About this book: James Monroe Trotter (1842-1892) was born into slavery in Mississippi. His mother escaped with Trotter and his brother via the Underground Railroad, and they settled in Cincinnati, where Trotter became a teacher. He moved to Boston and fought in the Civil War, becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Union Army. He later became the first African-American to be employed by the U.S. Post Office, but resigned in protest when discrimination prevented his promotion. His Music and Some Highly Musical People, written in 1878, is said to be the first comprehensive study of music written in the United States. In 1887, President Cleveland appointed Trotter to the office of Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, succeeding the great African-American statesman Frederick Douglass in what was then the highest government position to be attained by an African-American. (Source: Wikipedia.) This e-book was prepared from a 1968 reprint published by the Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York.
Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Inconsistencies and errors in the spelling of proper names and non-English words are noted with [Transcriber's Note].
Several subheadings are rendered in the original in blackletter. In this e-book, these are surrounded by equal signs.
Musical flat symbols are rendered in square brackets, e.g. [B-flat].]
HIGHLY MUSICAL PEOPLE:
CONTAINING BRIEF CHAPTERS ON
I. A DESCRIPTION OF MUSIC. II. THE MUSIC OF NATURE. III. A GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF MUSIC. IV. THE POWER, BEAUTY, AND USES OF MUSIC.
FOLLOWING WHICH ARE GIVEN SKETCHES OF THE LIVES OF
REMARKABLE MUSICIANS OF THE COLORED RACE.
AND AN APPENDIX CONTAINING COPIES OF MUSIC COMPOSED BY COLORED MEN.
JAMES M. TROTTER.
"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture, every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul."—GOETHE.
"'Tis thine to merit, mine to record."—HOMER.
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS. NEW YORK: CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM. 1881.
COPYRIGHT, 1878, BY JAMES M. TROTTER.
Jas. M. Trotter]
The purposes of this volume will be so very apparent to even the most casual observer, as to render an extended explanation here unnecessary. The author will therefore only say, that he has endeavored faithfully to perform what he was convinced was a much-needed service, not so much, perhaps, to the cause of music itself, as to some of its noblest devotees and the race to which the latter belong.
The inseparable relationship existing between music and its worthy exponents gives, it is believed, full showing of propriety to the course hereinafter pursued,—that of mingling the praises of both. But, in truth, there was little need to speak in praise of music. Its tones of melody and harmony require only to be heard in order to awaken in the breast emotions the most delightful. And yet who can speak at all of an agency so charming in other than words of warmest praise? Again: if music be a thing of such consummate beauty, what else can be done but to tender an offering of praise, and even of gratitude, to those, who, by the invention of most pleasing combinations of tones, melodies, and harmonies, or by great skill in vocal or instrumental performance, so signally help us to the fullest understanding and enjoyment of it?
As will be seen by a reference to the introductory chapters, in which the subject of music is separately considered, an attempt has been made not only to form by them a proper setting for the personal sketches that follow, but also to render the book entertaining to lovers of the art in general.
While grouping, as has here been done, the musical celebrities of a single race; while gathering from near and far these many fragments of musical history, and recording them in one book,—the writer yet earnestly disavows all motives of a distinctively clannish nature. But the haze of complexional prejudice has so much obscured the vision of many persons, that they cannot see (at least, there are many who affect not to see) that musical faculties, and power for their artistic development, are not in the exclusive possession of the fairer-skinned race, but are alike the beneficent gifts of the Creator to all his children. Besides, there are some well-meaning persons who have formed, for lack of the information which is here afforded, erroneous and unfavorable estimates of the art-capabilities of the colored race. In the hope, then, of contributing to the formation of a more just opinion, of inducing a cheerful admission of its existence, and of aiding to establish between both races relations of mutual respect and good feeling; of inspiring the people most concerned (if that be necessary) with a greater pride in their own achievements, and confidence in their own resources, as a basis for other and even greater acquirements, as a landmark, a partial guide, for a future and better chronicler; and, finally, as a sincere tribute to the winning power, the noble beauty, of music, a contemplation of whose own divine harmony should ever serve to promote harmony between man and man,—with these purposes in view, this humble volume is hopefully issued.
A DESCRIPTION OF MUSIC 7-11
THE MUSIC OF NATURE 12-21
A GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF MUSIC 22-50
THE BEAUTY, POWER, AND USES OF MUSIC 51-65
ELIZABETH TAYLOR GREENFIELD (the "Black Swan") 66-87
THE LUCA FAMILY 88-105
HENRY F. WILLIAMS 106-113
JUSTIN HOLLAND 114-130
THOMAS J. BOWERS (the "American Mario") 131-137
JAMES GLOUCESTER DEMAREST 138-140
THOMAS GREENE BETHUNE ("Blind Tom") 141-159
THE HYERS SISTERS 160-179
FREDERICK ELLIOT LEWIS 180-191
NELLIE E. BROWN 192-208
SAMUEL W. JAMIESON 209-218
JOSEPH WHITE (preceded by a brief account of the Violin, pp. 219-223) 224-240
THE COLORED AMERICAN OPERA COMPANY 241-252
THE JUBILEE SINGERS OF FISK UNIVERSITY 253-269
THE GEORGIA MINSTRELS 270-282
RACHEL M. WASHINGTON 288-290
JAMES CASERAS 300
JOHN T. DOUGLASS 301
WALTER F. CRAIG 301
WILLIAM APPO 302
WILLIAM BRADY 302-303
PETER P. O'FAKE 304-306
FRANK JOHNSON, AND HIS FAMOUS MILITARY BAND AND ORCHESTRA 306-309
JOSEPH G. ANDERSON 308-309
MADAM BROWN 309
SARAH SEDGEWICK BOWERS 309-310
JOHN MOORE 310-311
SAMUEL LUCAS 312-313
WILLIAM H. STARR 314
G.H.W. STEWART 330
THE LAMBERT FAMILY 338-340
EDMUND DEDE 340-341
BASILE BARES 341
SAMUEL SNAER 341-343
PROF. A.P. WILLIAMS 343
E.V. MACARTY 343-344
MAURICE J.B. DOUBLET 344-345
DENNIS AUGUSTE 345
THE DUPRE FAMILY 347-348
CHARLES MARTINEZ 348
THOMAS MARTIN 349
OTHER MUSICAL PEOPLE OF—
PORTLAND (ME.) 300
NEW YORK 301-304
WASHINGTON (O.) 312-313
CHILLICOTHE (O.) 313-316
THE MUSIC OF THE SOUTH 324-329
ST. LOUIS 330
NEW ORLEANS 333-353
1. ELIZABETH TAYLOR GREENFIELD.
2. THE LUCA FAMILY.
3. HENRY F. WILLIAMS.
4. JUSTIN HOLLAND.
5. THOMAS J. BOWERS.
6. THOMAS GREENE BETHUNE.
7. THE HYERS SISTERS.
8. FREDERICK ELLIOT LEWIS.
9. NELLIE E. BROWN.
10. SAMUEL W. JAMIESON.
11. JOSEPH WHITE.
12. FISK UNIVERSITY.
MUSIC AND SOME HIGHLY MUSICAL PEOPLE.
A DESCRIPTION OF MUSIC.
"In the storm, in the smoke, in the fight, I come To help thee, dear, with my fife and my drum. My name is Music: and, when the bell Rings for the dead men, I rule the knell; And, whenever the mariner wrecked through the blast Hears the fog-bell sound, it was I who passed. The poet hath told you how I, a young maid, Came fresh from the gods to the myrtle shade; And thence, by a power divine, I stole To where the waters of the Mincius roll; Then down by Clitumnus and Arno's vale I wandered, passionate and pale, Until I found me at sacred Rome, Where one of the Medici gave me a home. Leo—great Leo!—he worshipped me, And the Vatican stairs for my feet were free. And, now I am come to your glorious land, Give me good greeting with open hand. Remember Beethoven,—I gave him his art,— And Sebastian Bach, and superb Mozart: Join those in my worship; and, when you go Wherever their mighty organs blow, Hear in them heaven's trumpets to men below."
What is music? Quite easy is it to answer after the manner of the dictionaries, and say, "Music is (1) a number of sounds following each other in a natural, pleasing manner; (2) the science of harmonious sounds; and (3) the art of so combining them as to please the ear." These are, however, only brief, cold, and arbitrary definitions: music is far more than as thus defined. Indeed, to go no farther in the description of this really sublime manifestation of the beautiful would be to very inadequately express its manifold meanings, its helpful, delightful uses. And yet the impressions made upon the mind and the depth of feeling awakened in the heart by music are such as to render only a partial (a far from satisfying one) description of the same possible, even to those most skilful and eloquent in the use of language; for, in fact, ordinary language, after exhausting all of its many resources in portraying the mind's conceptions, in depicting the heart's finer, deeper feelings, reveals, after all, its poverty, when sought to describe effects so entrancing, and emotions so deep-reaching, as those produced by music. No: the latter must be heard, it must be felt, its sweetly thrilling symphonies must touch the heart and fill the senses, in order that it may be, in its fulness, appreciated; for then it is that music is expressed in a language of most subtle power,—a language all its own, and universal, bearing with it ever an exquisitely touching pathos and sweetness that all mankind may feel.
And so I may not hope to bring here to the reader's mind more than a slight conception of what music is. Nor does he stand in need of any labored effort to teach him the nature and power, the beneficent attributes, of this beautiful art. With his own soul attuned to all the delightful sounds of melody and harmony that everywhere about him, in nature and in art, he constantly hears, the reader requires no great length of words in explanation of that which he so deeply feels, and therefore already understands. Nevertheless, a due regard for the laws of unity, as well as a sincere wish to make this volume, in all its departments, speak the befitting words of tribute to the love-inspiring art of which it aims to treat,—words which, although they may not have the merit of affording great instruction, may at least have that of furnishing to the reader some degree of pleasure,—these are the motives that must serve as an excuse for the little that follows.
I have sometimes thought that only the elevated and elegant language of poetry should be employed in describing music: for music is poetry, and poetry is music; that is, in many of their characteristics they are one and the same. But, to put this idea in another form, let us say that Music is the beautiful sister of Poetry, that other soul-expressing medium; and who would create the latter must commune with the former, and be able to bring to his uses the sweet and finishing graces of her rhythmic forms. In early times, the qualities of the poet and musician were generally actually united in the same person. The poet usually set to music, and in most instances sang, his effusions. Nor to this day have the
"Poets, who on earth have made us heirs Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays,"
ceased to sing, in bewitching verse, the noble qualities of music.
I have said that music speaks a language all its own, and one that is universal. Bring together a representation of all the nations of the earth, in which body there shall be a very Babel of tongues. All will be confusion until the all-penetrating, the all-thrilling voice of music is heard. At once, silence reigns; each ear quickly catches and recognizes the delicious sounds. The language of each one in the concourse may be different: but with "music's golden tongue" all are alike innately acquainted; each heart beats in sympathy with the delightful, absorbing tones of melody; and all seem members of one nation.
Again: music may be called that strangely peculiar form of the beautiful, whose presence seems, indeed is, appropriate on occasions the most diverse in character. Its aid is sought alike to add to the joys of festive scenes, to soothe and elevate the heart on occasions of mourning, and to enhance the solemnity, the excellence, of divine worship.
The poet Collins, aptly associating music with the good and beautiful, calls it the "heavenly maid."
Martin Luther, himself a musical composer and performer of merit, paused in his great work of religious reform to declare, "I verily think, and am not ashamed to say, that, next to divinity, no art is comparable to music." And Disraeli utters this noble thought: "Were it not for music, we might in these days say the beautiful is dead."
"Touching musical harmony, whether by instrument or by voice, it being but of high and low in sounds a proportionable disposition, such, notwithstanding, is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that part of man which is most divine, that some have thereby been induced to think that the soul itself is or hath in it harmony: a thing which delighteth all ages, and beseemeth all states; a thing as seasonable in grief as in joy; as decent being added unto actions of greatest weight and solemnity as being used when men most sequester themselves from action. The reason hereof is an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent to the mind, more inwardly than any other sensible means, the very steps and inflections of every way, the turns and varieties of all passion whereunto the mind is subject."
"I would fain know what music is. I seek it as a man seeks eternal wisdom. Yesterday evening I walked, late in the moonlight, in the beautiful avenue of lime-trees on the bank of the Rhine; and I heard a tapping noise and soft singing. At the door of a cottage, under the blooming lime-tree, sat a mother and her twin-babies: the one lay at her breast, the other in a cradle, which she rocked with her foot, keeping time to her singing. In the very germ, then, when the first trace of life begins to stir, music is the nurse of the soul: it murmurs in the ear, and the child sleeps; the tones are the companions of his dreams; they are the world in which he lives. He has nothing; the babe, although cradled in his mother's arms, is alone in the spirit: but tones find entrance into the half-conscious soul, and nourish it as earth nourishes the life of plants."
[Footnote 1: Hooker.]
[Footnote 2: Bertini.]
THE MUSIC OF NATURE.
"The lark sings loud, and the throstle's song Is heard from the depths of the hawthorn dale; And the rush of the streamlet the vales among Doth blend with the sighs of the whispering gale."
MATIN AND EVENING SONGS.
To the inventive genius of man must, of course, be attributed the present developments, and the beautiful, diversified forms, existing in musical art. But, before man was, the great Author of harmony had created what may be called the music of Nature.
Afterwards, the human ear, penetrated by sounds of melody issuing from wind, wave, or bird, the rapt mind in strange and pleasing wonder contemplating the new and charming harmonies,—then it was that man received his first impressions, and took his first lessons in delightful symphony.
Take from man all creative and performing power in music, leaving him only the ear to catch and the mind to comprehend the sounds, and there would still be left to him God's own music,—the music of Nature, which, springing as it did from eternity, shall last throughout eternity.
Passing what must appear to human comprehension as vague (an attempt at the contemplation of which would be without profit in this connection), and what has been called the "music of the spheres," we may proceed to briefly touch upon those forms of natural music which are ever within our hearing, and which constantly afford us pleasure.
[Footnote 3: Reference is supposed to be made to this in the Book of Job, in these words: "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."]
First let us go forth into the summer woods. The eye takes in the charming prospect,—the trees dressed in beautiful green; the "grassy carpet," parted ever and anon by a gliding, gurgling brooklet; the wild flower peeping up near the feet; a landscape of even surface, or at times pleasingly undulated. The atmosphere is freighted with a delightful fragrance; and from rustling bough, from warbling bird, from rippling brook, and from the joyous hum of insects almost innumerable,
"The air is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, That give delight, and hurt not."
All these, the beauties of animate and inanimate Nature, pleasantly affect the senses. But the chief influence there—the crowning glory of the groves—is the songs, the charming music of the birds, as they warble from tree to tree, untrammelled by the forms of art, their sweetest melodies. How often do their lightsome, inspiriting carollings ring out upon the morning air, persuasively calling us from our couches to listen in delight to Nature's minstrelsy! "After man," says a writer, "the birds occupy the highest rank in Nature's concerts. They make the woods, the gardens, and the fields resound with their merry warbles. Their warbled 'shake' has never been equalled by human gifts of voice, nor by art."
Indeed, it has been found that many of the songs of birds are sung in certain of the keys; while a learned musical writer has produced a book in which are printed many samples of the music often sung by birds. In very recent times it is stated, too, that birds have been taught to sing some of the popular tunes of the day; this being accomplished by placing a bird in a room for a while, allowing it to hear no other bird, and only the tune to be learned. Professor Brown of Aiken, S.C., has mocking-birds which he has taught to sing such songs as "The Star-spangled Banner" and "Yankee Doodle." These birds were to be taken to the Centennial Exhibition, to there exhibit their marvellous skill.
A writer in "The Monthly Reader" thus speaks of that pretty singer the bullfinch:—
"I heard a lady cry out to a little bird in a cage, 'Come, Bully, Bully, sweet little Bully Bullfinch, please give us just one more tune.'
"And then, to my surprise, the little bird whistled the tune of 'Yankee Doodle' as well as I could have done it myself.
"The lady then told me about the bird. It was a bullfinch. She had bought it in the little town of Fulda, in Germany, where there are schools for teaching these birds to sing.
"When a bullfinch has learned to sing two or three tunes, he is worth from forty to sixty dollars; for he will bring that price in London or Boston or New York.
"To teach them, the birds are put in classes of about six each, and kept for a time in a dark room. Here, when their food is given them, they are made to hear music. And so, when they have had their food, or when they want more food, they will sing, and try to sing a tune like that they have just heard; for perhaps they think it has something to do with what they eat."
But as, in presenting these examples of the musical teachableness of the "feathered songsters," I am entering the domain of music as an art, I will not further digress. Certain it is, too, that these delightful musicians of Nature do not require the aid of the skill of man; nor is it desirable, for the sake of musical effect at least, that their own wild, free, and glad-hearted warblings should be changed. They are better as they are, affording as they do a pleasing contrast, and adding freshness and variety to the many other forms of music. Some one, dwelling upon the charming beauty of bird-music, has expressed in words of very excusable rapture the following unique wish:—
"Oh! had I but the power To set the proper words To all your glorious melodies, My sweet-voiced birds,
When words and dainty music Would each to each belong, Together we might give the world A perfect song."
But I need not refer at greater length to these sweet harmonists of Nature, since scarce an ear is so dull, and few hearts are so cold, as not to be charmed and cheered by their unceasing, joyous melodies.
It might well be thought that flowers, those "fairy ministers of grace," with their delicately tinted, variegated, perfect hues, that emit, in their sweet, delicious perfumes, what may be called the "breath of heaven," possess in these delightful qualities full enough to instruct and charm mankind. But there is a flower, it seems, that, inviting the aid of the evening zephyr, adds sweet music to its other fascinating beauties. Let the poet Twombly sing of the music-giving—
Have ye ever heard in the twilight dim A low, soft strain That ye fancied a distant vesper-hymn, Borne o'er the plain By the zephyrs that rise on perfumed wing, When the sun's last glances are glimmering?
Have ye heard that music, with cadence sweet And merry peal, Ring out like the echoes of fairy feet O'er flowers that steal?
The source of that whispering strain I'll tell; For I have listened oft To the music faint of the blue harebell In the gloaming soft: 'Tis the gay fairy-folk the peal who ring, At even-time, for their banqueting.
And gayly the trembling bells peal out With gentle tongue; While elves and fairies career about 'Mid dance and song.
It would be tedious to enumerate and dwell upon all the very numerous music-making agencies of the natural world; and I shall therefore allude only to a few of those not already mentioned.
Many have heard the sounds of waterfalls, and know that from them issues a kind of majestic music, which, to be appreciated, must be heard. Musicians of finely-cultivated ears have studied the tones of waterfalls; and two of them, Messrs. A. and E. Heim, say that a mass of falling water gives
"The chord of C sharp, and also the non-accordant F. When C and D sound louder than the middle note, F is heard very fully, as a deep, dull, humming, far-resounding tone, with a strength proportionate to the mass of the falling water. It easily penetrates to a distance at which the other notes are inaudible. The notes C, E, G, F, belong to all rushing water, and in great falls are sometimes in different octaves. Small falls give the same notes one or two octaves higher. In the stronger falls, F is heard the most easily; in the weak ones, C. At the first attempt, C is most readily detected. Persons with musical cultivation, on attempting to sing near rapidly-moving water, naturally use the key of C sharp, or of F sharp if near a great fall."
Somewhat similar to waterfalls in the character of the tunes they produce (being distinguished, however, generally, by a greater softness and more gentle flow) are the waves, that, handsome in form, roll majestically shoreward, greeting the ear with a strange, dirge-like, yet, as it seems to the writer, pleasing harmony.
Here is given a duet between the waves and zephyrs:—
"We sit beneath the dreaming moon, And gaze upon the sea: Our hearts with Nature are in tune; List to her minstrelsy. The waves chant low and soft their song, And kiss the rocks in glee; While zephyrs their sweet lay prolong,— Their love-song to the sea."
There is a pretty, delicate music made by the rippling, gurgling brooklet, as its transparent waters glide over its pebbly bottom. And there's the musical sea-shell. Place it to the ear, and you shall catch, as if in the far distance, the reverberating roll of the billowy ocean as it sings a mighty song. To this the poet Wordsworth very gracefully refers in the following lines:—
"I have seen A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract Of inland ground, applying to his ear The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell: To which, in silence hushed, his very soul Listened intensely, and his countenance soon Brightened with joy; for from within were heard Murmurings whereby the monitor expressed Mysterious union with its native sea."
And an anonymous writer (it does not seem that he had good cause for hiding his name) thus discourses on the music of the sea:—
"The gray, unresting sea, Adown the bright and belting shore Breaking in untold melody, Makes music evermore.
Centuries of vanished time, Since this glad earth's primeval morn, Have heard the grand, unpausing chime, Momently new born.
Like as in cloistered piles Rich bursts of massive sounds upswell, Ringing along dim-lighted aisles With spirit-trancing spell;
So on the surf-white strand Chants of deep peal the sea-waves raise, Like voices from a viewless land Hymning a hymn of praise.
By times, in thunder-notes, The booming billows shoreward surge; By times a silver laugh it floats; By times a low, soft dirge.
Souls more ennobled grow Listing the worldly anthem rise; Discords are drowned in the great flow Of Nature's harmonies.
Men change and 'cease to be,' And empires rise and grow and fall; But the weird music of the sea Lives, and outlives them all.
The mystic song shall last Till time itself no more shall be; Till seas and shores have passed, Lost in eternity."
But the wind is one of Nature's chief musicians. Sometimes singing his own songs, or lending his aid in awaking to musical life the leaves and boughs of the trees; whistling melodies among the reeds; entering the recesses of a hollow column, and causing to issue from thence a pleasing, flute-like sound; blowing his quiet, soothing lays in zephyrs; or rushing around our dwellings, singing his tuneful yet minor refrain,—in these, and in even other ways, does this mighty element of the Creator contribute to the production of melody in the world of nature. A writer in "The Youth's Companion" speaks very entertainingly of "voices in trees." He says,—
"Trees, when played upon by the wind, yield forth a variety of tones. Mrs. Hemans once asked Sir Walter Scott if he had noticed that every tree gives out its peculiar sound. 'Yes,' said he, 'I have; and I think something might be done by the union of poetry and music to imitate those voices, giving a different measure to the oak, the pine, the willow, &c.' The same journal from which we take this anecdote mentions, that in Henry Taylor's drama, 'Edwin the Fair,' there are some pleasing lines, where the wind is feigned to feel the want of a voice, and to woo the trees to give him one.
"He applied to several: but the wanderer rested with the pine, because her voice was constant, soft, and lowly deep; and he welcomed in her a wild memorial of the ocean-cave, his birthplace. There is a fine description of a storm in 'Coningsby,' where a sylvan language is made to swell the diapason of the tempest. 'The wind howled, the branches of the forest stirred, and sent forth sounds like an incantation. Soon might be distinguished the various voices of the mighty trees, as they expressed their terror or their agony. The oak roared, the beech shrieked, the elm sent forth its long, deep groan; while ever and anon, amid a momentary pause, the passion of the ash was heard in moans of thrilling anguish.'"
I shall close this chapter on the music of Nature by appending a beautiful reference to what has been called "the music of the spheres." The lines form, as well, an elegant and elevated description of and tribute to music in general. I regret that the author's name cannot be given.
"The Father spake: in grand reverberations Through space rolled on the mighty music-tide; While to its low, majestic modulations The clouds of chaos slowly swept aside.
The Father spake: a dream, that had been lying Hushed from eternity in silence there, Heard the pure melody, and, low replying, Grew to that music in the wondering air,—
Grew to that music, slowly, grandly waking, Till, bathed in beauty, it became a world; Led by his voice, its spheric pathway taking, While glorious clouds their wings around it furled.
Not yet has ceased that sound, his love revealing; Though, in response, a universe moves by: Throughout eternity its echo pealing, World after world awakes in glad reply.
And wheresoever in his rich creation Sweet music breathes,—in wave, in bird, or soul,— 'Tis but the faint and far reverberation Of that great tune to which the planets roll."
A GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF MUSIC.
"Thespis, the first professor of our art, At country wakes sang ballads from a cart."
Music is as old as the world itself. In some form or other, it has always existed. Ere man learned to give vent to his emotions in tuneful voice, Nature, animate and inanimate, under the hand of the Great Master, sang his praises. Of this we learn in the sacred writings; while all about us, in the songs of birds, the musical sighing of the winds, the fall of waters, and the many forms of the music of Nature, we have palpable evidence of its present existence, and assurances of its most remote antiquity.
It would seem that not long after "God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life, and he became a living soul," he learned to express the joys and yearnings of his soul in song first, and then with some sort of musical instrument. And to man it was given, commencing with the early ages, to develop the simple ejaculations or melodies of a praise-giving soul into a beautiful, a noble art, replete at times with harmonic intricacies, and again with melodies grand in their very simplicity; into a beneficent science, divine from its inception, which has ever had as votaries many of earth's greatest minds, and has become a fountain of delight to all mankind.
The history of the music of antiquity—that is, in an art-form—is nearly, if indeed not quite, enveloped in mystery; and it were futile to profess to give an historical presentation of an art from its birth, when documentary evidence of the same is lost.
We may, however, very reasonably suppose of music generally, that it must have been gradually developed, having had its infancy, childhood, and youth; and that it grew slowly into present scientific form with the advance of the centuries.
From all we can gather in regard to the early history of music as a system, it would appear that it had its infancy in ancient Greece; although it is supposed by some that the Grecian method was founded upon that of the still more ancient one of the Egyptians. Dr. Burgh, a learned musical writer states that, of "the time before Christ, music was most cultivated and was most progressive in Greece." The verses of the Greek poet Homer, who was himself a musician, abound in beautiful allusions to and descriptions of this charming science; while in mythology are recounted the wonderful musical achievements of the god Orpheus, who is said to have been so skilled in music that the very rocks and trees followed in his wake of harmony.
The first artificial music of which the Bible speaks was that which was sung or played in praise of the Creator,—sacred music. In fact, this noble quality of the soul was very rarely called into exercise, save in the worship of the Deity, until many centuries had passed. Of music before the Christian era, both vocal and instrumental, the books of the Old Testament often speak. As to its exact character, we are left to conjecture, being, as before intimated, without materials from which to form a judgment; but, in some form or other, there was, during that period, abundance of what was called music.
The first mention of music, either vocal or instrumental, in the Scriptures, is made in Gen. iv. 21: "Jubal was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." Jubal was only seventh in descent from Adam; and from this passage it is thought by some that he was the inventor of instrumental music. In the year B.C. 1739, in Gen. xxxi. 27, Laban says to Jacob, "Wherefore didst thou flee away from me, and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp?" This is the first mention in the Bible of vocal music. King David, who has been called "the sweet singer of Israel," is said to have been a skilful performer on the harp. By his magical touch upon its strings at a certain time, he produced sounds so sweetly soothing as to drive away the "evil spirit" from Saul.
The poet Byron pays an elevated, glowing tribute to this "monarch minstrel" in the following lines:—
"The harp the monarch minstrel swept, The king of men, the loved of Heaven, Which Music hallowed while she wept O'er tones her heart of hearts had given,— Redoubled be her tears; its chords are riven.
It softened men of iron mould; It gave them virtues not their own: No ear so dull, no soul so cold, That felt not, fired not, to the tone; Till David's lyre grew mightier than his throne.
It told the triumphs of our King; It wafted glory to our God; It made our gladdened valleys ring, The cedars bow, the mountains nod: Its sound aspired to heaven, and there abode.
Since then, though heard on earth no more, Devotion, and her daughter Love, Still bid the bursting spirit soar To sounds that seem as from above, In dreams that day's broad light cannot remove."
And here I append from the First of Chronicles, xiii. 8, a description of the music of the "house of Israel:" "And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets."
Josephus, the learned Jewish historian, states that the Egyptians had two hundred thousand musicians playing at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon. This structure was of most wonderfully immense dimensions: and it may have been that this enormous body of performers played in detachments about the building; otherwise the statement would seem apocryphal.
The Egyptian musical instruments, it appears, were mostly of very rude construction: performance upon them would not now, probably, be tolerated even in circles of the least musical culture.
Of these ancient instruments the Boston "Folio" thus speaks:—
"The Egyptian flute was only a cow's-horn, with three or four holes in it; and their harp, or lyre, had only three strings. The Grecian lyre had only seven strings, and was very small, being held in one hand. The Jewish trumpets that made the walls of Jericho fall down were only rams'-horns: their flute was the same as the Egyptian. They had no other instrumental music but by percussion, of which the greatest boast was made of the psaltery,—a small triangular harp, or lyre, with wire strings, and struck with an iron needle or stick. Their sackbut was something like a bagpipe; the timbrel was a tambourine; and the dulcimer, a horizontal harp with wire strings, and struck with a stick like the psaltery."
The following interesting and able summary of the history of ancient Roman music is taken from a recent number of "The Vox Humana:"—
"Art love was not a distinguished characteristic of the ancient Romans; and we are not astonished, therefore, to find them borrowing music from Etruria, Greece, and Egypt; originating nothing, and (although the study was pursued by the emperors) never finding any thing higher in its practice than a sensuous gratification.
"In the earliest days of Rome, the inhabitants were exclusively farmers or warriors; and their first temples were raised to Ceres or to Mars.
"The priests of Ceres came originally from Asia Minor, and were called the Arval Brotherhood. Flute-playing was a prominent feature in their rites, and they were all proficient upon that instrument. Their number was limited to twelve.
"The worship of Mars was conducted by the Salian priests, whom Numa summoned to Rome from Etruria. These also used the flute as an accessory to their sacrificial rites. In these primitive days of Rome, much was borrowed from the Etruscans in style and instruments of music.
"The earliest songs of Rome were in praise of Romulus, and told the story of the twin-brothers and the divine origin of the city. They were sung by choruses of boys. Similar songs were sung during meals by the elders, with an accompaniment of flutes; these latter songs being especially directed to the young men, and inciting them to be worthy of the deeds of their ancestors.
"Under the rule of the emperors, all these worthy compositions went to decay, and were replaced by a much more degrading school of music. At no time, however, was music considered a necessary part of the education of Roman youth.
"There existed in the latter days of ancient Rome some music-schools; but the study was far less universally pursued than in Greece at the same epoch. The musical course has been given by Quintilian as follows:—
"Theoretical: first, arithmetic, physics; second, harmony, rhythm, metrics.
"Practical: composition, rhythm, melody, poetry.
"Execution: playing instruments, singing, dramatic action; which makes a rather formidable array, even to modern eyes.
"Among the Roman musical instruments, the flute was the most popular, and essentially national. We have already stated that it was used in the worship of their two chief deities: it was in secular use to a yet greater extent.
"This flute (tibia) was hooped with brass bands, and had an immense resonance. It was used by both sexes; but, on public and on most religious occasions, was played by men.
"The frequency with which it was used made the art of playing it a most remunerative one; and the flute-players soon formed themselves into a guild, or protective society. This guild had many privileges accorded to it, and existed for a period of some centuries. The 'Guild of Dionysian Artists' was a society of later date, and was a musical conservatory, academy, and agency, all in one. It flourished greatly under the patronage of various Roman emperors, and for a long time supplied singers and actors to the Roman world.
"Valerius Maximus has given an anecdote which shows how powerful and exacting the guild of flute-players could afford to be.
"They were one day excluded from the Temple of Jupiter, where they had been allowed, by ancient custom, to take their meals; upon which the entire guild left Rome, and went to the village of Tibur near by. This caused great embarrassment: no religious services could be held, and scarce any state ceremony properly conducted. The senate thereupon sent an embassy to induce them to return,—in vain: the angry musicians were inflexible. The wily ambassadors then called the inhabitants of Tibur to their aid, and these pretended to give a great feast to welcome the flute-players. At this feast the musicians were all made very drunk; and, while asleep from the effects of their liquor, they were bundled into chariots, and driven back to Rome, where all their old privileges were restored, and newer and greater ones added.
"They received the right to give public representations and spectacles in Rome; but at these they were all masked, the reason being their shame at the manner of their inglorious return to the city.
"Flutes were used at funerals; and it appears, at one time, the luxury and pomp of Roman obsequies grew so excessive, that a law was passed limiting the number of flute-players on such occasions to ten.
"Only at one time did the flute disappear from any public worship, and that was when the worship of Bacchus was introduced into Rome. To this rite the kithara was used; but this worship, which was somewhat refined, though jovial, among the Greeks, became among the Romans so debauched and uxorious, that it was soon prohibited by law.
"The flute was used in combination with other instruments at times. Apuleius speaks of a concert of flutes, kitharas, and chorus, and mentions its deliciously sweet effect. It was also used as a pitch-pipe, to give orators a guide in modulating their voices when addressing an assembly: thus Caius Gracchus always on such occasions had a slave behind him, whose duty it was to aid him to commence his orations in a proper pitch, and when his voice sank too low, or became too shrill, to call him to a better intonation by the sounds of the flute.
"Although the flute was the favorite Roman instrument, it was by no means the only one. Trumpets were used to a great extent. A one-toned trumpet, of very loud voice, was used for battle-signals. These were of very large size, usually of brass; and their sound is described as 'terrible.' There was also a smaller (shepherd's) trumpet of mellower tone.
"Another much-used instrument, of different character, was the sumphonium, which did not differ materially from the modern bagpipe.
"Instruments of percussion were few, and not indigenous to the Romans: such as were used came from the East, and were chiefly used in the worship of Eastern deities at Rome. When the worship of Bacchus was prohibited, they passed away with that licentious rite. The most complicated instrument of the ancient world appeared in Rome during the first century of our era. It was an organ, not, as in the scriptural days, a mere syrinx, or Pan's pipes, but an undoubted organ, somewhat similar in effect to our modern instrument.
"The instrument is said to have been invented by Ctesbius of Alexandria in Egypt, who lived about 250 B.C. It did not appear extensively in Rome, however, until nearly three hundred years later. This organ has given rise to much fruitless discussion. In the field of musical history especially, 'a little' knowledge has proved 'a dangerous thing;' for, where slight descriptions exist of instruments of music, latitude is left for every writer to form his own theory, to fight for it, and denunciate those who differ from it.
"We have seen what a battle was fought over the three little manuscripts of Greek music; what a host of differing opinions were held about the scriptural word 'Selah:' and now, about this hydraulic organ, each writer mounts his hobby-horse, and careers over the field of conjecture. Vitruvius has given a full description of the instrument from personal inspection; but as his technical terms have lost all significance to modern readers, and have been translated in various ways, and as his work contained no diagrams or illustrations of the various parts, it is useless.
"Some writers imagine the organ to have had seven or eight stops,—that is, so many different kinds of tones,—which would place them nearly on a par with our own. Others think that they possessed seven or eight keys; that is, so many tones only. It has been a point of dispute as to what function the water performed in working it. Vitruvius is rather hazy on this point, saying only that it is 'suspended' in the instrument. The water, when the organ was played, was in a state of agitation, as if boiling.
"There are medals still in existence which were awarded to victors in organ contests, on which this instrument is represented with two boys blowing or pumping; but the representation is too small to clear up any doubtful points."
But, without devoting further space to the music that was in vogue prior to the Christian era, I proceed to notice that our first reliable account of it, as a system, commences with the fourth century; at which time St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, arranged the sacred chants that bear his name, and which were to be sung in the cathedrals.
In the year 600 St. Gregory improved upon these chants, inventing the scale of eight notes. His system is the basis of our modern music.
From the close of the eleventh to the commencement of the fourteenth century, minstrels, jongleurs, or troubadours, were the principal devotees of music. They seem to have been its custodians, so to speak; and to their guild many of the knights belonged. Some of the kings and nobles of the time were also, in a sense, troubadours; such as, for instance, Thibault of Navarre, and William the Ninth of Poitou.
These roving musicians, who generally united the qualities of the poet, the musical composer, and performer, were treated with much favor by princes and all the nobility, and were everywhere warmly welcomed for a long period. It is, however, far from pleasant to have to say that this for a long time noble class of musicians, to whom we owe so much for the preservation unbroken for three hundred years of the chain of musical life, as well indeed, also, as that of general literature, spoiled perhaps by the excessive praises and indulgences accorded them, became at last quite dissolute, and fell from their high position. All royal favors were finally withdrawn from them, and orders for their restriction were issued from the throne.
Mr. B.W. Ball (in that faithful exponent of art, "The Boston Commonwealth") thus expressively sings the story of the ancient troubadour, styling him—
"THE POET OF OLD."
Once the poet wandered, With his lyre in hand,— Wandered, singing, harping, On from land to land.
Like a bird he hovered; And, where'er he came, Kindled he each bosom With his song to flame.
Careless of the morrow, Journeyed he along; Opened every portal To the sound of song.
Sua sponte heart's-ease In his bosom grew: Happiness as birthright, Like the gods, he knew.
All life's haps and changes On his chords he rung: Every thought, emotion, In him found a tongue.
Voiced he for the lover Passion of his breast; Feigned he, death to lighten, Islands of the Blest.
Up in ether throned he Gods, the world to sway,— Gods to bend and listen While their votaries pray.
Soul and sense, enchanted, Drank his accents in: E'en to marble bosoms He his way could win.
From her casement Beauty Leaned his song to hear: E'en the haughty conqueror Bent a willing ear;
For without the poet And his epic lay Passed his vast existence, Whirlwind-like, away,—
Trace nor vestige leaving Where his legions trod, Which the year effaced not From the vernal sod.
Thus the poet wandered In a nobler time,— Wandered, singing, harping, Free of every clime.
During the fourteenth century, music was most cultivated by the people of the Netherlands, who carried the art towards much perfection, producing several fine composers, and furnishing the leading musical instructors for the other parts of Europe. Among some of the ablest musicians of the Netherlands may be mentioned Dufay, Jan of Okenheim, and Josquin Despres, the latter being the most celebrated of contrapuntists. The Netherland musical supremacy lasted until 1563.
In the year 1400 the claims of music received the recognition of the crown in England, a charter being granted to a regularly formed musical society.
Commencing with the invention of movable type in 1502 (which invention so vastly facilitated the publication and spreading of the thoughts of the composer), and with the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the noble art of music began a new, unimpeded, and brilliant career among the civilized nations of the world. Dating from thence, the steps in the progress of this delightful science can be plainly traced. Unvexed and unfettered by the obscurities that attach to its antique history, we can contemplate with pleasure and profit the wonderful creations and achievements of its devotees.
This I need not attempt here, save in the briefest form; my purpose in preparing this chapter being only to give, as indicated in the title, a glance at the history of music.
To Palestrina, a learned Italian of the sixteenth century, and whose musical genius and industry were most remarkable, is due the greatest homage and gratitude of a music-loving world. Of him an eminent musical writer says, "It is difficult to over-estimate his talent and influence over the art of music in his day. He was regarded as the great reformer of church music. His knowledge of counterpoint, and the elevation and nobility of his style, made his masses and other compositions, of which he wrote a great number, examples for all time of what music should be."
In this century lived many notable composers, nearly all of whom distinguished themselves in the production of madrigal music. To the latter the English people were much devoted. Reading at sight was at that day, even more than now, a common accomplishment among the educated. The English queen Elizabeth was quite fond of music, and was somewhat accomplished in the art, performing upon the lute, virginals, and viol. She often charmed the attaches of and visitors to her court by her skilful performances. During her reign, and by her encouragement, the cultivation of this noble art received a new and strong impulse in England, and several composers and performers of high merit lived.
In the year 1540 oratorio was first composed, followed by opera in 1594. During this period, instrumental music began to be used in the churches; and the violin was brought by the celebrated Amati family to a beauty of form, and sweetness of tone, not since excelled.
During the seventeenth century such great composers as Stradella, Scarlatti, Caldara, and Claudio lived; and the different forms of opera were developed in England, France, and Italy.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the art of music, in its new, rich, and deep developments, as shown in the masterly, wonderful creations of several of the great composers of those periods, and in the scientific performances of many fine instrumentalists, attained a height of surpassing grandeur. Many men of brilliant musical genius and of remarkable industry and perseverance were born; and, with new conceptions of the scope and capabilities of the divine art, they penetrated its innermost depths, and brought to the ears of the music-loving world new and enrapturing forms of harmony. Among these great masters, leaving out those already mentioned, were Handel, Henry Purcell, Bach, Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Spontini.
But, before proceeding farther, the writer considers it proper to remark, that to give a extended description of the progress of music during the three last centuries, mentioning in detail the many creations and achievements of those who have become great, nay, in some instances he might say almost immortal, in its sacred domain, would require a volume far beyond the pretensions and intended limits of this one.
Besides, the author confesses that he pauses with feelings of reverence while contemplating the mighty genius and divinely approximating achievements of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Spohr, and Mendelssohn, fearing that his unskilful pen might fail in an attempt at description. Nor does he feel much less embarrassed when he contemplates the accomplishments of those wonderful interpreters of the works of the noble masters, who have, either through the enchanting modulations of their voices or with skilful touch upon instruments, evolved their magic strains. Let an abler pen than mine portray the sublime triumphs of Hasse, Mario, Wachtel, Santley, Whitney; of Albani, Malibran, Lind, Parepa Rosa, Nilsson; of Haupt, Paganini, Vieuxtemps, Ole Bull, Rubinstein, Liszt, and Von Bulow.
[Footnote 4: For an able criticism of the composers and some of the performers mentioned, the reader is referred to Professor Ritter's very valuable History of Music, in two volumes.]
The eighteenth century was a most remarkable period for achievements in the composition of orchestral, oratorio, and operatic music,—the same being finely interpreted by vocal and instrumental artists of most wonderful skill.
In referring to some among that galaxy of bright stars, I use, in regard to Mozart, the clear and beautiful language of another: "The great musical composer Mozart was a wonderful instance of precocity, as well as of surpassing genius. He died at the early age of thirty-five, after a career of unrivalled splendor, and the production of a succession of works which have left him almost, if not entirely, without an equal among either his predecessors or those who have come after him. Mozart's devotion to his art, and the indefatigable industry with which, notwithstanding his extraordinary powers, he gave himself to its cultivation, may read an instructive lesson, even to far inferior minds, in illustration of the true and only method for the attainment of excellence. From his childhood to the last moment of his life, Mozart was wholly a musician. Even in his earliest years, no pastime had any interest for him in which music was not introduced. His voluminous productions, to enumerate even the titles of which would occupy no little space, are the best attestation of the unceasing diligence of his maturer years. He used, indeed, to compose with surprising rapidity: but he had none of the carelessness of a rapid composer; for so delicate was his sense of the beautiful, that he was never satisfied with any one of his productions until it had received all the perfection he could give it by the most minute and elaborate correction. Ever striving after higher and higher degrees of excellence, and existing only for his art, he scarcely suffered even the visible approach of death to withdraw him for a moment from his beloved studies. During the last moments of his life, though weak in body, he was 'full of the god;' and his application, though indefatigable, could not keep pace with his invention. 'Il Flauta [Transcriber's Note: Flauto] Magico,' 'La Clemenza di Tito,' and a 'Requiem' which he had hardly time to finish, were among his last efforts. The composition of the 'Requiem,' in the decline of his bodily powers, and under great mental excitement, hastened his dissolution. He was seized with repeated fainting-fits, brought on by his extreme assiduity in writing, in one of which he expired. A few hours before his death took place, he is reported to have said, 'Now I begin to see what might be done in music.'"
[Footnote 5: In the Library of Entertaining Knowledge, vol. iii. p. 76.]
Mozart's compositions number over six hundred, and two hundred of them had not until quite recently been printed. He composed fifty-three works for the church, a hundred and eighteen for orchestra, twenty-six operas and cantatas, a hundred and fifty-four songs, forty-nine concertos, sixty-two piano-forte pieces, and seventeen pieces for the organ.
Of Beethoven, Professor F.L. Ritter, in one of his excellent lectures on music, says, "Beethoven's compositions appeal to the whole being of the listener. They captivate the whole soul, and, for the time being, subdue it to an intense, powerful, poetical influence, impressing it with melancholy, sorrow, and sadness, elevating it heavenwards in hopeful joy and inspired happiness."
The following description of Beethoven's last hours on earth, as he was nearing the time
"When all of genius which can perish dies,"
although replete with sadness, is yet a tribute so touchingly beautiful and eloquent as to make it well worthy of insertion here.
[Footnote 6: Anonymously contributed to the Boston Folio for May, 1877.]
"THE LAST MOMENTS OF BEETHOVEN.
"He had but one happy moment in his life, and that moment killed him.
"He lived in poverty, driven into solitude by the contempt of the world, and by the natural bent of a disposition rendered harsh, almost savage, by the injustice of his contemporaries. But he wrote the sublimest music that ever man or angel dreamed. He spoke to mankind in his divine language, and they disdained to listen to him. He spoke to them as Nature speaks in the celestial harmony of the winds, the waves, the singing of the birds amid the woods. Beethoven was a prophet, and his utterance was from God.
"And yet was his talent so disregarded, that he was destined more than once to suffer the bitterest agony of the poet, the artist, the musician. He doubted his own genius.
"Haydn himself could find for him no better praise than in saying, 'He was a clever pianist.'
"Thus was it said of Gericault, 'He blends his colors well;' and thus of Goethe, 'He has a tolerable style, and he commits no faults in orthography.'
"Beethoven had but one friend, and that friend was Hummel. But poverty and injustice had irritated him, and he was sometimes unjust himself. He quarrelled with Hummel, and for a long time they ceased to meet. To crown his misfortunes, he became completely deaf.
"Then Beethoven retired to Baden, where he lived, isolated and sad, in a small house that scarcely sufficed for his necessities. There his only pleasure was in wandering amid the green alleys of a beautiful forest in the neighborhood of the town. Alone with the birds and the wild flowers, he would then suffer himself to give scope to his genius, to compose his marvellous symphonies, to approach the gates of heaven with melodious accents, and to speak aloud to angels that language which was too beautiful for human ears, and which human ears had failed to comprehend.
"But in the midst of his solitary dreaming a letter arrived, which brought him back, despite himself, to the affairs of the world, where new griefs awaited him.
"A nephew whom he had brought up, and to whom he was attached by the good offices which he had himself performed for the youth, wrote to implore his uncle's presence at Vienna. He had become implicated in some disastrous business, from which his elder relative alone could release him.
"Beethoven set off upon his journey, and, compelled by the necessity of economy, accomplished part of the distance on foot. One evening he stopped before the gate of a small, mean-looking house, and solicited shelter. He had already several leagues to traverse before reaching Vienna, and his strength would not enable him to continue any longer on the road.
"They received him with hospitality: he partook of their supper, and then was installed in the master's chair by the fireside.
"When the table was cleared, the father of the family arose, and opened an old clavecin. The three sons took each a violin, and the mother and daughter occupied themselves in some domestic work.
"The father gave the key-note, and all four began playing with that unity and precision, that innate genius, which is peculiar only to the people of Germany. It seemed that they were deeply interested in what they played; for their whole souls were in the instruments. The two women desisted from their occupation to listen, and their gentle countenances expressed the emotions of their hearts.
"To observe all this was the only share that Beethoven could take in what was passing; for he did not hear a single note. He could only judge of their performance from the movements of the executants, and the fire that animated their features.
"When they had finished they shook each other's hands warmly, as if to congratulate themselves on a community of happiness; and the young girl threw herself weeping into her mother's arms. Then they appeared to consult together: they resumed their instruments; they commenced again. This time their enthusiasm reached its height; their eyes were filled with tears, and the color mounted to their cheeks.
"'My friends,' said Beethoven, 'I am very unhappy that I can take no part in the delight which you experience; for I also love music: but, as you see, I am so deaf that I cannot hear any sound. Let me read this music which produces in you such sweet and lively emotions.'
"He took the paper in his hand: his eyes grew dim, his breath came short and fast; then he dropped the music, and burst into tears.
"These peasants had been playing the allegretto of Beethoven's Symphony in A.
"The whole family surrounded him with signs of curiosity and surprise.
"For some moments his convulsive sobs impeded his utterance; then he raised his head, and said, 'I am Beethoven.'
"And they uncovered their heads, and bent before him in respectful silence. Beethoven extended his hands to them, and they pressed them, kissed, wept over them; for they knew that they had amongst them a man who was greater than a king.
"Beethoven held out his arms, and embraced them all,—the father, the mother, the young girl, and her three brothers.
"All at once he rose up, and, sitting down to the clavecin, signed to the young men to take up their violins, and himself performed the piano part of his chef-d'oeuvre. The performers were alike inspired: never was music more divine or better executed. Half the night passed away thus, and the peasants listened. Those were the last accents of the swan.
"The father compelled him to accept his own bed; but, during the night, Beethoven was restless and fevered. He rose: he needed air: he went forth with naked feet into the country. All nature was exhaling a majestic harmony; the winds sighing through the branches of the trees, and moaning along the avenues and glades of the wood. He remained some hours wandering thus amid the cool dews of the early morning; but, when he returned to the house, he was seized with an icy chill. They sent to Vienna for a physician. Dropsy on the chest was found to have declared itself; and in two days, despite every care and skill, the doctor said Beethoven must die.
"And, in truth, life was every instant ebbing fast from him.
"As he lay upon his bed, pale and suffering, a man entered. It was Hummel,—Hummel, his old and only friend. He had heard of the illness of Beethoven, and he came to him with succor and money. But it was too late: Beethoven was speechless; and a grateful smile was all that he had to bestow upon his friend.
"Hummel bent towards him, and, by the air of an acoustic instrument, enabled Beethoven to hear a few words of his compassion and regret.
"Beethoven seemed re-animated; his eyes shone: he struggled for utterance, and gasped, 'Is it not true, Hummel, that I have some talent, after all?'
"These were his last words. His eyes grew fixed, his mouth fell open, and his spirit passed away.
"They buried him in the little cemetery of Dobling."
Among the most eminent composers of the present century may be mentioned Auber, Schubert, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, Weber, Verdi, and Wagner.
In "The Contemporary Review" there lately appeared the following beautifully worded tribute to the noble qualities of Mendelssohn:—
"Mendelssohn reigns forever in a sweet wayside temple of his own, full of bright dreams and visions, incense, and ringing songs, and partly is he so sweet, because, unburthened with any sense of a message to utter, a mission to develop, he sings like a child in the valleys of asphodel, weaving bright chaplets of spring flowers for the whole world, looking upon the mystery of grief and pain with wide eyes of sympathy, and at last succumbing to it himself, but not understanding it, with a song of tender surprise upon his lips."
Since the times of the great writers of the eighteenth century, and of the first half of the present one, no new developments or advancements have been made in musical creations. Indeed, it would seem that the time has not yet come for attempts to be made to improve upon the works of those great musical luminaries; for they have left too much that is deep, classical, charmingly beautiful, and soul-satisfying. The musical world has paused, not caring to go farther, to conscientiously study their noble creations, so fruitful in the delights, the soul-elevating influences, which they afford.
[Footnote 7: It would, perhaps, be better at present to except those of Wagner, upon the surpassing merits of which the best critics are as yet divided.]
But, although no great genius has of late years appeared with newer and greater creations to claim our attention from those of the past, it is gratifying to know that great advancement is being made in a more general musical culture among the people; while the number of really great instrumentalists and vocalists is quite large, and is constantly increasing. In these latter respects the present far exceeds the past. In fact, the study of the art of music has begun to be considered a necessity; and ability in its comprehension and performance is now far from being considered as merely an ornamental accomplishment. All this springs from the very nature of this divine art, the mission, so to speak, of which is, to constantly open new fountains of pleasure in the human heart; to cheer, to soothe, and to bless mankind throughout all time.
[Footnote 8: It should also be here remarked, that there has been, too, a remarkable improvement made in the construction of most all musical instruments; they having been brought to a nicety and beauty of form and tone probably not dreamed of by the makers of the past.]
But, after all, we know not how soon another great musical genius may startle us from our complacent studies of the masters of the past; for we are even now somewhat threatened in this respect by Richard Wagner, the eminent composer of Germany. He is not satisfied with the music of the past nor the present, and points to his own present and prospective creations as samples of what the "music of the future" will be. Just now, musical critics, while generally conceding to him much power as a composer, are divided in opinion as to whether his ideas are to be accepted in their entirety.
Still, who can now tell what the "music of the future" may be?
Before closing this chapter on the history of music, I think it highly proper, as a matter of record and of appropriate interest, to refer briefly to the almost wonderful achievements of that brilliant impressario, P.S. Gilmore of Boston, who in the year 1869 conceived the idea of having a grand musical festival, the noble objects of which were to celebrate the restoration of peace in the United States, and to quicken and increase the interest felt in music throughout this country, and also the world, by bringing together in a single performance a larger body of most skilful musicians than was ever before attempted. An immense building called "The Coliseum" was constructed for the purposes of the festival, which was to continue five days. On the 15th of June, in the city of Boston, "The National Jubilee and Great Musical Festival" was begun. The number of instruments and performers composing the great orchestra was 1,011; and an organ of immense proportions and power, built expressly for the occasion, was employed. The grand chorus and solo vocalists numbered 1,040. Besides, one hundred anvils (used in the rendering of Verdi's "Anvil Chorus") were played upon by a hundred of the city's firemen in full uniform; while to all this was added a group of cannon, the same being used in the performance of the "Star-spangled Banner." The vast chorus, the orchestra, and all the leading performers (among the latter were Ole Bull, Parepa, and Carl Rosa), were selected from the finest musical people of the country, being accepted only after strict testing by skilful judges. At this great gathering many of the works of the great composers were performed, and only works of real merit had a place on the programme. These were all performed by this vast ensemble with a precision and an excellence that were really grand and wonderful. This achievement of Gilmore was considered the most brilliant entertainment of modern times. Of it, it has been truly said,—
"This great event, by the sublimity of its music, held the nation spell-bound. The great volume of song swept through the land like a flood of melody, filling every Christian heart with 'glad tidings of great joy.' It came like a sunburst upon a musical world, shedding light where had been darkness before, and revealing a new sphere of harmony, a fairy-land of promise, and triumphantly realizing greater achievements in the divine art than were hitherto thought possible. It will ever be a memorable epoch in the history of music, a glorious event; and thousands upon thousands are happier for that week of glorious music. The boom of the cannon, the stroke of the bells, the clang of the anvils, the peal of the organ, the harmony of the thousand instruments, the melody of the thousands of voices, the inspiring works of the great masters, the song of the 'Star-spangled Banner,' the cheers of the multitude, the splendor of the spectacle,—the memory of all this is the rich possession of many, and will be ever recalled as the happiest experiences of a lifetime."
[Footnote 9: The church-bells of the city were also employed in rendering some of the music.]
The success of the "National Peace Jubilee" was so perfect, and had produced a musical enthusiasm and revival so great, that, in the year 1872, Gilmore, still prolific in startling musical conceptions, projected and carried into execution another festival of the same general character as the first, only that it was far vaster and more daring in its proportions. This one he styled "The World's Peace Jubilee and International Festival." Several times during the week that this great musical festival was held, not less than fifty thousand people were present in the immense Coliseum building. This time the orchestra consisted of two thousand instruments, and the chorus numbered over seventeen hundred voices; while a mighty organ and cannon and anvils were used as before. The great soloists engaged were Mme. Leutner, Johann Strauss, Franz Abt, and Bendel. Foreign governments being invited to send representatives from among their best musicians, England sent the Band of the Grenadier Guards; Germany, its great Prussian Band; France, the brilliant French Republic Band. King William of Prussia sent also, as a special compliment, his classical Court Cornet Quartet; and Ireland sent its best band. To this galaxy of star military bands, perhaps the greatest ever assembled, the United States added its own favorite Marine Band of Washington. At this second great and vast assemblage of artists the almost marvellous achievements of the first "Jubilee" were repeated to the utmost delight of many thousands of people, and Gilmore became at once the most brilliant and daring impressario genius of the world.
As before intimated, Wagner is not at all satisfied with pausing where Mozart, Beethoven, and other great composers, left off. He believes that their music can be improved upon. According to his theory, the music of the opera, in the most highly-developed form of the latter, is but an incidental element, the dramatic part being principal. He lately composed a triology—three operas connected as one—with a prologue, the subjects of the dramas being taken from mythology, and forming beautiful fairy tales. To carry to the greatest perfection his views and firmly-held ideas as to what music should be, and as to what he stoutly avers it will be in the future, he selected from far and near only the best artists for the performance of his opera (these were subjected to long and careful rehearsals under his own conductorship), and erected at Bayreuth, in Bavaria, a large and beautiful theatre, which, in its minutest details even, was built under his own supervision, and after his own peculiar ideas. It being calculated to show to the highest advantage his conception, that, in the expression of sentiment, music is only secondary, his orchestra of one hundred and ten performers was placed out of sight of the audience during the acting of the opera.
The great "Musical Festival," as it was called, continued three days, the performance of each part of the triology occupying—exclusive of a wait of one hour after each act—from four to five hours.
At these performances the nobility of Germany and other countries, together with the Abbe Liszt, and many others in the higher walks of music, were present. The audiences were immense, brilliant, and exceedingly demonstrative in applause. At the close of the opera, Wagner was called before the curtain, receiving quite an ovation: and in his speech he said, "Now we see what can be done: at last we have a German art."
It is perhaps too early, as yet, to decide that Richard Wagner's ideal will be adopted by the musical world; nor should we be in too much haste to conclude that it will not be. Certainly he has succeeded, at least, in dividing the highest critics of the glorious art; and the history of music shows, as does also that of all art, that what is rejected to-day may be warmly and even rapturously accepted to-morrow.
Of the festival at Bayreuth, Mr. Hazard, musical critic of "The New-York Tribune," writes, "The effect of the music was magnificent beyond all description. It far surpassed all expectation; and the general verdict is that it is a triumph of the new school of music, final and complete."
Of the impression created by one of the parts of the opera, "Rheingold" (Mr. F.A. Schwabe), of "The New-York Times," says, "Musically considered, it is not significant. It is hopeless, therefore, to look for popularity for the work; at present, at least."
"The agony is over; and the grandest of all operatic conceptions, the musical drama over which Richard Wagner toiled and dreamed for twenty years, has been given to the world in its complete form."
[Footnote 10: From a writer in the New-York Herald.]
Very recently, Mr. Moncure D. Conway thus expresses his high admiration for the work of Wagner:—
"I am satisfied that the English-speaking world is little aware at present of the immensity and importance of the work Wagner has done for art. Plato declared that the true musician must have poetry and music harmonized in himself; and the world has waited twenty-five hundred years for that combination to appear. Having carefully read the poems all written by himself which Wagner has set to music, or rather which incarnated themselves in music, and costumed themselves in scenery as he wrote them, I venture to affirm that none can so read them without the conviction that their author is a true poet. In the first place, the general conception of his chief operas, taken together, is in the largest sense poetic, and I might even say Homeric. This man has transmitted an entire religion to poetry, and then set it to music. And it is one of the greatest of religions,—what Nature engraved on the heart of our own Teutonic ancestors. It is all there,—its thousand phantasmal years, from the first cowering cry of the Norse savage before the chariot of his storm-god to the last gentle hymn that rose to Freya under her new name of Mary,—all. It is interpreted as a purely human expression; and, I repeat, no man has done so vast and worthy an artistic work in our time."
While America has perhaps produced as yet no great composers, it has several of very high merit, such as J.K. Paine, Dudley Buck, and others. In the United States there are many remarkable vocal and instrumental artists, a large number of classical musical clubs and societies; while several of its great vocalists, male and female, accept and decline engagements in Europe. Perhaps no finer orchestra exists anywhere than that of Theodore Thomas of New York; while nearly as high praise may be given to the Mendelssohn and Beethoven Quintette Clubs of Boston, and to others in different parts of the country.
Music is quite generally cultivated in this country; and there are many excellent critics, musical writers, and periodicals devoted to this beautiful and elevating science.
A very startling late American musical invention is the "telephone," a description of the working of which is given below:—
"MUSIC BY TELEGRAPH.
"A most interesting field for the musical student is the progress that is being made in telegraphing musical sounds.
"This is done by means of the telephone, which transmits simultaneously several different tones through one wire by means of steel forks made to vibrate at one end of the line, the pulsations passing through the wire independently of each other, and reappearing at the distant station on vibrating reeds.
"Some very interesting tests were made in the Centennial Main Building a few days ago in the presence of about fifty invited guests, among whom were noticed the Emperor and Empress of Brazil, Sir William Thompson, and quite a number of eminent electricians.
"The experiments were of a very interesting and successful character.
"The inventor, Mr. Gray of Chicago, asked his assistant, Mr. Goodridge, to transmit musical sounds, which were received very distinctly amid hearty applause from those present.
"It was the first time that many present had heard 'Home, Sweet Home,' 'My Country, 'tis of Thee,' or 'Old Hundred,' rendered so beautifully by telegraph; and they evidently enjoyed the treat."
By this invention, music played upon a piano-forte or melodeon is reproduced upon a violin attached to the receiving end of the wire at a distance of twenty-four hundred miles.
Another important musical invention (English) is that of the "voice harmonium." Of this Mr. Theo. T. Seward writes,—
"To all such the invention of which I speak is a matter of deep interest, because in it is practically solved the problem of perfect intonation. It is called the 'voice harmonium,' because the securing of perfect intonation brings the tones much nearer to the quality of the human voice. The instrument has been invented and patented by Mr. Colin Brown of Glasgow, Ewing lecturer on music. By the use of additional reeds and a most ingenious keyboard, he has succeeded in giving each key in perfect tune. The 'wolf' is banished altogether, without the privilege of a single growl. I do not need to say that the effect upon the ear is rich, and extremely satisfactory. After listening to it a little while, the tones of a tempered organ sound coarse and harsh. I wish very much that some of our ingenious American instrument-makers could have the opportunity of examining it. It has been publicly exhibited at the South-Kensington Exhibition, before the recent meeting of the British Association, and elsewhere. The highest scientific authorities have pronounced most thoroughly in favor of its 'perfectness, beauty, and simplicity.' Whether the greater complication of the keyboard will interfere seriously with its popular use, remains to be seen."
Mr. Theodore Thomas recently gave an excellent performance of the works of American composers. Among those rendered were compositions by Dudley Buck, A.H. Pease, and William Mason. One of the gems of the evening was a symphonic poem by William H. Foy, entitled "A Day in the Country."
Mr. Thomas's orchestra, noted for placing upon its programmes only works of the highest merit, has recently also presented with much success a new symphony by the talented composer of oratorios, &c., J.K. Paine.
In alluding to the progress of music in the United States, "The Music Trade Review" says, "If the centennial year could disclose all its triumphs, music would shine among its garlands. A hundred years ago was a voiceless void for us compared with the native voices and native workers who now know a sonnet from a saraband."
THE BEAUTY, POWER, AND USES OF MUSIC.
"The soul lives its best hours when surrounded by melody, and is drawn towards its home, Paradise, dreaming of its hymning seraphs who adore with ecstasies that can find utterance only in song."
"And how can happiness be better expressed than by song or music? And, if the body and mind are both attuned to a true enjoyment of their resources, how much more will the moral nature be refined and educated!"
The cultivation of the art of music has ever followed closely the progress of civilization; and those nations that have attained to the highest state of the latter have most encouraged the growth, and have been most skilled in the creation and performance, of music. Montesquieu avers that "music is the only one of all the arts that does not corrupt the mind." Confucius said, "Wouldst thou know if a people be well governed, if its laws be good or bad? examine the music it practises." Again: another has quite aptly said that
"Music is one of the greatest educators in the world; and the study of it in its higher departments, such as composition, harmony, and counterpoint, develops the mind as much as the study of mathematics or the languages. It teaches us love, kindness, charity, perseverance, patience, diligence, promptness, and punctuality."
And a writer in "Chambers's Journal" remarks, that
"In society, where education requires a submission to rule singing belongs to the domain of art; but, in a primitive state, all nations have their songs. Musical rhythm drives away weariness, lessens fatigue, detaches the mind from the painful realities of life, and braces up the courage to meet danger. Soldiers march to their war-songs; the laborer rests, listening to a joyous carol; in the solitary chamber, the needlewoman accompanies her work with some love-ditty; and in divine worship the heart is raised above earthly things by the solemn chant."
Happily for the world, this beautiful art is one, the delightful forms of which nearly all may enjoy, the inspiring, soul-elevating influences of which nearly all may feel. I say, nearly all; because it is a sad truth that there are some persons who have no ear whatever for music, and to whom the harsh, rattling noise of the cart on the stony street affords just as much melody as do the sweetest tones that may issue from a musical instrument. Again: there are those, who, although possessing to some extent a faculty for musical discernment, are yet so much governed by what is called a sense of the "practical" in life as to avoid all opportunity for the enjoyment of melody, considering such indulgence as a waste of precious time. It is, however, pleasant to know that the number of all such persons—who must, I think, be regarded as really unfortunate—is but a small one, and that almost every one has a born capacity for musical appreciation and enjoyment.
It is true that the mighty genius of Mozart and Beethoven soared far above common musical minds. With a love for the noble art of music almost sacred in its intensity, these great composers penetrated far, far into its depths, finding their greatest enjoyment in so doing. Starting with the simpler forms of the art left by their predecessors, they deepened, they broadened and varied those forms; while, with every intricacy created, they experienced the sweetest of pleasure. And one of the most fitting tributes that can be paid to these and others of the noble masters of harmony is beautifully embodied in the lines of Rogers:—
"The soul of music slumbers in the shell Till waked and kindled by the master's spell."
But this far-reaching art, with all its difficult forms to awaken and enchain the interest, and to inspire the love of the man of genius or the ambitious student of aesthetics, has also those more simple ones for the delight of the humbler mind. Even the babe that lies in its mother's arms has within the yet narrow confines of its new-born soul the germ of musical sympathy. Often, when it is in a state of disquiet, its mother sings to it a simple, pretty song. Soon the crying ceases; the little eyes brighten with a delighted interest; the charm of music is working. The mother continues the touching "lullaby," and anon finds that her tender charge, with the pleasing sounds of melody gently ringing in its ears to the last, has been soothed into dreamland. Indeed, the power of music to touch the heart, to fill the soul, lies oftenest in those tones that are comprised in its least difficult melodies. Nothing is truer than that music, so beneficent in its influence, is meant for the comprehension, enjoyment, and improvement of all; and that it should never be regarded as an all-mysterious art, the charming domain of which only the gifted few are to enter. Whoever can distinguish musical sounds from their reverse, is, in degree at least, a musician; and whether such a one may enlarge his faculty for musical discernment and enjoyment depends only upon the extent of his observations, or rather upon the amount and kind of his study.
As elsewhere remarked, some time has elapsed since the music-loving world has been called to the contemplation of any great, new revelation in harmony. Meanwhile devotees of the divine art have generally been so much employed in endeavors to properly interpret the sublime works left for their study and enjoyment by the great composers of the past, that they have had neither time nor desire to seek for newer creations. For nearly all seem convinced that what is most needed now is, not new music, but that the masses of the people should possess an intelligent appreciation of, and warm love for, the best of that which is already at hand; and as an intelligent, heartfelt religious faith is needed to carry light and happiness alike into the homes of the highly-favored and the lowly, so is the beauty-shedding art of music—a close ally of that faith—needed to cheer, to soothe their hearts, and to develop in the minds of all God's children a love for that which may be fitly called the "true, beautiful, and good." Associating music with the very highest form of happiness, one of the older poets imagines this beautiful scene in heaven:—
"Their golden harps they took, Harps ever tuned, that glittering by their side Like quivers hung, and with preamble sweet Of charming symphony they introduce Their sacred song, and waken raptures high No voice exempt, no voice but well could join Melodious part, such concord is in heaven."
But I shall now more particularly invite the reader to a consideration of a few among the many forms in which the beauty, the power, and good uses of music are exemplified, and of the advantages to be derived from its conscientious study.
It may be noticed, that, in those towns and cities containing a preponderance of cultivated people, theatres do not flourish to the same extent as in neighborhoods where the reverse is true. The reason is obvious: cultured people have attractive and generally musical homes, and are thus made, to a great extent, independent of the amusements afforded in public places. This I mention, not to decry the theatre, which, I hold, has its appropriate, and, under proper conditions, educational and refining uses. In fact, the theatre (in which is performed the legitimate drama) would seem to be in certain respects a necessity, affording as it does occasional change of scene, and ministering to that desire for relaxation and amusement so naturally, so invariably felt by those persons who have not, in a true sense, homes. Nevertheless, our firesides should be made to compete with, nay, to far surpass in attractiveness, all places of public amusement; for it is very much better that the employments and entertainments of our homes should charm and retain their members, than that these should be sought for outside their, in some respects, sacred confines. The reasons for this are so apparent to the thoughtful, that they need not be greatly enlarged upon. Briefly, then, in the home is safety: over its members are extended the protecting wings of guardian angels; while without are often snares and danger, either in palpable forms, or in those hidden by the glittering, the alluring disguises which are so often thrown over vice. On this very subject with what truth and directness Cotton speaks, when he says,—
"If solid happiness we prize, Within our breasts this jewel lies; And they are fools that roam. The world has nothing to bestow: From our own selves our joys must flow, And that dear hut, our home!"
Nor need I dwell at great length upon the delights and benefits afforded the members of families whose leisure is given to the study and practice of an art so ennobling as music. How charming are those homes in which it is, in its purest style, cultivated! what refinement reigns therein! and what a gentle yet potent aid it is in parental government! The allurements to outside and often harmful pleasures lose their power over the children of that household in which music's engaging, magic influence holds delightful, elevating sway. And then at times, when instruments and voices mingle in a "concord of sweet sounds," how delightful is the effect, how serenely beautiful is the scene! Often have I, when passing in the evening a dwelling from which floated out upon the air the notes of tuneful voices, accompanied by the piano-forte or some other instrument, paused to listen, lingering long, the ear so ravished by the sweet sounds as to cause me to stand almost spell-bound, and to remain under music's magic influence even after its charming sounds had died away.
"The music in my heart I bore Long after it was heard no more."
To the great aid afforded them by music in government, the teachers in our common schools can testify. Often a turbulent school, swayed by youthful passions, or wearied by monotonous study into a state of painful unrest, has been stilled, calmed, and refreshed by the singing of a song,—an indulgence in the enjoyment of its melody affording delightful relaxation, and also awaking to life that better, that poetic sentiment that abides in every soul. The writer readily recalls his own experience as a teacher in gently enforcing lessons in polite deportment among his pupils by the aid of music. The exercises of each session of his school were always begun and ended with song; while sometimes, for reasons previously mentioned, books were laid aside, and all joined in singing, even during a part of the time usually devoted to study. By such procedure (the songs were of the simplest kind, and without the adding charm of instrumental accompaniment), even the most unruly pupils were generally induced to yield to the softening influences of "magic numbers and persuasive sound." In regard to the influence wielded over the mind and heart by songs, an eminent writer thus speaks: "Songs have at all times, and in all places, afforded amusement and consolation to mankind: every passion in the human breast has been vented in song; and the most savage as well as the most civilized inhabitants of the earth have encouraged these effusions." The following description of the effects of music at a reform-school is quite interesting in this connection. It is clipped from a recent number of "The Boston Transcript."