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What Matters Most: Melody or Harmony?

29 Nov

We all know what we like in music, but do we really know why we like it?

Is it the melody that engages us, or is it the harmony?

My first thought was, it’s the melody. Like a map, it guides us to where its composer desires: whether this be to toe-tapping joy, mind-boggling excitement,  demure serenity, or even sorrow.

Yet, instantly I realised this concept was flawed. Without the soul-grabbing harmonies to compliment it, the impact of the melody would be seriously compromised. Rather like  love and bonding, oysters and rocks,  or a train and tracks, each intrinsically seems linked to the other.

While individuals often bundle music into ‘types’, isn’t there so much variety within each genre to make this a rather loose pronouncement of taste?

Similarly, even amongst composers there’s a wide selection of compositions, so, even there, is it wise and accurate to say you like someone’s work?

Is it all a bit like other fields of art: literature, sculpture, painting and what have you? Is whatever determines our likes and dislikes ingrained at birth, or are were conditioned to think the way we do by our responses to our environment?

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