[Dixielandjazz] Thoughts about pretty melodies

Ken Gates kwg28 at sbcglobal.net
Tue Mar 3 11:57:59 PST 2009

Thanks to all who contributed to the thread about prettiest melodies.

I brought it up because of the reference to the you tube rendition of
"New Orleans" by Bobby Hackett, Teagarden, and other notables.
This struck me as being exceptionally pretty.  But many Hackett
recordings do that to me.  So I wondered--what makes a song pretty?
And  is the reaction to a particular tune common to many?

As expected, there were many different answers.  How could it be otherwise
when there are so many lovely compositions out there.   I was glad that someone
did finally mention "Stardust"--and especially the Artie Shaw version.  I expected
a vote for "Body and Soul" and "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" and "Dream a
Little Dream of Me"--that didn't happen..  Very happy that "Roberto
Clemente" and "Solace" were mentioned--favorites of mine.

Trying to sort out what my selection process is---why do some tunes qualify as
being especially pretty---here is what comes to mind.

....There is probably a particular sequence of pitch intervals, or phrasing patterns,
     or chord change patterns that attract my attention in some way as being more
     pleasant to my ear.
.....:It may be that a particular rendition that displays unusually pleasant tone, emotion,
    or harmony is what registers in my memory.  "Burgundy Street Blues"  by George
    Lewis comes to mind.  I did hear him do it live a few times--brought a little
    moisture to my eyes each time.
.....It may be an association with how I was feeling at the moment.  For example, many
    years ago in high school I was smitten by the beautiful Catherine (who was dating
    a college football star and probably didn't know my name)---for some reason, the
    song "In the Blue of Evening" is associated with that distant memory.  This was early
    Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey band.  Now that I know a little about chord
    structure,  I have the idea that might have cemented the memory of this tune.
.....Maybe an uncommon key change on the bridge is a compelling feature.  For
    example "Body and Soul" and "Dream a Llittle Dream of Me" come to mind.

Anyway, these are less than scholarly observations.  By the way, thanks to Steve Barbone
for the reference to the Princeton professor.

So---back to listening---a much better activity than worrying about the economy.

Ken Gates   

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