In music theory, the term “sequence” is used to describe a passage of music in which a melodic and harmonic pattern is repeated at successively higher or lower pitch levels. For a very simple melodic example, recall the well-known tune of “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. The melodic pattern which sets the line “Doe, a deer / a female deer” is then repeated sequentially on the following line “Ray, a drop of golden sun,” and then again on the next two lines (“Me, a name…”; “Far, a long long way…”).

Courts, however, tend to use the term in a far less technical way—they use it to mean any melodic succession of notes. For example, the court in Newton v. Diamond discusses at length a “three-note sequence;” such a use bears no connection to the more technical use described above; it would be more accurate to refer to the “three-note sequence” as a melody, motive, or the more fey term “phraslet”.   In general, courts apply the word only to melodies (see Johnson v. Gordon, Swirsky v. Carey, Newton v. Diamond, Repp v. Lloyd-Webber, and Baxter v. MCA, Inc. ).   

 

References to other Glossary terms:

Harmony

Melody

Pitch