A sequence of sounds in fixed temporal and pitch intervals that are thought to belong together (in the meaning of a „closed and ordered sequence of sounds“.1))

In the esthetic conception of Baroque music, melody was „a fine tune where single sounds follow each other so well and desirably that susceptible senses are moved“; a good melody was therefore understood to be „light, fluent, clear and lovely“.2) In the age of Romanticism, melody was seen as „a sequence of single sounds that, in changing phrases and periods … represent a sentiment or passion“; it was inspired by harmony and rhythm.3)

In contemporary understanding, melody is shaped by three criteria:4)

  • a nexus between the sounds it consists of;
  • esthetic coherence between the sounds it consists of;
  • tonality, i.e., the dominance of a root note.

In Germany, melodies are covered by copyright.5)

As defined by the German Federal Supreme Court on February 3, 1988.
Johann Mattheson: Der vollkommene Capellmeister, Hamburg 1739, pp. 138 and 140.
Wilhelm Heinse, quoted in Hans Nehrkorn: Wilhelm Heinse und sein Einfluss auf die Romantik, Göttingen 1904, p. 28.
Walter Van Dyke Bingham: Studies in melody, Baltimore 1910, p. 2.