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Roots of the ClassicalThe Popular Origins of Western Music$
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Peter Van der Merwe

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198166474

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198166474.001.0001

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The Children‘s Chant

The Children‘s Chant

(p.27) 3 The Children‘s Chant
Roots of the Classical

Peter van der Merwe

Oxford University Press

The foundation of melody — psychologically, historically, and theoretically — is the children's chant, a little tune confined to three pitches (together making a minor third with a superimposed major second) that children in all cultures begin to sing at the age of about three. It is not confined to children, or to musically primitive cultures, but underlies all melody. This chapter looks at its relation to the major triad and its development into more complex patterns, and introduces three fundamental properties of music, all present in this chant: (1) chordality, or the bonding together of the intervals within the major triad; (2) melodic consonance, or the relative lack of tension between the same notes (the only entirely consonant interval is the octave); and (3) ambiguity, or multiplicity of relationships between melodic notes or rhythmic values.

Keywords:   children, major triad, melodic consonance, chordality, ambiguity, rhythmic values

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