I am going to continue my meditations on music and on a framework to understand it better. I was going to abandon them but I will finish them before embarking on something else.
I have put a lot of thought a lot about what the opposite of melody is, or what I could contrast with it and I think randomness is the best choice. Melody is a unifying factor in music. It puts order in a series of sounds heard consecutively. It helps us remember the music.
Melodies are structured in different ways in different musical systems. If you heard an Arabic melody it would be different from a Chinese melody as well as from an Occidental melody. But the concatenation of different pitches is a fundamental part of all the music we hear. When we cannot link the sounds, and we cannot put some linear order into the music, we tend to reject it. In fact, when playing classical music of the XVIII and XIX century, the performers have to use a considerable amount of judgement in their performance so as to bring out to melodic lines, allowing the public to follow the logic of the piece. Some atonal melodies are linked by a concept or by an arbitrary numeric succession, as in serialism. This will either result in a person being able to link the sounds, in which case he may like the work, or will result in a confusion, which many times will also lead to the rejection of the work.
There is another key word which we should bring into the conversation here, and that is “motive”. A motive is a short sequence of notes that repeats throughout a composition. A good example of a motive are the first four notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. This motive is repeated many times in the first minute of the work in order to form a melody but the whole basis of the piece is a motive. Still, if the motives are not used to form longer thoughts, we might get melodically lost in the piece and start to perceive it as a bunch of random sounds. Which leads us to the next dichotomy: