Melodic development – what’s in a tune?

Having established Alice’s ‘Theme’ early on in my composition (and before I continue composing beyond ‘The Caucus Race’), I thought it would be valuable to consider melodic development.

If my piece is to have any sense of continuity and ‘common thread’ I need to be able to express Alice’s theme throughout the piece. But it would be nice to hear it in a different way.
This is the four bar motif that is Alice’s Theme and a clip of what it sounds like:

Original Alice Motif

Melodic development can be achieved through unity and variety; if I repeat the theme or ‘motif’ I achieve unity.  If I write a contrasting motif, this creates variety.

There are other ways that I can create change in a motif; by influencing the melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre, and dynamics, I can affect enough variety so as to make it sound different yet identifiably true to its original form.

I can repeat three aspects of composition (melody, harmony, rhythm) and then vary them in the following ways so as to develop the motif:
REPETITION OF:                    VARIATION OF:
Melody                                       Rhythm and/or harmony
Rhythm                                      Melody and/or harmony
Harmony                                   Melody and/or rhythm

I can also use approximate repetition, especially of the melody’ this is especially good if the harmony is changing:
1) Repetition of the main contour of the melody (shape)
2) Repetition of selected notes of the melody (essential pitches)
3) Repetition of the melody at different pitch (exact transposition)
4) Repetition of the melody using same intervals on different scale degree (tonal transposition/sequence)

And if this wasn’t enough, I have the opportunity to change the motif in these ways, too:
1) Retrograde (original played backwards)
2) Inverted (original turned upside down)
3) Retrograde of the inversion (original played backwards and upside down)

These last three changes really interested me; they were specific and different enough to apply quite easily to my four-bar motif.

This is Alice’s theme in retrograde:

Original Alice Motif – Retrograde version

This is Alice’s theme inverted:

Original Alice Motif – Inverted version

And this last version is the theme in retrograde AND inverted:

Original Alice Motif Retrograde Inverted Version

Pearce, T. (Unknown). Guidelines for Composing; Motivic Development. Available: Last accessed 15 July 2015

Thomas, P. (2014). Developing Melody Lines with Motifs. Available: Last accessed 15 July 2015


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