Taking Melodies Personally
The other day, a new teenage student was playing To A Wild Rose. She was treating the melody carelessly, as if it were an out-of-date cell phone. For one, she kept accenting or “bumping” the last note of each three-note phrase.
When a student doesn’t seem to care about a melody or feel that tones need differing degrees of emphasis, I make the matter a personal one. In this case, I asked the student to suppose that she invited a new friend to go somewhere, and the friend texted back, “Not there with you today.”
I said to her, “Do you feel rejected? Oh, you do? Then you must have interpreted these words as, ‘Not there WITH YOU today.’ But perhaps the person meant, ‘Not there with you TODAY. But tomorrow, of course I would!’ Or perhaps she meant, ‘Not THERE with you today. But I’d go anywhere else with you! You are so wonderful!’ The emphasis on certain words changes the meaning entirely. The wrong stress can cause distress.”
After this, we added some lyrics to the melody. I asked her, “To the first three notes of this piece, which lyric would fit the melody? “It is YOU” or “I MISS you” or “YOU are sweet”? We played while singing the different words, and though the lyrics we came up with were obvious and cheesey, the point was made and the melody was saved from further neglect.
There’s a side benefit of explaining things this way: It reminds texting-crazed individuals (do you know any?) that the old-fashioned spoken word (with tone of voice) is often a far better way of communicating!