Fri Jun 19 16:04:53 CEST 2009

Math and Music: Harmony vs. Melody

In a talk with Axel yesterday the harmony / melody topic came up.
Axel's point was that it might be better to study harmony or a
harmonious instrument (one that can play chords like guitar, piano)
before studing melody.

My remark was that it's strange to see melody from a mathematical
point, because if you look at frequency ratios, what you see first is
harmony.  Then in the background of this one could develop tone scales
using harmonic intervals, but it's never possible to really decouple
melodic structurs from the harmonic background.

Axel remarked that in the history of (western?) music there was this
move from harmony -> melody -> re-interpreting harmony in terms of
melody.  That in classical music, harmony is somewhat implicitly
understood with melody brought to the front.