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Up, Down, Up Again

A gift for melody, like a lot of creative talents, is both seemingly innate—i.e., some people have it, others just don't—and extremely contingent on a composer's taste, craft, effort, sweat, access to inspiration. Which is to say that while many of the best melodies seem almost to sing themselves, or to have somehow dropped from the ether fully formed (even as perceived by their creators), many others derive their earwormy pleasure from clearly conscious devices, conspicuous craft, even what you might call a bag of tricks. I'm thinking right now of a simple but effective trick employed by two of the 20th century's great natural melodists, Paul McCartney and Richard Rodgers. I noted the first example because for some years "I've Just Seen a Face" was my default bedtime lullaby for my youngest son. It's a basic step-wise progression of three notes up (B, C#, D), separated by two or three pickup notes on the tonic of A. I've bolded the syllables of t

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