Prosody (music)

In music, prosody is the way the composer sets the text of a vocal composition in the assignment of syllables to notes in the melody to which the text is sung. For example, a songwriter might align downbeats or accents with stressed syllables or important words.

Any musical work with a singer, regardless of the genre, requires its composer or songwriter to examine the interplay between the music and the words. For example, the mood of the music should match that of the lyrical content; when the lyrics address a sad topic, the music should be sad. However, the term "prosody" tends to refer not to the matching of music with content, but with the matching of a melody with the language itself, so that the words being sung come across as naturally as possible. According to Mark Altrogge: "Generally when writing songs and poetry, we want to accent a phrase like we'd speak it."[1] Melodies that do not come relatively close to approximating speech make the words hard to understand; melodies that go beyond the point of clarity and come even closer to approximating speech make the singer sound more human and therefore have a stronger emotional impact on the listener.

A melody with good prosody will not assign long notes to relatively insignificant syllables, nor will it put them on the beat or give them any sort of accentuation. The musical phrases will match the grammatical phrases, so that musical pauses happen in places that would be natural for a speaker.


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