Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

ture, and sometimes there comes to be from custom, a connection between certain musical instruments, and certain places and occafions. Thus a flute, hautboy, or bagpipe, is better adapted to the purposes of rural music, than a fiddle, organ, or harpsichord, because more portable, and less liable to injury from the weather : thus an organ, on account both of its size and loudness, requires to be placed in a church, or some large apartment: thus violins and violoncellos, to which any degree of damp may prove hurtful, are naturally adapted to domestic use; while drums and trumpets, fifes and french-horns, are better suited to the service of the field. Hence it happens, that particular tones and modes of music acquire such a connection with particular places, occasions, and sentiments, that by hearing the former we are put in mind of the latter, so as to be affected with them more or less, according to the circumstances. The found of an organ, for example, puts one in mind of a church, and of the affections suitable to that place ; military music, of military ideas ;

and flutes and hautboys, of the thoughts and images peculiar to rural life. This may serve in part to account for mufical expressiveness or efficacy; that is, to explain how it comes to pass, that certain passions are raised, or certain ideas suggested, by certain kinds of music: but this does not prove music to be an innitative art, in the

same fense wherein painting and poetry are called imitative. For between a picture and its original ; between the ideas suggested by a poetical description and the objects descri, hed, there is a strict similitude: but between soft music and a calm temper there is no strict fimilitude; and between the sound of a drum or of an organ and the affection of courage or of devotion, between the music of flutes and a pastoral life, between a concert of violins and a chearful company, there is only an accidental connection, formed by custom, and founded rather on the nature of the instruments, than on that of the music.

It may perhaps be thought, that man learned to sing by imitating the birds; and therefore, as vocal music is allowed to have been the prototype of instrumental, that the whole art must have been essentially imitative. Granting the fact, this only we could infer from it, that the art was imitative at first: but that it still continues to be fo, does not follow; for it cannot be said, either that the style of our music resembles that of birds, or that our musical composers make the song of birds the model of their compositions. But it is vain to argue from hypothesis : and the fact before us, though taken for granted by fome authors, is deftitute of evidence, and plainly absurd. How can it be imagined, that mankind learned to sing by imitating the feathered race? I would as soon fuppose, that we learned to speak by imitating Vol. II. T

the

the neigh of a horse, or to walk by observing the motion of fishes in water; or that the political constitution of Great Britain was formed upon the plan of an ant-hillock. Every musician, who is but moderately instructed in the principles of his art, knows, and can prove, that, in the sharp series at least, the divisions of the diatonic scale, which is the standard of human music, are no artificial contrivance, but have a real foundation in nature: but the singing of birds, if we except the cuckoo and one or two more, is not reducible to that scale, nor to any other that was ever invented by man; for birds diversify their notes by intervals which the human organs cannot imitate without unnatural efforts, and which therefore it is not to be supposed that human art will ever attempt to express by written symbols. In a word, it is plain, that nature intended one kind of music for men, and another for birds : and we have no more reason to think, that the former was derived by imitation from the latter, than that the nests of a rookery were the prototype of the Gothic architecture, or the combs in a bee-hive of the Grecian.

Music, therefore, is pleasing, not because it is imitative, but because certain melodies and harmonies have an aptitude to raise certain paflions, affections, and sentiments in the soul. And, consequently, the pleasures we derive from melody and harmony are sel

dom dom or never resolvable into that delight which the human mind receives from the imitation of nature.

All this, it may be said, is but a dispute about a word. Be it fo: but it is, notwithstanding, a dispute somewhat material both to art and to science. It is material, in science, that philosophers have a determined meaning to their words, and that things be referred to their proper classes. And it is of importance to every art, that its design and end be rightly understood, and that artists be not taught to believe that to be essential to it, which is only adventitious, often impertinent, for the most part unnecessary, and at best but ornamental.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

How are the pleasures we derive from Music to

be accounted for?

IT
T was said, that certain melodies and har-

monies have an aptitude to raise certain passions, affections, and sentiments, in the human soul. Let us now inquire a little into the nature of this aptitude; by endeavouring, from acknowledged principles of the human constitution, to explain the cause of that pleasure which mankind derive from

music,

T2

com

music. I am well aware of the delicacy of the argument, and of my inability to do it justice; and therefore I promise no plete investigation, ror indeed any thing more than a few cursory remarks. As I have no theory to support, and as this topic, though it may amuse, is not of any great utility, I shall be neither positive in my

aflertions, nor abstruse in my reasoning.

The vulgar distinguish between the sense of hearing, and that faculty by which we receive pleasure from music, and which is commonly called a musical ear. Every body knows, that to hear, and to have a relish for melody, are two different things; and that many persons have the first in perfection, who are deftitute of the last. The last is indeed, like the first, a gift of nature; and may, like other natural gifts, languish if neglected, and improve exceedingly if exercised. And though every person who hears, might no doubt, by instruction and long experience, be made sensible of the musical properties of sound, so far as to be in some measure gratified with good music and disgusted with bad; yet both his pain and his pleasure would be very different in kind and degree, from that which is conveyed by a true musical ear.

I. Does not part of the pleasure, both of melody and of harmony, arise from the very nature of the notes that compose it? Certain inarticulate founds, especially when

continued,

« PředchozíPokračovat »