The Anatomy of Melody: Exploring the Single Line of Song

Article excerpt

The Anatomy of Melody: Exploring the Single Line of Song Alice Parker. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc., 2006. 194 pp. ISBN-10: 1-57999-560-8; ISBN-13: 978-1-57999-560-7. U.S. $26.95, CAN $36.95.

As most readers of this journal are aware, Alice Parker, FHS, has achieved near-legendary status in the field of choral music. Early in her career, her collaboration with Robert Shaw and the Robert Shaw Chorale established her as a gifted arranger of folksongs, hymns, and spirituals. From there she went on to build a life and reputation as a composer, conductor, teacher, and founder-director of Melodious Accord, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of choral singing.

Parker has drawn upon her more than 50 years of creative music-making to assemble her newest book, The Anatomy of Melody. In it she focuses on the most basic element of vocal music, the simple, unadorned, single melodic line. The book's title recalls Austin Lovelace's The Anatomy of Hymnody, and indeed, there are some similarities between the two books. Both are introductory, yet thorough, explorations of their respective topics, written by recognized authorities. But while melody is just one aspect of hymnody, the study of melody in and of itself is a very broad one, encompassing all cultures and all of human history. Melody, as Parker points out, is a universal experience.

The Anatomy of Melody includes 20 brief chapters which cover a variety of analytical, historical, and philosophical sub-topics, and it is generously illustrated with nearly 70 musical examples. …