Contents Of The Phrase

The question may arise, what is it that makes

a phrase,--the rhythm, harmony, or melody? Strictly speaking, all

three; for music subsists in the ceaseless co-operation of these three

primary elements of composition, and no phrase is wholly complete

without the evidence of each and all. Generalizing the definitions

already given, the function of each of these primary elements may be

thus described: The element of harm
ny regulates the choice of the

tones that are to sound together; the upright shafts of tone (chords)

which determine the body, or framework, of the music. The element of

melody regulates the choice of single tones, selected from the

successive shafts of harmony, that are to form a connected line or

strand of tones (in horizontal order, so to speak),--something like a

chain or chains stretched from harmonic post to post, which describe

the figure or outline of the musical image. The element of rhythm

gives the whole body its life,--regulates the choice of varying

lengths, defining the infinitely varied tapping of the musical


It is evident, from this, that no vivid, satisfying musical impression

can be created in the absence of any one of these essential elements.

But, for all that, they are not of equal importance; and, in

determining the extremities of the phrase (and of all other factors of

musical structure), the melody takes precedence over harmony and

rhythm. That is to say, that in his analysis of figures, motives,

phrases, periods, and so forth, the student's attention should be

centered upon the melody,--that chain of successive single tones which,

as repeatedly stated, usually describes the uppermost line of the

harmonic and rhythmic body. That is the reason why the illustrations

given in this book are so frequently limited to the melody alone; it is

the pencil point which traces the design, describes the form, of the

musical composition.