I recently had a long discussion with my supervisor regarding the musicology of melody, which I can sum up as follows:

  1. Musicological studies of melody are not as rich and comprehensive as, say rhythm and harmony. In general, the theory is scarce.
  2. Much of the existing analyses have been speculative and inconclusive.
  3. The one theory of which there have been successful follow-ups when it comes to the study of melody is Leonard Meyer's theory of musical expectation.
  4. There is no general agreement as to how melodic structures are perceived as there generally is when it comes to harmony.

He's yet to share some references pertaining to this with me, so I thought I'd ask around here as well.

I'm a bit confused now as to how I can pursue this subject. I'm not a music scholar but I'm interested in resources related to musicology of melody as my research is on computational modelling of melody. I'm mainly looking for background literature, firstly to know what sort of musicological analyses of melody exist/are possible, and secondly what are the difficulties one faces when it comes to the musicological analysis of melody that are unique to this musical dimension unlike harmony and rhythm?

I understand that this question is very broad and does not address the musical tradition, style, and so on. Anything thoughts ranging from specific to general from those who are familiar with this subject would be greatly appreciated! Also, please do suggest if I can phrase my questions more meaningfully.

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    Comment -- Western music of the present time is based mostly on harmony. Other musical traditions in the world, and early Western music, are / were much more melodically-oriented. All non-Western music has very little if any harmony involved. So you could look for resources on non-Western music -- what we Westerners call "ethnomusicology". – user1044 Jan 16 '16 at 3:23
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    There exist scholarly treatises on the musicology of melody written by Westerners in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, but of course they only apply to the music of that era -- such as Gregorian chant and what grew out of it. – user1044 Jan 16 '16 at 3:24
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    I would suggest that you look for treatises on how to compose a melody. There are a lot of those out there. The reason I'm suggesting this is that theory always follows practice. If you define and understand some rules and formulas for composing a melody in a certain style, that could provide a basis for algorithms for analyzing melodies. But those rules will always be particular to the genre of music and the style period and place in history. Finally, any stated method will be highly subjective to the author. – user1044 Jan 16 '16 at 3:42
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    For instance, here are some good thoughts on how to compose a jazz melody. northernsounds.com/forum/showthread.php/… – user1044 Jan 16 '16 at 3:44
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    You could investigate Schenkerian analysis. http://www.schenkerguide.com/index.php – Laurence Payne Jan 17 '16 at 19:04

From a "classical" perspective... I think you can find a lot of material on melody, but it won't be as neatly codified or as conveniently labeled as things are with modern harmony teaching. Maybe historic resources offer better insight into melody but aren't as codified as modern roman numeral analysis or Schenkerian analysis. Personally, I don't think this means the material is vague or less rich. It just isn't algorithm-ready (so to speak.) You have to approach the study of it differently.

Some suggested resources:

History of Melody by Bence Szabolcsi et al. Link: http://amzn.com/0214156176

Music in the Galant Style by Robert Gjerdingen Link: http://amzn.com/0195313712 Lots of melodic schemata described using scale degrees notation like ^6 ^5 ^4 ^3. Gjerdingen also offers interesting criticism of modern harmony teaching as well as Schenkerian analysis.

Figuring Out Melody by David Fuentes https://www.calvin.edu/music/faculty-staff/faculty.html?name=David-Fuentes-MUSC A complete how-to guide to writing a melody like J.S. Bach

Introductory Essay on Composition: the mechanical rules of melody by Heinrich Kock, translation by Nancy Baker https://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=0300028148 This book is hard to obtain, but a key historic source

Strunk's Source Readings in Music History (Revised Edition) by Leo Treitler et al. Joseph Reipel: from Fundamentals of Music Composition, page 749 Link: http://amzn.com/0393037525 Reipel teaches how to write a minuet, examples all single melodic lines, super refined sensitivity to rhythm

The next two sources are really performance treatises, but they also deal melodic ornamentation.

On Playing the Flute by Johann Joachim Quantz et al. Link: http://amzn.com/1555534732

A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing (Oxford Early Music Series) by Leopold Mozart et al. Link: http://amzn.com/019318513X

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    I'd add Wallace Berry's Structural Functions in Music (amazon.com/Structural-Functions-Music-Dover-Books/dp/0486253848). The writing is a bit academic, but nowhere near as opaque as I used to see in Perspectives of New Music, and Berry does seem to have some good insights into how the various elements of music work and fit together. – user16935 Jan 20 '16 at 0:20
  • @Patrx2, I went to add this book to my GoodReads.com to-read list and found I already added it! I'm glad to get your recommendation, thanks. – Michael Curtis Jan 20 '16 at 14:16

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