In the discussions that are to follow I shall have in mind that class of music lovers known as amateurs or dilettantism, meaning thereby those who do not practice music as a profession, and have little or no expert knowledge. I am thinking of genuine music lovers, the people who compose the serious part of opera and concert audiences, who encourage music in the home and in society, who like to discuss music and wish to make it more familiar. This enlarged appreciation, I assume, is to be gained chiefly by the ear, for the music lovers for whom this book is written are not required to be masters of the art of reading music. Books and musical reviews in the daily, weekly, and monthly press they will find it for their interest to consult frequently, and some of the best books on different branches of the subject will be specified. Lectures on music they will sometimes attend. In fact, I shall have pretty constantly in my mind the worthy band of lecturers whose work in colleges, schools, clubs and other private circles has recently become an important item in our national educational machinery. In this department of musical’ instruction traditions are still to be established, for there are as many methods as there are teachers, and many of these methods are crude and incomplete. My purpose is partly to indicate my own conception of the nature and scope of the subject of musical criticismthe topics involved and their mutual relations, the action of musical works upon the ear and mind of the listener, the aesthetic principles concerned, and the various means by which musical enjoyment may be increased and rational judgment ensured. I shall consider the needs of the learner, the preparation of the teacher (so far as the teacher is allowed to appear within the horizon of this volume) and the materials available for both. No exact system of study is proposed, certainly not a complete one. Many things that such a book might properly contain will probably be omitted, either intentionally or inadvertently. I wish to be as discursive as my whim dictates. My temperament is that of an explorer rather than that of a surveyor, and an explorer is one who leaves much to be sought out by the next corner. Suggestion rather than an organized pro-gram is the writer’s best service in such a case as this; his best hope that he may be able to persuade others to enter a fresh field. by confirming out of his own discoveries the bright promise of its invitations.
In its simplest terms the question resolves itself into this: What and bow must one hear in listening to music? In respect to the what a listener is in quite a different situation from that involved in the presence of any other art. A musical composition exists only as it is performed; it does not really live until it has known a second birth. Moreover, music is movement; it is contained in time and not in space. We may go to an art gallery and study a picture or a statue at leisure; we are not compelled to form a judgment until we have deliberately examined all the details and put them together in our consciousness. In the case of a literary work the reader may be as deliberate as the picture gazer. The obscurities of Browning or Henry James simply require closer attention and slower progress than the lucid phrases of Tennyson or Hardy; the reader need not go on until he has understood them. But the musical piece passes as on the wings of the wind; we cannot arrest it for the sake of a reinspection. Moreover music is harmony as well as rhythmic melody; in the simplest song with piano accompaniment there are several parts to follow at the same time, while in a symphony, or still more in an opera or oratorio, the abundance and complexity of simultaneous elements not only presuppose vast powers of analytic perception on the part of the human ear, but also seem determined to baffle them. The weakness of music in the opinion of many Paytone+Ones if it be a weakness consists not so much in the character of its impressions as in the difficulty on the part of the hearer of getting any clear impressions at all. Even the trained musician feels this whenever he goes to a concert. The musical piece is volatile, intangible, evasive; it comes out of silence and vanishes into the unknown again. We are tantalized by this flying tumult of sweet sounds. We suspect that in the flood of harmony there are numberless beauties that escape us. We long to put forth some faculty of seizure that may arrest this phantom and hold it until it gives up all its secrets. If the educated musician is often thus perplexed it is not strange that the untaught amateur, catching a random charm here and an-other there, despairs of getting a definite image and yields to the vague excitement of nerve stimulation, or perhaps to the nobler, but no less transient absorption in mystical imaginings, and tries to be content therewith.
It is evident that these impediments can be overcome only by the development of some faculty which will enable the hearer to apprehend the design of a musical work and perceive some logical necessity in its progress. If the different factors combine into an artistic whole which gives each of them its raison d’etre-if the composer’s purpose is fully revealed only when the work is grasped entire, as a unitythen it is plain that the casual, disconnected impressions of the average non-musician do not give him the satisfaction which the work is intended to afford. His attention must be directed toward elements and qualities which he has not hitherto perceived. An amount of technical knowledge must be acquired that is at least sufficient to enable him to discover what the work actually contains and the real significance of each part in the total effect. These factors, not being intuitively discerned, require demonstration, and the novice in matters of musical science gladly accepts the guidance of the expert.
One who undertakes to assist musically untrained people to a comprehension of the works of the great composers, finds it necessary to ask: What is the actual musical experience of one who has no technical knowledge of the art? What does one who knows nothing of musical science or the laws of musical expression actually get out of a concert, recital, or opera? What is the difference in respect to perception and mental reaction between the untaught music lover and the expert critic? It is not easy to find an answer to these questions. The musician may call upon his imagination for a reply, but there is not much satisfaction in this, for it is extremely difficult for him to project him-self into the mental state of one who has formed none of the habits that have become a second nature to one who has spent years in familiar association with the practical side of the art. These two individuals inhabit different worlds. Features that are instantly perceived and appraised by the one are overlooked by the other. The adept can-not recall his days of musical innocence, and so he asks for testimony from his non-musical brother, since instruction presupposes some knowledge of the mental status of the pupil. Such information, however, the latter finds it very difficult to give, for how can one furnish a clear account of impressions which are in their very nature unclear and elusive?
Certain aspects of the non-musician’s musical experience will always be a mystery to an investigator as well as to the subject himself. One very radical distinction, however, is plain, and that is to be found in the fact that the musician’s hearing of music is definite, while that of the casual hearer is indefinite. The latter is aware of a number of simple perceptions which may be very delightful even in isolation, but they do not coalesce in his consciousness into the orderly groups and divisions which, in their relations of balance, contrast, and fulfilment, make up a complete work of art. Furthermore, not being conversant with the principles of musical organization, he cannot be in that attitude of intelligent expectation which the musician, by reason of his specialized knowledge, is able to assume. Hence he fails to notice a great many sounds which the musician perceives because he is more or less awake to their necessity in the tonal scheme. The musician’s perception of sounds is reinforced by his acquaintance with the procedure of the art of composition, and he is thus able to hear each phrase as a preparation for that which is to come; his mind is alert, as if about to spring ahead of the actual tones and anticipate their direction, or at least he can connect each passage with what he has already heard and construct in his mind more or less extensive divisions of the work as he goes along. No musician can do this to such a degree as to seize every detail of a large and intricate composition at the first hearing; there is a certain consolation to the amateur in reading the cautious, non-committal estimates of the profes-sional critics on the morning after a first performance of a new symphony. But the critic’s training enables him to direct his mind along certain legalized thoroughfares and gather details together into related groups, while to one who listens with-out method the sounds come in heterogeneous confusion, distinguished, if distinguished at all, only in gleams and flashes playing upon a current of vague sonority.
The primary task of the ambitious music lover, therefore, will be to learn some of the secrets of musical construction, in order that his hearing . may take on that quality of definiteness which lies at the basis of a true musical appreciation. “Music,” says Edmund Gurney, “may be de-scribed as having a definite or indefinite character according as the individuality of what is presented is or is not perceived; according as the person does or does not grasp something which can be recognized as itself and nothing else when the presentation is repeated, and can be reproduced in memory, not as the mere knowledge of a past fact, but with some vital realization of the actual experience. It is, indeed, obviously natural that any matter presented to the higher senses should exhibit definite aesthetic character in proportion to the degree in which striking form is perceived in it. The mind naturally assimilates and makes completely its own that on which it has brought its own activity to bear, and activity of mind demands an order of some kind in the matter on which it works.”
On this plain psychologic principle the learner must take his stand. His first business is to develop that faculty which seeks for a systematic connection among audible phenomena. Without design and order parts possessing a value not in themselves alone but in their contribution to the development of the whole there is no work of art. “A book,” says Alphonse Daudet (and he would have used the same expression for any art-work) “ a book is an organism; if it has not its organs in place it dies, and its corpse is a scandal.” As the sounds enter the listener’s brain he must strive to organize them there as the composer organized their symbols, to build up a tonal structure in his consciousness, a structure distinct, symmetrical, self-supportingnot only that the whole beauty of the work may be manifest, but also that its presence may remain established in the memory as a secure possession. Every musician is aware that music is not a random string of vivid sensations passing over like the clouds which leave no wake. To his mind each phrase is a consequence of that which went before and the necessary antecedent of that which follows. Just as each word in a line of poetry is by itself alone meaning-less, so it is only in their connections and relations that sounds acquire aesthetic value. A single tone may be delightful in its physical effect, but apart from its fellows it has no expression, no character.’
The musician’s pleasure comes from an active exercise of the attention directed by anticipation and sustained by memory. He enjoys the evidences of skill, of difficulties overcome, of the triumph of the composer or performer over his defiant material, the beauty that lies in reasoned design, development, and proportion. The ignorant hearer, on the other hand, is the sport of unknown forces. The sounds at any moment drive out of his mind the sounds he heard the moment before. In an orchestral composition he catches the most decided tone colors, he is exhilarated with the grandeur of accumulated crescendos, the fierce rush of the prestos, the electric pulse of the rhythms, and is soothed by the contrasting murmur of soft melodies. He enjoys the brilliant execution of the pianist, the sympathetic voice of the famous singer. He is very conscious of melodyat least in fragments; he is less conscious of harmony; counterpoint is an unknown tongue. He is often like one who walks through a gallery of paintings, glancing from side to side, catching
Exceptions to this principle, of course, occur in dramatic music, where, for example, a piercing high note, a fortissimo or harshly dissonant chord, or a distant trumpet tone will convey vivid suggestion by means of imitation or direct association.
Glimpses of forms and colors, but when his excursion is over remembers little of what he has seen, and doubts if he is much the wiser for his experience. The musical world of the dilettante is often a sort of twilight region, in which every-thing is indistinct and many things beautiful are quite unseen.
Out of this misty realm of sensation the amateur, as soon as he is enlightened upon the real nature of art, wishes to emerge; he desires to arrange and solidify his impressions into something coherent, and fortify them with elements which he has not before perceived. In a word, he wishes to hear definitely instead of indefinitely.
In listening to a piece of music we observe the actual growth of an organic structure; we are witnesses of a process, each detail of which has a certain necessity in the realization of a design. A complete understanding of the work would imply an ability to comprehend not only the composer’s ruling motive but also the function of every melodic and harmonic factor in the scheme. The question how a composer works becomes of interest. Many people seem to have the notion that a musical composition is of the nature of an improvisation, a succession of tones streaming out of a highly excited emotional condition. As regards a songwhich in the case of a genius like Schubert may be struck out at a white heat and jotted down in a few feverish moments–this is in part true, but not so in respect to a. work containing an abundance of varied ideas and elaborate in organization. Beethoven spent many days in writing the funeral march of the “Heroic” symphony, but we are not to suppose that his thoughts during that time were constantly fixed on mortality and the grave. We think of Tchaikovsky as a man in whom there was an especially direct connection between his moods and his music, but listen to what he says in one of his letters: “Those who imagine that a creative artist can, through the medium of his art, express his feelings at the moment when he is moved make the greatest mistake. Emotions, sad or joyful, can only be expressed retrospectively, so to speak. Without any special reason for rejoicing I may be moved by the most cheerful creative mood, and, vice versa, a work composed amid the happiest surroundings may be touched with dark and gloomy colors.” We know that Beethoven and Chopincomposers whose music is charged to a high degree of emotional tensionwere slow and laborious workers, Beethoven, particularly, being forced to struggle not only with the working out of his themes, but in many cases with the themes themselves, fairly twisting and hammering them into shape before he could begin to make use of them as constructive material. So true is it that a musical composition is a work of conscious reflective design that an actual personal emotion may even stand in the way of the best success in execution. Grieg’s funeral march written in honor of his beloved friend, Rikard Nordraak, is on the whole rather commonplace, while thousands have been deeply moved by the pathos of “Ase’s Death,” written to suit a purely imaginary situation. The sublime “Dead March” in Handel’s “Saul” and the awful dirge for Titurel in Wagner’s “Parsifal” were certainly not inspired by personal experiences on the part of their authors. On the other hand, it would be impossible to find any connection between Mozart’s distressing circumstances in 1788 and the three symphonies of that yearsymphonies which seem fairly aglow with the joie de vivre. We need not regret that such is the case. It is the glory of art that its masterpieces are written in unconscious sympathy with universal human feeling, and are not the less sincere when they call forth tears such as their creators never shed.
In spite of this, I trust that I do not need to say that great music is something more than the result of a merely mechanical process. The truth seems to be that the first idea of the spirit and something of the form of a work often come in a sort of instantaneous vision, and the excited mood may often arise from an actual personal experience. The theme itself, which may suddenly flash upon the composer’s mind, will often contain implicitly the essential character of the movement, as in the opening measures of Beethoven’s Fifth symphony or the Scherzo of Mendelssohn’s “Scotch” symphony. But the decision how the subject shall be treated and the giving of body and form to the idea is a very deliberate process; and when the composer takes pen in hand he must keep his head cool and call upon the result of his years of theoretical training, for his problem now is largely technical. This is even more the case with the composer, especially the instrumental composer, than it is with the sculptor or the painter, for his art is not at all imitative of nature, and so being free from any control by outward phenomena he is bound by the inner necessity of shaping his airy material by the laws which itself decrees.
It is these laws that the serious music lover wishes to understand, so far as a knowledge of them is necessary to enable him to follow a work in all its parts and take into his mind everything that con-tributes to its essential character. Order is heaven’s first law in art as in nature, and the recognition of orderly arrangement in sounds is the first condition of definite impressions in hearing music. Even if the human mind does not instinctively seek for orderly relations among audible. phenomena, at any rate a sense of these relationships and a desire for them can easily be awakened. It is a faculty to be cultivated like any other; it is a question of degrees. The craving for system and proportion is betrayed in the simplest folk song, even in, the barren repetitions that abound in the music of savages. From such naive devices up to the first movement of the “Heroic” symphony we find in every stage of musical progress the same necessity at work. A musical composition, like a drama or any other product of artistic contrivance, is a community in which each member ministers to the welfare of the whole, and draws from the whole organism the vital force which maintains its own existence. Says Dr. William Pole: “One may fancy a musical composition which, though it may be divided into measures and groups of measures, consists of a constant succession of heterogeneous ideas, none of which have any relation to any others going before or after them. This may be called amorphous music, that is, music without form; and even though the ideas presented might be very good, it would be tiresome and wearying to listen to. All great composers have perceived this, and they have, therefore, taken care to lighten the effort by causing a composition to contain but few novel ideas, and giving the chief interest by their skilful and musician-like treatment.”
The only fault that might be found with this statement is in the implied reason for this procedure on the part of composers; it is not to make things easy for the listener, but in obedience to an artistic necessity, that regularity of structure has prevailed. Even the classic forms of fugue and sonata, which Dr. Pole evidently has in mind, although their supremacy has long since passed, contain a principle that has never yet been abrogated. The leader-ship of certain themes and tonalities and the re-turn to them after other melodies and keys have intervened is still the method by which a straggling incoherence is avoided, and consistency, coherence, and unity maintained. “All things,” says Thoreau, “are subjected to a rotary motion, either gradual and partial, or rapid and complete, from the planet and system to the simplest shellfish and pebbles on the beach. As if beauty resulted from an object’s turning on its axis, or from the turning of others about it.” In musical organisms, from the lowest to the highest, we find application of the universal law of rhythm we find action and reaction, control and subordination, growth from the simple to the complex, adjustment of elements for the attainment of order, unity, and reasoned progress.
The sum of the matter is that a musical work, whatever its dimensions, however various and affluent in ideas, however copious in emotional change and contrast, must still, from the most liberal point of view, possess consistency; everything must tend to an impression to which all the parts contribute; so that when surveyed in its entirety it will appear that it is one thing and not many things. Like an organism in the natural world, all the parts draw their nourishment from the common current of life, and in turn give that life the means of fulfilling the destiny which it was intended to serve in its own special kingdom.
William F. Apthorp, in an interesting little essay on The Non-musician’s Enjoyment of Music, cites the case of a concert goer who received no intelligible impression from orchestral music, all instrumental music being equally meaningless to him, but who intensely enjoyed Brahms’s C minor symphony, while Schumann’s symphony in D minor left him indifferent, and he asks the reader to explain this anomaly. But Mr. Apthorp’s paradox, as he states it, is impossible the person in question must have obtained some kind of definite impression from the Brahms symphony, else he would not have preferred it to the other. There must have been something more perceived than mere “volume, dynamic force, energy.” We speak of the hearing of musically ignorant people as vague, but it is never entirely vague. From even the most bewildering orchestral complexity of a Strauss or a Reger there will emerge bits of melody, rhythm, and tone color that will convey notions of some-thing salient and individual. Hence the music lover who wishes to increase his enjoyment does not need to be provided with a new faculty he needs only to be shown how to develop the powers of perception and coördination which he already possesses and to employ them as the very conditions of musical art demand.
“It is clear,” says Miss Ethel Puffer, “that the real musical beauty is in the melodic idea; in the sequence of tones which are indissolubly one, which are felt together, one of which cannot exist without the other. Musical beauty is in the intrinsic musical form. . . . The perfect structure will be such a unity that it will be felt as one. . . . The ideal musical consciousness would have an ideally great range; it not only realizes the concatenation [of harmonies and keys], but it would take it in as one takes in a single phrase, a simple tune, retaining it from first note to last. The ordinary musical consciousness has merely a much shorter breath. It can `feel an air, a movement; it cannot feel a symphony, it can only perceive the relation of keys and harmonies therein. With repeated hearing, study, experience, this span of beauty may be indefinitely extended in the individual, as in. the race. But no one will deny that the direct experience of beauty, the single aesthetic thrill, is measured exactly by the length of this span. It is only genius – hearer or composer who can operate a. longue haleine.”
The early lessons in the noble art of listening to music must, therefore, deal much with matters of form and structure. For two reasonsfirst for the sake of making the hearing definite and complete, and second for the pleasure derived from the ability to recognize the composer’s skill in handling the devices that make for artistic perfection. Even though the scientific elements in art are agencies to higher ends, nevertheless, since they, are a sine qua non, a full appreciation of art is not possible without some knowledge of their functions, and the ability to appraise them. The parts which are welded together by the composer’s craft are not only beautiful in themselves but still more beautiful in their relations of mutual service. Many people who praise music rapturously miss this great distinctive element, without which there is, properly speaking, no art. What they lose is not only valuable in respect to immediate impression but necessary to make the impression permanent. As I have already said, a dim recollection of emotional states is not sufficient for one who desires that art should contribute to the riches of the intellectual life. One longs for a concrete image that can be retained, reviewed, and recognized at a later appearance, and the condition of this objective reality lies not in memories of pleasant excitement, nor even in memories of harmonic and orchestral color, but in memories of form. Form is not only an indispensable means by which the artist makes clear to himself and communicates to others the impulse that stirred his soul to utterance, but it is in itself a thing to be admired by reason of the beauty that lies in proportion, order, and unified variety. The random hearer of music, like the nonchalant stroller in cathedral aisles, perceives the variety but not the unity. He is not drawn by the intellectual strength that controls the rebellious forces which the artist wields. There is an inexhaustible delight in following the artist’s plan as he develops his motives, builds up his de-signs, and adjusts his melodies, rhythms, and harmonies into patterns of grace and symmetry.
In no art can this factor be omitted by the dilettante. In every good painting .the artist selects, rejects, and arranges; never does he give a literal photographic reproduction of his subject. Straight lines and curves echo or supplement one another; objects balance and relieve one another; masses, colors, lights and shades are arranged for the purpose of variety, reinforcement, and concentration; the observer’s eye is directed by a multitude of subtle expedients to the central point of interest. Even in literature the same principle holds good. The casual reader who studies Professor Richard G. Moulton’s Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist and Professor Bliss Perry’s Art of Fiction will have his eyes opened to the importance .of form and arrangement even in those departments of art where the author had seemed most free to follow nature unrestrained.
When listening to music is active and not passive there are two mental operations involved, viz., expectation and recollection. One reason, doubt-less, why a musical work that is worthy of repetition is more enjoyed at subsequent hearings than at the first is because these two faculties are more and more alive. Not only is expectation aroused from moment to moment, but expectation is satisfied, giving the pleasure that is at the bottom of a large share of our mental and physical enjoymentsthat of relief following a sense of effort. Memory, becoming more exact while at the same time it reaches over a larger surface, retains impressions of beauty when sounds have ceased, and joins them in reinforcement to beauties present and to come.
In the music lover’s initiation into the mysteries of structure he will make trial of the simpler and more regular forms first, and that means, of course, the so-called classic forms. To plunge into the complexities of Wagner and the subtleties of Debussy before one is able to trace the design of a Mendelssohn “Song without Words” would result only in mental confusion. The commonplace rules of all education are sufficient guides. The classic forms and diatonic harmonies are to be chosen at the beginning because they are the basis of modern musical structure, and the study of them clears away from the student’s mind those difficulties that are greatest because they are fundamental. The first chapters in the book of form will, there-fore, deal with the song form, the sonata, the rondo, the variation, and the fugue.
The study of form may for convenience be divided into two departments, viz., rhythmic structure and thematic development. For the sake of clearness it seems best to me to transfer the consideration of the first to the chapter on melody and rhythm, simply premising that the logical method in instruction would be to exercise the learner in the recognition of the fundamental metrical structure of section, phrase, and period as the basis of order in the variety of rhythmic figuration, before he makes acquaintance with the larger specialized forms, rhythmic arrangement being primary and universal in music, thematic alteration being derived and secondary.
In the more highly organized musical compositions the variation of theme constitutes the device whose happy discovery, together with the principle of repetition and relativity in tonality and rhythm, gave to musical architecture its symmetry, unity of design, and stability. Its importance has been variable. The classic masters were content with a few themes, and concentrated their effort on the modification and combination of these, while the invention of a lavish profusion of novel ideas has been more consciously the aim of the romantic composers. Nevertheless, the subjection of themes to ever-changing aspects of shape and color, and the dominance of certain tonalities, have always been held as the chief means by which musical invention is to be restrained from falling into a license and disorder that would defeat its own purpose. The listener, therefore, must hold in his mind the thought of organized development as he follows a performance phrase by phrase. He must know something of the possibilities that lie in thematic work, the processes employed by the masters in the evolution of movements out of the leading themes and motives. “An exact survey of the nature and means of the art of thematic construction,” says Arrey von Dommer, “can be obtained by any one who can read notes or play the piano to some extent. Whoever accustoms him-self to study music from this point of view will in a short time obtain from any composition a far higher enjoyment. He who considers the matter earnestly will perceive an organic life where before he was conscious only of details, indistinct outlines, detached fragments of melody, rhythm, or harmony. To hear music correctly and with intelligence, to perceive and comprehend a musical composition as a work of art developed organically out of an idea, must always be the effort of the music lover. To accomplish this one must have far more than the ability to be agreeably excited by musical sounds. Where one person is satisfied with a mere superficial pleasure and a comfortable feeling of idle reverie, perceiving nothing but a mere hazy and uncertain succession of tone pictures, the expert musician sees a fulness of animated forms, proceeding from one another and flowing into one another, all closely united by a firm spiritual tie. The artificial enthusiasm, or the hardly concealed indifference, which one often observes in concert halls, even in the performance of masterpieces, shows plainly enough how superficially in most cases music is heard, and that in such instances there is a complete absence of any real love of the art. Where one finds himself falling into this, there must by all means be an effort to come into a closer understanding of the subject. The study of the development of themes and phrases is the first condition of a true art under-standing; besides that, it is an inexhaustible source of constantly renewed enjoyment.”
The only amendment that should be made to this very satisfactory statement is that even one who cannot read notes or play the piano need not be shut out from the privilege of recognizing themes and following them in their chameleon-like changes. A few repetitions of themes will enable the ear to hold them by their salient features, and with experience there will be constant growth in the power of systematic observation.
At this point it is time to bring in a qualification. It is very easy to overdo the matter in expounding musical analysis, and use it as a means of suppressing imagination and chilling emotion. Form, structure, harmony, and counterpoint are to be explained only so far as a knowledge of their laws is useful for the training of the observation and con-firming the power to appreciate aesthetic unity. The novice need not know an inversion from a suspension; double counterpoint need not be even a name to him; these things are no more required for the enjoyment of music than a familiarity with _metrical terminology is needed for the enjoyment of poetry. The essential thing is to hear the subtle accents and shades in verse melody, to hear everything that goes on in a fine piece of music, not to label and classify scientific devices. Many teachers are so enamored with the theoretical side of their art that they carry the dissection of form to a superfluous excess and encourage pedantry rather than real aesthetic perception. The instructor will often find among his disciples prosaic natures who readily acquire a lively interest in the mechanical construction of musical compositions; they love to see the “wheels go ’round”; whether a work is beautiful or not is a minor consideration, provided it furnishes them an opportunity for gratifying their morbid passion for analysis. Such are to be found in a certain class of Wagner enthusiasts, who are so busy in identifying the “leading motives” which they have found in the “guides” that they are often cold to the splendor and passion of the music. On the other hand there are musical devotees, for whom we should cherish respect, who revolt at this whole process of vivisection. The dry exposition of subject and counter-subject, of phrase and period, of link passage and codetta, is an offence to them. They heap contumely upon the “analytical program.” They shout amen to the opinion of Debussy who, as Mrs. Liebich tells us, introduced his salutatory as musical critic of the Revue blanche with the announcement that he should endeavor to trace in a musical work “the many different emotions which have helped to give it birth, and also to demonstrate its inner life. This will surely be accounted of greater interest than the game which consists in dissecting it as if it were a curious timepiece. Men in general forget that as children they were forbidden to dismember their playthings, but they still persist in poking their aesthetic noses where they are not wanted.” Felix Weingartner points out a danger from the excessive study of treatises on form and analytic program books, when he says: “As we are trained by reading program books and guides to hear and look at the works not in their entirety but in detail, it is only the small minority who, on hearing a new composition, consider the general impression of the whole before commencing to consider the details; yet these latter can only be comprehensible by and in view of the ensemble.”
The answer to these objections has been given in the preceding pages. The wisdom of the warning must, however, be acknowledged and the saving doctrine found between the two extremes. On the whole it may be said that the dangers that lie in the emphasis upon technicalities are less than the dangers of ignorance. It is with art as it is with nature the lore of birds and plants and trees need not check but may stimulate the sense of beauty and the ardor of mystical companionship. The most impassioned writers on nature, the most eloquent, the most alive to the broad aspects and the poetic suggestions, are the men of scientific knowledge, with powers accustomed to minute observation. The discriminating vision, certainly, is not sufficient alone; there must be the large synthesis and the impulsive joy. Not every botanist would be .an acceptable walking companion for Wordsworth or Hazlitt. .When observation has done its work and the sight is cleared, one asks for “that undisturbed silence of the heart which alone is perfect eloquence.” The learning of the laboratory may miss the last secret. The rich and rare combination is that of the naturalist’s eye and the poet’s soul.
This development of the analytic and the synthetic powers in coöperation is one of the finest gains of the study of musical form. This appreciation of form, it must be emphatically observed, should be as liberal and elastic as form itself has proved to be in the evolution of modern music. The classic patterns of sonata, rondo, and fugue served a necessary, an inevitable purpose in the progressive upbuilding of musical art, and the works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven stand in monumental dignity for the admiration of all coming generations. But in the fulness of time these forms, having served their end, tend to loosen, expand, and disintegrate; the elements of which they are composed the phrase and the period readjust themselves into other schemes of design. The later tendency has been to proceed from strict form to free form. The composer is no longer bound to adhere to an authoritative model, which was devised when the development of strict form was the supreme requirement for artistic advancement. This technical mastery is at last attained and the composer now makes expression his supreme end, the feeling and the contrast of feeling determining the form, regular or irregular, according to the wilfulness of the moment. This emancipation of the art from the restraints of strict form has been especially manifest in vocal music. Wagner has shown us with admirable clearness in The Music of the Future and in Actor and Singer how the aria form, which had become standardized in the opera, forbade a free development of a continuous dramatic idea by breaking up a scene into a number of isolated fragments which he calls “tunes,” consisting of two or three symmetrical divisions, and separated by dry recitatives. Under this plan the action could move only by fits and starts, and no large and comprehensive scheme of poetic development was possible. It was as if Shakespeare had been compelled to write the speeches of his characters each in a prescribed number of lines and place them at regular distances apart. Nothing less could content Wagner than “turning the whole full stream to which Beethoven swelled German music into the channel of the musical drama.” By this he meant not Beethoven’s sonata form and proportionally measured periods, but the richness, the unlimited abundance, the continuous flow of the Beethoven music, where there was no “framing of a melody,” no padding with conventional passage work, but where “everything became melody.” Wagner’s form is a form that is not molded by any mechanical pattern, but one that grows directly out of the buoyant expansive impulse that inspires the poetry and the action. Each situation, each line even, has its own individual movement. The form is completely free.
The same tendency is seen in the song, from Schubert to Hugo Wolf. In such a song as “Who is Sylvia?” or “Leise fliehen (The Serenade)” the melodic form is conventional and would be as well suited to many other poems. But in “The Phan-tom Double” and “Death and the Maiden,” many of the songs of Schumann, most of the songs of Grieg and Strauss, perhaps all of the songs of Wolf, the form of each melody belongs to the particular poem to which it is set and to no other. The form is free, irregular so far as musical design is concerned. And the hearer must perforce listen to the music from the standpoint of the words, and the form beauty is not one of space proportions or a circle of tonalities, but a beauty of adaptation.
This principle has been carried over to that department of instrumental music known as “representative” or “illustrative” music. A subject like Liszt’s “Preludes” or Strauss’s “Death and Glo-rification”-a subject that has literary or pictorial progress and conclusioncannot follow any one of the orthodox schemes of design. As a whole and in details the music must issue from the poetic idea and imagery. The form is free, and there may be as many forms as there are program symphonies or symphonic poems.
In abstract instrumental music also this eman- cip.ating impulse has been felt. In such works as Tchaikovsky’s last symphony and Chopin’s Ballades and Fantaisies the composer is as unshackled in the shaping of the entire outline as he is in the invention of his melodies. The themes may or may not “develop” according to the classic method. It is of no consequence where they are repeated or whether they are repeated at all. In succession of keys, in balance of rhythmic figures, the composer is constrained by no outward pressure of custom, but only by an inner compulsion which bids him put his emotion into a form which will give that emotion an unimpeded outlet.
There is a class of critics at the present day, including some of our ablest writers, who joyfully hail these later tendencies as a sign of the abrogation of the formal principle, as the triumph of feeling over convention, the close approach to ultimate truth. But these writers hardly mean all that they seem to say. The adaptation of parts to a common aim is the very condition of life in art; with-out unification of plan art dies, for incoherence is the negation of art. Their protest is actually directed against the despotic subjection of art to certain standardized types of form. Even in Wagner’s dramas and Elgar’s oratorios and Debussy’s tone-poems, with their unrestrained pliancy and power of instantaneous adjustment to thought and situation, there is no violation of the supreme law, liberally interpreted. Forms change but form re-mains.
Form in the bolder practice of the present day grows from with outward. It is plastic, is not bound to imitate an academic model, but is shaped to the special needs of the subject or motive, finding its sole business to bring that to expression by whatever novelty of device is most efficient. The music lover, training himself to recognize and follow musical structure as a development out of certain germ ideas, must also recognize in every case the purpose for which the form exists, whether this form be strict or free. The error of the opponents of Liszt and Wagner consisted in setting up certain necessary and admirable forms as infallible and immutable standards; it was the error of those in all times who have opposed freedom in art because they could not see that form is a means and not an end. Formlessness indeed is fatal; but at the same time the conception of what constitutes proper form must be left to those who create, and must be allowed to obey and not to control invention. As “the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns,” so old modes and fashions of expression are left behind. Forms live and grow because the spirit grows. Three hundred years ago Edmund Spenser, in his Hymne in Honour of Beautie, uttered what comes near to the central truth of art:
“So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And bath in it the more of heavenly light, So it the fairer bodie doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairely dight With cheerful grace and amiable sight; For of the soul the bodie form doth take; For soul is form and doth the bodie make.”