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Monday, February 26, 2024

Model of relation between words and music (classical, dualistic model)

 The words come first. The melody is a "setting" of a previously written usually canonical poem. 

The process of song setting is not collaborative.  

Words and music are fundamentally at odds. The composer overrides the poet's art.  


Reverse this, and you get the "organic" model. Neither words or music are essentially prior, and either might come first as a matter of practice. 

Songwriting is often collaborative, or can be done by one person writing both words and music. 

The listener experiences the words of the song as "the words of the song," not as a melodic imposition on a previous text. 


Neither model is correct in absolute terms, but clarity emerges if we contrast the two models. The second, vernacular paradigm has more far-ranging applicability than a model pertaining only to Western art song. 


Andrew Shields said...

When I started writing songs in the 1980s, they almost always started with chord progressions on guitar that led me to improvised words and melodies that gradually settled down into lyrics.

But sometime in the early 2000s, I started to use rhymed, metrical poems that I had written as texts for songs. Mostly, I would take the text and then start fiddling with rhythmic chord progressions on guitar until melodies fell into place.

And then in the mid-to-late 2010s, I began to take poems and diiretly compose melodies, rather than chords – and I did this on the piano, not on guitar. With this approach, I write the melodies down as sheet music and then try to build chord progressions after the melodies are set. Then I have to transfer the whole thing to guitar!

Jonathan said...

I write melodies to chords I already have, and set poems (by others) to music. Or I write a melody with no words to it. I can't write a lyric to a melody I already have (very easily).