Confused By A Wicked Melody

I remember a while ago talking to an elderly couple who were complaining that modern music has no melody.

I defended “modern music” for a few reasons, not least my annoyance with arguments that “things were better in our day” and that modern music is far too wide and varied to make such glaring generalisations.  My main argument, though, was that all music has a melody of sorts and then it’s just personal opinion about whether you like it or not.

It was only when I went to go see Wicked that I realised how important having a good melody is to a piece of music.  I wanted to see Wicked since my first visit to Pittsburgh when I was ill equipped when it came to theatre attire but last year, around 10 years later, I finally got to see it in Manchester and I loved it!

What I had never realised is that the same melody is present throughout most songs in the musical.  I’d heard Idina Menzel sing Defying Gravity but had never listened to entire score from a musical let alone seen one before.  So when I heard those first few notes I was confused about lyrics I’d never heard!

That was quite interesting to an Over Thinker Of The Not Worthwhile like me.  As humans, we love things to have patterns, hence why we like songs with melodies.  We like the repetition which causes something to grow on us as well as serving as a cue of what’s to come next.  When it doesn’t come, it confuses a simple person like me!

For this sort of reason, music can also help us with recollection.  The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony will always take me back to a holiday in Malta and Closing Time by Semisonic (not Third Eye Blind!) will take me back to a very specific spot on a friend’s sofa.  It’s not just pictures and words that we recall via music though, but also emotions.

There are different types of memory, including explicit and implicit.  Explicit is where we remember who we are with, what we saw…  Implicit, as the name suggests, are implied memories for a more subconscious place, and it’s this implicit memory from where we remember emotions.  Interestingly, explicit memories are damaged by conditions such as Alzheimer’s while implicit memories are much more durable, leading to some investigation of the application of music in helping people who suffer from these conditions.

Memories stimulated by music often come from a particular time in our lives, a phenomenon that psychologists have called the ‘reminiscence bump’.  I wonder if this is why the elderly couple I spoke to claim that modern music doesn’t have a melody.  Maybe older songs just take them back to a different part of their lives that evokes particular emotions.  Maybe that’s why I also enjoyed Wicked so much.

Sing a simple melody, simple melody, sing a simple melody.
That’s how easy love can be.
That’s how easy love can be.
That’s how easy love can be.

Easy Love by Sigala

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