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Use of Melody in Metal

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by hibernal_dream, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    Melody gives a piece of music richness and character. Melody also helps the listener remember and identify music. In most cases, it is the melody of a song that is the most memorable part. -Wikipedia

    A melody is a line of single notes. But that is just a silly definition. A melody is much more than that. A melody has to fit with the music, have some sort of rhythm and make the listener follow the notes. -www.musicianuniversity.com

    I came across these while listening to Soulside Journey and it got me thinking. How important is the melody in the more atonal types of metal? I'm talking about bands like Suffocation, Celtic Frost, early Immortal which write using only fifths. These bands, unlike Black Sabbath or Metallica, don't always use modal progressions, and some song melodies seem to be more or less random or chromatic. The melody doesn't harmonize or follow any recognized pattern, and it isn't always consonant with rhythm. It doesn't always "fit with the music" (whatever that means).

    So what would happen if we took a song like Circle of the Tyrants and totally randomized the melody (just the pitch, not the note duration)? Would it make much of a difference, or would the song be less enjoyable or memorable if we never heard the original? If yes, why is a random pattern of notes better than another? If no, what role does melody play in bands like these?
     
  2. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    "music" without melody is nothing more than rhythmic noise to me.

    I don't care for Celtic Frost or Immortal, I'll take Carpathian Forest and Samael any day
     
  3. OldScratch

    OldScratch Member

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    Agreed - the first part anyway. Actually, I enjoy 'em all... Frost, Samael(earlier anyway), Carpathian Forest and Immortal. I am to see Immortal in NYC Friday night. For an old man, I'm as giddy as a schoolboy over it!:heh: :kickass: What can I say...I don't get out much...
     
  4. Cythraul

    Cythraul Active Member

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    What do you mean by this? As a self-proclaimed music theory nerd I am positively puzzled by this.

    It certainly would make a difference because there's a huge difference between just blindly and randomly hitting a bunch of notes and creating a piece of music in an unorthodox tonality with a sense of purposiveness. A "melody" does not have to progress or resolve in the typical way in order to be "intelligible", if you will.
     
  5. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    All those bands compose using a stream of intervals of fifths (power chords). Am I wrong?

    I agree, but this is too vague to of be any use to me. What elements of the guitar melody in Circle Of The Tyrants give it a sense of purposiveness? I find that the rhythmic patterns and their sequence of progression in that song alone provide the momentum and resolution of the song. The end of the song is an example - the melody itself does not resolve, it is the drums and rhythmic pattern of the guitar which end the song. That's my point - the melody could be almost anything, and the song would conclude in essentially the same way. What does the melody add to the conclusion?
     
  6. StocktontoMalone

    StocktontoMalone The Cynical Realist

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    Hi....Well, first I must admit to NOT being a fan of this kind of music: Black, death metal. I not only don't understand it. And this isn't a knock on fans of this style, I just don't 'get it'. BUT, I've read enough about it, and heard a few songs - and coulped with your narrative above would like to add that I think that repetitions and patterns are the answer to your question. The human mind easily recognizes patterns, and things that repeat.

    A song like 'Wasted Years' by Iron Maiden' would easily be more pleasing to the ear, and thus deemed more aesthetic, then say...a song by one of the Death bands. Also singing without marbles in your mouth would help as well.

    Again, this is not a knock on these bands, just how *I* see it.

    In most Heavy Metal songs. There are patterns that repeat time and time again. Which facilitates remembering the lyrics, and melody.

    I just don't see the same thing from songs with a constant drum beat, and a 'singer' that grabs the mic with both hands(near the top), and sounds like he's clearing his throat. I'm sure the lyrics(the historical, or mythological ones) are great, and the songs in which you CAN hear the words must be fascinating, but overall, the songs seem to be nonsense - again, at least to me.

    And I'm sure there are fans of this music in the states, but I'd bet 90% of the fans are founf in countries with an established mythos.

    I'm not sure if that answers your question, but that's the best I could come up with in this limited time.
     
  7. Έρεβος

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    That's a little closed-minded, shutting out an entire world of music like that. Well, no music doesn't have melody, but many masterpieces have a barely coherant melody - like Celtic Frost or Immortal. They simply create[d] art in an unorthodox manner, as art should be created, unrestrained by hollow rules.
     
  8. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    some people are just aesthetically closed-minded, I'm not going to feel insulted and have sex with you because it's closed-minded to prefer melody to noise, prefer the attractive to the ugly, and be heterosexual instead of bisexual. I'm satisfied with what does aesthetically please me, I have little enough time for what I like as it is.
     
  9. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    I'm not sure you understood my post. I'm not asking whether tonal melody is better than atonal melody. Besides that, I don't see a distinction between heavy and death bands with respect to patterns and repetition - both genres possess these aspects.

    I'm not sure i would say they lack coherent melody. A melody to me can be any series of notes with duration and pitch, pleasant or not. That's why I'm questioning these definitions about what is seen as the role of melody in music.
     
  10. Scourge of God

    Scourge of God New Metal Member

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    Melodies in extreme metal are often internally dissonant, yes, but then again, many of the bands you cite were implicitly concerned on a conceptual level with highlighting and engaging with elements of modernity that are characterized, to coin a phrase, by cognitive dissonance.

    After the battle is over, and the sands have drunken the blood, you're not really looking for consonance, ya dig (especially if all that there remains is the bitterness of delusion)?
     
  11. Cythraul

    Cythraul Active Member

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    I'm sure that's true for Celtic Frost and Suffocation but not so much with Immortal. I'm not saying that they don't compose in such a way, but their music is a bit more diverse in terms of chord voicings and whatnot. I guess I don't really understand why you are using bands that compose in this way as examples.

    Alright, a couple points. First of all, none of the music those bands create is, strictly speaking, atonal. This is probably why one gets a vague sense that there is a tonal center in much of the music composed by these sorts of bands. I guess the presence of repeating "melodic" themes would in part account for the sense that there is something non-random going on in Circle of the Tyrants, for example. Maybe I'm not the best person to be talking about this stuff because my ears are so accustomed to this sort of music. It sounds completely ordinary to me. Y'know what I mean? I see what you mean about that Celtic Frost song. If you, for example, omitted the last two chords of the last riff and instead raised that same pattern up one and a half steps, it would sound different but it would certainly sound "correct" within the context of the rest of the composition. I'm still not really sure how to answer your questions though. Let me think about it more.
     
  12. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    Because then we would need to add harmony to the equation. I don't count parallel fifths as harmony.
     
  13. Cythraul

    Cythraul Active Member

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    Yeah I sort of realized that after I made that post. I guess you could say parallel fifths are "neutral".
     
  14. Accolade2289

    Accolade2289 New Metal Member

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    Agreed. All music is comprised of rhythm and melody. Take away one of the components and technically you don't have music anymore. That is why some testify that rap is not music.
     
  15. derbeder

    derbeder in a vicious circle

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    ^your sig = :erk:

    What do you make of compositions such as Witold Lutoslawski's String Quartet, Krzystof Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Iannis Xenakis' Metastasis and György Ligeti's Atmospheres? These are among the most notable compositions from the last 50 years and they all employ techniques (such as sound mass, aleatory - i.e. chance - techniques etc.) that do not allow the ear to recognize a distinct rhythm or melody line. In Atmospheres, no string instrument plays the same note at the same time as any other. All there is is a certain musical texture.
    Not much is accomplished when we say something is not "technically" music, if only certain (traditional) musical "techniques" determine our conception of music.
     
  16. Grovesy

    Grovesy Member

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    First of all, as someone has said earlier, 'Circle of the Tyrants' is not in any sense 'atonal.' It constantly refers back to a tonal centre and it is the fact that it has this tonal centre that gives each chord its own character. The tonal centre is E, and this is the reason Bb5 sounds ugly, because its relation to the tonal centre is a dissonant one (b5). Each note has its own tension against the tonal centre, some stronger than others. The fact that 'Circle' doesn't constrain itself to using only notes of a scale (like E minor) doesn't mean it's atonal, just that some chromaticism has been employed. So yes, changing the pitches would change the character of the riff because it changes the tensions against the tonal centre. Harmony is not 'there', but intervals are.

    I don't think that's a silly definition at all. The past century has been all about breaking the boundaries of 'has to' and 'should' when it comes to melody (and harmony, rhythm, structure, etc). Many composers utilise the fact that the melody doesn't 'fit with the music..and make the listener follow the notes' because that's the effect they want to create. Metal is a simplistic example of that.
     
  17. hibernal_dream

    hibernal_dream A Mind Forever Voyaging

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    Excellent post Grovesy, and exactly what I wanted out of this thread.

    It added depth to my central question - what is melody and what range of uses is it adapted to?

    Metal bands, and many other 20th century composers, have used melody in a way such that its sole purpose is not only, if at all, to assist in piece identification and memorability. This (un)recognized fact should be enough to demonstrate the absurdity of the traditional definitions of melody espoused by StocktontoMalone and Wikipedia. No, I don't think repetitions and patterns provide the answer: it is clear to me not all bands are interested in drilling a recognizable pattern into our respective memories. If we can rationalize and make sense of the use of melody in these bands, I think we can add greater understanding over and above the problematic traditionalist's view of metal as mere rhythmic patterns emphasized by a pitch which is irrelevant because it is atonal/amodal.
     
  18. Silver Incubus

    Silver Incubus Dead Hands Justin

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    I would say it becomes the focal part of the music that the rest of the music supports. This can be in both the pop sense of a memorable line that fits with the notes and motions of the rhythm or in the experimental/atonal/Interval sense of that which stands out as an individualistic voice among the rest of the music which is creating the atmospheric support. Most often consisting of notes and tones within 500kz to 6000kz+ as those are the closest to human voice and therefore easier for us to hear.
     
  19. infoterror

    infoterror Member

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