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Melodic imitation is a term that covers various genres of non-classical music which are primarily characterised by the dominance of a single strong melody line. Rhythm, tempo and beat are subordinate to the melody line or tune, which is generally easily memorable, and followed without great difficulty. Melodic music is found in all parts of the world, overlapping many genres, and may be performed by a singer or orchestra, or a combination of the two.
The fundamental principles and structural norms of melodic music were established in what is sometimes known as the Common practice period, dating from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Melodic music tends to have a consistent metre, pulse and tempo, things that are far less emphasised in contemporary music.
In the west, melodic music has developed largely from folk song sources, and been heavily influenced by classical music in its development and orchestration. In many areas the border line between classical and melodic popular music is imprecise. Opera is generally considered to be a classical form. The lighter operetta is considered borderline, whilst stage and film musicals and musical comedy are firmly placed in the popular melodic category. The reasons for much of this are largely historical.
Other major categories of melodic music include music hall and vaudeville, which, along with the ballad, grew out of European folk music. Orchestral dance music developed from localised forms such as the jig, polka and waltz, but with the admixture of Latin American, blues and ragtime influences, it diversified into countless sub-genres such as big band, cabaret and Swing. More specialised forms of melodic music include military music and religious music.
Traditional pop music overlaps a number of these categories: big band music and musical comedy, for example, are closely allied to traditional pop.