[Transcriber's Note: Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Questionable text is marked with a [Transcriber's Note]. A macron over a letter is represented by an equal sign, e.g., punctūs. A caron over a letter is represented by a v, e.g., Dvořak.]
MUSIC: AN ART AND A LANGUAGE
WALTER RAYMOND SPALDING
Price $2.50 net
THE ARTHUR P. SCHMIDT CO.
BOSTON 120 BOYLSTON STREET
NEW YORK 8 WEST 40th STREET
Copyright, 1920, by THE ARTHUR P. SCHMIDT CO.
International Copyright Secured
TO MY COLLEAGUES IN THE DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
WILLIAM CLIFFORD HEILMAN, EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL, ARCHIBALD THOMPSON DAVISON, EDWARD BALLANTINE
MUSIC: an ART and a LANGUAGE
Vols. I & II now ready
(Schmidt's Educational Series No. 257-a, b)
Price $1.00 each volume
Although "of the making of books there is no end," this book, on so human a subject as music, we believe should justify itself. A twenty-years' experience in teaching the Appreciation of Music at Harvard University and Radcliffe College has convinced the author that a knowledge of musical grammar and structure does enable us, as the saying is, to get more out of music. This conviction is further strengthened by the statement of numerous students who testify that after analyzing certain standard compositions their attitude towards music has changed and their love for it greatly increased.
In the illustrations (published in a Supplementary Volume) no concessions have been made to so-called "popular taste"; people have an instinctive liking for the best when it is fairly put before them. We are not providing a musical digest, since music requires active cooperation by the hearer, nor are we trying to interpret music in terms of the other arts. Music is itself. For those who may be interested in speculating as to the connection between music and art, numerous books are available—some of them excellent from their point of view.
This book concerns itself with music as music. It is assumed that, if anyone really loves this art, he is willing and glad to do serious work to quicken his sense of hearing, to broaden his imagination, and to strengthen his memory so that he may become intelligent in appreciation rather than merely absorbed in honeyed sounds. Music is of such power and glory that we should be ready to devote to its study as much time as to a foreign language. In the creed of the music-lover the first and last article is familiarity. When we thoroughly know a composition so that its themes sing in our memory and we feel at home in the structure, the music will speak to us directly, and all books and analytical comments will be of secondary importance—those of the present writer not excepted. Special effort has been made to select illustrations of musical worth, and upon these the real emphasis in study should be laid.
The material of the book is based on lectures, often of an informal nature, in the Appreciation Course at Harvard University and lays no claim to original research. The difficulty in establishing points of approach makes it far more baffling to speak or write about music than about the other arts. Music is sufficient unto itself. Endowed with the insight of a Ruskin or a Pater, one may say something worth while about painting. But in music the line between mere statistical analysis and sentimental rhapsody must be drawn with exceeding care. If the subject matter be clearly presented and the analyses true—allowance being made for honest difference of opinion—every hope will be realized.
The author's gratitude is herewith expressed to Mr. Percy Lee Atherton for his critical revision of the text and to Professor William C. Heilman for valuable assistance in selecting and preparing the musical illustrations.
Cambridge, Massachusetts June, 1919
I. PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS 1
II. THE FOLK-SONG 18
III. POLYPHONIC MUSIC; SEBASTIAN BACH, THE FUGUE 33
IV. THE MUSICAL SENTENCE 50
V. THE TWO-PART AND THREE-PART FORMS 69
VI. THE CLASSICAL AND THE MODERN SUITE 73
VII. THE RONDO FORM 81
VIII. THE VARIATION FORM 85
IX. THE SONATA-FORM AND ITS FOUNDERS—EMMANUEL BACH AND HAYDN 91
X. MOZART. THE PERFECTION OF CLASSIC STRUCTURE AND STYLE 108
XI. BEETHOVEN, THE TONE-POET 122
XII. THE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS. SCHUBERT, WEBER 160
XIII. SCHUMANN AND MENDELSSOHN 172
XIV. CHOPIN AND PIANOFORTE STYLE 188
XV. BERLIOZ AND LISZT. PROGRAM MUSIC 202
XVI. BRAHMS 228
XVII. CESAR FRANCK 255
XVIII. THE MODERN FRENCH SCHOOL—D'INDY AND DEBUSSY 280
XIX. NATIONAL SCHOOLS—RUSSIAN, BOHEMIAN AND SCANDINAVIAN 300
XX. THE VARIED TENDENCIES OF MODERN MUSIC 326
Music is the universal language of mankind.
Music can noble hints impart, Engender fury, kindle love; With unsuspected eloquence can move And manage all the man with secret art.
Music is the sound of the circulation in nature's veins. It is the flux which melts nature. Men dance to it, glasses ring and vibrate, and the fields seem to undulate. The healthy ear always hears it, nearer or more remote.
To strike all this life dead, Run mercury into a mold like lead, And henceforth have the plain result to show— How we Feel hard and fast, and what we Know— This were the prize, and is the puzzle!—which Music essays to solve.
All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.
Music: an Art and a Language
In approaching the study of any subject we may fairly expect that this subject shall be defined, although some one has ironically remarked that every definition is a misfortune. Music-lovers, however, will rejoice that their favorite art is spared such a misfortune, for it can not be defined. We know the factors of which music is constituted, rhythm and sound; and we can trace the historic steps by which methods of presentation and of style have been so perfected that by means of this twofold material the emotions and aspirations of human beings may be expressed and permanently recorded. We realize, and with our inborn equipment can appreciate, the moving power of music; but to define, in the usual sense of the term definition, what music really is, will be forever impossible. The fact indeed that music—like love, electricity and other elemental forces—cannot be defined is its special glory. It is a peculiar, mysterious power; quite in a class by itself, although with certain aspects which it shares with the other arts. The writings of all the great poets, such as Milton, Shakespeare, Browning and Whitman, abound in eloquent tributes to the power and influence of music, but it is noticeable that no one attempts to define it. The mystery of music must be approached with reverence and music must be loved for itself with perfect sincerity.
[Footnote 1: For suggestive comments on this point see the essays Harmonie et Melodie by Saint-Saens, Chapters I and II.]
Some insight, however, may be gained into the nature of music by a clear recognition of what it is not, and by a comparison with the more definite and familiar arts. Music consists of the intangible and elusive factors of rhythm and sound; in this way differing fundamentally from the concrete static arts such as architecture, sculpture and painting. Furthermore, instrumental music, i.e., music freed from a dependence on words, is not an exact language like prose and poetry. It speaks to our feelings and imaginations, as it were by suggestion; reaching for this very reason depths of our being quite beyond the power of mere words. No one can define rhythm except by saying that rhythm, in the sense of motion, is the fundamental fact in the universe and in all life, both physical and human. Everything in the heavens above and in the earth beneath is in ceaseless motion and change; nothing remains the same for two consecutive seconds. Even the component parts of material—such as stone and wood, which we ordinarily speak of as concrete and stationary—are whirling about with ceaseless energy, and often in perfect rhythm. Thus we see how natural and vital is the art of music, for it is inseparably connected with life itself.
As for the other factor, sound is one of the most elemental and mysterious of all physical phenomena. When the air is set in motion by the vibration of certain bodies of wood, metal and other material, we know that sound waves, striking upon the tympanum of the ear, penetrate to the brain and imagination. Sound is a reciprocal phenomenon; for, even if there were systematic activity of vibrating bodies, there could be no sound without some one to hear it. Good musicians are known for their power of keen and discriminating hearing; and the ear, as Saint-Saens says, is the sole avenue of approach to the musical sense. The first ambition for one who would appreciate music should be to cultivate this power of hearing. It is quite possible to be stone-deaf outwardly and yet hear most beautiful sounds within the brain. This was approximately the case with Beethoven after his thirtieth year. On the other hand, many people have a perfect outward apparatus for hearing but nothing is registered within.
[Footnote 2: See Chapter II of Gurney's Power of Sound, a book remarkable for its insight.]
[Footnote 3: It is understood that this statement is made in a subjective rather than a purely physical sense. See the Century Dictionary under Sound.]
[Footnote 4: Il y a donc, dans l'art des sons, quelque chose qui traverse l'oreille comme un portique, la raison comme un vestibule et qui va plus loin.
HARMONIE ET MELODIE, CHAPTER II.]
Combarieu, the French aesthetician, defines music as "the art of thinking in tones." There is food for thought in this statement, but it seems to leave out one very important factor—namely, the emotional. Every great musical composition reveals a carefully planned and perfect balance between the emotional and intellectual elements. And yet the basic impulse for the creation of music is an emotional one; and, of all the arts, music makes the most direct appeal to the emotions and to those shadowy, but real portions of our being called the imagination and the soul. Emotion is as indispensable to music as love to religion. Just as there can be no really great art without passion, so we can not imagine music without all the emotions of mankind: their loves, joys, sorrows, hatreds, ideals and subtle fancies. Music, in fact, is a presentation of emotional experience, fashioned and controlled by an overruling intellectual power.
[Footnote 5: La musique, ses lois, son evolution, by Jules Combarieu.]
We can now foresee, though at first dimly, what is to be our line of approach to this mystery. One of the peculiar characteristics of music is that it is both the most natural and least artificial of the arts, and as well the most complicated and subtle. On the one hand it is the most natural and direct, because the materials of which it is constituted—that is, sound and rhythm—make an instinctive appeal to every normally equipped human being. Every one likes to listen to beautiful sounds merely for their sensuous effect, just as everyone likes to look at the blue sky, the green grass and the changing hues of a sunset; so the rhythm of music, akin to the human heart-beat and to the ceaseless change and motion, which is the basic fact in all life, appeals at once to our own physical vitality. This fact may be observed at a symphony concert where so many people are wagging their heads, beating time with their hands or even tapping on the floor with their feet; a habit which shows a rudimentary love of music but which for obvious reasons is not to be commended. On the other hand, music is the most complicated of all the arts from the nature of its constituent parts—intangible, evanescent sounds and rhythms—and from the subtle grammar and structure by which these factors are used as means of personal communication. This grammar of music, i.e., its methods of structure and of presentation, has been worked out through centuries of free experimentation on the part of some of the best minds in the world, and thus any great musical composition is an intellectual achievement of high rank. Behind the sensuous factors, sound and rhythm, lies always the personal message of the composer, and if we are to grasp this and to make it our own, we must go with him hand in hand so that the music actually lives again in our minds and imaginations. The practical inference from this dual nature of the art we are considering is clear; everyone can derive a large amount of genuine pleasure and even spiritual exaltation, can feel himself under the influence of a strong tonic force, merely by putting himself in contact with music, by opening his ears and drinking in the sounds and rhythms in their marvellous variety. The all-sufficient reason for the lack of a complete appreciation of music is that so many people stop at this point, i.e. for them music is a sensuous art and nothing more. Wagner himself, in fact, is on record in a letter to Liszt as saying, in regard to the appreciation of his operas: "I require nothing from the public but healthy senses and a human heart." Although this may be particularly true of opera, which is a composite form of art, making so varied an appeal to the participant that everyone can get something from its picture of life—historical, legendary, even fictitious—as well as from the actors, the costumes and the story, the statement is certainly not applicable to what is called absolute music, where music is disassociated from the guiding help of words, and expressed by the media of orchestra, string quartet, pianoforte, and various ensemble groups. For in addition to its sensuous appeal, music is a language used as a means of personal expression; sometimes in the nature of an intimate soliloquy, but far more often as a direct means of communication between the mind and soul of the composer and of the listener. To say that we understand the message expressed in this language just because we happen to like beautiful sounds and stimulating rhythms is surely to be our own dupes. We might as well say that because we enjoy hearing Italians or Frenchmen speak their own beautiful languages we are understanding what they say. The question, therefore, faces us: how shall we learn this mysterious language so as readily to understand it? And the answer is equally inevitable: by learning something of the material of which it is composed, and above all, the fundamental principles of its structure.
[Footnote 6: Just as some people are color-blind there are those who are tone-deaf—to whom, that is, music is a disagreeable noise—but they are so few as to be negligible.]
In attempting to carry out this simple direction, however, we are confronted by another of the peculiar characteristics of music. Music, in distinction from the static, concrete and imitative arts, is always in motion, and to follow it requires an intensity of concentration and an accuracy of memory which can be acquired, but for which, like most good things, we have to work. We all know the adage that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and that any work of art must be recreated in the imagination of the participant. The difficulty of this process of recreation, as applied to music, is that we have, derived from our ordinary daily experiences, so little to help us. Anyone can begin, at least, to understand a work of architecture; it must have doors and windows, and should conform to practical ideas of structure. In like manner, a painting, either a portrait or a landscape, must show some correspondence with nature herself, and so we have definite standards to help our imagination. But music has worked out its own laws which are those of pure fancy, having little to do with other forms of thought; and unless we know something of the constructive principles, instead of recreating the work before us, we are simply lost—"drowned in a sea of sound"—often rudely shaken up by the rhythms, but far from understanding what the music is really saying. As the well-known critic, Santayana, wittily says, "To most people music is a drowsy revery relieved by nervous thrills."
Notwithstanding, however, the peculiar nature of music and the difficulty of gaining logical impressions as the sounds and rhythms flood in upon us, there is one simple form of cooperation which solves most of the difficulties; that is, familiarity. It is the duty of the composer so to express himself, to make his meaning so clear, that we can receive it with a minimum of mental friction if we can only get to know the music. All really good music corresponds to such a standard; that is, if it is needlessly involved, abstruse, diffuse, or turgid, it is in so far not music of the highest artistic worth. In this connection we must always remember that music does not "stay put," like a picture on the wall. We cannot walk through it, as is the case with a cathedral; turn back, as in a book; touch it, as with a statue. It is not the expression of more or less definite ideas, such as we find in prose and poetry. On the other hand, it rushes upon us with the impassioned spirit of an eloquent orator, and what we get from it depends almost entirely upon our own intensity of application and upon our knowledge of the themes and of the general purpose of the work. Only with increased familiarity does the architecture stand revealed. Beethoven, it is said, when once asked the meaning of a sonata of his, played it over again and replied, "It means that." Music is itself. The question for every music-lover is: can I equip myself in such a way as to feel at home in this language, to receive the message as directly as possible, and finally with perfect ease and satisfaction? This equipment demands a strong, accurate memory, a keen power of discrimination and a sympathetic, open mind.
Another paradoxical characteristic of music on which it is interesting to reflect is this: Music is the oldest as well as the youngest of the arts, i.e., it has always existed generically, and all human beings born, as they are, with a musical instrument—the voice—are ipso facto musicians; and yet in boundless scope of possibilities it is just in its infancy. For who can limit the combinations of sound and rhythm, or forecast the range of the human imagination? The creative fancy of the composer is always in advance of contemporary taste and criticism. Hence, in listening to new music, we should beware of reckless assertions of personal preference. The first question, in the presence of an elaborate work of music, should never be, "Do I like it or not?" but "Do I understand it?" "Is the music conveying a logical message to me, or is it merely a sea of sound?" The first and last article in the music-lover's creed, I repeat, should be familiarity. When we thoroughly know a symphony, symphonic poem or sonata so that, for example, we can sing the themes to ourselves, the music will reveal itself. The difference between the trained listener and the person of merely general musical tendencies is that the former gains a definite meaning from the music often at a first hearing; whereas, to the latter, many hearings are necessary before he can make head or tail of the composition. Since the creative composer of music is a thinker in tones, our perceptions must be so trained that, as we listen, we make sense of the fabric of sounds and rhythms.
[Footnote 7: From earliest times, mothers have doubtless crooned to their infants in instinctive lullabies.]
It is evident from the foregoing observations that our approach to the subject is to be on the intellectual side. Music, to be sure, is an emotional art and so appeals to our emotions, but these will take care of themselves. We all have a reasonable supply of emotion and practically no human being is entirely deficient in the capacity for being moved by music. We can, however, sharpen our wits and strengthen our musical memories; for it is obvious that if we cannot recognize a theme or remember it whenever it appears, often in an amplified or even subtly disguised form, we are in no condition to follow and appreciate the logical growth and development of the themes themselves which, in a work of music, are just as real beings as the "dramatis personae" in a play. The would-be appreciator should early recognize the fact that listening to music is by no means passive, a means of light amusement or to pass the time, but demands cooperation of an active nature. Whether or not we have the emotional capacity of a creator of music may remain an open question; but by systematic mental application we can, as we listen to it, get from the music that sense which the composer meant to convey. Music—more than the other arts—demands, to use a happy expression of D.G. Mason, that we "mentally organize our sensations and ideas"; for the language of music has no such fixed grammar as verbal modes of expression, and the message, even when received, is suggestive rather than definite. In this way only can the composition be recreated in our imaginations. For acquiring this habit of mind, this alertness and concentration, the start, as always, is more than half the battle. Schumann's good advice to young composers may be transferred to the listener: "Be sure that you invent a thoroughly vital theme; the rest will grow of itself from this." Likewise in listening to music, one should be sure to grasp the opening theme, the fundamental motive, in order to follow it intelligently and to enjoy its subsequent growth into the complete work.
[Footnote 8: In this connection we cannot refrain from suggesting the improvement which should be made in the concert manners of the public. How often, at the beginning of a concert, do we see people removing their wraps, looking at their neighbors, reading the programme book, etc., instead of concentrating on the music itself; with the result that the composition is often well on its way before such people have found their bearings.]
Every piece of music, with the exception of intentionally rhapsodic utterances, begins with some group of notes of distinct rhythmic and melodic interest, which is the germ—the generative force—of the whole, and which is comparable to the text of a sermon or the subject of a drama. This introductory group of notes is called, technically, a motive or moving force and may be defined as the simplest unit of imaginative life in terms of rhythm and sound, which instantly impresses itself upon our consciousness and, when heard several times, cannot be forgotten or confused with any other motive. A musical theme—a longer sweep of thought (to be explained later)—may consist of several motives of which the first is generally the most important. Just here lies the difference between the Heaven-born themes of a truly creative composer and the bundle of notes put forth by lesser men. These living themes pierce our imaginations and sing in our memories, sometimes for years, whereas the inept and flabby tunes of certain so-called composers make no strong impression and are forgotten almost as soon as heard. Motives obviously differ from each other in regard to the intervals of the tones composing them, i.e., the up and down relationship in pitch, the duration of the tones and their grouping into metric schemes. But a real motive is always terse, concise, characteristic and pregnant with unrevealed meaning. The chief glory of such creative tone-poets as Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms and Franck is that their imaginations could give birth to musical offspring that live for ever and are loved like life itself. The first step, then, in the progress of the appreciator of music is the recognition of the chief motive or motives of a composition and the development of power to follow them in their organic growth. This ability is particularly necessary in modern music: for frequently all four movements of a symphony or string-quartet are based upon a motive which keeps appearing—often in altered form and in relationships which imply a dramatic or suggestive meaning. A few of such motives are cited herewith, taken from works with which, as we proceed, we shall become familiar.
[Music: CESAR FRANCK: Symphony in D minor]
[Music: BRAHMS: First Symphony in C minor]
[Music: TCHAIKOWSKY: 5th Symphony]
[Music: DVO[VR]AK: Symphony From the New World]
It is now necessary for the student to know something about the constructive principles by which large works of music are fashioned; not so much that he could compose these works himself, even if he had the inspiration, but to know enough, so that the reception of the music is not a haphazard activity but an intellectual achievement, second only to that of the original creator. Every genuine work of art in whatever medium, stone, color, word or tone, must exhibit unity of general effect with variety of detail. That is, the material must hold together, be coherent and convince the participant of the logical design of the artist; not fall apart as might a bad building, or be diffuse as a poorly written essay. And yet, with this coherence, there must always be stimulating and refreshing variety; for a too constant insistence on the main material produces intolerable monotony, such as the "damnable iteration" of a mediocre prose work or the harping away on one theme by the hack composer. In no art more than music is this dual standard of greater importance, and in no art more difficult to attain. For the raw material of music, fleeting rhythms and waves of sound, is in its very nature most incoherent. Here we are not dealing with the concrete, tangible and definite material which is available for all the other arts, but with something intangible and elusive. We know from the historical record of musical development, that, only after centuries of experimentation conducted by some of the best intellects in Europe, was sufficient coherence gained so that there could be composed music which would compare with the simplest modern hymn-tune or part-song. And this was long after each of the other arts—architecture, sculpture, painting and literature—had reached points of attainment which, in many respects, have never since been equalled.
[Footnote 9: Compare Parry's Evolution of the Art of Music, passim and D.G. Mason's Beethoven and his Forerunners, Chapter I.]
Before carrying our inquiries further, something must be said about the two main lines of musical development which led up to music as we know it to-day. These tendencies are designated by the terms Homophonic and Polyphonic. By homophonic, from Greek words signifying a "single voice," is meant music consisting of a single melodic line, as in the whole field of folk-songs (which originally were always unaccompanied) or in the unison chants of the Greeks and the Gregorian tones of the early church, in which there is one melody though many voices may unite in singing it. Later we shall see what important principles for the growth of instrumental music were borrowed from the instinctive practise associated with the folk-song and folk-dance. But history makes clear that the fundamental principles of musical coherence were worked out in the field of music known as the Polyphonic. By this term, as the derivation implies, is meant music the fabric of which is made by the interweaving of several independent melodies. For many centuries the most reliable instrument was the human voice and the only art-music, i.e., music which was the result of conscious mental and artistic endeavor, was vocal music for groups of unaccompanied voices in the liturgy of the church. About the tenth century, musicians tried the crude experiment, called Organum, of making two groups of singers move in parallel fifths e.g.,
[Music: Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.]
but during the 13th and 14th centuries a method was worked out by which the introductory tune was made to generate its own subsequent tissue. It was found that a body of singers could announce a melody of a certain type and that, after they had proceeded so far, a second set of singers could repeat the opening melodic phrase—and so likewise often a third and a fourth set—and that all the voices could be made to blend together in a fairly harmonious whole. A piece of music of this systematic structure is called a Round because the singers take up the melody in rotation and at regular rhythmic periods. The earliest specimen of a Round is the famous one "Sumer is icumen in" circa 1225 (see Supplement of musical Examples No. 1), which shows to what a high point of perfection—considering those early days—musicians had brought their art. For, at any rate, by these systematic, imitative repetitions they had secured the first requisite of all music, coherence. This principle, once it was sanctioned by growing musical instinct, and approved by convention, was developed into such well-known types of polyphonic music as the Canon, the Invention and the Fugue; terms which will be fully explained later on. It is of more than passing interest to realize that these structural principles of music were worked out in the same locality—Northern France and the Netherlands, and by kindred intellects—as witnessed the growth of Gothic architecture; and there is a fundamental affinity between the interweavings of polyphonic or, as it is often called, contrapuntal music and the stone traceries in medieval cathedrals. During the 13th and 14th centuries northern France, with Paris as its centre, was the most cultivated part of Europe, and the Flemish cities of Cambrai, Tournai, Louvain and Antwerp will always be renowned in the history of art, as the birthplace of Gothic architecture, of modern painting and of polyphonic music. A great deal of the impetus towards the systematic repetition of the voice parts must have been caused by practical necessity (thus justifying the old adage); for, before the days of printed music, or even of a well-established tradition—when everything had to be laboriously written out or transmitted orally—whole compositions could be rendered by the singers through the simple device of remembering the introductory theme and joining in from memory whenever their turn came. Compositions in fact were often so recorded. The following old English round (circa 1609) shows clearly how the voices entered in rotation.
1 Three blind mice, three blind mice
2 ran around thrice, ran around thrice; The
3 miller and his merry old wife ne'er laugh'd so much in all their life.]
For a Round in strict canonic imitation by the famous English composer William Byrd (1542-1623) see the Supplement, Example No. 2. In due time singers of that period became likewise very proficient in improvising free parts about a given melody or cantus firmus, a practice indicated by the term "musica ficta" which was beneficial in stimulating the imagination to a genuine musical activity.
[Footnote 10: In comparatively recent times the term has been widened to include music in which there is one chief melody to which other portions of the musical texture are subordinate; e.g., the homophonic style of Chopin in whose works the chief melody, often in the upper voice, seems to float on underlying waves of sound.]
[Footnote 11: For a complete account of these early attempts which finally led to part-writing see Chapter IV in the first volume of the Oxford History of Music.]
[Footnote 12: An historical account of this development as far as it is ascertainable may be found in the fifth chapter of Pratt's History of Music.]
[Footnote 13: Consult the article on the Round in Grove's Dictionary.]
[Footnote 14: A rather crude English adaptation of the Latin term "Punctus contra punctum" which refers to the notes as punctūs (plural) or dots which were pricked with a stylus into the medieval manuscripts. In this phrase the emphasis is on the contra, signifying a combination of different melodies and rhythms, and calling attention to that higher importance which, everywhere in art, is caused by contrasted elements.]
[Footnote 15: For an interesting account of this tripartite activity see Naumann's History of Music.]
[Footnote 16: See the facsimile of the original manuscript of "Sumer is icumen in" cited in the first volume of the Oxford History of Music, pp. 326-332.]
We can now begin to realize the importance of polyphonic music. In fact, it is not too much to assert that systematic repetition in some form or other (several aspects of which we shall describe in due season) is the most important constructive principle in music, necessitated by the very nature of the material. This statement can be corroborated by a glance at almost any page of music considered merely as a pattern, quite regardless how the notes sound. We observe at once that some portions of the page look much or exactly like other portions. Frequently whole movements or long parts of a work are based entirely upon some terse and characteristic motive. Famous examples of this practise are the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in C minor which, with certain subsidiary themes to afford contrast, is entirely based on the motive:
the Finale of Wagner's opera The Valkyrie (see Supplement, Example No. 3) the chief motive of which
is presented in every phase of modulatory and rhythmic development, and the middle portion of the Reconnaissance from Schumann's Carnaval (see Supplement, Example No. 4.)
Music, just because its substance is so elusive and requires such alert attention on the part of the listener, cannot continually present new material without becoming diffuse; but instead, must make its impression by varied emphasis upon the main thought. Otherwise it would become so discursive that one could not possibly follow it. From these historical facts as to the structure of music certain inferences may be drawn; the vital importance of which to the listener can hardly be exaggerated. As polyphonic treatment (the imitation and interweaving of independent melodic lines) is the foundation of any large work of music, be it symphony, symphonic poem or string quartet, so the listener must acquire what may be called a polyphonic ear. For with the majority of listeners, the whole difficulty and the cause of their dissatisfaction with so-called "classic music" is merely lack of equipment. Everyone can hear the tune in the soprano or upper voice, for the intensity of pitch makes it stand out with telling effect; and, as a fact, many of the best tunes in musical literature are so placed. But how about the tune when it is in the bass as is the case so frequently in Beethoven's Symphonies or in Wagner's Operas? Some of the most eloquent parts of the musical message are, indeed, often in the bass, the foundation voice, and yet these are entirely ignored by the average listener. Then what of the inner voices; and what—most important of all—when there are beautiful melodies in all parts of the musical fabric, often sounding simultaneously, as in such well-known works as Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor and Wagner's Prelude to the Mastersingers! As we face these questions squarely the need for the listener of special training in alertness and concentration is self-evident. A very small proportion of those who attend a symphony concert begin to get their money's worth—to put the matter on a perfectly practical plane—for at least 50% of the musical structure is presented to ears without capacity for receiving it. In regard to any work of large dimensions the final test is this: can we sing all the themes and follow them in their polyphonic development? Then only are we really acquainted with the work; then only, in regard to personal like or dislike, have we any right to pass judgment upon it. The absurd attitude, far too common, of hasty, ill-considered criticism is illustrated by the fact that while Brahms is said to have worked for ten years on that Titanic creation, his First Symphony, yet persons will hear it once and have the audacity to say they do not like it. As well stroll through Chartres Cathedral and say they did not think much of it!
[Footnote 17: For a simple, charming example of persistent use of a motive see Schumann's pianoforte piece Kind im Einschlummern, No. 12 of the Kinderscenen.]
We must now speak of the two other manifestations of the principle of repetition. Fundamentally, to be sure, they are not connected with polyphonic music; the third type, in fact,—restatement after contrast—being instinctively worked out in the Folk-Song (as will be made plain later) and definitely ratified as a structural principle by the Italian opera composer Alessandro Scarlatti in the well-known Aria da capo. These further applications of the principle of imitation are Transposition, i.e., the repetition of the melodic outline, and often of the whole harmonic fabric, by shifting it up or down the scale; and the Restatement of the original melody after an intervening part in contrast, thus making a piece of music, the formula for which may be indicated by A, B, A. Anyone at all familiar with musical literature must have observed both of these devices for securing coherence and organic unity; in fact, the principle of restatement after contrast is at the foundation of any large work, and supplies the connecting link between the structure of the Folk-Song and that of the most elaborate modern music. A convincing illustration of the use of Transposition may be found in Schumann's Arabesque,
and in the opening theme of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata, op. 53.
It was a favorite device of Beethoven to impress the main theme upon the hearer by definite repetitions on various degrees of the scale. For an elaborate example of Transposition nothing can surpass the opening movement of Cesar Franck's D Minor Symphony, the entire first part of which consists of a literal repetition in F minor of what has been previously announced in D minor.
[Footnote 18: Another well-known example is the first theme of the first movement of the Sonata in F minor (Appassionata) op. 57. This the student can look up for himself.]
Pieces of music which embody the principle of Restatement after Contrast are so numerous that the question is merely one of selecting the clearest examples. In the Folk-Songs of every nation, as soon as they had passed beyond the stage of a monotonous reiteration of some phrase which pleased the fancy, e.g.
[Music: ad infinitum!]
we find hardly one in which there is not a similarity between the closing measures and something which had gone before. (See Supplement, Example No. 5.) For the most elementary artistic experience would establish the fact that the only way to avoid a monotonous repetition of the same theme is to change to a different one. And the next step is equally axiomatic—that, presupposing the first theme gives pleasure on its initial appearance, it will be heard with heightened pleasure at its reappearance after intervening contrast. A psychological principle is herein involved which cannot be proved but which is self-justified by its own reasonableness and is further exemplified by many experiences in daily life. Sweet things taste the sweeter after a contrast with something acid; we like to revisit old scenes and to return home after a vacation. No delight is keener than the renewal of some aesthetic experience after its temporary effacement through a change of appeal. This practice is associated with the inherent demand, spoken of above, for Variety in Unity. No theme is of sufficient import to bear constant repetition; in fact, the more eloquent it is, the more sated should we become if it were continued overlong. Monotony, furthermore, is less tolerable in music than in the other arts because music cuts deeper, because the ear is so sensitive an organ and because we have no way of shutting off sound. If a particular sight or scene displeases, we can close our eyelids; but the ear is entirely unprotected and the only way to escape annoying sounds is to take to flight. We inevitably crave contrast, change of sensation; and nothing gives more organic unity than a return to whatever impressed us at the outset. This cyclic form of musical expression, early discovered through free experimentation, has remained the leading principle in all modern works, and—because derived directly from life and nature—must be permanent. We return whence we came; everything goes in circles. We can now understand still more the need of a strong and accurate memory; for if we do not know whether or not we have ever heard a theme, obviously the keen pleasure of welcoming it anew is lost to us. Furthermore, this principle of Restatement has in modern music some very subtle uses, and presupposes the acquisition of a real power of reminiscence. For example, Wagner's tone-drama of Tristan and Isolde begins with this haunting motive
which, with its dual melodic lines, typifies the passionate love of the two chief characters in the story. After three hours or more of tragic action and musical development this motive is again introduced in the very closing measures of the drama, to show that even in the presence of transfiguring death this love is still their guiding power.
[Footnote 19: For some additional comments on this broad principle see the first Chapter (passim) of Parry's Evolution of the Art of Music.]
[Footnote 20: Everyone has experienced the agony of hearing the beginner practice, in an adjoining room, the same piece for hours at a time!]
For those who can appreciate the significance of such treatment, this reminiscence is one of the most sublime touches in all musical drama. The fascinating orchestral Scherzo of Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks likewise begins with a characteristic motto,
which says, in the language of music—I now have a story to tell you of a certain freakish character; and then we are regaled with the musical portrayal of a series of Till's pranks. As an Epilogue, Strauss improvises on this opening theme as much as to say—you have listened to my musical story, now let us indulge in some reflections as to the fate of poor Till, for after all he was a good fellow. (See Supplement, Example No. 6.)
It is evident, therefore, from the foregoing examples that the basic principles of musical structure are coherence, refreshing variety and such unity of general impression as may be gained chiefly by a restatement, after contrast, of themes previously heard. Our subsequent study will simply illustrate these natural laws of music in their wider application.
In the preceding chapter we made some general inquiries into the nature of music and of those methods by which emotion and thought are expressed. We shall assume therefore that the following facts are established: that in music, by reason of the intangibility and elusiveness of the material, sound and rhythm, the principle of Unity in Variety is of paramount importance; and that the hearer, if he would grasp the message expressed by these sounds and rhythms, must make a conscious effort of cooperation and not be content with mere dreamy apathy. Furthermore, that Unity and Coherence are gained in music by applying the principle of systematic Repetition or Imitation. (We shall see, as we continue, how Variety has been secured by contrasting themes, by episodical passages and by various devices of rhythmic and harmonic development.)
We may now investigate the growth of musical structure and expression, as manifested in the fields of the Folk-Song and of Polyphonic music, beginning with the Folk-Song—historically the older and more elemental in its appeal. We cannot imagine the time when human beings did not use their voices in some form of emotional outpouring; and, as far back as there are any historical records, we find traces of such activity. For many centuries these rude cries of savage races were far removed from anything like artistic design, but the advance towards coherence and symmetry was always the result of free experimentation—hence vitally connected with the emotions and mental processes of all human effort. One of the most significant of the many sayings attributed to Daniel Webster is that "Sovereignty rests with the people"; and it is an interesting inquiry to see what wider application may be made of this statement in the field of art. For it is a fact that there has seldom been an important school of music, so-called—in any given place and period—which was not founded on the emotional traits, the aspirations and the ideals of the people. Surely one of the distinct by-products of the Great War is to be the emancipation of the art of music, along with that of all the other arts. Such a realization of its nature and powers will result that it shall no longer be a mere exotic amusement of the leisure and wealthy classes, but shall be brought into direct touch with the rank and file of the people; even, if you will, with the so-called "lower classes"—that part of humanity from which, indeed, it sprung and with which it really belongs—just human beings, just people. So in music also we may assert that "Sovereignty rests with the people." Although all art reflects popular sentiment to a certain extent, in no one of the arts—as painting, sculpture and architecture—is there such a vital record of the emotions and artistic instincts of humanity as we find in the realm of folk-song. During the early period of Church music, while theorists and scholars were struggling with the intricate problems of polyphonic style, the people in their daily secular life were finding an outlet for their emotions, for their joys and sorrows, in song and in dance. This instinct for musical expression is universal, and just because the products of such activity were unfettered by rules, they exercised in process of time much influence upon the development of modern style. Folk-songs are characterized by a freshness and simplicity, a directness of utterance, which are seldom attained by the conscious efforts of genius. "Listen carefully to all folk-songs," says Schumann. "They are a storehouse of beautiful melody, and unfold to the mind the innate character of the different peoples." They are like wild flowers blooming unheeded by the wayside, the product of the race rather than the individual, and for centuries were only slightly known to cultivated musicians. It should be understood that words and music were inextricably bound together and that, with both, dancing was naturally associated; the very essence of a people's life being expressed by this tripartite activity. Tonal variety is a marked feature in folk-songs, many of them being in the old Gregorian modes, while others show a decided inclination to our modern major and minor scales. Great is the historical importance of Folk-music, because in it we see a dawning recognition of the principles of instrumental form, i.e., the need of balanced phrases, caused in the songs by the metrical structure of the words, and in the dances by the symmetrical movements of the body; a recognition above all, of the application of a definite system of tonal-centres, and of repetition after contrast. In fact, as we look back it is evident that the outlines of our most important design, that known as the Sonata Form are—in a rudimentary state—found in folk-music. Folk-melodies and rhythms play a large part in the music of Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikowsky and Dvořak. It seems as if modern composers were doing for music what Luther Burbank has done for plant life; for by grafting modern thought and feeling on to the parent stock of popular music, they have secured a vigor attainable in no other way. Thus some of the noblest melodies of Brahms, Grieg, and Tchaikowsky are actual folk-tunes with slight variation or original melodies conceived in a folk-song spirit.
[Footnote 21: For an eloquent presentation of the significance of Folk-music see the article by Henry F. Gilbert in the Musical Quarterly for October, 1917.]
[Footnote 22: For an able account of the important role that folk-melodies are taking in modern music see Chapter V of La Chanson Populaire en France by Julian Tiersot.]
As music, unlike the other arts, lacks any model in the realm of nature, it has had to work out its own laws, and its spontaneity and directness are the result. It has not become imitative, utilitarian or bound by arbitrary conventions. As Berlioz says in the Grotesques de la Musique: "Music exists by itself; it has no need of poetry, and if every human language were to perish, it would be none the less the most poetic, the grandest and the freest of all the arts." When we reach the centuries in which definite records are available, we find a wealth of folk-songs from the Continental nations: Irish, Scotch, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, etc. In these we can trace the transition from the old modes to our modern major and minor scales; the principles of tonality and of rudimentary modulation, the dividing of the musical thought into periodic lengths by means of cadential endings, the instinct for contrast and for the unity gained by restatement. No better definition of Folk-songs can be given than that of Parry in his Evolution of the Art of Music where he calls them "the first essays made by man in distributing his notes so as to express his feelings in terms of design." In folk-tunes this design has been dominated by the metrical phraseology of the poetic stanzas with which they were associated; for between the structure of melody and that of poetry there is always a close correspondence. In Folk-songs, therefore, we find a growing instinct for balanced musical expression and, above all, an application of the principle of Restatement after Contrast. The following example drawn from Irish Folk-music—which, for emotional depth, is justly considered the finest in the world—will make the point clear.
[Music: THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS]
[Footnote 23: The same statement is true of the Oriental nations, the Arabians, Persians and Greeks, who are left out of the enumeration only because their development in many respects has been along different lines from ours. For suggestive speculations as to early music among all nations see Primitive Music by Richard Wallaschek.]
[Footnote 24: For illuminating comments on the Folk-music of all the English-speaking peoples see Chapter XII of Ernest Walker's History of Music in England. The famous Petrie collection of Irish Folk-tunes should also be consulted.]
The statement is sometimes made that the principles of our modern system of tonality and of modulation are derived from Folk-music. This is only partially true, for pure Folk-songs always developed under the influence of the old medieval modes, long before the establishment of our fixed major and minor scales. Furthermore, as these were single unaccompanied melodies, they showed slight connection with modulation or change of key in the modern sense of the term—which implies a system of harmonization in several voices. It is true that there was an instinctive and growing recognition of the importance of the three chief tonal centres: the Tonic or Keynote, the Dominant (a perfect fifth above) and the Subdominant (a perfect fifth below) and at times the relative minor. All these changes are illustrated in the melody just cited; e.g., in the fourth measure there is an implication of E minor, in measures seven and eight there is a distinct modulation to D major, the Dominant, and in the ninth measure to C major, the Subdominant. This acceptance of other tonal centres—distant a fifth from the main key-note—doubtless arose from their simplicity and naturalness, and was later sanctioned by acoustical law; the interval of a perfect fifth having one of the simplest ratios (2-3), and being familiar to people as the first overtone (after the octave) struck off by any sounding body—such as a bell or an organ pipe. The Venetian composers, notably Willaert, had also quite fully developed this principle of Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant harmony in order to give homogeneity to their antiphonal choruses. Even to-day these tonal centres are still used; for they are elemental, like the primitive colors of the spectroscope. But modulation, in the modern sense of a free shifting of the centre of gravity to any one of the twelve semitones of our chromatic scale, was not developed and accepted until after the acoustical reforms of Rameau, and the system of tuning keyed instruments embodied in that work called the Well-tempered Clavichord of Sebastian Bach. Both these men published their discoveries about the year 1720.
[Footnote 25: In counting the measures of a phrase always consider the first complete measure,—never a partial measure—as one.]
As we have just used the term modal, and since many Folk-songs in the old modes sound peculiar or even wrong (hence the preposterous emendations of modern editors!) because our ears can listen only in terms of the fixed major and minor scales, a few words of explanation concerning the nature of the medieval modes should here be given. Their essential peculiarity is the freer relationship of tones and semitones than is found in the definite pattern of our modern scales. It is of great importance that the music-lover should train himself to think naturally in these modes; for there has been a significant return to their freedom and variety on the part of such modern composers as Brahms, Tchaikowsky, Dvořak, d'Indy, Debussy and others, and some of their most individual effects are gained through the introduction of modal types of expression. The following modes are those most commonly employed in the formation of Folk-songs.
The Dorian mode, at the outset, is identical with our modern minor scale; its peculiarity lies in the semitone between the 6th and 7th degrees and the whole tone between the 7th and 8th. An excellent example of a modern adaptation of this mode may be found in Guilmant's March for organ (see Supplement, Example No. 7). The mysterious opening measures of Debussy's opera Pelleas et Melisande also owe their atmosphere to this mode, e.g.
The Phrygian mode is one of the most individual to our modern ears with its first step a semitone and with the whole tone between the 7th and 8th degrees. Under the influence of harmonic development there was worked out a cadence, known as Phrygian, which is often found in modern music, e.g.
The opening measures of the slow movement of Brahms's Fourth Symphony are an excellent example of a melody in the Phrygian mode, e.g.
The contrast between these measures, with their archaic flavor, and the sudden change in measure four to the modern tonality of E major, is very striking. Bach's well-known choral, O Sacred Head now wounded also begins in the Phrygian mode, e.g.
For a beautiful modern example of this Phrygian mode see the introduction to F.S. Converse's Dramatic Poem Job, for voices and orchestra.
The Lydian mode is identical with our major scale except for the semitone between the 4th and 5th degrees. That this change, however, gives a very characteristic effect may be seen in the passage by Beethoven from his String-Quartet op. 132—Song of Thanksgiving in the Lydian mode (see Supplement Ex. No. 8). The Mixolydian mode is also identical with our modern major scale except for the whole tone between the 7th and 8th degrees. This mode has had very slight usage in modern music; because, with the development of harmony, the instinct became so strong for a leading tone (the 7th degree)—only a semitone distant from the upper tonic—that the original whole tone has gradually disappeared. The Aeolian Mode, mainly identical with our customary minor scale, has the characteristic whole tone between the 7th and 8th degrees. Examples of this mode abound in modern literature; two excellent instances being the first theme of the Finale of Dvořak's New World Symphony, e.g.,
and the following passage from the Legend for a capella voices of Tchaikowsky, e.g.
The Ionian mode corresponds exactly with our modern major scale, and the common people among all nations early showed a strong predilection for its use. The Church, in fact, because of this popularity with the people, named it the "modus lascivus" and prohibited its use in the ecclesiastical liturgy. One of the very earliest Folk-tunes extant—"Sumer is icumen in" (already referred to)—is in the Ionian mode and, according to Cecil Sharp, the majority of English Folk-tunes are in this same mode.
[Footnote 26: The chief reason for this leading tone, in addition to the natural tendency of singers to raise their voices as near as possible to the upper tonic, was so that the dominant chord, the third of which is always the 7th degree, might invariably be a Major Triad.]
[Footnote 27: For many suggestive comments on the whole subject see his book English Folk-Song.]
We now cite a few typical folk-songs (taken from national sources) which, in their structure, show a natural instinct for balance of phrase and oftentimes for that organic unity of effect gained by restatement after contrast.
[Music: THE TRUE LOVERS' FAREWELL
The pattern of this song, in the Aeolian mode, is A, A, A, B. Unity is secured by the three-fold appearance of the first phrase; and a certain balance, by having the second phrase B twice as long (four measures) as A.
[Music: THE SHIP IN DISTRESS
The formula of this characteristic song in the Dorian mode is A, A, B, A; merely an extension, through repetition, of the simple type A, B, A which, in turn, is the basis of the fundamental structure known as the three-part form. This will later be studied in detail. It is evident to the musical sense how complete a feeling of coherence is gained by the return to A after the intervening contrast of the phrase B; evident, also, that this song is a perfect example of the principle of unity combined with variety.
We further cite a few examples from Scottish, Irish, French, Hungarian and Russian sources. They all illustrate quaint melodic intervals and an instinct for balance and symmetry.
[Music: WANDERING WILLIE
Here awa', there awa', Wanderin' Willie, Here awa', there awa', haud awa' hame. Come to my bosom, my ain only dearie, O tell me thou bring'st me my Willie the same.]
This song expresses that note of pathos often found in Scottish folk-music and is noteworthy also because the lyric poet, Robert Burns, wrote for it words of which we give the first stanza.
[Footnote 28: The example quoted, together with others equally beautiful, may be found in the collection edited by the Scottish composer, Hamish MacCunn. See, as well, the Cycle of Old Scotch Melodies arranged for four solo voices with pianoforte accompaniment by Arthur Whiting.]
[Music: WOULD GOD I WERE THE TENDER APPLE BLOSSOM]
This Irish tune is certainly one of the most perfect that can be imagined, remarkable alike for its organic unity, gained by the frequent use of the first ascending motive, and for the manner in which the successive crises are reached. Note in particular the intensity of the final climax, in measure 13, attained by a repetition of the preceding phrase.
[Footnote 29: For Irish folk-songs the best collections are the one by Villiers Stanford and a Cycle by Arthur Whiting, prepared in the same way as that just cited on Scottish melodies.]
[Music: EN PASSANT PAR LA LORRAINE AVEC MES SABOTS]
This charming song from Lorraine exemplifies that rhythmic vivacity and lightness of touch so characteristic of the French.
[Footnote 30: Taken from an excellent collection of Chansons Populaires edited by Julien Tiersot.]
Observe the piquant effect, in the final phrase, produced by the elision of a measure; there being in the whole song 31 measures instead of the normal 32 (16 + 16).
[Music: Old Hungarian Folk-song]
Hungarian folk-music is noted for its syncopated rhythm and its peculiar metric groupings. It is also often highly embroidered with chromatic notes; the Hungarian scale, with two augmented intervals, being an intensification of our minor mode, e.g.
[Footnote 31: The best popular collection of Hungarian melodies is that by Francis Korbay, the texts for which were translated and arranged by the American novelist, J.S. of Dale. It is well known what artistic use has been made of Hungarian melodies and rhythms by Schubert, Liszt and Brahms.]
Russia is fortunate in her musical inheritance; for not only has she a wealth of folk-songs, but her famous composers, Balakireff, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakoff—who are men of letters as well—have published remarkable editions of these national melodies. The Russian folk-songs express, in general, a mood of sombreness or even depression—typical of the vast, bleak expanses of that country, and of its downtrodden people. These songs are usually in the minor mode—often with sudden changes of rhythm—and based on the old ecclesiastical modes, the Russian liturgy being very ancient and having an historical connection with that of the Greek church. The folk-music of no nation is more endowed with individuality and depth of emotion. Five characteristic examples are herewith cited:
[Music: III Harmonized by RIMSKY-KORSAKOFF]
This last melody is of particular significance, because Tchaikowsky has used it so prominently in the Finale of his Fourth Symphony.
The growing interest in folk-music in America is a tendency concerning which the progressive student should inform himself. For a national basis of creative work, our country has always been at a disadvantage in comparison with nations which, as their birthright, have much music in their blood. Moreover, with the exception of the tunes of the aboriginal Indians and the plantation melodies of the Negroes, it has been asserted that America could boast no folk-songs. Recent investigations have shown, however, that this is not entirely true. Cecil Sharp, Henry Gilbert, Arthur Farwell and other musical scholars have proved that there are several regions of our country, settled by colonists from England, Ireland and Scotland, where folk-songs exist practically in the condition in which they were first brought over. One of the best collections of such material is the set of so-called Lonesome Tunes from the Kentucky Mountains, taken down by Miss Lorraine Wyman and Mr. Howard Brockway directly from the mountaineers and other dwellers in that region. These melodies have great individuality, directness and no little poetic charm. It is certainly encouraging to feel that, in this industrial age, there are still places where people express their emotions and ideals in song; for a nation that has not learned to sing—or has forgotten how—can never create music that endures.
POLYPHONIC MUSIC; SEBASTIAN BACH
We have traced, in the preceding chapter, some of the fundamental principles of design in musical expression, as they were manifested in the Folk-music of the different nations. All music of this type was homophonic, i.e., a single melodic line, either entirely unaccompanied or with a slight amount of instrumental support. Hence however perfect in itself, it was necessarily limited in scope and in opportunity for organic development. Before music could become an independent art, set free from reliance on poetry, and could attain to a breadth of expression commensurate with the growth in other fields of art, there had to be established some principle of development, far more extensive than could be found in Folk-music. This principle of "Thematic Development"—the chief idiom of instrumental music—by which a motive or a theme is expanded into a large symphonic movement, was worked out in that type of music known as the Polyphonic or many-voiced; and Polyphonic music became, in turn, the point of departure for our modern system of harmony, with its methods of key relationship and of modulation. As we have stated in Chapter I, the principle of systematic repetition or imitation—first discovered and partially applied by the musicians of the early French School and by the Netherland masters—finally culminated in the celebrated vocal works (a capella or unaccompanied) composed by Palestrina and his contemporaries for the Roman Catholic Liturgy. Up to this point the whole texture of music had been conceived in connection with voices; but with the development of the organ, so admirably suited for polyphonic style, and the perfection of the family of stringed instruments, the principles of polyphony were carried over and applied to instrumental treatment. The composer who, through his constructive genius, most fully embodied these principles was John Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). We are now prepared to explain the characteristics of polyphonic music and then to analyze some typical examples from Bach and other polyphonic composers. The essential difference between homophonic and polyphonic style is implied by the terms themselves. When there is but one melody, the skill of the composer and the attention of the listener are concentrated upon this single melodic line; and even if there be an accompaniment, it is so planned that the chief melody stands out in relief against it. The pre-eminence of this chief melody is seldom usurped, although the accompaniment often has interesting features of its own. As soon as we have more than one melody (whether there be two, three or still others) all these voice-parts may be of coequal importance, and the musical fabric becomes an interwoven texture of a number of strands. The genius and skill of the composer is now expended on securing life and interest for each of these voices—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—which seem to be braided together; and thus a much more comprehensive attention is required of the listener. For instead of the single melody in the soprano, or upper voice, of the Folk-song, we now must listen consciously to the bass and to both of the inner voices. Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon the recommendation that, in appreciating music, the first task is to train the ear to a wide range of listening. These differences in style are often apparent just as a pattern of design—to be seen from the following examples:
[Music: Homophonic Style. Irish Folk-Song]
[Music: Polyphonic Style. BACH: Fugue in C Minor]
[Footnote 32: The statement might be qualified by saying that, since Beethoven, instrumental style has become a happy mixture of homophony for the chief melodies and polyphony for the supporting harmonic basis. Stress is laid in the above text on the polyphonic aspect merely to emphasize the matter under discussion.]
[Footnote 33: Notable names are Leonin and Perotin, both organists of Notre Dame at Paris.]
[Footnote 34: Although this is not the place to set forth all the details of this development, in the interest of historical justice we should not think of Bach without gratefully acknowledging the remarkable work of such pioneers as the Dutchman, Sweelinck (1562-1621), organist at Amsterdam; the Italian, Frescobaldi (1583-1644), organist at Rome, and—greatest of all, in his stimulating influence upon Bach—the Dane, Buxtehude (1636-1707), organist at Luebeck. Sweelinck and Frescobaldi may fairly be called the founders of the genuine Fugue, and there is a romantic warmth in Buxtehude's best work which makes it thoroughly modern in sentiment.]
[Footnote 35: In connection with the statement that music has developed according to natural law, it is worth noting that the four-part chorus early became the standard for both vocal and instrumental groups for the simple reason that there exist two kinds of women's voices—soprano and alto, and two of men's voices—tenor and bass. Originally, the chief voice in the ecclesiastical chorus was the tenor (teneo), because the tenors sustained the melody. Below them were the basses (bassus, low); above the tenors came the altos (altus, high) and still higher the sopranos (sopra, above).]
In the latter example it is evident that there is an interweaving of three distinct melodic lines.
The polyphonic instrumental works of Bach and his contemporaries were called by such names as Preludes, Fugues, Canons, Inventions, Toccatas and Fantasies; but since a complete account of all these forms would lead too far afield, we shall confine ourselves to a description of the Canon, the Invention and the Fugue. A Canon (from the Greek [Greek: Kanon], meaning a strict rule or law) is a composition in which there is a literal systematic imitation, carried out to the end, between two or more of the voices (often with subsidiary voices filling in), and may be considered a kind of musical dialogue in which the second, or answering, part reenforces the message previously uttered by the leading voice. This imitation may take place at any degree of separation; and Canons are in existence at the interval of the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. The most effective Canons, however, are those in which the answering voice is an octave away from the leading one. Although the Canon is not a form employed frequently by modern composers for an entire composition, Canonic imitation appears so often in all large works for orchestra, string quartet or ensemble combinations, that the music-lover should acquire a certain ease in listening to a structure of this type. The Canon, moreover, is an integral factor in the style of Cesar Franck, d'Indy and Brahms; and illustrations of its use abound in their works. The organ is particularly well suited to the rendition of Canons; since, by its facilities for tone-color, the two voices may be clearly contrasted. Those interested in organ literature should become acquainted with the following excellent examples: The Canon in B-flat major, op. 40, by Guilmant; the 4th movement of the Fifth Organ Symphony by Widor; the Canon in B minor, op. 54, by Schumann; the Canon in F-sharp major, op. 30, by Merkel, and the set of Ten Canonic studies, op. 12, by G.W. Chadwick. In other fields of composition the following should be cited: The set of Pianoforte Pieces in Canon form, op. 35, by Jadassohn; a like set by Rheinberger, op. 180; the Canonic Vocal Trios, op. 156, by Reinecke and the famous Canon from the first act of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. There is also a beautiful bit of Canonic imitation between two of the upper voices in the introduction of Berlioz's Carnaval Romain Overture for orchestra. One of the most appealing Canons in modern literature is the setting for soprano and barytone, by Henschel, of the poem Oh that we two were Maying by Charles Kingsley. This example alone would sufficiently corroborate the statement that the firmness of structure inherent in the canonic form is perfectly compatible with genuine freedom and poetry of inspiration. In the first movement of Cesar Frank's Symphony in D minor, at the recapitulation (page 39 of the full score) may be found a magnificent example of the intensity of effect gained by a canonic imitation of the main theme—in this instance between the lower and upper voices. Possibly the finest example of canonic writing in all literature is the Finale of Cesar Franck's Sonata in A major for Violin and Pianoforte in which, for several pages, there is an eloquent dialogue between the two contrasting instruments. The movement is too long for citation but it should certainly be procured and studied. In the Trio of the Scherzo in Beethoven's Seventh Sonata for Violin and Pianoforte there is a free use of canonic imitation which will repay investigation. Lastly, the Aria with 30 Variations—the so-called Goldberg Variations of Bach—is a perfect storehouse of every conceivable canonic device.
A few standard examples are to be found in the Supplement. These should be played over and studied until they are thoroughly familiar—not only for the pleasure to be derived, but for the indispensable training afforded in polyphonic listening.
Ex. No. 9 Canon by Thomas Tallys (1510-1585).
Ex. No. 10 Canonic Variation by Schumann from the Etudes Symphoniques.
Ex. No. 11 of Bach's Goldberg Variations.
Ex. No. 12 Canon in B-flat minor, op. 38, Grieg.
Ex. No. 13 Canon in F-sharp major, op. 35, Jadassohn.
One of the most simple and direct types of polyphonic composition is the form known as the Invention in which, as the term implies, the composer—through his inventive genius and by means of the polyphonic devices of imitation and transposition—develops to a logical conclusion some short and characteristic motive. We are fortunate in having from Bach himself, that consummate master of polyphony, two sets of such Inventions: fifteen for two voices, and fifteen for three. These flights of fancy—in which art so subtly conceals art—though originally composed for the clavichord and harpsichord (the precursors of the pianoforte), are very effective on our modern instrument and should be in the possession of every music-student. A brief analysis is now given of the first one in the set for two voices, and Nos. 4, 8 and 10 in this set are particularly recommended for study; also Nos. 2, 6 and 14 among those for three voices. The opening motive
is the foundation of the entire composition and is at once imitated, canonically, in the lower voice. Then the two voices play about, with figures clearly derived from the motive, until we reach, in measures three and four, a systematic downward transposition of the material. Such transpositions or shiftings up or down in pitch are called Sequences. They are very frequent in all polyphonic composition, give a strong sense of unity to melodic progression and are generally carried out in groups of three, i.e., the original figure and two repetitions. After the sequence the music naturally works toward the most nearly related key (the dominant) and in the seventh measure reaches in that key its first objective. These Inventions of Bach, as well as the Dance forms soon to be studied, are almost invariably in what is known as Two-part form, i.e., the music consists of two main divisions, clearly marked off by cadences; the first of which modulates to the dominant or some related key while the second part, starting in this key, works back to a final close in the home key. In Inventions it early became customary in the second part to begin with the same motive as the first—but in the opposite voice. Thus we see, in the Invention now being discussed, that the seventh measure begins with the original motive in the bass which, in turn, is imitated by the Soprano—a process just the reverse of that in the opening measures.
[Footnote 36: The best edition is that by Busoni, published by Breitkopf and Haertel.]
[Footnote 37: This technical term as well as others will later be more fully explained.]
In pieces in this Two-part form the second portion is generally longer than the first; for the composer, by the time he has reached this second part, may consider the material sufficiently familiar to be expanded and varied by excursions into more remote keys, and by more intricate manipulations of the chief motive. In measure 11 we find a modulation to D minor and then, after some free treatment of the motive, we reach—in measure 15—a cadence in A minor. A long sequential passage brings us, through a modulation to the subdominant key of F major (in measures 18 and 19), to a strong closing cadence in the home key. It should be noticed that in this Invention and in some of the dance forms there is shown a strong leaning towards a tripartite division of the material as is indicated by the three cadences in measures 7, 15 and 22. Since, however, the middle part is lacking in any strong contrast—which is such an essential factor in the fully developed three-part form—it seems better to consider this piece, and others like it, as a tendency rather than as a complete embodiment of tripartite arrangement. It is expected that the music lover will take these Inventions for what they really are and not search in them for those notes of intense subjectivity and dramatic power so prevalent in modern music. They are merely little pieces—a "tour de force" in polyphonic ingenuity; music rejoicing in its own inherent vitality. Accepted in this spirit they are invigorating and charming.
The form in which polyphonic skill reaches its highest possibilities is the Fugue; and the immortal examples of this form are the Fugues of John Sebastian Bach, found in his Well-tempered Clavichord and in his mighty works for the organ. The fundamental structure of a fugue is implied in the term itself (from the Latin "fuga"—flight); that is, in a fugue the main theme or subject is always announced in a single voice, and the remaining voices, appearing successively in accordance with definite principles of key-relationship, seem to chase each other about and to flee from pursuit. The several stratified entrances of the subject are relieved by intermediate passages called "Episodes." An Episode, as shown by the derivation ([Greek: ipi hodos], by the way), is something off the beaten path—a digression; and it is in these episodical portions of a fugue rather than in the formalistic portions that the genius of the composer shines forth. This is especially true of Bach, for almost any well-trained musician can invent a subject which will allow of satisfactory fugal treatment according to accepted usage; but no one save Bach has ever invented such free and fanciful episodes—so daring in scope and yet so closely connected with the main thought. The general effect of a fugue is cumulative: a massing and piling up of voices that lead to a carefully designed conclusion which, in some of Bach's organ fugues, is positively overwhelming. A fugue may be called a mighty crescendo, like the sound of many waters. There is a popular conception, or rather misconception, that a fugue is a labored, dull or even "dry" form of composition, meant only as an exhibition of pedantic skill, and quite beyond the reach of ordinary musical appreciation. Nothing is farther from the truth, as a slight examination of musical literature will show. For we see that the fugal form has been used to express well-nigh every form of human emotion, the sublime, the tragic, the romantic; very often the humorous and the fantastic. When we recall the irresistible sparkle and dash of Mozart's Magic Flute Overture, of the Overture to the Bartered Bride by Smetana, of the Finale of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, and of many of the fugues in the Well-tempered Clavichord, it is evident that to call a fugue "dry" is an utter abuse of language. It is true that there are weak, artificial and dull fugues, where the composer—frankly—had nothing to say and merely filled out the form; but the same may be said of every type of composition, i.e., among them all are examples inspired and—less inspired. This, however, is no indictment of the fugue per se, against which the only thing to be said is that it requires on the part of the listener an exceeding concentration. Some of the masterpieces of the world being wholly or partially in the fugal form, it is the duty of those listening to polyphonic music to train their powers to the same seriousness of attention expected and freely given in the appreciation of an oration, a drama or a cathedral. These latter manifestations of artistic expression, to be sure, are less abstract than the fugue and more closely related to daily life. Yet no effort is more repaying than the mental and emotional energy expended in listening to the interweavings of a good fugue; for, conscious of missing the periodic divisions of the Folk-song, we have to listen to more than one melody at a time. A fugue being a composition, as the French say, of "longue haleine," our attention, in order to follow its structure, must be on the "qui vive" every moment. The fugue, in fact, is an example of the intricate and yet organic complexity found in all the higher forms of life itself; and whenever a composer has wished to dwell with emphasis on a particular theme, he almost invariably resorts to some form of fugal treatment, strict or free. The most effective media for rendering fugues are the chorus of mixed voices, the organ (by reason of its pedal key-board always making the subject in the bass stand out majestically) and the stringed orchestra which, with the "bite" of the strings, brings out—with peculiar sharpness—the different entrances of the subject. The student should become familiar with standard examples in each of these classes and should, above all, seek opportunity to hear some of the organ fugues of Bach performed on a really fine instrument. A few well-known fugues are herewith cited in order to stimulate the student to some investigation of his own. In all the Oratorios of Handel and in the choral works of Bach, such as the B minor Mass, may be found magnificent fugues—as free and vital in their rhythmic swing as the ocean itself. Particular attention should be called to the fugue in the Messiah "And by His stripes we were healed [Transcriber's Note: And with His stripes we are healed]." One of the most impressive fugues in modern literature is the a capella chorus Urbs Syon Unica from H.W. Parker's Hora Novissima. From among the organ works of Bach everyone should know the Fugues in G minor, in A minor, in D major and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. These have all been transcribed for the pianoforte by Liszt and so are readily available; they are often played at pianoforte recitals by Paderewski and other virtuosi. In hearing one of these masterpieces no one can remain unmoved or can fail to reverence the constructive genius which fashioned such cathedrals in tone. For orchestra we have the Prelude to Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly, and the beginning of the Prelude to the third act of Wagner's Mastersingers. There are striking fugal passages in Beethoven's Symphonies, e.g., the first movement of the Heroic Symphony and the rollicking Trio of the Scherzo in the Fifth Symphony. In more modern literature there is the fugal Finale to Arthur Foote's Suite for Orchestra and in Chadwick's Vagrom Ballad a humorous quotation of the theme from Bach's G minor Fugue for organ. One of the most superb fugues in free style is the last movement of Cesar Franck's Prelude, Choral and Fugue in B minor for Pianoforte. This movement alone would refute all charges of dullness or dryness brought against the fugue by the unthinking or the unenlightened. A good fugue, in fact, is so full of vitality and demands such active comprehension on the part of the listener that it is not difficult to imagine where the dullness and dryness are generally found.
[Footnote 38: Whenever Percy Grainger performs this fugue in his own arrangement for pianoforte, he always electrifies an audience.]
[Footnote 39: It is worthy of observation that, for those who will listen to them intelligently, fugues do not merely demand such a state of mind but actually generate it.]
At this point by an analysis of a fugue from the Well-tempered Clavichord, let us explain some of the technical features in fugal structure. We shall then be in a position to understand the more subtle devices of fugal treatment and to appreciate more enthusiastically some additional comments upon Bach's style in general.