Music is Melody

Johann Sebastian Bach said this in the 1700’s. And I didn’t want to believe it for a long time. I wanted music to be technicality, style, and harmony (and of course that means, dueling guitar harmonies). But years later, I have to submit to the fact that music is, in fact, melody. Without melody, you have nothing but structure. But with melody, and countering melodies……that’s where the beauty comes from.

And with great melody, comes the transcendence of style. I believe that truly great melody shines through, no matter what style is being played. And to back up that belief, I have youtube videos. (By the way, you can back up any belief you have using the internet. Any belief. It’s wondrous.) But I’m curious if others feel the same. To me, the music is what I hear in each of these videos. The melody is transcending each of their different styles. It’s almost the same feeling from each song, just supported with a different style.

And there’s a lot of videos here. Sorry about that. But I really like music.

So first up (and guess what? It’s not U2!), is just a melody. I suppose, the purest form of music. Haunting song:

And then we’ll follow that right up with something with much more sound and many more instruments, but still keeping the melody out front where it should be:

From there, to a timeless tune. I was in an Irish pub one time (I have to put that in because those of you who know me, know I don’t drink…not for religious reasons, but for love of friends reasons…yet still, I go into every Irish pub I can for dinner, because Irish makes everything better…it’s like delay…and if you add Irish to delay, then the rejoicing is unsurpassed……wait, adding Irish to delay, that’s Edge! It’s all adding up now…), and this song came on. And literally, not even exaggerating here, 10 people from different tables, including myself, sang the first 5 words without even thinking about it. And then we all kind of laughed, and looked around at each other. Powerful melodies in this one. Not just the main melody, but the intertwining, supporting, and contrapuntal melodies as well (and it’s a little known fact, but I guess Richard Simmons indeed did play guitar for these guys):

Now let’s completely jump styles, but staying with the theme of intertwining melodies. This is one of those songs that you know, but have no idea why. Totally different style, but bringing out the same emotions and passions:

And to what, to my soul, sounds and feels like almost the exact same song. I could probably die to this:

Now this one…I could not die to this. I can usually not stand this style. But the melody is so incredibly catchy, for me this song truly does transcend its style:

So let’s bring that into something totally un-produced. And yet the melody still brings out the feelings and emotions, that really seem to support the life in the lyrics. I just love to raw nature of this:

And another one that transcends its style completely. There is a cheesy keyboard, and that guitar tone is definitely not the best (could be the VHS quality though, hehe…natural tremolo). But the melody he brings out is just from another world. Not to mention, this guy probably has some of the best sounding hands to ever touch a guitar:

So let’s add an electronica style to that. But again, the feelings are almost exactly the same. This is Michael Brook. I don’t even know what to call this style, but the melodies are just beautiful:

And then, not to leave worship music out of it. If every worship song was written with these types of feelings about the Lord in mind, not just in the lyrics, but in the music, too…I think the church could do a lot more with its music. Doesn’t matter the style, this melody is superb:

Alright, back to catchiness. As you’re listening to this, try to imagine writing the guitar part. If I had written that, I would have thrown it away without a second thought. But somehow, it became one of the catchiest melodies ever written. This song defies you to not keep the pulse with some part of your body:

A side note about that last tune; I think Jagger and Bono are long lost brothers or something. The uni-gender body stylings as they sing are ominously alike. But maybe that’s just to balance out the ‘ecstatic-ness’ of Charlie Watts. hehe But remember as you watch this next video, that the last one was the Rolling Stones. Okay? Because I’m about to throw in a bit of uni-gender speculation onto myself by showing this next one. But how do you not just dig this melody (and note the orange Divided by 13 the guitarist is using):

And since we’ve opened this box of metro-ness, let’s keep it open a little while longer, with a melody that seems almost as if it’s just existed since the beginning of time. Gotta mention this, because no one knows it, and they deserve some credit for this gorgeousness; composers are Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Arranged by Andy Beck:

Beautiful. Actual tears. Which means that the whole male thing is slipping further and further away. So I just have to show this. This is a complete divergence for me; but I love this band. They’re like, the U2 of metal. Haunting melodies that seem to come straight from a heart on a sleeve, and tons of beautiful, intricate, yet simplistic, ambient orchestration. I’m a man. (And if you get that reference, and you’re not my awesome wife, then wow!) Oh, and just ignore the ultra-cheese slow motion fire blasts:

And then to a song that brings out some of the same feelings as the last, ultra heavy one, in a completely different style. I would go to very great lengths to hear this done live. If your soul doesn’t ache after hearing this, then I hereby ban you from all Irishness. That may sound like an odd threat, but without Irish, you have no flutes, Braveheart, shepherd’s pie, Brad Pitt saying ‘Ya like diigs’, rain, or U2. Not much reason left to live now, is there. And the beautiful ache:

And to bring it back round to Bach here at the end, here’s the same feelings, different song. One of the most gorgeous and perfect melodies ever written (and yes, he is sitting on a picture of the ocean…sorry):

And of course, lastly, some of the most haunting and acheful (nope, not a word) intertwining melodies ever put into a piece of music. And yes, that does mean U2 ( 😉 ):

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that music like this doesn’t need any commentary from me. And of course, I’m going to go ahead and give it commentary anyway. Music is melody. Not style, not technicality. Melody and supporting melodies. And those melodies can be rhythmic, too. Anything with a beautiful, and soulful through line that conjures emotions. And I truly believe that melodies like that transcend all musical boundaries. I mean, if they can transcend Journey’s sense of style, Kelly Clarkson’s MTV-hormone-induced-I’m-embarrassed-for-the-American-culture, In Flames’ metal fire, and the guy riding the picture, then they should have no trouble transcending anything else.


14 thoughts on “Music is Melody

    • Ok … I got way sidetracked watching Amy videos… she is absolutely amazing.

      And yes Carlton is one of my top 5. His chord voicing is just as amazing as his solo note technique. It’s like it is not there and you think you heard something cool but it already passed. Pure emotion…and monster chops to go with it…

  1. I agree. The emotions Carlton can coax out of a guitar are amazing. He’s one of my favorite jazz players, because he seems more into melody and tastefulness than he is into the chord with the most augmented5(add9)dim7 chords. (Pretty sure that’s wrong, but you know what I mean! hehe)

    And wait…is that an Amy Winehouse video? ‘I won’t go to rehab?’ hehehe

  2. Great post as always, Karl. Melody is a big problem for me (as it would be for anyone working with my vocal contstraints, ha) so it’s easy to try to lessen the importance of it.

    On a side note, I’ve always thought that Kelly Clarkson song was great (I’m a sucker for those root-fifth-but-not-fully-dimished transition chords, use them way too much myself). And c’mon, give it up for the girl. She did the entire second half of the song up an octave in full voice.

    (In a way playing behind some megapopstar like her would be my dream. Nobody looks too close at you, the paycheck is certain and steady, and the songs are [subject to disapproval, certainly] usually better than people give you credit for. And between tours I could record my own music!)

    On a second site note, I saw U2 in Denver in 2005. They opened the set (as I think they did on most or all shows of that tour) with COBL and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. 😀

  3. When I was in High school the coolest guy I knew was a guy who had no shame about music. He didn’t give a rip if anyone didn’t like what he listened to. If he liked it, he liked it. He would listen to Anthrax, Dead Kennedys, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Show tunes, New kids on the block, NIN, STP, anything and everything. (this was the early 90’s)
    He didn’t fit into anyone’s box and no body questioned his masculinity. I wasn’t secure enough for that at the time and hid behind my its-indie-and-cool-and-it-will-never-go-mainstream-and-if-they-do-I’ll-call-them-sellouts collection of tapes sourced from the next city which had a university and cool kids.
    Now I follow his lead, if I like it I’m not afraid to say so, if I think it sucks it doesn’t make it on to the ipod.
    I’ve seen U2 on the zoo tv tour in Detroit, popmart in Denver on my birthday and elevation in Vancouver. Unfortunately for me, they are not coming to Australia on this tour. I would even go and tolerate the black eyed peas to hear them live again. Although apparently the peas put on a much, much better live show than their album, so here’s hoping for you!
    Btw, the best concert I ever saw was Bon Jovi, the slippery when wet tour in 87. The lights went down…”shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give looooove a bad name, then BOOM, pyro, Jon popping out of the stage, Ritchie with that guitar line and voice box. Hey, what can I say I was young and impressionable and it lit the fuse for the inner rockstar wanting to get a guitar and learn how to play.

  4. Sal, Travis, James–hmm…maybe I need to give Amy Winehouse a second chance. She’s such a wacko (or was), that maybe I let that view taint her music for me. I’ll check it out.

    Travis–wow, I’m the same way. Forced to sing, and I don’t really think that’s my strongest point. So I try to make sure that I have lots of instrumental countering melodies, and harmonic interestingness (yet, keeping it simple). I also try to choose songs that fit my voice, and not try to be Phil Wickham. hehe

    And I’m so with you on the backing guitarist thing! That’s been my dream, too! Maybe for like, an Alanis Morissette or something. You get to play and write beautiful music, tour, record, make a living doing all that, and yet still get to walk down the street to and get a smoothie without getting mobbed. That would be the life. 🙂

    Mark Colvin–great point! Totally…style shouldn’t matter, if it’s good music. 🙂 And U2’s not coming to Australia?! How about their new 2010 leg? Any love there?

    And I’ve never seen a Bon Jovi concert…but it sounds awesome! Alright, going to youtube right now. 🙂

  5. Check out “Joy” by George Winston. He’s a piano guy, but a great arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Great melody picks!

  6. James–okay. I feel better now. I was being careful what I said. lol But is the melody stuck in your head?! *Sigh* Now I don’t know what to think. But I can’t watch her without thinking about cigarette burns. haha

    Michael–nice! Thanks for that. I checked him out, and his arrangements are great! 🙂

  7. Mark, I saw a news report that U2 are coming to Australia hopefully in 2011 so I’m holding out hope for that…

    Although I like a drink on occasion, I too have a policy of not drinking in Irish Pubs because that would mean drinking Guiness, which I cannot bring myself to do.

    Having said that I watched Live at Slane Castle the other day which made me wish I was Irish!

    oh and Karl, Braveheart was Scottish – just be careful making that mistake or you’ll have both Celtic races upset which is probably not a good thing 😛

  8. ReallY? Sweet! I was reading biography on them that said how much they love going to Australia. I mean…I don’t read up on them in my leisure time. hehe 😉

    Oh, and Slane Castle is incredible! One of my all time favorite gigs.

    hehe And you’re right…Braveheart was Scottish. hehehe But they used Irish flutes in the soundtrack, because they had a more melodic feel than the Scottish ones. And without that soundtrack, no Braveheart…as far as I’m concerned. hehe As for me actually knowing that about Braveheart? Ya. Almost U2-esque problems for me with that movie. Maybe I just have a problem with that whole island over there. lol

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