صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

effect here must be produced instantaneously, or not at all. The fubject must therefore be simple and easily traced, and not a fingle note or grace should be admitted, but what has a view to the proposed end. If simplicity of melody be so necessary where the view is to move the passions, simplicity of harmony must be still more necessary. Some of the moft delicate touches of

pathetic music will not allow any accompanyment.

• The ancient music certainly produced much greater and more general effects than the modern, though the accounts of it be supposed greatly exaggerated. Yet the science of music was in a very low state among the ancients. They were strangers to harmony, all the voices and inftruments being unisons in concert: and the instruments they made use of, appear to have been much inferior in respect of compass, expression, and variety, to those which we are poffesfed of. Yet these very deficiencies might render their mufic more expressive and powerful. The only view of composers was to touch the heart and the passions. Proper melody was sufficient for this purpose, which might easily be comprehended and felt by the whole people.There were not two different species of music among them, as with us, one for the learned in the science, and another for the vulgar.

· The introduction of harmony opened a new world in music. It promised to give that variety which melody alone could never afford, and likewise to give melody an additional charm and energy. Unfortunately the first composers were so immerft in the study of harmony, which foon appeared to be a science of great extent and intricacy, that these principal ends of it were forgot. They valued themselves on the laboured construction of parts which were multiplied in a surprising manner. In fact, this art of counterpoint and complicated harmony was in a very few years brought to the highest degree of perfection, after its introduction by Palæstine, who lived in the time of Leo X. But this species of music could only be understood by the few who had made it their particular study. To every one else ic appeared a confused jargon of sounds without design or meaning. To the very few who understood it there appeared an evident deficiency in air or melody, especially when the parts were made to run in strict fugues or canons, with which air is in a great measure incompatible.-Besides the real deficiency of air in these compofitions, if required the attention to be constantly exerted to trace the subject of the music, as it was alternately carried on through the several parts; an attention inconsistent with what delights the ear, much more with what touches the parfions; where that is intended, the mind must be disengaged, must see no contrivance, admire no execution ; but be open and passive to the impreffion. • The artifice of fugues in vocal music, scems in a peculiar Rey. Nov. 1765 , Bb




manner ill adapted to all the passions. If every one of four voices is expreffing a different sentiment and a different musical paflage at the same time, the hearer cannot possibly attend to, and be affected with them all. This is a stile of composition in which a person, without the least taste or genius, may arrive at great perfection, by the mere force of study : But without a very great share of these to give spirit and meaning to the leading airs or subjects, such compositions will always be dry and unaffecting. Belides the objections that lie against all complex mufic confidered as to its composition, there are others arising from the great difficulty of its execution. It is not easy to preserve a nuinber of instruments playing together in tune. Stringed instruments are faliing, while wind instruments naturally rise in their tone during the performance. But it is not sufficient that all the performers play in the most exact tune and time. . They must all underfaru the file and defigin of the composition, and be able to make the refponses in the fugue with proper fpirit. Every one must know how to carry on the subject with the proper cxpreffion when it is his turn to lead ; and when he falls into an auxiliary part, he must know how to conduct his accompanyment in such a manner as to give an additional force to the leading subject. But musical taste and judgment are most remarkably displayed in the proper accompanying of vocal music, especially with the thorough bass. If this is not conducted with the strictet attention to heighten the intended expression of the fong, it destroys it altogether, as frequently happens from the throwing in the full chords, when a single nore should only have been struck, or when perhaps the accompanyment should have ceafed altogether.

? These are difficulties few performers have an idea of, and fewer are able to conquer. Most performers think they do all that is incumbent on them, if they play in tune and in time, and vanity often leads them to make their voice or instrument to be heard above the rest, without troubling their heads about the composer's design.

It has been much the fashion for some years pali, to regard air entirely in mufical compositions; and the learned works of harmony have fallen into neglect, being considered as cold and fpiritless. This change has been introduced by composers who unfortunately happened to be great performers themselves. These people had no opportunities in the old compositions of Mewing the dexterity of their execution; the wild and extrava-, gant Sights, which they indulged in order to display this, being absolutely destructive of the harmony. They introduced therefore folo's of their own compofition, or concerto's, which from the thinness and meagreness of the parts, cannot be considered in any other light than solos.--It is not easy to characterise the

stile of most of these pieces. In truth they have no character or meaning at all. The authors of them are little concerned what subject they choose, their single view being to excite the surprise and admiration of their hearers. This they do by the most unnatural and wild excursions, that have not the remoteft tendency to charm the ear or affect the heart. In many passages they are grating to the ear when performed by the best hands, but in others they are perfectly intolerable.

"A new stile of composition has lately been cultivated in Italy, and greatly promoted in Britain, particularly by one perfon of rank. The pre ent fation is to admire this, and to despise Corelli as wanting spirit and variety. The truth is, Corelli's excellence consists in the chastity of his compofition, in the richness and sweetness of his harmonies; the other pleases by its spirit and a wild luxurianey, which makes an agreeable variety in a concert but pofletles too little of the elegance and pathetic expresion of mufic, to remain long the public talte.

Though mulic, cunsidered in its useful application, to delight the ear and touch the passions of the bulk of mankind, requires the utmost simplicity, yet confidered as an art capable of giving a lasting and varied enjoyinent to the few, who from a stronger natural talle devote part of their time and a tention to its cultivation, it both admits, and requires variety, and even fome degree of complication. Not only the ear becomes more delicate by cultivation, but the musical taste.

• When the ear becomes acquainted with a varie r of melodies, it begins by degrees to relifh others, besides those which are national. A national melody may have expressions for only a few affections. A cultivated and enlarged talle eally adopts a greater variety of exprefiions for these and other affections, and learns from the deepest recefies of harmony, to express fome, unknown to every national music.

• When one practises music much, the simplicity of melody tires the ear. When he begins to hear an air he was formerly acquainted with, he immediately recollects the whole, and this anticipation prevents his enjoying it. He requires therefore the assistance of harmony, which, without hurting the melody, gives a variety to the music, and sometimes renders the melody more expressive. Practice enables one to trace the subject of a complex concerto, as it is carried through the several parts, which to a common ear is an unmeaning jumble of sounds. Distinct from the pleasure which the ear receives here from the music, there is another which arises from the perception of the contrivance and ingenuity of the composer. The enjoyment, it muft be owned, is not of that heart-felt kind which fimple mufic can only give, but of a more fober and fedate kind, which proves more lafting: and it must be considered that whatever

Bb 2


[ocr errors]

touches the heart or the passions very sensibly, must be applied with a very judicious and very sparing hand. The sweetest and fullest chords must be seldom repeated, otherwise the certain effect is satiety and disgust. They who are best acquainted with the human heart, need not be told that this observation is not confined to music.

. On the whole we may observe, that musical genius consists in the invention of melody suited to produce a desired effect on the mind. Musical taste consists in conducting the melody with fpirit and elegance, in such a manner as to produce this fingle effect in its full force.

Judgment in music is shewn by adapting fuch harmonious accompanyments to the melody as may give it a variety without destroying its fimplicity; in the preparation and resolution of discords, and the artful transitions from one key to another.

- Tafte in a performer consists in a knowledge of the composer's a defign, and expressing it in aft fpirited and pathetic manner,

without any view of Thewing the dexterity of his own execu-
tion. But though all these circumstances of composition and
performance should concur in a piece of music, yet it must al-
ways fail in affecting the passions, unless its meaning and di-
rection be ascertained by adapting it to sentiment and pathetic
composition. It cxerts its greatest powers when used as an af-
sistant to poetry: hence the great superiority of vocal to in-
Itrumental music: the human voice is capable of more justness,
and a more delicate musical expression, than any inftrument
whatever; the perfection of an instrument depending on its
neareft approach to it.- Vocal music is much confined by the
language it is performed in. The harmony and sweetness of
the Greck and Italian languages gives them great advantages
over the English and French, which are harsh, unmusical, and
full of consonants; and this among other inconveniences occa-
fions perpetual facrifices of the quantity to the modulation.
This is one great cause of the flightness and want of variety of
the French music, which they in vain endeavour to cover and
fupply by laboured and complex accompanyments.-As vocal
mulic is the first and most natural mufic of every country, it is
reasonable to expect fome analogy between it and the poetry of
the country, to which it is always adapted. The great supe-
riority of the Scotch fongs to the English may in a great mea-
sure be accounted for from this principle. The Scotch songs
are fimple and tender, full of strokes of nature and passion :
So is their music.- Most of the English songs abound in quaint
and childish conceits. They all aim at wit, and sometimes at-
tain it; but mufic has no expreffion for wit, and the mufic of
their songs is therefore flat and infipid, and so little esteemed by
the Englith themselves, that it is in a perpetual Auctuation, and


has never had any characteristic stile. On the other hand, England has produced many admirable composers of church mulic. Their great attachment to counterpoint has often led them into a wrong track; in other respects, they have shewn both genius and taste. Religion indeed opens the amplest field for musical, as well as poetical genius, it produces almost all the variety of subjects, which music can express, the sublime, the joyous, the chearful, the serene, the devout, the plaintive, the sorrowful. It likewise warms the heart with that enthusiasm fo peculiarly necessary in all works of genius. Accordingly the finest compositions in music we have, are in the church stile. Handel far advanced in life, when his constitution and spirits feemed nearly exhausted, was so roused by this subject, that he exhibiqed proofs of extent and sublimity of genius in his Messiah, superior to any he had shewed in his most vigorous and happy period of life. We have another instance of the fame kind in Marcello, a noble Venetian, who set the first fifty psalms to mufic. In this work he has united the fimplicity and pathos of the ancient music with the grace and variety of the modern. In compliance with the taste of the times he was sometimes forced to leave that fimplicity of stile which he loved and admired, but by doing so he has enriched the art with a variety of the most expressive and unusual harmonies. The great object in vocal music is to make the music expreflive of the sentiment. How little this is usually regarded appears by the practice of finging all the parts of a long to the fame music, though the sentiments and passions to be expressed be ever so different. If the music has any character at all, this is a manifest violation of taste and common sense, as it is obvious every different sentiment and passion fhould be exprefled in a stile peculiarly suited to itself. But the most common blunder in composers, who aim at exprefsion, is their miftaking imitation for it.---'

Our Author's design in what he has advanced on this subject is to thew, that the principles of taste in music, like those of the other fine arts, have their foundation in nature and common sense; that these principles have been grossly violated by those unworthy hands to whose direction alone this delightful art is entrusted; and that men of sense and genius should not imagine they want an ear or a musical taste, because they do not relish much of the modern music, as in many cafes this is rather a proof of the goodness both of the one and the other.

Having made some observatios on the real objects produced by a cultivated taste in some of the fine arts, he proceeds to consider its influence on the pleasure arising from fuch works of genius as are in a particular manner addressed to the imagination and the heart. After this he goes on to consider that principle of human nature which seems in a particular manner the cha


въ 3

« السابقةمتابعة »