Distinction Between Bipartite And Tripartite Forms
The Sonatine Form
T The Second Rondo Form
The Necessity Of Form In Music
The Third Rondo Form
The Song-form Or The Part-form
The Principal Song
Random Music Lessons
4 Mixture Of Characteristic Traits
The Melodic Figure
Species Of Cadence
The Trio Or Subordinate Song
Defining The Figures
It is not always easy to distinguish the figures
in a melodic sentence. While they are unquestionably analogous to the
words in speech, they are by no means as concrete, nor are they
separated as distinctly, as the words upon a written or printed sheet.
This is in keeping with the intangible quality of music, and the
peculiar vagueness of its medium of expression; the quality which veils
its intrinsic purport from the mass of music admirers, and lends it
such exquisite and inexplicable charm to all hearers alike.
In a word, it is not the common practice for a composer to cut up his
melodic sentences into separately recognizable small particles, by
distinctly marking each component figure. Here and there it is done,
by way of contrast, or emphasis, or for a definite rhythmic effect,--as
shown in Ex. 2 and Ex. 6. But more generally the figures are so
closely interlinked that the whole sentence may impress the hearer as
one coherent strain, with an occasional interruption. The very minute
breaks between figures are often nearly or quite imperceptible; and
in many cases it is possible to define the figures of a motive in
various, equally plausible ways, simply because the breaks (which are
of course surely present, and become more and more apparent between the
larger members of a composition) are likely to be too inconsiderable
among these, smallest factors of the melodic form.
The following three guides may serve to indicate the extremities of the
(1) A brief rest, or a longer tone, usually marks the end of a figure.
This is fully illustrated in Ex. 6. See also Ex. 10, Ex. 12.
(2) Similarity of formation (rhythm and melodic direction) almost
invariably defines the mutually opposed, and therefore separable,
divisions of the melody,--both small and large. For example (the
figures are bracketed a):--
See also Ex. 1. The operation of this exceedingly important rule of
corresponding formation (about which more will be said later on) is
seen--on a larger scale--in Ex. 2, Ex. 5, and Ex. 6, where it defines
the whole motive.
(3) In default of more definite signs, the figures may be found to
correspond to the metric groups (that is, in lengths of whole or half
This example illustrates the interlinking of the figures, and suggests
the difficulty that may be encountered in the effort to define melodic
figures. The difficulty is probably greatest in melodies of a lyric
character, where it is necessary to sustain the coherency of the
sentence; for instance, in many of the Songs Without Words,--see No.
40, No. 22, and others, in which an entirely definite separation of the
figures is well-nigh a hopeless task.
For this reason,--that is, because the melodic divisions are so minute
and vague between these smaller particles of the musical sentence,--it
is advisable to give no heed to any factor smaller than the motive,
and to undertake the analysis of nothing less than the latter; for even
the most scrupulous phrasing, in the playing of a composition, must
avoid the risk of incoherency almost certain to result from distinctly
separating all the figures. The melodies in Ex. 8 should not betray
the secret of their formation.
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