Pulling out the carriage
Mountain and abyss,
Appropriately for the highly placed person.
Lesson V - Melody
Today, my Brothers, we will taste of the "sweetest" part of our lessons. However, we must afterwards be sure to brush our teeth and eat something that offers greater nourishment. We must explore the sweetness of melody just as a chef learns to make his desserts as part of a balanced meal. Imagine the harmonic series, as I described it in Lesson II, but with the notes following each other linearly in time rather than occurring simultaneously. You now have a map of the system from which melodies are constructed. When the harmonics are lowered in pitch so that they are in the same octave, you will have a scale. If you go far enough through the harmonic series, you will have the twelve-toned chromatic scale. The melody, then, is like flying and the fundamental is the ground. A fifth (dominant) above the fundamental (tonic) is like a strong branch on which we may perch comfortably. The most commonly pleasing melodies flutter around these two pitches with every other note pulling strongly toward these.1 It is not necessary to outline the tension that is in every note in relation to these two notes. You will feel it.
This teaches us about the condition of our corporal state. While we are flying to God we must eventually and sadly come back to rest in our physical state. The dominant may correspond to a temporary place of rest in the dream state. Notes which pull the strongest towards these cause a profound sadness in the listener.2 Mastery of this technique gives one the power to profoundly influence one's listener's emotions and it is consequently just as dangerous as power itself. Need I remind you of the many warnings from the Holy Fathers about music?3 No modes or scales are exempt from these dangers. One of St. John's teachers, the late Father Arnold Schoenberg, was most instrumental in the development of systems that would eliminate the more emotionally manipulative qualities of melody by using what he called twelve-tone rows. They were devised in order to eliminate the fundamental/dominant relationships. This is like causing someone to stay in the air by taking away everything that can be rested upon. St. Messiaen devised some interesting scales, in an attempt to raise the spiritual consciousness of his listeners, by using notes taken from every other harmonic along the harmonic series.4
Today, we will explore all of these relationships. You must maintain the control that you acquired in the Long-tone Exercise as you move from note to note. Do not destroy those heavenly harmonics for the sake of your melodies. If you listen correctly, you will notice that you are playing many parts simultaneously, gently passing from one set of harmonics to the other.
Again, I must add that melody is not bad just as sugar is not bad. We all need a little sugar, but not as much as we want.
Rule for the Day: Continue practicing everything you have done on the preceding days. Find a brother or two who are working on the Long-tone Exercise and treat one as if he were playing your tonic and hold up your hand to another if you wish for him to play a dominant interval to that tonic. You may then begin your melodic flights. By vespers, you should have abandoned you "resting places" and be in full and constant flight, using at least twelve tones.
1 Danielou, Alain; The Ragas of Northern Indian Classical Music; 1968.
3 St. Augustine; Confessions.
4 Johnson, Robert Sherlaw; Messiaen; 1975.