It's interesting the way you receive your inheritance.
I was thinking of this listening to one of our teen songwriters as she was honing the phrasing of her new song "Distance" for our Somewhere Project workshop at Carnegie Hall. The song is filled with beautiful melismas that amplify the lines and inflect it with a pop/Gospel feel. Whether she was aware of it at first or not, she is acting as a carrier of her legacy - melismatic singing has been handed to her, and she is the proud current owner. I'm amazed at the way she uses the flourishes to intensify the repetition of a line so naturally, and the way she also uses it to search for a note. She will hear a harmony, either in her head or in an accompaniment, and she sings the melisma as a way of testing out the relationship between the harmony and melody. As she is singing, she is composing. She is an improviser, a composer, a singer. She uses flashes of spirit to discover the tune that might be, and in that way, she sings what is.
Do I sound like a proud workshop leader? Guilty as charged.