and C [and E and F] [singing]

That’s a big step. [singing]

That’s a small step there. So, the scale is actually not equal. A to B is one distance, which is a large one, and B to C is only half that distance, and that’s because of the way the Greeks laid this thing out with their two to one ratios, three to two ratios and so on. But in any event, we end up with this. Now, the Greeks had a whole series of patterns. They called them mixolydian, and hypomixolydian and phrygian and hypophrygian and stuff like this. A lot of different patterns. But in the course of history, we settled beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, down into just two patterns: what we call the major pattern and the minor pattern.

So, let’s talk about that just for a moment. And before we do it, I should add one other thing: how, then, do we get these other notes up here, we get these other notes up here? Well, what we now call the black notes — although historically keyboards could be either way — you could have these added notes black or white and then these underneath would be black. So we filled these out. In the fourteenth century, all of this got filled in. These between B and C and E and F didn’t get filled in because they were already just the smallest amount that they wanted to deal with, just half steps. So, we end up here within an octave — we end up with twelve equal pitches, but we still use this term a ‘seven-note scale’ because we have seven notes within the scale of the major scale and seven notes within the scale of the minor scale.

Chapter 3. Major, Minor, and Chromatic Scales in World Music [00:14:43]

All right, so let’s talk about major and minor now. And we’ve put those patterns up here. This is given for you in your textbook. This is something of a review. Let’s start with a major scale on a C. So, here is the symbol for C and the staff here is where C would be located on the keyboard. We’re going to start here and we have this pattern of the major that goes whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half step. So, we start on C and then we go up to D — a whole step. I’m going to write that in here. That’s good, then we go D up to E; that’s another whole step. Now, I have a half step. I got to go up just a half step there, I’m on E. But it’s just — F is just a half step away, so that’s good. I don’t need to do anything more than that. Now, I’m on F here. Well, I need a whole step. There’s my one. I need a whole step. I got to go up to G and then another whole step up to A and then another whole step up to B. And the last one in the major pattern is a half step from B to C. There we are, and that’s good. So, we’ve got our major scale.

Let’s talk a little bit about the minor scale. Now, it’s got a different pattern. It’s got a different pattern. They like melodies to go this way. They like melodies to go this way. Let’s start on the same pitch, C. Let’s go up a whole step. What’s a whole step above C? Up — just D. Now, we need, according to our pattern, to go up just a half step. What’s a half step above D? Well, then we have to think about it. We’ve got to get into these black notes, which can be called sharps or flats. They’re called sharps if they’re up above the note in question. This would be some kind of D sharp. They’re called flats if they’re down below. So, flats are below, sharps take you up a half step. So, we went C to D. We need this pitch, here. What are we going to call it?

Student: [inaudible][E-flat]

Professor Craig Wright: Or, we are going to call it D sharp? Well, we should call it E- flat. We should call it E-flat and put it up on the E line because there’s kind of rule here that you have to use up each letter name in turn, each letter name in turn. We can’t go C, D, D-sharp, F. We got to go C, D, some kind of E, F. So, you’ve got to go up the alphabet here. All right, so there we are, but is this, from D to E, a half step? We need a half step here. What we’ve written is a whole step, so we’ve got to indicate that this is just a half step away in that fashion, D to E-flat. Now, what do we do above E flat? Well, a whole step here — there’s one half, there’s another half, would take us to F, whole step above F, would take us to G. What am I going to write here? From G I need a half step. Here is — it doesn’t — here’s the pattern up here. We’ll focus on this one. I need a half step above G. What’s a half step above G?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: A-flat. Okay, I need, now, a whole step above A-flat. Hmm, nice and loud please, Edward?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: B-flat, okay. And then at the end of the process I have another whole step from B-flat back to C, and that gets me back to my octave in that fashion. Okay, well, I think that’s straightforward enough. If you’re unsure about that, check out, of course, chapter three in the textbook, where these issues are addressed. Okay, we’ve been talking about scales, these ideas of major and minor scales. We said there are seven notes in each of these two scales, twelve pitches all together within the octave. But within the scale, all notes are not the same. There’s one note that’s the primary note, right? What’s the primary note called, the note around which all of the others — all the others gravitate?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Tonic note, okay? Then there’s one other that we have to know about, it’s called the leading tone. And what it does is pull into the tonic. Let’s say we’re in the key of C here. The leading tone is always the seventh degree. It’s always a half step — always a half step — seventh degree, right below, right below the tonic. You might say, “Wait a minute, I thought the tonic was down here.” Well, you got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. Eight is a duplication of one. Eight and one are the tonic. So, seven pulls up into eight. It pulls up into eight — the tonic. [plays piano and sings] That’s the leading tone. Where’s it want to go?

Student: [inaudible]

[sings while playing piano]

Professor Craig Wright: You can hear it pulling in there. Opera singers love this. They love to kind of luxuriate in the opportunity to show off their voice on a leading tone, build up expectation, make you wait even more for that tonic. Let’s listen to Luciano Pavarotti sing a leading tone, and as by coincidence, it happens to be the one-year anniversary of Pavarotti’s death this week. So, here’s Luciano Pavarotti singing a leading tone. The tempo here is very slow and he slows it down even more and then it just sits out there, this huge wonderful voice that he had, on the leading tone.

[Pavarotti singing]

Professor Craig Wright: Okay, and you can hear him sort of — he didn’t go — [sings] He went — [sings]

You could hear him slide that leading tone up into the tonic in that case. Okay, so we’ve got across the idea of tonics and leading tones. Did we do tonics? Do we know what a tonic is? [piano] Sing it. [sings]

So, given the set-up, you kind of feel what you’re missing, you know, what this home pitch is — the pitch to which you are gravitating. Most of our popular music, folk songs and things like that, are written in duple meter and in a major key. Occasionally, you get things written in triple meter and in a minor key — minor key. [plays piano]

That’s Gershwin: Porgy and Bess, in minor. Folk song — [plays piano]

Old Civil War song. And so on it goes. Occasionally, you do run into pop pieces, folk songs, in minor, but most of them are in major — probably about eighty percent in major. Same thing in the classical realm. Lynda, what would you say, what percentage of classical pieces are written in minor keys?

Student: Very small.

Professor Craig Wright: Well, give us a number, take a —

Student: Five percent.

Professor Craig Wright: Only five?

Student: It’s classical?

Professor Craig Wright: Classical, maybe a little more than that, but not all that many. Here’s —

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: I don’t know, we should do a survey sometime. Go through the literature, see what — but mostly, for the most part, it shows minor — major. Occasionally, minor is chosen. Here’s a good example of a minor from the second movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. [plays piano] . But from Mozart, major — difference between major and minor. [plays piano] Lovely major. [plays piano] So, we’re used to making associations with major and minor. Major: happy, bright, optimistic, a day like today. Minor: somber. [plays piano]

Why is that the case? Is there anything in the physics of this music? No, not really. There’s nothing in the laws of acoustics here that cause that to be the case. If you look back over it, there was no major or minor in western music up until about sixteenth century, and then people started writing these things called madrigals, that were tied to texts. And they got in this habit of, every time they had a bright, happy text, they’d set this in one kind of mode or key — a major mode — and every time they had a sad one, they’d set it in minor. We got used to hearing it that way, so it’s kind of — every time, you know, Schumann wants to write about the merry farmer — [plays piano] [major]

But every time Chopin wants to write a funeral march — [plays piano] [minor]. And there’s a tendency also — minor: low, major: high kind of thing. So, we get used to this. And this point — that it is culture rather than acoustics — was brought home to me once in a discussion with a student here at Yale who said to me, “Yeah, but over there at the Slifka Center, we Jews have lots of happy melodies and they are all in minor — what you would call minor.” And so I thought about that, “Yeah, that’s probably true.” Even the — [plays piano] Isn’t that the Israeli national anthem? I think so. Is that right? What is that? What? Yes or no?

Student: Yes.

Professor Craig Wright: Okay, but it may be — how many national anthems around the world do we have in minor keys? And what does this say about the tradition of Jewish music? Is it really Western or is it Eastern European or even with some Asian influences? Interesting issues — issues that can be brought home. This kind of ambiguity sometimes you encounter in klezmer music. What’s klezmer music? Traditional Jewish folk music, a lot of it coming out of Eastern Europe. So, we’re going to listen to a kind of souped up, or rocked up, version of some klezmer music here, and they have a strong bass, electric bass underneath. And we’re going to listen to — [plays piano]

A minor melody with a leading tone thrown in that gives it this kind of exotic feel and then it will switch to major. So, let’s listen to this bit of klezmer music go back and forth between minor and major. [music]

Okay, so that’s the intro. Now, we’re going to go onto the shift to major here, another little clip. [music]

So, there it’s in major. Let’s listen a little bit more. It’s going to go back to minor and then I think shift back to major. We’ll be able to hear the shift. Turn it down just a little bit, Lynda, please. [music] Major or minor? Raise your left hand if you think it’s minor. What about this: major or minor? Right hand if it’s major, left if it’s minor. This is major. [music ends]

Okay, that’s a little bit of this ambiguity between major and minor in a piece of traditional Jewish music. Let’s see, we’ve talked about — let’s talk about hearing, how we hear these melodies. The reason that we hear these as distinctly different, I think, happens rather early on in the scale. Let’s think about this for a minute. We’ve got this scale up here. [sings scales]

If you go over to this scale. [sings scales]

Does that sound dark? I don’t know. Five hundred years ago, that wouldn’t have sounded dark. Now, that sounds dark to us, ominous. [sings scales]

But that darkness occurs very early in the scale. As you can see there, it’s the third note. We’ll be talking about the fact that this is an interval of a third; it spans three letter names a little bit later on. So, that minor third can show up very early in the scale. That’s a critical moment in any scale, determining how we’re going to feel about it. We can just play with that particular interval to change entirely the way we feel about particular melodies. Here is a Christian song. I guess it’s — [plays piano]

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” don’t we sing it as a Christmas carol, or some can sing it as a Christmas carol? [plays piano] Not much joy there. You like that one? How about — [plays piano] Or my favorite is — [plays piano]

You know, you can turn this whole thing into a Jewish bar mitzvah or something like that. You were singing with the Coen Brothers down somewhere in, you know, in Appalachia. What was the wonderful movie that had the Coen Brothers and all that great American folk music in it? You Are My Sunshine, Brother, Where Art Thou? Wasn’t that what it was called? Brother, Where Art Thou? Yeah. So, just that little turn of a switch there. You can do some great things with changing the mode. So, we’ve got scales that are in the major mode; we’ve got scales in the minor mode. We also have scales in the chromatic mode and that’s when we don’t have just seven pitches within the scale. We’re going to use all of the pitches, all twelve here. Chroma is the Greek word for color. So, this is a more colorful scale. What does it do for us? [plays scale]

Well, that’s a chromatic scale. We had an example of that the other day working with the Mozart — where was that? In the Requiem. Oh phooey. Yeah, remember we had — he was coming up a minor scale. [plays scale] And then he, at the top of it — [plays scale] — switched over into a chromatic scale. Here’s the score.[plays piano] Minor.[plays piano] Now chromatic. [plays piano]

What does this do to us? Why did he do that? Well, chromaticism adds tension to music and especially chromaticism that’s pulling up. Scales that go up add tension. Music goes up generally in tension — but if you can double that, combine that with chromatic music, then you’ve got a sort of super whammy of tension, and that’s what he’s doing there — trying to build tension as the Just rise from the graves at that particular point. Entire compositions are rarely written in the chromatic scale. Yeah, it’s kind of a color that you throw in from time to time for special effect. So, we’ve got the major/minor scales; we’ve got the chromatic scales. We also have what we call conjunct melodies. [plays piano] Melodies that are just running up and down a scale — neighboring tones. [plays piano]

Those are two Christmas carols that are very conjunct in nature. A good example — we used it a moment ago — of a disjunct melody is — [plays piano]

Can we all sing that? Here we go. Ready, sing, “Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the park, etc…” It’s amazing that that melody has become as popular as it has given the fact that it’s really hard to sing. It’s a very disjunct melody. It’s got all these odd leaps to it. [sings]

Sounds like Schoenberg almost. It’s sort of off the map here in terms of disjunctness. But nonetheless, we have been able to absorb all of that. So, melodies can be conjunct or disjunct.

Chapter 4. Pitch and Rhythm in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony [00:33:03]

And possibly the most conjunct of all melodies in the history of music was the melody that we looked at very briefly in the first gathering, and that is Beethoven’s famous Ode to Joy. Now, Ludwig van Beethoven was in his fifties when he was working on his last symphony — what would prove to be his last symphony — his Ninth Symphony, and he’d been tinkering with this particular melody all the way back to probably 1803, so it’s about twenty years or so. Ninth Symphony is 1823-1824. As early as 1803, we know he’s working on — [plays piano]

Trying to get this to work just right. And eventually, over this twenty-year period he did get it to work just right. Let me swing this board around. Here’s the famous melody. I’ve put it in the key — what’s called the bass clef here — and it’s in a major key. We don’t need to know what the particular notes are, but let’s look at this just for a moment because it works well as a prototype of melody. It does something that a lot of melodies do.

First of all, as you can see by the trajectory here, it’s very conjunct, right, all neighboring notes here. If you look at the German of the text, it has to do with [speaks in German]. The millions be embraced. And this, I believe, is the sort of national anthem for the United Nations. So, this has to be something that we can all sing. And if you have conjunct motion, that makes it easier. It’s also very symmetrical. As you can see, it’s nothing but a pattern of four bars plus four bars plus four bars plus four bars. And, as we said before, music has a syntax so that these phrases have to be in a — arranged in a particular way that makes sense. So, we start out here with an opening phrase. [sings]Is that the tonic?

Student: No.

Professor Craig Wright: Can anybody sing the tonic?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah, yeah —


Professor Craig Wright: The tonic is actually over here. It’s a little bit lower than that. That was a really hard question. I’m amazed that anybody got it. Good for you. So, what happens here is this opening phrase, that we’ll call A — musicians like to label stuff just with alphabetical labels to keep it simple. We’ll call this phrase A. It sort of opens things up, and we refer to this as the antecedent phrase. The next phrase, B — [sings] is very similar, but here it takes the deviation — [sings] And gets it back — gets us back to the tonic. Now, we could walk out the door at that point, right? [sings]

We’re feeling tonally stable there. We’ve got it all together for the rest of the day. However, it would be a pretty short melody. So, what he then does is write an extension. We’ll call this C. [sings] Very interesting. Put an asterisk by this. Beethoven, in a way, saved this melody. He rescued this melody, which was in danger of becoming excessively four-square, by doing what? If I had been writing it — [sings]

What did Beethoven do here? We talked about it last time, a rhythmic device. Syncopation. He brings his opening note, that F-sharp, in a beat early. This should, you would think, be a half note and this would start on the downbeat, over here. But he brings, in effect, the sound of the downbeat in a beat early, gives it a little bit of pep there at that particular point. And then what is this here? [sings again]

Well, of course it’s a replication of B. We’ve got to end on the tonic. All pieces, classical or pop, one way or the other, end on the tonic. Okay, so let’s have us, now — let me put a fermata over this. Let’s all sing this. I think [you can do] it — we don’t have to read the notes. You don’t have to sing any texts; we’re just going to sing “la.” I’ll conduct in four, so sit back. [sings]

Everybody vocally prepared here? Here we go. I’ll give you one, two, ready, sing. [sings] Louder, louder. [singing ends] Good. [sings]

We’ll put a big ritard on it there. So, we wanted to bang that syncopation and then, of course, there’s no sound on the downbeat over here to make the syncopation work. So, that’s the melody. Seems very simple, but took Beethoven a long time to iron all this out and make this perfect melody, the prototypical melody in a way. And then in the early eighteen twenties, he decided to incorporate this as the main theme of the last movement, the finale of his last symphony. So, this is some of the last music that Beethoven wrote in the setting that we’re about to listen to. So, let’s listen, we’re not going to — I think Lynda has it set here. We’re going to hear the beginning of this and [then] he presents this as a series of variations. So here is the first presentation of our melody. [music] Nice and loud. [music]

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: That’s okay.


Professor Craig Wright: And then he repeats C and B. [music]

Okay, now let’s pause it there. Let’s pause it right there. Now, we’re going to go on to the second presentation of the theme, and I have three questions for you as we do so. Where has the theme — the melody — gone here? Is this a motive or a theme, by the way?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Theme, it’s not a motive. It’s way too long. It’s a good example of a theme. It’s way too long for a motive. Motive would only go about four, five, six notes. So, we have this beautiful theme here and as we listen to this next presentation, where has the theme, or melody, gone? What instruments are playing it now? What is the texture like? How many lines can you hear in this texture? How many strands of music do you hear — can you pick up? And thirdly, what is this texture called? Last time we said we had three kinds of texture in music which are: monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic. Which is this particular texture? Okay, here we go. [music] So, what do you think? How many lines — first of all, where has the melody gone — the theme?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: It’s gone up a little bit and it’s being played by what instruments? Yeah, strings, violins, violins, but not the top part of the violin family, kind of second violin, middle range of the strings here. How many parts do you hear in it? How many separate musical lines there? Marcus?

Student: Three.

Professor Craig Wright: Three. Tell us about those three. We’ve just talked about one of them — the melody and the violins up above. Can you tell us about some of the others?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Okay, they’re doing like a counterpoint, right. They’re doing — yeah, okay. It’s too easy. I’m sorry. I had to go for that. They are playing a contrapuntal line. But you’re absolutely right, that’s the key point and that then answers, Marcus, what’s the texture. If you’ve got a — Marcus, please?

Student: Polyphonic.

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah, polyphonic. So, this is polyphony here. What was the third voice? If we had melody up above in kind of a counterpoint, as Marcus says, there, in the middle, what was the — we had one other part, and what was that? Well, let’s listen a little more. We’ve identified the melody. Let’s just see if we can pick up what the missing third part here. It’s a bassoon playing the contrapuntal line. [music]

Professor Craig Wright: So, what is the third part there? The bass, yeah. Usually, you’re going to have a melody and you’re going to have a bass, so the bass is doing stuff — [plays piano] — underneath there. So, there’s the melody up above, this bassoon playing the counterpoint, kind of in the middle, and then the bass playing these notes quietly underneath. It’s a little bit hard to hear. I think we have time. Let’s just continue right from there a little bit more. [music] Can you hear the bass, now? [music] There’s the bassoon, counterpoint. [music]

Okay, and let’s listen to just a little — we’re going to pause it there. Now, let’s listen to, must be, what, the third presentation, here, of the theme. Where’s the theme now? Now, how many parts are there in the texture? [music]

What about that? Well, it’s a little bit hard to tell exactly, isn’t it? It’s hard to tell. What could you say for sure about it? You’ve got a melody. Where’s it going now? It’s going up. It’s all now in the first violins. What else is in there?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: A bass, yeah, we got a bass. And now we — what else? Some other stuff in the middle, all right? And that’s — that may be about as much as we can do with that. I mean, really, myself included. I could sort of sit there and try to track the lines, but I’d have to repeat it. So, I think if we said we’ve got melody, we’ve got theme, we’ve got bass, we’ve got a bunch of other stuff in the middle, that’s just fine and dandy. But the idea that they’re all kind of independent, points out once again that they are playing polyphonic texture. Let’s listen to the end of the polyphonic texture, then Beethoven, and we’ll stop with this.

Beethoven was like a military general, interesting the way he operated, always setting up these battles. And indeed, he wrote something called a Battle Symphony, and you can just see him, how he’s kind of marshalling particular forces to do particular things at particular times. So, held back here the heavy artillery. The heavy artillery in the orchestra is what? The brass and sometimes percussion. So, it’s the brass he’s going to bring in at this point. So, we’ll listen to the end of the third presentation of this with the contrapuntal idea dominated by strings, melody, bass, other stuff in the middle and then he will bring in the brass for the final statement of this. And I think our time is about up, so we’ll listen to this and you can go out as we hear the fourth statement of this. [music]

[end of transcript]

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