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Humanities LibreTexts

The Basic Elements of Music: The Musical Language

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  • A musical composition is constructed as solidly as a building, and its essential materials are Rhythm, Harmony and Melody.

    Rhythm lays the foundation, providing the listener with a skeleton shape of the work.

    Click the link to listen to the song “America” from West Side Story.  Notice that the beat is not steady but fluctuates between 2 groups of 3, and 3 groups of 2. 

    Melody is the changing of pitches that are interwoven with rhythm to provide a meaningful pattern.

    Harmony provides the background and context of the work.

    -- The Arts-World Themes, Geraldine Nagel