Chords and Melody: the simultaneous and the sequential
March 11, 2018
Summary: What to do with a melody – how changing a melody into a chord and then back to melody again can help in the greater understanding of the sound and feeling of that melody
A melody can be condensed into a chord (especially if one eliminates all but the chord tones from the melody). A chord can be broken apart into a melody, but the chord contains no information about the order of the notes in the melody.
But… if you play a melody, then condense it right away into a chord, and then release a moment later into the melody, the chord will retain the imprint of the melody for a while. This will happen both as a physical sensation in the pianist’s hands, and as an aural sensation in the pianist’s ear.
As the chord is turned back into the melody, a similar effect occurs: the melody retains within its sequence of notes, the organizing singleness of the sound of the chord.
While the notes were held in the timelessness and stasis of the chord, the notes of the melody are still stirring around within the outward calm. The chord is not stable, but seeking to release the notes back into time.
As we in fact re-expand the chord into the melody, the melody notes come out as if all belonging to one whole – there is a new coherence among the notes, something that transcends their separateness. Each note looks back to the chord, and finds its meaning in the chord, and still feels part of the chord. Each note shares with the other notes a common feeling of belonging. A larger organic wholeness is achieved. There is less to be thought about as to appropriate touch or sound for each note.