Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Composer of `Postman' Talks Melody

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Composer of `Postman' Talks Melody

Article excerpt

FOR a number of music lovers, it's hard to get excited about 20th-century opera. One reason is dissonance: Most people are trained to hear chords progress in a certain orderly way, and dislike being jangled in their seats when a chord fails to resolve.

Stephen Paulus is a product of 20th-century music theory, but he also understands an audience's desire for melody. And he has written a number of pleasing ones in "The Postman Always Rings Twice." The soft-spoken composer from Minnesota says he's never given up on melody, "but it's not the melody you get out of a Tchaikovsky Fifth or a Beethoven Eroica - those long arching romantic melodies. Modern melodies are more truncated, the listener may be expecting a bigger deal. We don't write that way because it's been done.... But there still is a yearning on the part of people to hear melodies, and in `Postman' there are several spots with romantic melodies, but in my own harmonic language."

Mr. Paulus reaches into his other works for an example. He continues, "I wrote a violin concerto in which, in the final part, the violin meanders around in the stratosphere and finally ends up on a high B natural, while the orchestra has held a quiet B-flat chord. If this were 1890 that would be unconscionable: The B should resolve down to the B flat, and you'd have a nice complete chord. …

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