WHAT is found in the books about the early history of music, little as it is, is probably largely conjecture. It is not easy for us to surmise what conclusions a man may reach who is restricted to a part of the premises we possess. A man who has both eyes in perfect condition cannot by simply closing his eyes for a short experiment put himself on the plain of a man born blind. Some ancient writers rhapsodize about the power and effect of music with all the glow of a modern enthusiast discoursing upon the same subject, but what are offered as examples of the music of two thousand years ago will not stimulate any really musical interest in even an archaeologist of the present day. Something seems wrong. Either our ears are different or we have not correctly reproduced the instruments and music with which Orpheus so easily rent rocks and tamed savage breasts. Plato has recorded an exalted opinion of the educational value of music, but there is little doubt that he meant something very different from the modern art called by that name, and not less different from any reproductions yet suggested of the music of his own day.
But however much or little of the elements of modern musical art the ancients possessed and understood, it is reasonably certain that there must have been a beginning somewhere. Somebody rejoiced in a musical sound and tried to reproduce it ; somebody noticed a difference in musical sounds and tried to arrange them ; somebody selected among possible arrangements of musical sounds those that seemed most pleasing and artistic. Evolution and survival of the fittest are terms emphatically applicable to the progress of musical art.
It can hardly be doubted that the sensuous beauty of sounds themselves, and the added beauty of their orderly arrangement were realized before the possibility of emotional expression through music was even suspected. A primary object of all artists is to please — subjective soul revelation comes later. The troubadour or minnesinger is not so much concerned with discovering new ways of arranging sounds as he is with winning favor, and that, he soon learns, means composing music with a modicum of new associated with a mass of the established. Even the simplest melody needs both unity and contrast. Contrast having been secured by the use of a second strain, unity promptly suggests the repetition of the first, and we have the form A, B, A. It is but a step to the repetition of the second strain, and we have A, B, A, B ; and growing out of this without adding to the material, we may watch the development of A, B, B, A; and A, A, B, A. Other arrangements are possible, like A, B, B, B, or A, A, A, B ; and when these are tried and found less satisfactory than the others, we have a beginning of the canons of musical form, the foundation of the classical school of composition.
There may be easily distinguished at least six schools of musical composition : I. The Liturgical School, in which the music is adapted to and controlled by words, particularly prose, and all possible considerations of purely musical nature, especially form, are subordinated to the demands of the text. This does not include lyric composition where the words conceed at least as much as the melody to the effectiveness of the work considered as a whole, but only chants, recitatives, and compositions in old ecclesiastical style, where music conceeded everything possible, was moulded to the text, and sung for the sake of deliberate rhythmical enunciation of the words. II. The Contrapuntal School, in which the ruling idea is the interweaving of melodies. III. The Classical School, where the foremost object is Form. IV. The Romantic School, where expression outranks every other consideration. V. The Popular School, where no higher thought than giving pleasure to the multitude enters the composer’s mind. VI. The Dance School, where adaptation of rhythmic tones to rhythmic motions takes precedence of all other desiderata. As in other artistic matters, these schools are not sharply separated one from another. Many dances are classical ; the romantic and the contrapuntal styles abound in classical works ; and a long step toward popularity is often taken by adopting a dance style. Yet music can be classified and assigned to its proper school by its ruling tendency, and that is sufficient.
The word classical is often held to refer to the quality of the composition rather than to its style. A work which stands the test of time and receives for years the endorsement of competent judges is said to be classical, because the continuous favor with which it is accepted warrants the assignment of it to the highest order or rank. There is much of truth in that view, yet as a matter of fact, works are assigned to the classical category by the non-critical more because their composer is considered to be a writer of classical works, than because the particular work under discussion is regarded as of the highest order or rank ; while the discriminating make their decision more because of the style of the piece than because of the esteem in which a series of critics have avowedly held it. The classical piece is a composition in a style that has been adopted by the acknowledged great men of the art; a style that has approved itself by the test of long endurance, and particularly the style that is purest, has least admixture of things extraneous to the art itself. The Liturgical, Romantic, and Dance styles are not so pure as the Classical; the Popular is not so elevated, and the Contrapuntal has not so well stood the test of time ; it is not so largely used by the majority of composers whose works live to-day although its greatest exponent, Bach, comes nearer than any other musician to artistic immortality, so far as can be judged at present.
Classical music, then, is that in which The Art of the Musician is elaborated through forms which have been approved by the test of long use. The forms themselves have been evolutions very gradually remodeled by men whose ideas have grown too large and rich to be satisfactorily restrained within boundaries handed down to them by their predecessors in art, but who have paid the price in disfavor, issolation, and hardship that they might perform the functions of discoverers and pioneers. It has cost an innovator something to add a new strain to a song-form, to increase the range of modulation within a movement, to substitute a Scherzo for a Menuetto, or a Theme and Variations for an Adagio. Such things when first done are not apt to be approved by contemporary critics satisfied with the methods and attainments of some great one who, very likely already in his grave where praise will do him little good and where he is sure to produce no innovations, is at the zenith of his fame, and who never sanctioned such unwelcome trivialities. Do as the critics direct, or wait till you are dead for the approval of the public and that pecuniary reward of your work which is so dependent upon it !
Considerable attention has already been given to the Song-Form and the methods of its growth. When the evolution had gone so far as to create a form in which a principal strain (properly a subject) was heard three times with two intervening portions or intermezzos, we have the form known as Rondo. This in some of its modifications has proven a most satisfactory arrangement and has been in use and given pleasure time out of mind. The idea of a theme that returns more than once is in the round or catch, in the fugue, and is practically in any song-form if repeated. But the order of arrangement of other strains and the number of recurrences of the subject,. as well as the character of the material used in all parts, are points in and by’ which the growth of the form may be traced.
But recurrence of subject, as has been shown, is an element tending toward the unifying of a composition. While ‘strains other than the subject, made up of different melodies, offer something in the way of contrast and variety, it was soon seen that in this direction more was imperatively needed, and that additional interest might be sup-plied in a tune by contrasted attunement by modulation or transition. Bach, with prophetic vision little short of marvellous, seemed to realize the need of greater facilities for modulation as a means of developing The Art of the Musician, and by his famous work ” The Well-tempered Clavichord,” gave the weight of his influence in favor of a method of tuning keyed instruments (equal temperament) which permitted modulation into any scale, or the use of any key as a tonic. It was, however, long after Bach’s day that modulation to distant keys was accepted as a legitimate feature of rondo development.
The student of The Art of the Musician who would appreciate the workmanship displayed in a Rondo or allied composition, must accustom himself at least to observe change of attunement, and to retain the original tonic with so firm a grasp that he may promptly and confidently recognize its reinstatement. To do this implies ability to trace out the extent of change of tonic in transition ; that is, to know what interval exists between the old tonic and the new. It will be necessary also to be able to identify a passage in spite of its presentation in different keys, even when there is considerable intervening material between its two assertions. So much added to the auricular training suggested in earlier chapters will make it possible for one to decipher the elements of all classical forms.
Rondos are constructed in great variety of arrangement. The essential thing about them all is the appearance, at or near the beginning, of an important passage, the subject, and its reappearance at several, certainly not less than two, subsequent points. Generally this subject adheres to one key, but in long rondos, reciting the subject often, it may be found once or twice in altered tonality. At its final appearance, at least, it must have the same tonic as at first, and its various en-trances must be separated by intervening material. If a paragraph of such intervening material appears more than once substantially or essentiallynot exactly reproducedit will be classified as an intermezzo; if only once, it will be called an episode, provided that in each case the material called by those names is equivalent in length and general importance to the subject. There may be a paragraph of that character appearing twice, the first time in some key, different from the principal key of the rondo, the second time in the latter key. In that case the paragraph will be called a Second Subject. Such a paragraph, however, is not likely to be discovered in any but a very long rondo; in fact, a second subject is rare in rondos. When it does occur it is then likely that the intermezzo will include a modulation within its compass at one appearance or the other, but the modulation will be so managed that the paragraph will preserve its identity in spite of its varied tonal basis. A good example of an intermezzo of this character may be found in the Rondo in Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 10, No. 3, although this rondo contains no second subject. The intermezzo is quoted in both its forms in Ex. 79 below. The entire rondo consists of three chapters, the first containing three paragraphs Subject, Intermezzo, and Subject; the second chapter consists of three paragraphs Episode, Passage, and Subject; the third chapter consists of four paragraphsIntermezzo, Passage IT, Subject (varied), and Coda. The chapters of rondos always terminate with the conclusion of the second and each following recitation of the subject, except that all that follows the next before the final occurrence to the end of the rondo be-longs in the last chapter.
Many classical compositions are in the form of rondos, although called by special names. And just as song-forms become integral parts of applied song forms, or even of rondos, so all of these smaller forms enter into the larger cyclical forms – the sonata and suite. The suite requires here no special attention. It was at first simply a collection of classical dances united by having a common tonic, and diversified by their styles. At a later time movements not strictly dances were introduced (prelude, intermezzo, romanza, etc.) and modern suites select among these numbers with great freedom and without even adhering to the original rule of one tonic. It can hardly be said that the suite is a definite form, considered as a whole, or that it has been such for many years. No practical distinction exists between the suite and the partita.
The sonata is the crowning achievement of classical development, the present name of a form which includes the symphony and all cyclical pieces of chamber music.
The word sonata is derived from the Latin word signifying sound, and was first used to specify a composition not using human voices, in distinction from the cantata in which voices were heard. Unquestionably the earliest music was vocal, and when instruments began to be used, their office was to accompany the voice. So soon as music was performed by instruments alone, the name sonata came into use. Since that day it has been applied to compositions of widely divergent styles and forms, but it has always been the name of the noblest form known to instrumental music at any given time. Once applied to the precursor of what is now called a fugue, it presently became the title of such a work as has long been called a suite. When compositions of that general character cyclical — came to be diversified from each other, the name sonata was retained for the form tending to include the more refined and highly developed elements.
At present the title is given to a work for one or two instruments, in several movementsat least two – one of which must be of a specific character soon to be described ; the other movements may be in that same or in a different form, but nearly always they include a piece in slow tempo and a rondo, often a menuet or scherzo, occasionally a theme and variations, but do not necessarily show any of these modes of development : the movements, however, are always of classical form and style, and always reveal some link identifying them as integral parts of a single work. A sonata must be a single work, it must contain at least two movements, and one of its movements must be in a specific form ; it may have three, four, five, or even six movements, possibly more ; several of these movements may be in the specific form mentioned, and in matters of arrangement and the choice of styles for all movements except the one, the composer may act as his taste inclines.
The specific movement-form mentioned has suffered long for lack of a suitable name. It has been called commonly either a sonata-form or a first-movement form, and latterly Mr. Matthews, the able author and critic of Chicago, has proposed the title ” sonata-piece.” All of these titles, however, are objectionable. The movement certainly has not the form of a sonata, for it is one movement while a sonata is invariably a form in more than one movement, although the movement now under consideration is the essential one. It is the necessary form in a sonata, but it is not the form of the sonata, and the title suggests the latter signification, and is therefore objectionable. First-movement form is decidedly worse, for it is by no means unusual to find more than one movement of a sonata using this form. For example, Beethoven’s Sonata, Op. 31, No. 3 in E flat, contains three such movements the first, second, and fourth of the work. It is technically correct but grammatically questionable to assert that this sonata has three ” first movements.” A fair number of sonatas also make the movement in this form take some other place than the first. Sonata-piece is slightly, if any, better. Could it be understood to mean a piece or portion of a sonata, and that the essential portion, it would serve its purpose well enough ; but we are accustomed to speak of any entire composition as ” a piece ” of music. Common usage, therefore, warranting one in speaking of a whole sonata as a piece, the objection to the title ” sonata-piece ” for a portion of the work is practically the same as the objection to ” sonata-form.”
In view of these facts, the author ventured in several magazine articles published within the past two or three years, to make a suggestion which he here renews after having had the pleasure of noting its adoption by a few musicians. Following the example of scientists who in introducing a new term strive to make it serve at once the dual office of designating something and also honoring a great man in the annals of the science (like a galvanism “), why should not musicians build a verbal monument to one who has won a great name in art and who had much to do with perfecting the sonata, while at the same time supplying the need of a term for the purpose indicated in the preceding paragraph ? Why not in future call what has hitherto been named a ” first movement,” or a ” sonata-form,” a mozarta ?
A Sonata, then, is a composition made up of two or more distinct but related movements, at least one of which must be a mozarta. The mozarta is a composition consisting essentially of three chapters, the first and the third of which each contain two subjects, which are in different keys in Chapter I, and in the same key in Chapter III. Many other things are frequently, even usually, found in mozartas, but with enough of variation to make them unreliable as guides to the student of the form ; while the two subjects the first, by definition already given, being in the principal key of the movement, and reproduced ; the second entering in some different key and reappearing in the same key as that used for the first and the three chapters can hardly fail to identify the movement. It differs from a rondo in having usually but the two appearances of the first subject, and in always having a second subject.
The three chapters are named : I. Exposition ; II. Development (also Working-out, or Free Fantasie); III. Recapitulation. In the vast majority of sonatas Chapter I is marked for repetition and may be recognized by that fact. It is not unusual to find a double bar at the end of the first chapter even when there are no repeat marks. The reentrance of the first subject in the original key is the mark of beginning for the third chap-ter. Between the two subjects in the first chapter there is nearly always a modulation included in what is called the Passage. If this passage is represented in the third chapter, it is likely to have some of the characteristics of an intermezzo.
After the second subject there are commonly a few measures of termination which may be extended to quite a paragraph. In the third chapter, after this termination, or even growing out of it, a coda is rarely wanting.
In some large works (Beethoven’s Sonata in C, Op. 53, is a good example) there is a distinct fourth chapter, which may be called Reminiscence. The subjects are often developed in large works before any new matter is introduced, and it is therefore necessary to distinguish between subject proper (so much as is reproduced) and the extended or developed subject. In Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 10, No. 3, the subject proper ends with the first note of measure 11, but the extended subject (which is itself the passage) includes the half note with pause in measure 23. Many writers speak of a third subject as if it were essential, at least in all large sonatas ; but this view is due to their attempt to identify a subject with a sentence or two. So long as it is true that so-called second and third subjects are always in one key and always continuous, the distinctions already indicated will identify the two as one, and thus simplify the matter of analysis and rationalize the matter of nomenclature. In the sonata just mentioned the second subject extends from measure 23 to measure 114 and is in four distinct styles, but all of it returns in Chapter III transposed from dominant to tonic, and as a whole it constitutes the second subject regardless of its variety of styles and number of sentences.
The rule is that if the first subject is in major, the second subject shall first occur in the key of the dominant; if the first subject is in minor, the second shall first occur in relative major; but to this rule there are many exceptions. And it must never be forgotten that the key of a piece (move-ment), or of a paragraph, is that in which it ends modern composers are fond of writing frequent changes of key within very short passages.
The development (second) chapter is thematically suggestive of more or less of the material of Chapter I. Further than this no rules exist for its form or structure. It is ” Free Fantasie,” but it is based upon material already introduced into the work.
When a sonata contains more than one mozarta, the less important movements in that form are apt to be constructed with some license, but it is rare indeed that the essentials cannot readily be pointed out. Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 28, to which attention was directed in Chapter VII, shows in its third movement (Scherzo, without the trio) a very compact epitome of the mozarta form, hardly large or dignified enough to be worthy of the name mozarta, yet containing all the essentials. The contrast of style between the two subjects, which many look upon as necessary, is certainly lacking here, but that is true also of some larger works. Chapter I is repeated, the second time of performance being written out in full with slight variation. The first subject includes measures 18 (1724) ; the second subject, measures 916 (2532). The second chap-ter includes measures 3348. The third chapter includes the remainder of the movement, the coda beginning with measure 65. The Scherzo of Schubert’s First Sonata, in A minor, Op. 42, is also an epitomized mozarta, and is quoted in full as Ex. 80. The first subject ends in measure 6, the remainder of the sentence serving at once as an extension of the subject and as a passage (compare measures 100105). The second subject begins in measure 11 (beat two) and extends to the double bar. In Chapter III (which begins in measure 95) it extends from measure 105 to the first beat of measure 123, the remainder of the chapter being the coda, and measures 3095 constituting Chapter II. -The first movement of this same sonata is interesting in that it has an introduction which is not distinguished in any way in the print. The first subject begins in measure 27 and the second in measure 41.
Sonata form occupies a large place in any thorough study of The Art of the Musician. Extended articles and even books have been written upon it, and tracing its development from early times to the usage of the present day is a fascinating employment. It is sufficiently evident that the form is not fixed, but it is impossible to say in what direction its development will advance. The tendency to make the movements continuous has not shown any great vitality of late, yet Liszt has advanced along that line in one of the most masterly compositions ever put into this form, by blending the structural essentials of the mozarta with the movement changes of an entire sonata. That is to say, the Liszt sonata a gigantic, wholly admirable and original work has no breaks between movements, and is constructed throughout as a development of a single pair of subjects. The whole sonata is one grand, enlarged mozarta. Other innovations have been suggested by other composers. The Chopin Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35, into which the famous funeral march is incorporated, shows in its first movement no note-for-note reproduction of the first subject, yet the spirit of the subject is there unmistakably at work, and the second subject has all the characteristics of the established form. It is not unlikely that the third subject, unmistakably individualized and developed in a special and ‘characteristic manner, will be a basis of early experimentation, but in general it may be said that recent composing is more concerned with substance than with form, and the best recent and living composers write at the most, but few sonatas, suites, or rondos each. And even when they do produce sonatas, the subjects, passages, mozartas, movements, and all other details are apt to be imbued with a romanticism of style and development that reveals the growing tendency to use The Art of the Musician more and more unequivocally as the language of emotion.