Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Some working definitions I've found more useful:

Melody - foreground, in the sense of being the most obvious line that people hear and remember

Harmony - background and foundation AND/OR added colour around the melody

Counterpoint - means different things depending on which century you're in. But truly independent lines are rare. A lot of so-called counterpoint is really harmonic colour with pretensions to independence or - in polyphonic music - the same line chopped up, delayed and repeated so it plays against itself.  

It's very, very hard to think of music which is pure harmony with no sense of melody at all. In classical music you often get boilerplate writing at cadences where the melody disappears and you get your II-V-I without much else happening. But elsewhere there's usually a strong sense of a melodic line, even when the focus is moving between the voices.

Backing vocals, keyboards, bass and guitar - harmony, counterpoint or just part of the furniture?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:40:37 AM EST
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I can certainly hear a main melodic line in her singing, the guitar does a solo at a certain point.  For me (maybe just for me!) the furniture part--the magnolia part--is the (for my ears clumpy) four beat.

Maybe to the extent one wants or needs to take the music apart for specific purposes, certain tonal effects (over time) can and are given specific names--music theory is the study of all that.  It depends what the focus is maybe--as you say.  Also, I suppose that overtones (as I understand them--I mean, those extra tones that appear around the original tone) create an automatic harmonic structure for any series of tones--I was thinking of using a piece with someone whistling, as "the bit you can whistle" is one version ("Bloody racket.  Where's the tune?  You can't whistle that, can you?") of what the melody is.  There's a piece by Neil Finn called "Try Whistling This"--a test of whistling skill?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 07:06:54 AM EST
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It's worth trying to filter out the main melodic line and the beat to listen to the individual elements.

I can hear:

Bass line (it's there, and it's sort of independent, but it's not that interesting)
Keyboard elements - lots of filled out harmonies and a couple of extra lines
Backing vocal harmonies - quite complicated
Extra guitar lines - one part where it plays a very simple line which is mostly a held note and some embellishments
And more...

Most of this is already happening before the bass and main drums come in at around 18s, and you could easily spend some time playing that section over and picking apart everything that's on the track.

There's a surprising amount going on - as there is in a lot of chart music.

People tend to remember the melody line and aren't consciously aware of the rest, so they'll either not hear it at all or hear it as filler. But listening to it can be - interesting.

Also interesting that you don't like the beat. Caroline Corr often seems to drag the snare beat slightly and make it late. It's probably my least favourite thing about the band.

Meanwhile ¨Try whistling this¨ is a bit of a cheat. I'd hear it as:

Voice melody
Piano countermelody (which sometimes disappears)
Piano harmony and colour around the countermelody
Occasional embellishments and decorations

You couldn't whistle it because a lot of the movement and interest is in the countermelody, hidden under the sung part which is simpler and not as interesting - as you can hear when he stops singing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 07:39:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I liked those initial voice harmonies, I was thinking: yeah, they can take this somewhere, but then the beat thudded in.  Sounds to me like they used some muck-around-with-the-voice tech. in there; when the drums came in I thought, "I wonder how this would sound...in seven".  But I admit I have a clunky-drummer nerve; same thing I got with U2 way back, and then with Radiohead--the music was interesting (for me), but the beats--oh so clunky!

It's not something I can explain though--but it could have something to do with lateness--or even just thumping the beat on the beat, not much movement around it.  I'd compare it to the drummer playing Shoreline 7/4 in the Part III diary, who--for my ears--gave that lovely rush--and I have to say, watching the jazz trios and quartets, the sounds of those kits in the late fifties early sixties--

But a triple-gah because that's a discussion for the other diary!  All the various elements come together in my head, start with one thread, keep following and soon enough I jump threads somehow--

Any theories about that four beat?  Listening to that piece again, there's a lot of musical ability being squashed by that...clumpiness.  Thing is, when other pop songs do muck about with the internals I still get that overall sense of clump rather than dance.  (While I've been noticing that dance tracks which I presume--it's been a while--are specifically designed for audiences that dance go for the two--oom pah oom pah.  Boom chit boom chit, or even just the boom boom, boom boom.  Do fiendish wizards have theories about these four beats that they apply because in order to do X (sell product, I suppose)...for some reason the clumpy-four....turns minds to thoughts of consumption?

Or maybe it's just me ~:)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 08:57:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I could be wrong, but I think what makes the melody difficult to whistle on first listen is that he makes a key change such that a major turns to minor but resolves to a major with a raised fourth (I like raised fourths!)...greg knows more about this than me, though so his input will be more accurate--like with most things, I can work it out if I have enough time, but it's not a natural thing (and by natural I mean like Keith Jarrett's uncanny ability to see the entire harmonic patterns spreading out from each note he plays--but...what's the word, I read it the other day, not gestalt, the thing the right brain does--parallel processing, taking the picture in in one huge instant....heh....me ramble?)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 09:04:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's very, very hard to think of music which is pure harmony with no sense of melody at all.

a good accompanist can infer and elicit melody by framing it with intelligent harmony. when that happens the blend is perfect and the melody appears out of the harmony like a mushroom out of the loam.

melodies can be harmonised ad infinitum, reverse doesn't work so well! (unless you go all schoenberg! more maths than music, tho' many will disagree!)

symbolically melody is the triumph of the individual, harmony is the magic of cluster to invite melody out to play, a field for her to run, a skyscape to fly.

melody alone has tension and release with silence...when there is harmony there is conversation, banter, innuendo, humour.

it's very hard to think of music that has no rhythm.

melody and percussion started the ball rolling, harmony took much longer to evolve, and it's still evolving.

polyrhythm is to beat as harmony is to melody! thickens up the custard, spices up the soup.

rambles from the latenight zone...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Apr 12th, 2008 at 10:02:49 PM EST
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