I will now turn for a moment to the high aesthetic doctrine of Benedetto Croce. He in his Aesthetic tells us that all art is expression. True enough, as far as it goes; but what do we mean by expression? Croce's doctrine of expression is incomplete, he does not explain clearly what he means by expression, because he also avoids the question of the necessary relation between the artist and his audience; and this is the question which our thought about art has to deal with, just as we have to solve it in our practice of art and in our actual relation with the artist. Croce does not see that the question—What is expression? depends upon the question—What is the relation between the artist and his audience? He does see that the audience exists, which Whistler denies; he insists that the audience have the same faculties as the artist, though to a less degree—that the artist is not a dreamer apart. He says indeed that to experience a work of art we also must exercise our aesthetic faculty; our very experience of it is itself expression; and this is a most important point. But for Croce, as for Whistler, the artist, when he expresses himself, is concerned only with what he expresses, not with the people to whom he expresses himself. Croce does not see this obvious fact, that a work of art is a work of art because it is addressed to some one and is not a private activity of the artist. That is why he fails to give a satisfying account of the nature of expression. Croce cannot distinguish between expression, or art, and day-dreaming; but the distinction is this, that as soon as I pass from day-dreaming to expression, I am speaking no longer to myself but to others. So the form of every work of art is conditioned by the fact that it is addressed to others. A story, for instance, is a story, it has a plot, because it is told. A play is a play, and also has a plot, because it is made to be acted before an audience. A piece of music has musical form, with its repetitions and developments, because it is made to be heard. A picture has composition, emphasis, because it is painted to be seen. The very process of pictorial art is a process of pointing out. When a man draws he makes a gesture of emphasis; he says—This is what I have seen and what I want you to see. And in each case the work of art is a work of art, expression is expression, because it implies an audience or spectators. Without that implication, without the effort of address, there could be no art, no expression, at all.
In fact, art in its nature is a social activity, because man in his nature is a social being. Art does not exist in isolation because man does not exist in isolation. His very faculties are in their nature social always and whether for good or for evil. The individual in isolation is a figment of man's mind, and so is art in isolation.
But although art is a social activity, it is not, as Tolstoy thinks, a moral activity. The artist does not address mankind with the object of doing them good. It is useless to say that he ought to have that object; if he had he would not be an artist. The aim of doing good is itself incompatible with the artistic aim. But that is not to say that art does not do good. It may do good all the more because the artist is not trying to do good.
But what is it that really happens when the artist addresses us, and why does he wish to address us? To answer this, we must consider our own experience, not merely as an audience but also as artists, for we are, as Croce insists, all of us to some extent artists. You have all no doubt been aware of some failure and dissatisfaction in those of your experiences which seem to you the highest. Suppose, for instance, you see some extreme beauty, as of a sunset. It leaves you sad with a feeling of your own inadequacy. You have not been equal to it, and why? You will say in speaking of it to others—I wish I could tell you what I felt or what I saw, but I can't. That wish is itself natural and instantly stirred in you by the experience of extreme beauty. The experience seems incomplete, because you cannot tell anyone else what you felt and saw; and you are hurt by your effort and failure to do so.
It is a fact of human nature that the experience of any beauty does arouse in us the desire to communicate our experience; and this desire is instinctive. It is not that we wish to do good to others by communicating it. It is simply that we wish to communicate it. The experience itself is incomplete for us until we communicate it. The happiness which it gives us is frustrated by our failure to communicate it. We should be utterly happy if we could make others see what we see and feel what we feel, but we fail of happiness because we cannot.
Why? One can only conjecture and express conjectures in dull language. This beauty is itself a universal quality or virtue which makes particular things more real when they have it. It speaks to the universal in us, to the everyman in us, and, speaking so, it makes us aware of the universal in all men. We too wish to speak to that universal, we wish to find it and the more intense reality which is to be seen only where it is seen, we wish ourselves to be a part of it; and we can do that only when all other men also are a part of it. Beauty seems to speak not merely to us but to the whole listening earth, and we would be assured that all the earth is listening to it, not to us.
But we ourselves have to play our part in the realizing of this universal; the sense of it comes and goes; for the most part we ourselves are not aware of it. We are merely particulars, like other men, and separated from them by the fact that we are all particulars. Only, when for a moment we are aware of it, then we are filled with a passion to make it real and permanent; and it is this passion which causes art and the blind instinctive effort at art, at communication, at expression, which we have all experienced.
But it follows from this that the audience to which the artist addresses himself is not any particular men and women: it is mankind. The moment he addresses himself to any particular men and women and considers their particular wants and desires, he is giving up that very sense of the universal that impelled him to expression; he is ceasing to be an artist and becoming something else, a tradesman, a philanthropist, a politician. The artist as artist speaks to mankind, not to any particular set of men; and he speaks not of himself but of that universal which he has experienced. His effort is to establish that universal relation which he has seen, a universal relation of feeling. And to him, in his effort, there is neither time nor space. Mankind are not here or there or of this moment or of that; they are everywhere and for ever. The voice in Mozart's music is itself a universal voice speaking to the universe of universal things. And all art is an acting of the beauty that has been experienced, a perpetuation of it so that all men may share it for ever. The artist's effort is to be the sunset he has seen, to eternalize it in his art, but always so that he and all men may be part of this universal by their common experience of it.
So, as I say, the artist must not speak to any particular audience with the aim of pleasing them—there is that amount of truth in Whistler's doctrine; and he does fail if he does not communicate, since his aim is communication—there is that amount of truth in Tolstoy's doctrine.
But the next question that arises is the attitude of ourselves to the artist.
We have to remember that he is speaking not to us in particular, but to all mankind, and that he speaks, not to please us or to satisfy any particular demand of ours, but to communicate to us that universal he has experienced so that we with him may become part of it.
It follows then that we must not make any particular demands upon him. We must not come with our own ideas of what he ought to give us. If we do, we shall be an obstruction between him and that ideal universal audience to which he would address himself. We shall be tempting him, with our egotistical demands, to comply with them. But these demands we are always making; and that is why the relation between the artist and any actual public is usually nowadays wrong. I was once looking at Tintoret's 'Crucifixion' in the Scuola di San Rocco with a lady, and she said to me—'That isn't my idea of a horse.' 'No'—I answered—'it's Tintoret's. If it were your idea of a horse, why should you look at it? You look at a picture to get the artist's idea.' But that isn't the truth about art either. The artist doesn't try to substitute his own particular for yours. He tries to communicate to you that universal which he has experienced, because it is to him a universal, not his own, but all men's, and he wishes to realize it by sharing it with all men. His faith, though he may never have consciously expressed it to himself, is in this universal which, because it is a universal, can be communicated to all men. His effort is based on that faith. He speaks because he believes all men can hear, if they will.
So the effort of the audience must be to hear and not to distract him with their particular demands. They must not, for instance, demand that he shall remind them of what they have found pleasant in actual life. They must not complain of him that he does not paint pretty women for them, or compose bright cheerful tunes. They are not to him particular persons to be tickled according to their particular tastes, but mankind to whom he wishes to communicate the universal he has experienced.
So, if there is an actual audience listening for that universal and clearing their minds of their own egotistical demands, then art will flourish and the artist will be encouraged to communicate that universal which he has experienced. But if particular audiences demand this or that and are not happy until they get it, if they say to him—Tickle my senses—Persuade me that all is for the best in the world as I like it; that prosperous people like myself have a right to be prosperous; that I am a fine fellow because I once fell in love; that all who disagree with me are wicked and absurd—then you will have the kind of art you have now, in the theatre, in the picture gallery, in the cinema, in the novel; yes, and in your buildings, your cups and saucers, your pots and pans even. For in the very arts of use you demand that the craftsman shall provide you with what you demand, and as cheap as possible; because you do not understand that he should express himself, you do not understand also that his expression is worth having and that he ought to be paid for it. In the very pattern on a tea-cup, if it is worth having at all, there is the communication of that universal which the artist has experienced. It is there to remind you of itself whenever you drink tea, to bring the sacrament of the universal into everything as if it were music accompanying and heightening all our common actions; but if you want a fashionable tea-cup cheap, you will get that, and you will not get anything expressed or communicated with it. You will be shut up in yourself and your own particularity and ugliness. If we want art we must know how we should think and feel and act so as to encourage the artist to produce it.
But why should we want art at all? I hope I have answered that question incidentally. It is so that we may have life more abundantly; for we can have life more abundantly only when we are in communication with each other, mind flowing into mind, the universal expressing itself in and through all of us. We all more or less blindly desire this communication, but we seldom know why we desire it or even what exactly it is we desire. We make the strangest, clumsiest efforts to communicate with each other—I am making one now—and we are constantly inhibited by false shame from real communication. We are afraid to be serious with each other, afraid of beauty, of the universal, when we see it. On this point I will tell a little story from Mr. Kirk's Study of Silent Minds. At a concert behind the front, an audience of soldiers had listened to the ordinary items, a performance, as Mr. Kirk says, 'clean, bright, and amusing', which means of course silly and ugly. Then the orchestra played the introduction to the Keys of Heaven, and a gunner remarked—'Sounds like a bloody hymn.' That was his fear of beauty, his false shame. But when the Keys of Heaven was ended, the whole audience, including the gunner, gave a sigh of content; and after that they went to hear it time after time. Well, the beauty of that song, and of all art, is the 'Key of Heaven' itself. For Heaven is a state of being of which we all dream, however dully, in which all have the power of communication with each other; in which all are aware of the universal, possessed by it and a part of it, all members of one body, all notes in one tune, and therefore all the more intensely themselves, for a note is itself, finds itself, only in a tune; otherwise it is mere nonsense.
Of course if you are to believe this, you must believe in the existence of a universal, independent of yourself, yet also in you and in all men. You must believe that beauty exists as a virtue, a quality, a relation of things, and that it is possible for you also to produce that virtue, to live in that relation. But no one can prove that to you. The only way to believe it is to see beauty with intensity and to make the effort of communication in some form or other.
Tolstoy believes that the very word beauty is a useless one because, he says, all efforts to define beauty are vain. But that is true of the word life, yet we have to use the word because life exists. And all explanations of art which refuse to believe in beauty as a reality independent of us, yet one of which we may become a part, do fall into incredible nonsense. We are told that art is play; the only answer to which is that it isn't. Others say that it is an expression of the sexual instinct, which has forgotten itself. They discover that in some savage tribe the male beats a tom-tom to attract the female; and they conclude that Beethoven's Choral Symphony is only a more elaborate tom-tom beaten to attract a more sophisticated female. But again the only answer is that it isn't; and that if all our ancestors were, not Whistler's dreamers apart, but beaters of tom-toms to attract females, then there was something in the sound of the tom-tom that made them forget the female. The reality of art is to be found not in its origins but in what it is trying to be; and what it is trying to be is always a communication between mind and mind; what we aim at in art is a fellowship not for purposes of use but for its own sake, the fellowship we feel when we are all together singing a great tune.
But now, since we have a hundred foolish ideas about art, its nature and value, it is of the greatest importance that we should attain to a right idea of it, not only as a matter of theory to be discussed, but as a religion to be practised. And, if we can grasp this right idea of it, we shall not think of art as consisting merely of the fine arts, painting, poetry, music, sculpture. We shall see that it is possible for men to be artists, to exercise this great activity of communication, in the work by which they earn their living, and that a happy society is one in which all men do so exercise it. We are very far from that happiness now, and that is why Ruskin and Morris became almost desperate rebels against our present society. What they said about art and its nature is still the best that has been said about it, far nearer to philosophic truth than all that the professed philosophers have said, and of the utmost moment to us now. For if we could believe them we should change most of our values; we should see that the ordinary man, now being deprived of all the joy of art in his work, is living a mutilated life; we should place art among the rights of man. Whereas Rousseau said—All men are born free and everywhere they are in chains—we should say—All men are born artists and everywhere they are drudges. With our curious English originality, which hits on so many momentous truths and then makes no use of them, it is we who have found the greatest truth about art, but neither we nor any other people is at present making much use of it. Because we lack art, lack the power of communication, we lack fellowship; and as Morris said—Fellowship is life and the lack of it is death.
W. Morris, Hopes and Fears for Art.
A GENERATION OF MUSIC
DR. ERNEST WALKER
The general subject of this course is European Thought; and, to some, music may perhaps seem in this connexion rather like an intruder. Indeed, if the musician is, in William Morris's phrase, 'the idle singer of an empty day', if his business is to administer alternate stimulants and soporifics to the nerves or, at best, the surface emotions, or to serve in Cinderella-like fashion any passing, shallow needs of either the individual or the crowd, then, obviously, he has no place worth self-respecting mention in the world as it exists for philosophy. But widespread as some such conception of the function of music is, I hope you will agree with me in throwing it aside as, at any rate for our present purpose, no more worth the trouble of even approximately patient argument than that other less general but more objurgated conception of musical composition as something like a mechanically calculated spinning of bloodless formulae. By the conditions of its being, music has to express itself through non-intellectual channels, but may we not say that its essence is intellectual, that it is, in Combarieu's phrase, the art of thinking in sound—thinking in as precise a sense as the word can bear? It does not express itself verbally: it is self-dependent, with a language available only for the expression of its own ideas and not even indirectly translatable by nature into a verbal medium. Yet it is thought none the less; perhaps all the more. Words, we have often been told, serve for the concealment of thought; but the language of music is more subtle, more comprehensive. It has been said that where words end, music begins; and anyhow, for musicians, there stands on record the serenely proud claim of one of themselves. 'Only art and knowledge', said Beethoven, 'raise man to the divine; and music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and all philosophy.'
But I must not allow this little preliminary apology to stray into the field of abstract aesthetics. The subject proposed to me, the correlation of the progress of specifically musical thought during the last generation with the progress of European thought in general, is so extensive that I cannot within the necessary limits attempt to deal with more than some of the most salient features, and even those I shall have to treat in very broad outlines, with a certain disregard of detail and nicely balancing qualifications. I shall only attempt to put before you what seem to me the most prominent considerations, and to throw out suggestions which I hope you may perhaps, if sufficiently interested, develop at leisure for yourselves.
In several ways the correlation of the musician with the non-musical world is now more intimate and conscious than ever before. Forty or fifty years ago—in spite of brilliant individual exceptions—musicians were, in the main, self-centred craftsmen; they were inclined to drift into a backwater, away from the chief currents of the intellectual, or often indeed of the general artistic life of their day, and they seem on the whole to have been content to have it so. In England we were somewhat behindhand, no doubt, in our participation in the gradual but steady change. But men like Parry and Stanford brought their profession into close touch with the general culture of their contemporaries, and made the universities and music understand each other; Grove, the first director of the Royal College, himself a man whose professional career (not to mention his amateur interests) had ended in music after ranging through civil engineering, business organization, biblical archaeology, and the editorship of a great literary magazine, preached with infectious enthusiasm the new doctrine of the larger outlook; and for the last thirty years, even if our practice may have occasionally seemed somewhat to lag behind, at any rate our theory has not looked back. Musicians have been granted their claim to be judged by the same intellectual and moral standards as other reasonable people; it is a modest claim, but, especially in England, it has had to be fought for.
And the entry on this wider heritage, which English musicians, apart from an exception or two such as Pierson and Bennett, won for the first time a generation ago, has had in every country a definite influence on composition, especially (as is only natural) on the composer's attitude towards the musical setting of literature. I should be far from saying that any modern is a greater song-writer than Schubert; but it is obvious that the followers of Wolf and Duparc and Moussorgsky are aiming at something different. They may not express the general mood of the poem more faithfully, but they certainly attach more importance to its lyrical structure and to flexibly expressive diction: they accept the poet as an equal colleague. The serious song-writer can hardly any longer, like Schumann in his setting of Heine's 'Das ist ein Floeten und Geigen', afford to stultify great poetry by quoting from memory and getting the adjectives deplorably wrong. Nor can he, like Beethoven in 'Adelaide' and the 'Entfernte Geliebte' cycle, let himself weave musical structures many sizes too large for the proper structure of the words, which have consequently to be repeated over and over again with very little regard for poetical or even common sense. Schumann and Beethoven, especially the former, were culturally very far from narrow-minded men; but there was not in their days any general cultural pressure sufficiently strong to influence them as composers. Now, the pressure is so strong that few can resist. Most composers have now fully learned their lesson of a fitting politeness towards their poet-colleagues—learned it in the main, so far as not intuitively, from the high examples set by Wolf and the modern French school—and have, moreover, come to recognize the duty of setting such words as may be fit not only to be sung but to be read, a duty shockingly neglected by many of the greatest geniuses in musical history.
And the cultural pressure has gone farther than this. Not only has the increasing complexity of life broadened the musician's personal outlook, professional or unprofessional: it has also modified, whether for better or for worse, the outlook of the music itself. We may conveniently divide all music into two great classes: 'absolute' music, in which the composer appeals to the listener through the direct medium of the pure sound and that alone; and 'applied' music, in which the appeal is more or less conditioned by words, either explicit or implicit by association, or by bodily movement of some kind, dramatic or not, or by any other non-musical factor that affects the nature of the composer's thought and the method of its presentation. Up to the present generation, instrumental music, unconnected with the stage, has been virtually identifiable with absolute music; there are a handful of exceptions—sporadic pieces, usually though not invariably thrown off in composers' relatively easy-going moods, and an isolated figure or two of serious revolt, like Berlioz and Liszt—but they only serve to prove the rule. Now, this identification is far from holding good. More consciously than ever before, instrumental music is straining beyond its own special domain and asking for external spurs to creative activity. And it asks in various quarters. It may ask merely the hint of particular emotional moods conditioned by special circumstances; or it may vie with the poet and the novelist in analysis of character. The psychology, again, may pass into the illustration of incident, whether partially realistic or purely imaginative, or into the illustration of philosophical tenets, as in Strauss's version of Nietzsche's doctrines in his Also sprach Zarathustra or Scriabin's of theosophy in his Prometheus. Or the composer may go directly to painting, whether actual as in Rachmaninoff's symphonic poem on Boecklin's picture of 'The island of the dead', or visionary as in Debussy's 'La cathedrale engloutie'. There is indeed no end to such instances.
All this development of instrumental music into territories more or less adjacent makes a very imposing show; and it is so markedly a product of the last generation that we easily over-estimate the novelty of its essential results. As I have said, instrumental music is more and more asking for external spurs to creative activity; but this does not mean that music as a whole is, so to speak, breaking loose from its moorings and adventurously voyaging on to uncharted seas. What it means is, simply, that, under the stress of modern culture, the barriers between vocal and instrumental, dramatic and non-dramatic, music have been to a great extent abolished.
We may consider music as normally involving three persons: the composer, the performer, and the listener. Until the present generation, the role of the listener was normally quite passive. All that he had to do was to keep his ears open to the music, and further, when required, his ears open to words and his eyes to dramatic presentation. The composer and the performers did everything for him. But now they do not. The modern composer urges that, just as vocal music demands from the listener a separate knowledge of the words, so instrumental music may demand, as a condition of full understanding, a separate knowledge of some verbally expressible signification. The parallel no doubt holds well enough even if we answer, as we certainly may, that in much vocal music the words are so unimportant that it really does not musically matter if they are unintelligible or inaudible. But this latter-day demand on the listener is considerable. The listener to Strauss's Don Quixote, for example, must, in order to appreciate in full measure any section of this long work, have a fairly close acquaintance with Cervantes' book—whether derived from an analytical programme or from personal reading: there are neither words nor acting to give a clue, nor does the printed music itself give the slightest assistance, except in so far that a couple of themes are labelled with the names of the 'Knight of the sorrowful countenance' himself and Sancho Panza. Sometimes, no doubt, a composer helps at any rate the purchaser of his music more; but to the listener he gives nothing, and leaves his thought, as embodied in the mere title, to be reached as best it may. The modern composer makes these demands on the listener continually; and he does so simply because the sphere of the music-lover's imaginativeness and general culture has become so greatly enlarged that he thinks he can fairly afford to take the risk.
But we may well ask whether the music of suggestion has not, in its restless anxiety to correlate itself with non-musical culture, reached or perhaps even overstepped the limits of musical possibility. It is no question of a composer's rights: he has a right to do anything he can, provided that he preserves a due proportion between essentials and unessentials. And judicious criticism will turn, if not a blind, at any rate a short-sighted eye towards a great composer's occasional realistic escapades, which, however irritating they may perhaps be to others, are to him only a part of the general background of his texture; after all, in their different media, Bach and most of the other giants have occasionally allowed themselves similar little flings. It is a question not of rights, but of powers. The poet and the painter and the novelist, not to mention all the non-human agents in the universe, are bound to do a good many things much better than the composer can; and even if he may personally aspire to be a kind of spectator of all time and existence, he has no means of making his listeners see eye to eye with himself. The risk he runs may be too great. Realizing as we must that all this ferment of suggestion-seeking has undoubtedly vivified and enriched musical development in not a few aspects, we may nevertheless feel, and feel profoundly, that there is a cardinal weakness inherent in it. A composer may so easily be tempted to forget that it is after all by his music, and by his music alone, that he stands or falls. If he asks too much extra-musical sympathy from the listener, he defeats his own end. The listener will inevitably concentrate on the unessentials, and will as likely as not get them quite wrong; he may indeed indulge the habit of realistic suspicion to such an extent as to make him become thoughtlessly unfair and credit the composer with sins of taste, whether babyish or pathological, of which the objurgated culprit may be altogether innocent. If a composer plays with fire, he is fairly sure to burn some one's fingers, even if he successfully avoids burning his own. And anyhow it is waste of time, and worse, for us to cudgel our brains to fits of entirely unnecessary inventiveness when the composer has left his music unlabelled. We sometimes hear of children being encouraged to give verbal or dramatic expression of their own to instrumental music; that is not education—very much the reverse. It is merely the expense of spirit in a waste of fancifulness, the wilful murder of all feeling for music as such.
The feeling for music as such, that is still the one thing needful. And by this canon, so it seems to me, we must judge all these alarums and excursions of modern composers. If we hold firmly by it, we shall not be unduly worried when we learn that the music which seems so perfectly to realize the composer's expressed meaning has been originally designed by him quite otherwise—as has happened oftener than is generally known; though this fact does not excuse wilful contradictions of a composer's definite intentions, as in the vulgar perversion of Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherezade popularized by the latest fashionable toy, the Russian Ballet, which would do more musically unexceptionable service were it to confine itself to works specially designed for it, such as the fascinating and finely-wrought scores of Stravinsky, or concert works like Balakireff's Thamar, based on programmes that can be mimetically reproduced without unfaithfulness. And anyhow, in the midst of all these appeals to the eye or the literary memory or what not, we may call to mind the simple truth that music is something to be heard with either the inward or the outward ear, and if we are too much distracted otherwise, our hearing sense suffers. We shall pay too high a price for our latter-day correlation of music with literature and the other arts if the music itself has to play the part of Cinderella. 'We do it wrong, being so majestical.'
Again, we may endeavour to correlate recent musical development with the development of the conceptions of nationality and race. With nationality in the strictly political sense music has, indeed, nothing to do: there is no inborn musical expression common to all the inhabitants of Switzerland, or the United States, or the British Empire (or indeed the British Islands). And if we abandon political nationality entirely and think of national music solely in terms of race, we still have to make very large deductions. Heredity counts, it would seem, for far less than environment in musical development—especially so in these days of free intercourse. Nevertheless, we may to some extent isolate the racial element; and within the last generation increasingly vigorous efforts have been made to do so—though they have perhaps neglected sufficiently to observe that racial ancestry is often an extremely mixed quantity.
To the musician, this insistence on race is in the main a quite modern thing. It is true that, as the successive waves of Italian influence flowed northward in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, they met in England, France, and Germany, and, at the end, in Russia, native cross-currents; and there was plenty of controversy between the opposing parties. But this controversy was mainly concerned with matters of technique; whereas the whole force of the modern movement consists in its reliance on the simple folk-music which is supposed to be characteristic of the race as a whole, and about which hardly any composers of the past consciously troubled themselves at all. Haydn and Beethoven, no doubt, used folk-tunes in their own works to some extent, but the former's adaptations from the uncultivated tunes of his own Croatian people are polished nearly out of recognition, and when the latter commandeers from Ireland or Russia or elsewhere, nothing but pure Beethovenishness remains after his masterful hand has done its will. We may say, indeed, that nationality, as such, was never in their time a conscious factor in musical composition.
The modern movement seems to owe its origin to several non-musical causes. For example, the spread of political democracy had no little influence in arousing interest in the music specifically characteristic of at any rate the non-urban sections of the newly enfranchised classes. But, in the main, it was caused by the modern rise into something like political prominence of the smaller nations, smaller either in size or in historical importance. The events of 1848, for example, brought Hungarian folk-music before the world; Bohemian claims against Austria produced the work of Smetana and Dvořak, largely based on the general style of their own native melodies; the Irish Question made us know the Irish songs; and the dominating races followed those leads, at any rate in so far as to take interest in their own traditional music, and try to evaluate its differentiating factors. Conscious connexion between artistic composition and folk-music has varied very much: very strong in Russia and other Slavonic countries, it has been very weak in Italy and France; in Germany we find all stages between the work of Brahms, where the folk-element is very notable, and of Wolf, where it is non-existent; in our own islands it has been very weak, but is now becoming very strong. But, whether this connexion has been conscious or not, still, sooner or later, all the insisters on the importance of the element of nationality have joined hands with the enthusiasts for the folk-music of the people. In the work of preserving the knowledge of this folk-music England has been one of the last of all countries: even the last edition of Grove's Dictionary, our standard authority, gives many pages to Scotland and Ireland and Wales, and smuggles English folk-music into an appendix. Only indeed in the twentieth century has anything like an adequate study of the varied treasures of English folk-music become possible, and we have learned enough to realize that great folk-music is no monopoly of the races that have been either politically or socially decentralized.
This advance of the conception of racialism has widened and intensified music in not a few ways. It has brought to our knowledge many splendid melodies, infinitely varied in design and emotional range, and, at their best, inspirations that the greatest composers would have been proud to sign. And, mixed as are the feelings with which we must contemplate the general course of our own musical history, we can anyhow boast of some of the finest folk-tunes in existence in these relics of the old world on its last western fringes, in Ireland and the Hebrides. We have come to see that this great mass of traditional music—only in part, of course, the outpouring of sheer genius, but at its worst sincere—is, with its appeal alike to the child and the adult, either in years or in musical culture, the most perfect educational weapon yet devised with which to combat all the forces that make for musical degradation. And, apart from all this half-unconsciously wrought music, we have been shown the value of the bypaths in art, of the work of the great men of the younger races like the Scandinavians and the Czechs and most of all the Russians, who do not speak the older classical tongues but have, all the same, abundance to say that is well worth the whole world's hearing. It is to our immense gain that we have now come, far more than ever before, to realize that in the house of music there are many mansions. And, once again, we have been taught the duty of being fair to the men of our own blood, past and present. Particularly in our own artistic history there has been visible a strongly marked tendency, such as no other nation has shown in equal measure, to neglect and depreciate native work in comparison with foreign, even when the latter might perhaps be worse. But I think we may say, without self-laudation, that British composition is now worth some considerable attention from ourselves and others; it was, not unnaturally, wellnigh forgotten during its sleep from the death of Purcell till the rise of Parry—a fairly sound sleep, during which it occasionally half-opened its eyes for a moment or two—but it is wide awake now. We are still slow to learn the lesson; but we have come to realize, at any rate theoretically, the duty of doing what we can, in the spirit not of favouritism but of justice and knowledge, to disprove the proverb that a prophet (and an artist also) has no honour in his own country and in his father's house.
So much to the good. But to-day, more than ever before, many voices are urging us to go farther—and, I think, to fare worse. Artistic racialism has always been spontaneous, so far as the art is great. No composer who is worth anything can be dragooned into being patriotic: he will go his own way. Some are attracted more than others by the general types of phrase or the general emotional moods exemplified in the folk-music of their own race; but that is a matter for neither credit nor discredit. Individuality includes race as the greater includes the less. The only vital consideration is the value of the output in the general terms of all races; and indeed all great folk-music, like any other kind, speaks, for those who have ears to hear, a world-language and not a dialect. And there is still more at stake in this issue. Those who, as I do, hold that the best chance for the political future of the world lies in the weakening of national and racial as well as class consciousness, must needs regard very suspiciously any of these modern attempts to force music into channels which are deliberately designed for it by non-musical considerations: the fettering, by set purpose, of art is a very considerable step towards the fettering of life itself. England may sometimes have failed in kindness to her own artistic children, living and dead; but at any rate we have been free from the curse of a narrow jealousy and have steadfastly held to the proud faith of the open door and the open mind. The ideal—so violently dinned into our ears nowadays—of a national school of composers may very easily mean a wilful narrowing of our artistic heritage. If an English composer with nothing to say for himself imitates Brahms or Debussy, it is obviously regrettable; but he will not mend matters by imitating Purcell. And, after all, the musician who (save occasionally when seeking texts for his own individual discourses) borrows his material from his native folk-music stamps himself, just as much as if he borrowed from any other quarter, as a common plagiarist incapable of inventing material of his own. If we may adapt for the purpose Johnson's famous aphorism about patriotism and scoundrels, we may say that racial parochialism is the last refuge of composers who cannot compose. Let us assert once more the supreme beauty of folk-music at its best; but it is often childish, and, anyhow, childish or not, it is after all the work of children. And any of the world's activities would come to a strange pass if children—or any races or classes which, through lost opportunities or the oppression of others, are still virtually children—were to dictate principles of intolerance to those who, by no merit of their own but as a plain matter of fact, can possess the wider vision. Let a composer steep himself as much as he can in his native folk-music, as in all other great music, and then write in sincerity whatever is in his own marrow; but anything approximately like a chauvinistic attitude towards music, as towards any other of the things of the spirit, means either insensibility to spiritual ideals or unfaithfulness to them. Let me take an analogy. I have always felt that a philosophical and historical study of the idea of honour would throw more light than anything else on many great problems, notably the problem of war, and that in this investigation the conception of the duel would have a very prominent place. May we not say that, just as the individual honour of each of us, unless we are members of the self-styled upper classes of a few countries, is now supposed to be able to take care of itself, so the blood in a composer's veins will, if his music is worth anything, be able to take care of itself also? Neither honour nor artistic personality is affectable by external considerations which are on a different plane of value. And music indeed is the most specifically international, or supernational, of all the arts; it has not, like literature, any barriers of language, nor, like painting or sculpture or architecture, any local habitation. Musical separatism is not a natural quality; it needs careful and continuous fostering. And I know from personal experience that, all through the war, there was no difficulty at all in carrying on concerts in the programmes of which works by living German composers, and songs in the German language, were included in their due proportions just as before.
Another great factor in modern European thought with which I would attempt to correlate music is the factor of religion. No one will deny that the last generation has seen profoundly important changes in religious thought: whatever may have been the eddies and backwaters, the main stream has run, and still runs, like a cataract. These changes may be very differently judged by different types of men, all of them equally firm believers in the supremacy of spiritual ideals: some may definitely regret, some may, with the help of such conceptions as that of progressive revelation, steer a middle course, some (among whom I would number myself) may definitely welcome. But in whatever light we may regard these radical refusals of the old allegiances, we shall naturally expect to find their influence in music, which has had in many ways so intimate a connexion with religion. Indeed, the conception of music as in some special way the handmaid of religion dies very hard. It is still possible, in April 1919, for distinguished musicians, when appealing for funds for the foundation of a professorship of ecclesiastical music, to put their names to the statement that 'the church will always be the chief home and school of music for the people': and this when the facts about attendances at places of worship have long been familiar. We must rate the influence of church music more modestly; it has a great influence in its own sphere, but its sphere is only one among many.
We may, I think, envisage this religious development on its practical side as a process of differentiation by which the sincere standers in the old and the middle and the new paths have little by little drawn apart intellectually—but not, in societies that are happily able to take broad views of human nature, otherwise than intellectually—not only from each other but still more from those who, whatever their ostensible labels, are in reality followers of Gallio and routine. And something like the same process is observable in the religious music of the past generation. Many of its old conventions have silently dropped away, unregarded and unregretted: whatever the outlooks, and they are many and various, they are more clear-sighted, more sincere. Here in England we have somewhat lagged behind: we have had, not perhaps altogether fairly but indubitably, a reputation for national hypocrisy to sustain, and our religious music has only with difficulty shaken itself loose. Not very long ago, Saint-Saens's Samson and Delilah, now one of the most popular of operas, could only be performed as an oratorio: it dealt with biblical incidents and characters, therefore it was religious music, therefore it could not be given stage presentation. Of course this kind of attitude is never logical: for a long time we closed Covent Garden to Strauss's Salome for the same reason, but no one, so far as I know, ever proposed to endow it with a religious halo. Now, when Sunday secular music is everywhere, its origins seem lost in antiquity; but the chamber-music concerts at South Place in London and Balliol College in Oxford, which are, I think I am right in saying, the twin pioneers, are both little over thirty years old. In most other countries, however, music has suffered far fewer checks of this kind; and it is of more importance to correlate musical and religious development on more general lines. Particularly interesting, I think, is the history of the decline of the oratorio, which I should myself be inclined to date from the production of the German Requiem of Brahms about half a century ago, though the real impetus has become apparent only during the last generation.
Brahms's Requiem was indeed something of a portent: it was a definite herald of revolt. The mere title, 'A German Requiem', involving the commandeering of the name hitherto associated exclusively with the ritual of the Roman Church and the practice of prayers for the dead, and its adaptation to entirely different words, was in itself of the utmost significance; and the significance was enhanced by the character of the words themselves. In the first place, they were self-selected on purely personal lines; in the second place, they were, theologically, hardly so much as Unitarian. Brahms claimed the right to express his own individual view of the problem, and at a length which involved the corollary that the problem was regarded in its completeness. The 'German Requiem' cannot be considered, as an anthem might be, as an expression of a mere portion of a complete conception of the particular religious problem: in an organic work of this length, what it does not assert it implicitly denies or at any rate disregards. And this was at once recognized, both by Brahms's opponents and by himself: he categorically refused to add any dogmatically Christian element to his scheme. Similarly with his Ernste Gesaenge, written some thirty years later, at the end of his life: he balances the reflections on death taken from Ecclesiastes and similar sources with the Pauline chapter on faith, hope, and charity—not with any more definite consolation. And again, with the choral works, the settings of Hoelderlin's Schicksalslied, Schiller's Naenie, Goethe's Gesang der Parzen (the first-fruits of the essentially modern spirit which has impelled so many composers to choral settings of great poetry)—they deal with the ultimate things, but the expression is never, so to speak, orthodox: it is imaginative, sometimes perhaps ironical, but never anything but intensely non-ecclesiastical.
Brahms's Requiem represents, as I have said, the beginning of the change in the conception of concert-room religious music, of the abandonment of the old type of oratorio in favour of something much more conscious and individual; and in refusing to take things for granted, religious music has been altogether in line with general religious development. The change can perhaps be observed in English music more markedly than elsewhere. Oratorio, in the sense in which we ordinarily use the term, is to all intents and purposes an invention of the genius of Handel reacting on his English environment: the form was of course older, but he gave it a specific shape that set the fashion for future times. It had its birth in a business speculation; it was a novelty designed to occupy the Lenten season when the theatres were not available for opera. Like the opera, it supplied narrative and incident and characterization though without scenery or action, and it dealt with biblical history. The history of the oratorio is the history of this loose compromise; it has afforded an attractive flavour of the theatre even to those to whom drama may in itself have seemed disreputable, and it has had the advantage of possessing subjects which combined unquestioningly accepted literal truth with unlimited possibilities for wholesale edification, and at the same time made no intimately personal claims. The libretto of Mendelssohn's Elijah is perhaps at once the most familiar and the most skilfully compiled example of the type; but it is now, so far as great music is concerned, extinct. Here in England—where, for something like a century and a half, the demand was so large that composers, when tired of writing oratorios themselves, still went on producing them out of the mangled fragments of other music—Parry's Judith of 1888 is the last of the old type from the pen of a great composer; and his subsequent works show, in striking fashion, the direction of the newer paths. There is no longer the assumption that everything in the Bible or the Apocrypha is at one and the same time literally true and somehow or other edifying. Job and King Saul are great literature and vivid drama; they stand on their own merits. And the long succession of smaller choral works, in which Parry mingled in curious but intensely personal fusion his own earnest but somewhat pedestrian poetry with fragments of the Old Testament prophets, represent a still further abandonment of the old routine; they form a connected exposition of his philosophy of life, on the whole theistic rather than specifically Christian, and always transparently individual. Individual—that is the real issue. According to their differing temperaments, different composers may swing towards either the right or the left wing of thought in these non-ecclesiastical expressions of ultimate things: Stanford may join with Whitman or Robert Bridges, Vaughan-Williams with Whitman or George Herbert, Frank Bridge with Thomas a Kempis, Walford Davies with a mediaeval morality-play, Gustav Hoist with the Rig-Veda, Bantock with Omar Khayyam. But the essentials, for any composer worth the name, are that his theme shall have its birth in personal vision and shall appeal to personal intelligence. The routine oratorio fulfilled neither of these conditions; and it is dead beyond recall. It was a curious illustration of foreign ignorance of British musical life that Saint-Saens, when asked to write a choral work for the Gloucester Festival of 1913, should have imagined that he was meeting our national tastes with an oratorio on the most prehistoric lines. However, the unanimous chilliness with which The Promised Land was received must have effectually disillusioned him.
But the liberalisers, though the more numerous force, have no monopoly of sincerity: among the genuine conservatives also we can find, I think, signs of the correlation of musical with religious development. We have had, during the last generation, many works that are in the legitimate line of descent from the great classical settings of ritual words or (as with the Passions and Cantatas of Bach) words that are intended anyhow to appeal not as literature but as dogma. When Elgar prints on the title-pages of his oratorios the letters A.M.D.G.—ad majorem Dei gloriam—the personal note is, in these days, obvious. His own libretti to The Apostles and its sequel The Kingdom (and to the further sequels which had been sketched out twelve years ago, though none has as yet seen the light) resemble those of the older type of oratorio in so far as they include narrative and dramatic incident and religious moralizing; but there is not a trace of the old lethargic taking things for granted, it is all a ringing sacramental challenge to the individual soul. Elgar's work is indeed the typical musical expression of recent Roman Catholic developments; but there are others also. There was Perosi, the Benedictine priest, whose oratorios, tentative, childishly sincere mixtures of Palestrina and Wagner, were forced upon Europe in the late 'nineties with the full driving power of his Church, and who, when his musical insufficiency became palpable, was dropped in favour of Elgar himself, whose sudden rise into deserved fame coincides in time. There was again the allocution of Pius X, known as the Motu proprio, which sought to reform ecclesiastical music and has, however fruitless it may have been elsewhere, made the services in Westminster Cathedral, under Dr. Terry's direction, a Mecca for musicians of all faiths who are interested in the great sixteenth-century masterpieces. There are also the aristocratically Catholic composers of latter-day France, centring round Vincent d'Indy and the Schola Cantorum and looking back for inspiration to Cesar Franck. And again, in the English communion, there is the marked High-Church movement for the encouragement of dignified music, a movement that has had great influence in the purification of popular taste. And the pivot round which all this turns is the dogmatic faith that definitely Christian expression in music is the property, the exclusive property, of those who by temperament and conviction are Christians. The attitude, like the conditions which have brought it about, is, I think, new: but some of its adherents go surely too far when they urge that those whose minds work otherwise cannot really appreciate this music at its due worth. Cesar Franck, that simple-minded childlike genius, once pronounced Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft 'very amusing'—a surely unique criticism—simply, it would seem, because it was eccentric enough not to take Catholicism as a primary postulate: I do not myself happen to have any information about Kant's musicianship—perhaps, like too many great thinkers, he knew little about music and cared less—but I think we may venture to say, in the abstract, that his philosophy would have made him fairer to Franck than Franck was to him.
And thus perhaps we may conclude that recent musical development has kept pace with religious development in concentrating more and more on individual sincerity, whether on the one side or the other, and abandoning the old easy-going haphazard routine. But, in reaction from the extreme right and the extreme left of the movement, we have also the sincere dislikers of stark thinking, whom their opponents call by dignified names of abuse, such as pragmatists or undenominationalists: and here again music keeps pace with religion. It is not the old routine again (though perhaps in practice it may at times come rather perilously near it); it is the more or less conscious adoption of a compromise. We can see its musical working best of all in the recent history of church music in England; it is true that the great mass of the younger musicians, here as in all other countries, stand outside these developments, and look both for ideals and practice elsewhere, but the developments have none the less been very significant. There have been three stages. A couple of generations ago there was no conflict and no call for compromise. The ecclesiastical musician of the time was expected, whether as composer, as organist, or as administrator, to do his best according to his lights: it was his accepted business, as presumably knowing more about the matter than the artistic laity, to lead their taste, not to follow. Then came the reign of men like Dykes and Stainer and Gounod, whose normal attitude involved the sacrifice by the musician of some of his musicianship in the supposed interests of religion. The supposed interests, I say; for the whole point of the third stage of development, the conflict in which English church music is now involved, is the denial by one of the opposing parties that the interests of religion are in any way served by such a sacrifice. It is a very keen conflict, in which the sympathies of the musician qua musician naturally lean towards those who uphold the inalienable dignity of his art: and even if he feels that ecclesiastical music, qua ecclesiastical, is outside his personal concern, influences from it are bound to radiate into the secular departments. But what I would more especially point out is that the religious and the musical developments proceed side by side. Just as the stricter purists in the one field are, in the other, generally inclined, even if themselves unmusical, to uphold plain-song and the Elizabethans and only such modern work as is inspired by something like a similar spirit, aloof and strong, so those whose religious mentality is of a more pliable type are, if musically indifferent, generally inclined to uphold the practical accommodation afforded by the inclusion of at any rate a certain quantity of music that is consciously adapted to the more immediately obvious emotions of the average worshipper.
And, even if there is no question of a lowered artistic standard, we see, I think, the same spirit of compromise, of ready acceptance of the more immediately obvious as the average and proper norm for all people, elsewhere on the boundaries of musical and religious life. It is so easy to turn a blind eye to logic and minorities, or even to majorities if they have little pressure, social or other, to back them up. To illustrate from one or two English examples, the transformations of cathedrals into secular concert-rooms are as open to blame from the one side as are, from the other, such assumptions as that of the 'Union of Graduates in Music' to take rank as a definitely ecclesiastical, indeed an Anglican society. Again, it so happens that a somewhat exceptional proportion of English musicians hold, or have held, as conditions of livelihood, posts to which not all of them would have aspired had other channels, open to their foreign fellow-artists, been open to them also; and, as a necessary consequence, there is more probability here than elsewhere of the musical profession presenting practical problems for the intellectual conscience to solve. So far as the musician is a personal non-conformer and also a teacher (even if not a church organist), he is often compelled into a tacit agreement with the Cowper-Temple clause, at the least: and so far as he is a convinced conformer, he is often compelled to strain, far beyond the meaning of the parable, the principle of letting the wheat and the tares grow together. This is called a practical age: and the compromisers, in religion and in religious music, are a powerful force. But I would venture to think that the future lies, in the long run, in other hands than theirs.
To the mediaeval musician, religion and science were the twin foundations of his art. But while the influence of religious development can without difficulty be traced in musical history, the influence of scientific development is much more contestable. It may indeed, I think, be said that post-mediaeval music has gone its own way without considering science at all. Theorists of course there have been, and still are, who try to discover scientific foundations for the art of music as we moderns know it: they do their best to correlate mathematical physics with practical composition. But during the past generation these attempts, never very hopeful, have become much less so. It is only too easy to play scientific havoc with the foundations of modern music: but, arbitrary and scientifically indefensible though they may be, they are our inheritance. Music has come to be what it is by methods that will not bear accurate investigation: our tonal systems are mere makeshifts, and no composer can completely express his thoughts in our clumsy notation. I doubt if, throughout all this last generation that has seen such overwhelming scientific advance, music has really been scientifically affected (in the strict sense of the word) in the slightest degree, if we exclude some interesting experiments in sympathetic resonances, primary and secondary, at which some recent composers for the piano have, at present rather tentatively, tried their hands. And whole-tone and duodecuple scales and modern harmony in general are taking us farther and farther away from those natural laws of the vibrating string upon which arm-chair theorists have sought to build a very top-heavy edifice. Of course, the vibrating string ultimately gives—mostly out of tune—all the notes of the chromatic scale, but composers employ them on principles the reverse of mathematical.
The growth of music has not been scientific; but growth of some kind is evident enough, though it is none too easy to define it at all adequately. Some might say, with Romain Rolland in his Musiciens d'autrefois, that 'the efforts of the centuries have not advanced us a step nearer beauty since the days of St. Gregory and Palestrina'; but this is surely a narrow outlook. Beauty combines the many with the one: and plain-song and the Missa Papae Marcelli show us only a few, a very few, of its manifestations. But artistic progress is, anyhow, very subtle and evasive; and musical progress, in particular, is hardly correctable with any other. Above all, we must recollect that, to us Europeans, music—which, in the only sense worth our present consideration, is an exclusively European product—is incalculably the youngest of the great arts; if we exclude some monophonic conceptions that have still their value for us, it is barely five hundred years old at the most.
During the last generation an advance in material complexity is obvious, even though the complexity may often enough be one of accidentals rather than essentials. An orchestral score of Wagner is relatively simple in comparison with one of Delius or Ravel or Scriabin or Stravinsky or Schoenberg; and the demands on performers' technique and also on their intelligence have steadily increased to heights altogether unknown before. The composer has at his present disposal a vastly enlarged medium; the possibilities of sound have developed incalculably more than those of paint or stone or marble. Pheidias could, we may imagine, have appreciated Rodin across a gulf of over two thousand years; but it is difficult to see the points of contact, after little over three hundred years, between Palestrina and any twentieth-century work that would claim to be 'in the movement'. And it is not only in complexity that we have advanced. We have extended the limits of musical style. We have adopted in sober earnest methods forecasted at rare intervals in the past by adventurous explorers, and employ musical notes not as elements in any harmonic scheme but purely as points of colour, exactly as if the definite notes were mere clangs of indefinite instruments like cymbals or triangles. Wordless vocal tone, moreover, of several different types, is pressed into the same service. Varied tonal and harmonic colour, and structural freedom: those are the two battle-cries of the young generation. Little by little the old tonalities, based as they were on fixed centres, are slipping away; all the notes of the chromatic scale are acquiring even status; the principles of structure are newborn with every new work. And advance of this kind has been extraordinarily accelerated during the last twenty years. At no time in musical history have there been such express-speed modifications of manner as those which divide, let us say, the latest piano pieces of Brahms (1893) and the latest of Scriabin (1914). It is possible, indeed, that our standard system of keyboard tuning may require modification in the not very distant future. Once again, as three hundred years ago, music seems to be in the throes of a new birth. On the former occasion, the process of convalescence lasted rather more than a century, from Monteverde through Carissimi and Schuetz and Purcell to Bach; and it may perhaps take as long now.
But it is plain enough that mere novelty does not involve progress; if it were so, the music of the casually strumming baby would demand high recognition. Nor is progress to be found in merely quantitative, Brobdingnagian expansion. And when we have taken our stand on what seems a sufficiently sound definition of musical progress in its material aspect—the combination of novelty with expansion, the new thought with its appropriately enlarged medium—we have yet to remember that many very fine composers still can, and do, express their natural and full selves in older idioms, and that progress of this kind, however widespread it may become, is not necessarily advance in the scale of values. There is, somewhere or other, a limit to the cubic capacity of things: they cannot increase indefinitely in depth and breadth at once. We may confidently hope that we have not yet musically come within hailing distance of the limit: but nevertheless it is becoming more and more difficult to see music steadily and see it whole, and it is useful to take stock of our position. Our musical minds are very much broader than they were: in that sense we can well, like the heroes of Homer, boast that we are much better than our fathers. But are they also deeper? We have gained access to many new rooms in the house of art, rooms full of strange and beautiful things, for the knowledge of which we must needs be profoundly and lastingly grateful; but some of the rooms seem rather small and their windows do not seem to have been opened very often, while others seem liable to be swept by hurricanes which upset the furniture right and left. Veterans there are, musicians not to be named except with high honour, who fall back for nutriment on the great classics and pessimism; but our notions of beauty cannot stand still, and in all ages of music one of the most vital tasks of criticism has been to distinguish between the relatively non-beautiful which has character and truth and its superficial imitation which has neither. All musicians very well recollect their first bewilderment at what has afterwards become as clear as daylight. But we must retain our standards of judgement. We have no right to criticize without familiarity, but we must remember that over-familiarity, mere dulled habitual acceptance, means equal incapacity for criticism. If, after trying our utmost, we still cannot see any sense in some of these modernist pages, there is no reason why we should not say so; it is quite possible that there really is no sense in them, and that the composer is perfectly aware of the fact. Odd stories float about the artistic world. And if the anarchists call us philistines and the philistines call us anarchists, it is fairly likely that we are seeing things pretty much as they are.
Moreover, it is worth remembering that a good deal of what is loosely called modernism is in reality very much the reverse. There is nothing progressive in the confusion of processes with principles, in the breathless disregard of the larger issues. Take the ideal of 'direct expression of emotion', the attempt to give, as Pater said half a century ago, 'the highest quality to our moments as they pass and simply for those moments' sake'. Musically, it is a return to the childhood of our race, to the natural savage. If a musical composition is to consist of anything more than one isolated noise, it must inevitably have a form of some kind, its component parts must look backward and forward. The latter-day composers who speak of Form as a kind of bogey that they have at last exorcized remind us of those latter-day thinkers who boast that they have abolished metaphysics. We cannot leap off our shadows; if we try, we shall only find that we are left with a residuum of bad metaphysics or bad musical form—as thoroughly bad as the metaphysics and the musical form that have resulted from the confusion of the one with empty word-spinning and of the other with hide-bound pedantry. Again, much of the modern rhythmical complexity strongly resembles, in essence, the machine-made experiments of mediaeval times; and the peculiarly fashionable trick of shifting identical chords up and down the scale—the clothes'-peg conception of harmony, so to speak—is a mere throw-back still farther, to Hucbald and the diaphony of a thousand years ago. And the insistence, now so common, on the decorative side of music, the conscious preference of the sensuous to the intellectual or emotional elements, brings us back to our own infancy, with its unreflecting delight in things that sparkle prettily or are soft to the touch or sweet to the taste. It is a reaction from sentimentality, no doubt, but is a reaction to an equal extreme, a perversion of the truth that great art never wholly gives itself away. As Vincent d'Indy has justly pointed out, the 'sensualist formula'—'all for and by harmony'—is as much an aberration of good sense as the parallel formula of the ultra-melodic schools of Rossini and Donizetti: in either case it means the sacrifice of spaciousness to immediate effect, the supremacy of sensation over the equilibrium of the heart and the intelligence. Not of course that any music lacks the sensuous element; but it is a matter of proportion. And very distinguished as are many of the modern exponents of this side of things, history tells us, I think, that they are working in a blind alley. They have their supporters, no doubt. M. Jean-Aubry, in his very suggestive and valuable book on modern French musicians, has used a phrase that seems to me worth remembering; he speaks of the 'obsession of intellectual chastity' which, to his mind, disfigures the work of Cesar Franck and other great composers whom he therefore rejects from his latter-day Pantheon. I am glad to think that Franck would have gloried in this shame. He, and a very goodly company with him, knew that music was, at its highest, something better than an entertainment, however thrilling or however refined.
But, whatever critics and composers may feel about musical progress, it is, as Wagner said, in the home of the amateur that music is really kept alive, and the amateur's music depends very largely on the schools. A generation ago music was certainly sociologically selfish. Musicians had not realized that all classes of the community were open to the influences of fine music, if only they had the opportunities for knowing it. But since then there have been very great advances, both quantitative and qualitative, in musical education. We have spread it broadcast, in the increasing faith that appreciation depends, not on technical knowledge or executive skill, but on the responsive temperament and the will to understand. Familiarity, familiarity at home if possible, is the key to this understanding; and in this connexion there is, I believe, an enormous educational future before pianolas and gramophones, if only the preparation of their records can be taken in hand on artistic rather than narrowly commercial lines. And our standards of judgement have risen: we do not worship quite so blindly mere names, whether of the past or of the present, nor exalt the performer quite so dizzily above what is performed. Nor do we quite so glibly disguise our indifference to vital distinctions by talking about differences of taste: we know that, however catholic we may rightly be within the limits of the good, whether grave or gay, there comes sooner or later, in our judgement of musical as of all other spiritual values, a point where we must put our foot down. We are going on, and our theories are sound enough: but the path of a democratically widened, and rightly so widened, art is by no means easy. The principle of levelling up slides so readily into the practice of levelling down: and the book of music is closed once for all if we are to accept the plenary inspiration of majorities.
But here in England the greatest danger to musical progress is, I venture to think, the self-styled practical Englishman—fortified as he is by the consciousness that, for at any rate a couple of centuries or more, we have as a nation taken a low view of the arts and have been rather proud of it than otherwise. It is so obvious that no profession is economically more unsound than that of the serious composer: it is not so obvious that we owe all the great things of the spirit by which we chiefly live to those whom the world calls dreamers, among whom the great musicians have had, and, I hope and believe, will always have, no mean place. Against the 'practical Englishman', and all that his attitude to music involves, we can all of us fight in our respective spheres: and I would commend to you for useful weapons three very different books by very different men—Sir Hubert Parry's great book on Style in Musical Art, Mr. C.T. Smith's account of his artistic work in an elementary school in the East End of London which he calls The Music of Life, and a pamphlet Starved Arts mean Low Pleasures recently written by Mr. Bernard Shaw for the British Music Society. And one particular line of indirect attack, easily open to all of us, is, I am inclined to think, specially promising. In the third and fourth verses of the thirty-fifth chapter of the book of Ecclesiasticus we shall find these injunctions, which I translate as literally as Greek epigrams can be translated: 'Do not hinder music: do not pour out chatter during any artistic performance: and do not argue unseasonably.' In other words, conversation, however valuable, prevents complete listening to music; and music that is not meant to be listened to in its completeness is not worth calling music, and had much better not be there at all. Musical progress will be spiritually well on its way when we all realize this axiomatic truth as firmly as this Hebrew sage of two thousand years and more ago.
[Footnote 71: The Times, April 17, 1919.]
THE MODERN RENASCENCE
F. MELIAN STAWELL
To understand in any degree the modern outlook on life it seems necessary to go back to the time of the French Revolution. For at that stirring epoch there flamed up in the minds of enthusiasts an ideal of man's life larger than had ever yet been known, and one that has dominated us all ever since. If we give, as I think we should give, a wide sense to the word 'Liberty' and make it mean all that stands for self-development, then one may say that this ideal was fairly well summed-up in the famous Revolutionary watchword, 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'. It is impossible at any rate to read the idealists of that time and its sequel—say from 1793 to 1848—whether in France, Germany, England, or Italy, whether inside or outside the Revolutionary ranks, without feeling their buoyant hope that a fresh era was opening in which man, casting aside old shackles and prejudices, could advance at once towards knowledge, joy, splendour, both for himself and all his fellows. Shelley, perhaps, is most typical of what I mean. Hogg laughed at him for his belief in the 'perfectibility' of the race, but Hogg knew the belief was vital to the poet. To Shelley it was a damnable doctrine that the many should ever be sacrificed to the few: yet neither was the ultimate vision that inspired him the vision of the few being sacrificed for the many. He was anything but an ascetic seeking martyrdom. The martyrdom of his Prometheus is a prelude to the Unbinding when happiness shall flood the world:—
'The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness! The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness, The vaporous exultation not to be confined!'
And not only happiness and love, but knowledge also: the Earth calls to the Sky: 'Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.' Soberer spirits shared this poet's ecstasy. Wordsworth sang
'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.'
And that heaven was exactly this foretaste of the Spirit of Man entering undisturbed into his full inheritance at last: Science welcomed as a dear and honoured guest, Poetry known as 'the breath and finer spirit that is in the countenance of all knowledge'.
It is scarcely necessary even to mention the high hopes of the French themselves, the confident anticipation of an Age of Reason when all men should be brothers and the earth bring forth all her treasures, but it is well worth noting the attitude of Goethe, an attitude the more significant because, in a sense, Goethe always stood outside the French Revolution. But he, like the best of its votaries—and this is less known than it should be—desired the development of all men every whit as much as he desired the high culture of a few. It was for the double goal that he worked. 'Only through all men,' he writes in a notable passage, 'only through all men, can mankind be made.' All good lies in Man, he tells us again, and must be developed, 'only not in one man, but in many'. Goethe, the so-called aristocrat, has given us here as true a formula for the democratic faith as could well be found. And to him, as to Shelley and to Wordsworth, Poetry and Science were not enemies but friends dearer than sisters. Those three, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Goethe, foreshadowed a new poetry of science that has never yet been achieved, though fine work has been done by Tennyson, Whitman, Sully Prudhomme, and Meredith.
Goethe, moreover, again like Shelley and the French, broke with all ideals of mere self-abnegation. In his poem, 'General Confession', he makes his disciples repent of ever having missed an opportunity for enjoyment and resolve never so to offend again. Here, as often, Goethe comes into the closest touch with our modern feeling. We, too, can never return to the Franciscan ideal of poverty, celibacy, and obedience as the highest life for man on earth. We have done with self-denial except as the means to a human end. We are still in the tide of what I would call the Modern Renascence; we claim the whole garden of the world for our own, the tree with the knowledge of good and evil included, reacting even from Christian ideals if they can make no room for that. But, after all, the characteristic of the belief dominant a century ago was exactly that such room could be made, that Hellenism could be combined with Christianity, and self-development with self-denial.
And this belief is, I think, reflected in the music of the time. Schubert, that sweetest soul of tears and laughter, understands every shade of wistfulness, and yet again and again in his music it seems as though the universe had become, to quote a lover of his, one immense and glorious blackbird. Mozart, in 'The Magic Flute', as Goethe seems to have recognized, sings the very song of union between the unreflecting joy of the natural man and the strenuous self-devotion of the awakened spirit. Beethoven, greatest of them all, plumbs the lowest depths of suffering and then astounds and comforts us by ineffable vistas of happiness. After years of personal misery he crowns the glorious series of his symphonies by the one that ends in a hymn of joy, freedom, and faith, embracing the whole world—'Diese Kuss der ganzen Welt'—that majestic open melody, clear as the morning, fresh as though it came from far oversea, greater even than any of the great harmonies that have gone before, larger than the tortured human heart, steadier than the sudden ecstasy of the spirits set free, stronger than the swansong of the dying, a melody content with earth because it is conscious of heaven. I offer no apology for weaving my own fairy-tales round such music: I see no harm in the practice, but only good, so long as we understand what we are about. Music, it is true, is something other than, in a sense more than, either thought or feeling or even poetry, and cannot be reduced to any of them (nor any of them to it). The universe would be poor indeed if it could be so. But none the less the truth may be, as Spinoza thought, that the universe is at once a unity and a unity with many facets, so that any one facet, while for ever unique, can bring to our minds all the mysteries of the rest.
In any case, the high confidence that breathes in the music of a hundred years ago meets us again in the philosophers.
Hegel, born in the same year as Beethoven and Wordsworth (1770), is sure that nothing can resist the onslaught of man's spirit. 'Stronger than the gates of Hell are the gates of Thought.' Fichte is convinced that there waits in man, only to be developed, a power that will unite him with all other men and at the same time develop his own personality to the full. In a sense, the deepest, each man is his fellow-men, and they are he.
How much this conception has affected modern thought can be seen in a recent and very remarkable book, The New State, where the very basis of democracy is shown to be the faith in this essential unity, a unity to be worked out, not yet realized, but capable of realization, a faith stirring all through the modern world, in ways expected and unexpected, from Syndicalism to the League of Nations.
Later than Hegel and Fichte, the great Positivist conception of life preached by Comte is instinct with this belief that man united with his fellows, and only as so united, can attain heights undreamt-of and unlimited.
The flood-tide of this faith flowed far into the nineteenth century. The Italian Mazzini, leader of revolt in 1848, was filled with it. Prophet of the most generous political gospel ever preached, he lived on the hope that, if freedom were given to the nations and duty set before them, they would prove worthy of their double mission, and peace would come to pass between all peoples.
But even Mazzini had his moments of agonizing doubt. And others beside him, men of lesser intellect as well as greater, were soon to raise, or had already raised, voices, stern or fretful, of protest and criticism. It became clear at last that this joyous confidence rested on a very definite view of life and one that might easily be challenged, the view, namely, that at bottom the universe meant well to man, that his greatest aspirations were compatible with each other and nowise beyond attainment. Almost from the first there were men of the modern world who did challenge this. Byron and Schopenhauer are significant figures, both born in the same year, only eighteen years later than the great Three of 1770, Wordsworth, Hegel, and Beethoven. Byron is full of moody questionings, Schopenhauer of much more than questionings. Against the dauntless optimism of Hegel, he flatly denies that the universe is good, or happiness possible for man. On the contrary, at the heart of it and of him there lies an infinite unrest, never to be quieted until man himself gives up the Will to Live and sinks back into the Unconscious from which he came.
Now after Schopenhauer came Nietzsche, and though Nietzsche's influence may have been exaggerated, yet undeniably it has been of immense importance both for Germany and Europe. He is typical of the change that begins to appear about the middle of the century. Reacting from the optimism of the idealists (which seemed to him both smug and false), Nietzsche welcomed Schopenhauer's more Spartan view with a kind of fierce delight. But his criticism of Schopenhauer was fierce too, and he gave a strangely different turn to such parts of the doctrine as he did accept. To Schopenhauer, since it was folly to hope for real happiness in this life or any other, the wise course would be to kill outright, so far as possible, the Will to Live itself. To Nietzsche the wise course was to assert life, to claim it more and more abundantly, to face this tragic show with a courage so high that it could be gay, a courage that could do without happiness, and yet that turned aside from none of life's joys simply because they were fleeting, that was more than content to 'live dangerously', picking flowers, as it were, clear-eyed, on the edge of the precipice. And this not merely in the temper of 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' For him the motto would have run, 'Let us be up and doing, for to-morrow we die', sustained by the belief that the heroic struggle now would lead inevitably to the production of a nobler type of man, a man who would be something more than man—the Super-man, to give him the name that every reader knows, if he knows nothing else about Nietzsche.
Even this short statement shows how Nietzsche shared the admiration for life and power characteristic of what I have called the Modern Renascence, and how deeply he was influenced by the doctrine of Evolution, and that in a not unhopeful form, the hope for an advance in the race at least, if not in the individuals now living. And it shows too how mistaken those are who see in him nothing but a preacher of brutal egotism. If he had been only that, he would never have won the influence he possessed and possesses. Yet there is important truth in the cursory popular judgement. If his teaching has its heroic side, a side that has enabled him to give succour to many when other and sweeter gospels are spurned as flattering unctions, he has also a most ruthless element. And this partly because of his very sincerity. Accept the doctrine that men and women perish like candles blown out in the night, accept it really and fully, with intellect, imagination, and feeling, and then see how much light-heartedness can be got out of life, if we still allow ourselves to pity men. Nietzsche had intellect, imagination, and feeling, and he saw plainly enough that, while even in such a universe there could be a grim happiness for the lives of heroes, there could be nothing but infinite sadness for the countless failures who have never been either happy or heroic. There was no immortality; these wretched beings would never have another chance. If joy was to be kept (and Nietzsche was avid for joy), if the universe was to be accepted (and Nietzsche desired above all to say Yes! to the universe), then he must root out pity from his heart as an unmanly weakness. In this way was sharpened the ruthlessness and savage arrogance latent in the man, a ruthlessness and an arrogance that have done so much harm both to his country and the world.
In fairness, we must add that Nietzsche could not succeed in his own attempt; the struggle tore him to pieces and he died in madness.
But it is above all instructive to contrast him here with several of his contemporaries and successors. Browning in England, Walt Whitman in America, facing the same problems of joy and struggle, of life and death, of the few great and the many commonplace, of Man himself and the Nature that seems at once his mother and his enemy, refused to give up the hope of a solution, nay, they were sure they had found a solution, and for them it was bound up with the hope of immortality. They go even beyond the earlier men in their insistence on the double ideal of Paganism and Christianity, but they have an insistence of their own on the belief in unending life as alone giving man elbow-room, so to speak, for working out his destiny. Browning claims eternity as the due of every man, however mean; and if Whitman feels his foothold 'tenon'd and mortised in granite', it is because he can 'laugh at dissolution' and knows 'the amplitude of time'.
But in such insistence and such conviction they have not been followed, speaking broadly, by our leading writers since. On the other hand, they have been so followed, again speaking broadly, in their loyalty to the twofold ideal. Here and there, no doubt, as I have said, writers like Nietzsche, on the one hand, have tried to be satisfied with the splendid development of a Few, or, on the other hand, like Tolstoy, have flung back in a kind of despair to the old ideal of abnegation, of sheer brotherly love and nothing else, turning their backs on all splendours of art, knowledge, or delight, that do not directly minister to the one thing they hold needful. But the earlier and wider ideal, the ideal of our Renascence, once envisaged by man, that has not been lost, and I believe never can be lost. Its own greatness will keep the foremost men true to it. Meredith is one of the men I mean. He is full of pity, but he does not only pity men and women—he wants them to grow, and to grow for themselves. His whole attitude towards Woman shows this: for the women's movement is nothing more and nothing less, as Ibsen also felt, than one big stream of the general movement towards liberty and self-determination. So far Meredith marches with Browning and Whitman. But he will never commit himself about immortality. It seems enough for him to take part in the struggle for a finer life, at once heroic and tender, not caring overmuch whether we reach it or no. 'Spirit raves not for a goal' is one of his hard and characteristic sayings, and here he seems to me typical both of modern thought in general and especially of English thought, and that both for good and ill. We see in him the want of precision, the lack of logical coherence, that have prevented us from ever producing a philosopher of the first rank. At the same time there is something true and profound in his instinct that the moment has not yet come in which to formulate our faith. We all feel that we are on the brink of tremendous, perhaps terrifying, discoveries; we resent any cut-and-dried solution, however pleasant, perhaps all the more if it is pleasant, and we resent it because we feel that at bottom our hopes would be travestied by any conception we, with our little intellect and minute knowledge, could at present frame. It was once said to me by a far-seeing friend that the modern dislike of church-going, the modern incapacity to write a long coherent poem, the modern passion for music and for realism, even for sordid realism, all sprang from the same roots, from the thirst for an infinite harmony, the belief that everything was somehow involved in that harmony, and the conviction that all systems, as yet made or makeable, were entirely inadequate.