SPIRIT AND MUSIC
By the same Author
NERVE CONTROL SELF TRAINING A BOOK OF AUTO-SUGGESTIONS THE INFLUENCE OF THOUGHT A MANUAL OF HYPNOTISM THE HIDDEN SELF POINTS ON PRACTISING
Spirit and Music
H. ERNEST HUNT
Author of Nerve Control, Self Training, &c, &c.; Lecturer in Psychology at the Training School for Music Teachers, The Metropolitan Academy of Music, The Kensington School of Music, &c., London
LONDON: KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO., LTD. J. CURWEN & SONS, LTD. NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO. 1922
Printed in Great Britain by St. Stephen's Printing Works, Bristol.
I THE SPIRIT OF MUSIC
II THE PLACE OF MUSIC IN LIFE
III THE EXPRESSION OF LIFE
IV SPIRIT A LIVING FACT
V THE CONDITIONS OF INSPIRATION
VI THE INTERPRETER
VII THE TEACHER
VIII THE SOUL OF SONG
IX MUSIC AND EDUCATION
X THE ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENT
XI "PURE MUSIC"
XII THE PURPOSE OF ART
SPIRIT AND MUSIC
THE SPIRIT OF MUSIC
"Art is the Manifestation of the Spiritual by means of the Material"
Music is a part of life. It is not merely an accomplishment or a hobby, nor yet a means of relaxation from the strenuous business of earning a living. It is not an addendum or an excrescence: it is an actual part of the fabric of life itself. The object of these pages will be to show how closely Music, and indeed Art in general, has woven itself into the pattern of our lives, and how intimately it may influence and fashion the design.
The structural basis of Music is vibration. Sound comes to us in the guise of air-waves, which impinge upon the drum of the ear. The nerve-impulse thus aroused is conveyed to the brain, and there translated into sound. Strictly speaking there is thus no sound until the brain translates the message, while if the machinery of the ear be too dull to answer to the vibration the sound simply does not exist for us. Beyond doubt the world is full of sounds that we cannot hear and of sights that we never see, for of the whole range of vibration our senses permit us to garner but the veriest fragment—a few notes here of sound, and a brief range there of sight, out of the whole vast scale of vibrant Nature.
There are sounds which are musical, and others that are raucous and mere noise. The difference lies in the fact that harsh sounds are compounded of irregular vibrations, while the essence of Music is that its waves are rhythmic and follow each other in ordered swing. Rhythm is thus the primary manifestation of Music: but equally so it is the basic characteristic of everything in life. We learn that in Nature there is nothing still and inert, but that everything is in incessant motion. There is no such thing as solid matter. The man of Science resolved matter into atoms, and now these atoms themselves are found to be as miniature universes. Round a central sun, termed a Proton, whirl a number of electrons in rhythmic motion and incessant swing. And these electrons and protons—what are they? Something in the nature of charges of electricity, positive and negative. So where is now our seeming-solid matter?
When this knowledge informs our outlook we see that all that lives, moves: and even that which never seems to move, lives also in continual rhythm and response. The eternal hills are vibrant to the eye of science, and the very stones are pulsing with the joy of life. The countryside sings, and there is the beat of rhythm not merely in our hearts but in every particle of our body. Stillness is a delusion, and immobility a fiction of the senses. Life is movement and activity, and rigidity and stiffness come more near to what we understand as death. Yet even in death there is no stillness, there is but a change in the form of activity. The body is no longer alive as an organised community, but in its individual cells: the activity is the liveliness of decomposition. Thus all the world expresses life, and expresses it in a rhythm in which law and order reign supreme, and in which a sweet and sane regularity is the ordinance.
Regular rhythm involves accent. Whether or no there be any such emphasis as a thing in itself, the listening ear supplies it to meet a need. When we attend to a clock ticking, the tick-tock, tick-tock, however even it may sound at first, soon resolves itself into a rhythm with the accent on either the tick or the tock. So does the beat of an engine, or the hum of a railway train, merge itself into some definite sound picture, with the accent for relief that the ear demands. Thus out of rhythm grows very naturally an accentuation which gives balance, structure, and form. We start with the little units—the ticks and the tocks—and we build something bigger by grouping these together. This is a principle which we may see running through the activities of life in a thousand forms.
Bricks are made to pattern and thus possess a rhythm of their own, but when they are laid in courses they merge their individual rhythm into the ordered lines of the courses. These again may be comprehended in larger units of arches, buttresses, and stories: and all these again will be grouped and contained in this or that style of architecture. So, too, Music may begin with notes and tones, but accent quickly groups these into larger units to satisfy the senses in their demand for balance and proportion. Thus by increasing the size of our unit we build the rhythm of form and lay the foundation for the further development of the Art.
Since Nature is regular, from the beating of our own hearts to the swing of universes in the heavens, therefore engrained in our very selves is this claim for ordered progression, balance, and sustained sequence. When we attain this, whether in Music or otherwise, we derive a measure of restfulness and satisfaction and we gain a sense of completeness. Any work of Art should leave us with this conviction, that nothing could be added or left out without marring the perfect proportion of the whole. "Jazz," whether in Music or in any other direction, gives just the very opposite effect, marring the sense of proportion and distorting the feeling of satisfaction. It exists as a testimony to a morbid dissatisfaction with life, it gives emphasis to the unbalanced and neurotic. The true beauty of Art—as of Music—consists on the contrary of this larger rhythm which makes for wholesomeness and proportion, which achieves at once the rest and the satisfaction that the soul craves. Its wholesomeness is health, which again is ease. Its reverse is disease: and when Music becomes mere noise and discord it is the same as when beauty becomes ugliness and health vanishes in sickness.
The second element of Music is melody, and this corresponds to the outline in Nature. Things have their shapes and their forms, even as our very lives consist of ups and downs, varied with occasional runs along the level. The country has its outlines, its hills that rise and climb, its valleys that fall and fade. There is the even line of the horizon, topped by the swelling clouds: there are curves and sweeps in the swaying of trees and grasses, in the flight of birds, and in the grace of the human form. It is significant that Nature's handiwork so abounds in curves, whilst that of man is fashioned so much upon straight lines with consequent sharp points and angles. Is it not obvious that Art has had but scanty share in designing our towns and manufactories? Right angles, no doubt, stand for utility in a commercial age, but Nature with her longer purview has little use for them and prefers a more rounded way of progress. Nature inspires, but not in square-cut periods. It is a safe plan to turn to Nature, as to the diagram of God, if we find ourselves in any doubt as to the way.
"Let your air be good, and your composition will be so likewise, and will assuredly delight," says tuneful Father Haydn, and Music's outline in melody limns, as does that of Nature, the beauty of her design. It speaks of wood or stream, of billowed sky, and now of sombre shadow. It ripples in dainty dance, or tumbles down in cascades of joy. Music's melody vies with the drive and bluster of the wind, sobbing and sighing, whistling round corners and playing pranks. Then, maybe, it sinks to silence, and the white mist creeps up: and now there is no melody, no outline, but just the one still sameness over all.
We live in a three dimensional world, and in its length, breadth, and solidity do we disport ourselves. Music also has its three-fold manner of expression, its rhythm, its melody, and now its harmony. The rhythm is for balance, the melody for the outline, while the harmony constitutes the texture. Here again in other directions we may trace the same essentials: there is a texture of colouring, a style in Literature, and an appropriate technique for harmony in every branch of Art, just as there is an harmonic scheme in Music. This may be airy, light, and gossamer, or turgid and obscure: it may be commonplace or ponderous. Like Nature, it may have a thousand or a myriad shades to mirror as many moods and tenses. It may have the misty filminess of steam, the limpid deeps of water, or the cold weight and icy dullness of pompous ignorance.
See how Nature harmoniously groups her colour scheme, with a master hand ensuring that nothing shall clash or be inappropriate. Into this scheme she introduces the song of birds and the sighing of the breeze, with perhaps in the dull distance the roar of the sea growling away and refusing to be driven from its obstinate pedal bass. Into our life she brings affection rose-colour, and for openness and truth the blue of the sky. She paints hatred dark, and passion fiery. Energy she portrays as red, and purity white. Could we but see ourselves in this colour-scheme we should realise that, like God's fresh air, all should be clear and bright, but we ourselves pollute the design with the smoke of our own desires.
So the musician to-day takes the theme that has been given to him by the high gods, for "the idea in embryo comes from a Higher Power" and paints in and accompanies it with such harmonies as his soul may sound and his technique record. He has Nature for pattern, and he may do what he will so long as, Nature-like, there is life expressing itself. Everything in the world stands for something, as even the hills stand for pulsing life. As within, so without: the outer semblance is never the real thing, but ever stands as a mirror to the inner. The bird sings, but he is ever expressing his soul in song: it is only the human singer who can utter sounds without significance. Music is never mere notes, never sound alone, but always the outer form as the expression and unfoldment of something deeper. Rhythm, melody, and harmony are simply the three-fold means of expression, both of the musician and of Mother Nature. Of the two, Nature makes the better Music, being closer to the heart of God.
[Note 1: Macpherson. "Music and its Appreciation."]
THE PLACE OF MUSIC IN LIFE
"Music is not merely a matter for the cultured: it is inextricably bound up in the bundle of common life"
Music, as we have seen, is implanted in the very nature of things, and it is as deeply embedded in our lives. Was there ever a time when no man sang? As a matter of evolutionary accuracy, yes, there probably was such a time. But, looking at it in a commonsense way the answer is No. To-day we find that savages and aborigines, who are still in the childhood stage of evolution, are immensely susceptible to the sway of rhythm, and in their weird dances to the beating of the Tom-toms accompany their antics with a crooning or chanting, which no doubt to them stands in the place of song.
Was there ever a mother who did not croon to her fretful child, and who did not rock her babe to sleep with rhythmic lullaby? Song spans the gap from mother Eve to the mother of to-day: the song may vary, though the emotion of the mother-love remains the same. This crooning, with its element of soothing monotony, it is interesting to note is distinctly hypnotic in its effect, for the sleep of hypnosis is definitely induced by monotonous stimulation of any of the senses. The rocking and crooning on the part of the mother are quite akin, though unconsciously so, to the approved scientific methods. It is also curious that the nature of the monotonous stimulation does not seem to matter very much, for there is a case on record where a doctor hypnotised a patient by reciting to him in a low voice a few verses of "The Walrus and the Carpenter." The psycho-analysts would probably say that the patient went to sleep in self-defence. We can well remember how we were lulled to sleep in earliest days to the following somewhat fearsome and original words sung to the tune of a popular hymn:—
"Bye, bye, bye, bye, Horse, pig, cow, sheep, Rhinoceros, donkey, cat: Dog, dickie, hippopotamus, Black-beetle, spider, rat."
From which it appears evident that the actual words used as a soporific allow considerable latitude of choice.
No doubt Pan piped, and the Nymphs danced to his music in their woodland groves, much as the poor kiddies in the slums and alleys of our smoke-ridden towns dance to-day when the Italian organ man comes round with his instrument. The melody and rhythm float out and call to the music lying hid in their hearts, and their self responds. Something within them demands instant expression, and they forget their slums in dancing their merry measure, till the music stops and the Italian passes on to raise Fairyland in the next slum. Music has given them a glimpse of something outside their dull and prosaic surroundings, it has touched their hearts with a glamour which is a glint of spiritual sunshine in a drab world.
It was our privilege a dozen years or more ago to have a small share in the active work of the Art Studies Association of Liverpool. This organisation, due to the zeal of the Director of Education, existed for the purpose of introducing the joys of Music to the children of the various elementary schools. Concerts of different types were given for their benefit in their own schoolrooms in the evenings, and as admittance could not be given to all it was considered a privilege to be able to attend. The pathos stills echoes in mind when we recall how some of these children, boys and girls, would trudge out in the wet evenings, often ill-nourished and insufficiently clad, to taste the joys of music. Never was there any question of attention, for they were eagerness personified, and it seemed as if they found there something that their souls had missed. Too little do we realise that food and clothing do not suffice us, young or old. We cannot live by bread alone: our stomachs may be full and our souls empty. The spiritual side of our nature demands sustenance and, as in the case of these hungry and often wet little school children, it is the province of Music to minister to that need. "A love of music is worth any amount of five-finger exercises, and the capacity to enjoy a Symphony is beyond all examination certificates."
[Note 2: "Everyman and his Music." Scholes.]
A brass band will fill a whole street with glamour, and the normal person finds it quite impossible to be out of step with the rhythm of the march. Watch the way in which, as the Pied Piper of Hamelin drew the children after him, the band draws the elders to the window and the children to the street: the appeal is never in vain. Marching in time with the music tired feet forget their weariness, and new strength comes from the reserves of the greater self, liberated at the unspoken appeal of melody and rhythm. The Salvation Army with its sometimes quite excellent brass bands ever attracts a crowd of interested listeners. Their enthusiasm is quite as real as, and perhaps even more real than, that of a fashionable audience in the Queen's Hall: more real, because if the Salvation Army fails to please it is always possible to walk away. If a person is bored at the Queen's Hall a lack of moral courage will probably detain him to the end of the performance. There is magic in a bugle call, there are whole volumes of countryside history in a posthorn's blast as the four-horse coach swings past. The beat of the drum and the shrill pipe of the fifes carry a "come-along" atmosphere with them, and if we fail to answer the call it is most likely with a lingering feeling of regret that the days of adventure for us are past and gone.
All this is the incidental music of the highways and byways, but as a perennial stimulant for the emotions we call for Music's aid in many circumstances. Does not the villain of the piece enter and take the stage to a suggestively diabolic tremolo in the orchestra, and is not the lovemaking also conducted to an appropriately sensuous accompaniment, sufficiently subdued, to keep the emotions susceptible and fluid? Could the villain enter with the same eclat to a stony silence, or the lovemaking thrill in the same way without the moral support of a few well-chosen harmonies? It may be that in heightening the emotional element we correspondingly diminish the appeal to the intelligence, and thus render ourselves less critical both of stage-villainy and of fictitious lovemaking.
Nothing can be accomplished without music of some sort. We must have it in our churches and our chapels, in our moving pictures, in schools, at banquets and dinners, and in the restaurants. Could any bride feel the same satisfaction in walking down the silent aisle of the church, after the most important ceremony in the world, as if the organ were pealing out its good wishes in Mendelssohn's Wedding March? Oh NO. Music we must have, for it has wedded itself to all our pomp and ceremony, and if we may not have it in any other guise we must at least end up with "Auld Lang Syne" or "For he's a jolly good fe-e-ellow," or at any rate the National Anthem.
In the robust and plain-speaking days of old Pepys our forbears took their Musick seriously. There was less of the gadding about that fills the time to-day, and much of the melody was perforce home-made. Any educated person was expected to be able to take his part in a glee at sight, and some of the music was none too easy at that. The contrast with the present lamentable lack of sight-reading ability is most marked. The number of people who could do the same to-day is, in comparison, small. We have not made progress in this direction, indeed we have fallen back. But we have multiplied our choirs and our choral societies, our Musical Festivals with their competitions have taken solid root, training in musical work is now more widespread than ever before, and these considerations have served, and are serving, to make music more and more a part of the national life.
Sometimes indeed we happen upon music in unexpected quarters. One of the most impressive scenes that comes to mind is an occasion during the Great War—in which music played so valiant a part in sustaining the morale of combatants and non-combatants alike—when, drawn up on the departure platform of a Metropolitan railway station, in full kit and in two long ranks, was a number of Welsh Guards. They were singing some song in two parts, and while the one half sustained the melody the others were rolling out a fine contrapuntal accompaniment with full, resonant, and sonorous tone. The effect was quite remarkable. Song heartens us when weary and helps the miles to slip past even though the ditty be but "Tipperary" or "John Brown's body." In the emergency someone will strike up a ditty or a hymn and at once the human spirit and Will revive their native courage: did not the Titanic sink to the strains of the hymn "Lead, kindly Light," sung by a group of those who were facing death, and faced it with song upon their lips?
We have music in our heritage, we have Folk Songs by land and Chanties that smack of the seas: in these there lies a wealth of melody and sentiment of which we have made too little. But it is entirely charming to see the way in which small children in the schools will sing these songs with complete natural verve and appreciation. "Oh, no John, no John, No" will be rendered with that Art which only springs from artlessness. Surely it is to the young that we must look if the love of music is to be fostered and encouraged in the coming years. "Let the rising generation become thoroughly well acquainted with the best Musical works through the medium of concert-lectures, the mechanical piano-player, municipal, hotel, and garden concerts. Let them follow up their knowledge with reading about Musicians' lives, work, and influence. Throughout all this instruction—and from the very first—let them become acquainted with the elements of musical theory, both in their minds and also as exemplified on the pianoforte keyboard: and when all this has been done we shall have a cultivated musical public—a public that is able to discriminate between the good and the bad, the true and the false art." This may perhaps be the counsel of perfection of an enthusiast, but progress lies more along the lines of appreciation of music than in the personal performance of it. There are thousands who are able to appreciate the technical mastery of an instrument to every one who can accomplish it. Music as taught at present in the non-elementary schools is largely a snare and a delusion. A few are turned out with a musicianly equipment, largely in spite of the system rather than by its aid, but the vast majority have little more than a smattering of musical knowledge and a mediocre standard of executive ability as the result of years of study. But the growth of the artistic soul is not accomplished through the fingers, and indeed it is not infrequently strangled at birth by five-finger exercises.
[Note 3: Newlandsmith. "The Temple of Art."]
Yet we are waking up. Music already occupies an unassailable position in our daily activities, it will presently occupy a still greater place. Nothing is still, and least of all does Art remain fixed. The whole world is awakening to a new standard of values, for we have at length discovered the impossibility of running civilisation on purely materialistic lines. The inner side of things is becoming manifest, and a measure of spiritual insight is being vouchsafed to us: therefore all those things which minister to the spiritual will be increased in our regard. Of these Music is certainly not the least. "Religion, love, and Music, are they not the three-fold expression of the same fact, the need of expansion under which every noble soul labours?" So the Art of the future may be expected to ally itself with religion, on the side of spirit, for the battle royal against the forces of an outworn materialism. The end is not by any means yet, but the issue is certain: and we ourselves to-day may play the more valiant part in the moulding of the years to be if we realise to the full, not only what Music is and the part it plays in life, but also the fine possibilities that lie hidden in the future.
[Note 4: Balzac.]
THE EXPRESSION OF LIFE
"Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life"
If Music be a means of expression, we must needs ask ourselves what it expresses. It is entirely insufficient to accept music as sequence or a combination of tones that "sound nice." It would be just as reasonable to regard a meal as something that tastes nice, whereas of course the meal has a meaning and a use beyond mere taste: its purpose is to sustain life, and the question of taste is merely incidental to the larger issue. Music therefore may sound nice, but we desire to arrive at some explanation far transcending this.
All phases of life express something, and we shall not be very far from the truth if we regard that something as spirit. The grass, we say, is alive: but its life consists in its ability to express that essential something which we here term spirit. When it is no longer able to accomplish this, the grass is still there, but we call it dead. We might draw an apt parallel from the electric light bulb: this is nothing but a possible source of light, until it is connected with the main supply from the generating station. The seeming independence of the bulb is a fiction, it has no true existence as a lamp until it expresses itself by giving light. Yet the light is not its own light, and when the filament breaks and the current can no longer circulate through the bulb it ceases to be a lamp. It is, like the grass, dead: and for exactly the same reason, that it can no longer express life or spirit.
Furthermore, the amount of resistance that a lamp interposes to the free circulation of the current through it has its effect upon the light it gives. One lamp may yield a fine light, and another on the same circuit may afford but poor illumination: the one expresses well, and the other ill. So, too, with the grass, one patch may be free-growing and another may be but poor stuff: one expresses well, and the other feebly. In the same way with ourselves, if our bodies have the life force circulating freely they express robust health: and if the force find but a constricted channel, then our bodies express health in scanty measure and approximate more to disease than to the normal well-being. Our bodies are no more independent organisms than is the lamp bulb: they express the spirit which is the essence of the self, and when that self withdraws the body is as dead as the grass or the worn-out bulb. Yet the failure of the bulb casts no reflection upon the generating station, for the current is still there. We do not need to assume that the current has failed, for in that case it would fail alike for every bulb upon the circuit. If every form and phase of life were to expire and cease at a given moment, we might then, and then only, be justified in assuming that spirit had ceased to be: but in that case there would be but little need for us to worry about the point.
We may imagine spirit as the driving force behind everything, as the urge towards evolution, as the pent-up intelligence which ever seeks one variation and then another. Then, when one variation appears, more appropriate to its surroundings than others, this, because of its fitness, survives. As human beings we are individualised fragments of the great universal spirit. There is only the one life and the one spirit, but there are diversities of gifts to enable that spirit to be expressed. The grass expresses it in its luxuriance, its colour, and its growth: the birds in their song: and the whole of what we are pleased to term the lower creation bespeaks this spirit in the daily activity. When this expression ceases, the thing that was once alive is dead.
There is no special merit that all the works of the Lord should thus praise the Lord in their expression, because below the stage of a human being there is no option. The lower forms of life are like lamps on a circuit which light up by reason of the current over which they exercised no control. But a human being is like a lamp that is connected with the main circuit and yet has its own switch. This ability to switch on or off constitutes our measure of freewill, our power of saying yes or no. It is a necessary accompaniment of our knowledge of good and evil for "no choice, no progress." It betokens our progress from the merely animal stage of consciousness to that of self-consciousness—the phase of existence where we not only know, but we know that we know. This ability to express well, badly, or not at all, just as we may please, is our special prerogative: it gives man the privilege, which is denied to all life below him, of deliberately choosing the worse and of making a fool of himself. The animals know what is good for them because they follow their unreasoning instincts and blindly repeat the racial course of action implanted within them, and the mere survival of the species proves that this particular response to the particular circumstance has been "tried out" by ages of experience. But a man blinds and smothers his instincts (and these at the best, it may be observed, are distinctly mixed) or perhaps indulges them in defiance of his better judgment, and thus his expression of his own divinity is often sadly marred.
[Note 5: James Rhoades.]
"Know this, O man, sole root of sin in thee Is not to know thine own divinity."
A man may even deny the very existence of spirit, and thus by a subtle but efficacious species of self-suggestion prevent its manifestation in himself. But whether he expresses this spirit well or ill, a man does in fact join with all creation below him in manifesting this innate spirituality without which there can be no life.
Thus everything stands for something else that is deeper, there is an outer form and an inner soul or spirit. Spenser thus expresses it:—
"For of the soule the bodie forme doth take, For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make."
It is only when we grasp this elementary truth that life becomes in the least plain and intelligible, and the result of grasping it is that we cease to be deceived by the apparent values of things, and are able to appraise them more at their true and spiritual worth. We are then enabled to pass from circumstances (which are results) to the realm of causes: the balance is transferred from the seen to the unseen, and the point of view approximates more to the eternal than the transient. A greater poise and certainty follow as a matter of course, since the mental outlook is centred in the true rather than the seeming.
All life then is the expression of spirit, and our varied activities are but the modes of this expression. To this, Music is no exception. Very naturally also, the better the machinery or the technique of expression, the more of the spirit can get through. We can play more sympathetically, more fluently, and with finer effect on a beautiful "grand" than on a jangly upright instrument: the one is a better vehicle of expression than the other. So also we can secure more fluent expression with a fountain pen than with one that continually interrupts the free flow of ideas by demanding to be dipped in the inkpot. We have two typewriters of the same manufacture, but one is an early model and the other a modern machine: there is a vast difference in the ease of expressing thought, in the favour of the later instrument with all its special conveniences. In general terms the object of all improvement of technical means is the better expression of the spirit. Musically, to practise scales and exercises with the object of getting one's fingers loose is like eating for the sake of developing a fluent jaw action—the vision of the end has been lost in the means. We must ever keep in view the fact that life itself, and especially Art and Music, can only fulfil a proper purpose when resulting in the ever-increasing and better expression of the underlying spirit, or as Elgar puts it—"more of Truth."
The law of spirit is Love. The drive of spirit is ever upward towards progress, aspiration, and unity. If we take a drop of quicksilver and separate it into smaller particles, as soon as ever the conditions allow, these smaller globules will amalgamate themselves with the larger body from which they have been temporarily divorced. We can almost imagine we hear them utter a fervent "thank goodness" as they reach that home of heart's desire. So are we, too, as separated and individualised sparks of the divine fire, burning till at length we reach our freedom and can merge ourselves in that Sun of spirit whence, "trailing clouds of glory," we have come.
Man, we say, is a gregarious animal, and it is certainly only the man of warped mind who seeks to cut himself off from his fellows: we are all of us spirits, and spirit seeks unity and approach. Love is the one uniting and binding force in the universe, just as its opposite—hatred—is the disintegrating element. Love operates in attraction, as we see it in motherhood, childhood, and the love of man and maid. But it also works on the grand scale in the guise of the law of Gravity which attracts and binds universes together, and regulates and controls the swing of inconceivable immensities. Look again and we may see love working as chemical affinity to attract molecule to molecule, or as cohesion to keep the very particles knit together in kinship.
It is this spirit of love that unites the myriad cells of our own body into the little commonwealth of self: when this life-force withdraws, the love ceases to bind, and immediately the "dead" body becomes infinitely alive, but the unity is at an end and decomposition has set in. So love is the fulfilling of the law: not merely "a" law, but the very fundamental law on which our continued existence hangs. Eliminate gravity, and the universe as we know it must come to an end in a catastrophe which it is beyond the power of our imagination to conceive. If cohesion ceased to be, then everything would fall to powder and would disintegrate. Destroy all love between man and man, and civilisation itself would fall to pieces. This is no question of dogma, gospel, or man-made law, it is simply a plain statement of the fundamental condition of our very existence. The importance of love is paramount, and if we are wise we shall seek to discover these overriding laws of our being, and adjust our lives in conformity with their requirements.
Spirit is love, and love manifests itself in service: the love that seeks its own ends, or strives to get instead of to serve, is no love at all. Therefore if Music is to express this spirit it must do so by contributing its meed of assistance to make this workaday world more bright by gladdening the heart of man. Quite obviously much of the music that is written has been composed with no such intent, therefore and to that extent it stultifies itself. It must be classed as the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal" of the prophet. St. Paul's analysis of the reason of the ineffectiveness of such, too, is searchingly accurate: that, lacking charity, it signified nothing. Charity is only another synonym for that love which is the manifestation of spirit. The true musician has this spirit of love within him and it demands expression, and so we find Mozart exclaiming "I write because I cannot help it." So Granville Bantock, too—"The impulse to create Music is on me, and I write to gratify my impulse. When I have written the work I have done with it. What I do desire is to begin to enjoy myself by writing something else." The musician sings because he must: he writes so that the spirit may find its outlet in that direction: or he plays, when only through his fingers and the instrument can he find that expression which his soul demands.
[Note 6: J. C. Hadden, "Modern Musicians."]
When Music is thus outpoured it speaks of spirit, and adds to the spiritual store of the world. It reinforces the unseen hosts that fight for spirit in the age-long struggle with the powers of materialism and darkness. No breath of spirit is ever lost, and nothing devoid of it is ever permanent, either in music or in anything else. Sounds without sense or meaning are futile, notes without a heartfelt message are "returned empty" as they were sent forth, and practice without purpose other than mere self-gratification, agility, or display, is a magnificent and glorious waste of time. But Music, when its true underlying purport is discovered, is at once an inspiration and a most real means of achieving that fundamental object, for which our very existence here at this present moment is devised, namely spiritual growth and development.
SPIRIT A LIVING FACT
"Is Music the inarticulate Speech of the Angels on earth? Or a voice of the Undiscovered Bringing great truths to the birth?"
F. W. Faber
Life is a diversity in unity, and the expression in countless different forms and shapes of the one fundamental reality, spirit. We ourselves are comprehended in this definition, being part of this fundamental spirit, and claiming thereby our divinity. Music also, as a part of life, is subject to the same explanation: and thus the spirit of Music is a real thing. The Muses of a Classical day typified this same idea of the spirit behind the form. Indeed man, spiritual as at base he is, can never rest finally satisfied with the outer semblance and form: just as the body craves sustenance, so does the spiritual part of him. No amount of physical satisfaction will ever allay the heart-hunger, and no flood of Rationalist thinking will ever put an end to the instinctive search after the Unknown God.
In spiritual law, as in natural law, nothing is ever lost. We study the physical, and by analogy we may learn much of the spiritual: we have not been left without guidance in the maze of life. But the first essential is that we should study those things which are open to us, and through them learn something of the wisdom that otherwise lies hidden. Nothing is lost: we see, as the hymn puts it, "change and decay," but the decay is only change of form, and death, in the form of extinction, simply does not exist. Even thoughts, transient and gossamer as they may appear, do their work in our brains and leave their permanent impress with us. Occultists further assure us that they are recorded in the eternal archives. It is said that there are the Akashic Records, in some subtle way which we cannot pretend to understand, imprinted in the ether. "This primary substance is of exquisite fineness and is so sensitive that the slightest vibration... registers an indelible impression upon it." If this be so, then here is the story of all that has ever been, and all that is. In our own subconscious minds we know full well that there is such a perfect and complete record as to constitute an individual Judgment Book within of unimpeachable accuracy, and there seems to be nothing intrinsically unreasonable in the idea that there should be something of the kind on a world scale. Monumental histories of the traditional lost continent of Atlantis have been compiled, professedly from this source, and we find an interesting inkling of the same idea in the way in which objects will sometimes impress sensitive folk with their own history. Things sometimes have a "feel" about them, pleasant or the reverse, just as buildings acquire an aura and an atmosphere, sacred or convivial, or even unholy.
[Note 7: Dowling. "The Aquarian Gospel."]
The musician, then, may obey Nature's universal behest, and change his form from the physical of to-day to the more tenuous of a finer realm. He may die: but his music lives on. He perhaps has played his part in the world symphony and, his present work finished, he lays his instrument aside. This body of ours is the instrument of the spirit: no wedding feast without a wedding garment, and no part or lot in the physical world without a body. The tuning of the body to delicate response and high endeavour enables the spirit to express its melody the better, and therefore it is incumbent upon the musician to cultivate a high standard of physical health. This does not mean the maximum of nourishment, combined with stimulants to compel a jaded appetite: on the contrary, artistic efficiency demands super-cleanliness and a tolerably rigid self-denial. Girth is no measure of artistic ability. But the body, sound or otherwise, is the instrument through which we play life's little tune, just as the pianist plays through his pianoforte. But when we have closed the pianoforte nobody supposes that we have extinguished the artist, or annihilated the music: we have merely put an end to its expression for the time. So when our instrument of the body grows old, worn-out, or decrepit, so that it can no longer answer to the dictates of the spirit within, we cast it aside, as an instrument whose keys are broken, or whose strings are for ever mute. Then the musician goes upon his far journey.
But long though the journey seem, it is a change of state rather than of place: as if from being cased in solid ice he now were buoyant in limpid water. His music and his melodies which were so great a part of him now constitute his real self, besides being for ever inscribed upon the roll of eternal remembrance. So the great musicians still live on, and when we claim that such-and-such an interpreter gives us the spirit of Bach, we may be saying more truly than we realise. There is no limit to the range of thought save the intrinsic nature of the thought itself. All thoughts seek their own, by the law of sympathy: like to like, fine to fine, and gross to gross. "Not all of us give due credit to the anomalous nature of love, reaching as high as heaven, sinking as low as hell, uniting in itself all extremes of good and evil, of lofty and low." So when a man steeps himself in thoughts of a type, when he ponders over and lives in the music of a master, his thoughts span the realms and the ages, and he reaches that master, even if only to touch the hem of his garment. Then the master's thoughts are his, and he truly gives of the spirit of the music, for a measure of inspiration has been vouchsafed to him.
[Note 8: Jung. "Analytical Psychology."]
Whatever we dwell upon has its "tuning" effect upon our thoughts, and thus we reach some of the lore and wisdom of those who have trodden the way before us. The inventor and the discoverer are truly what the words imply: the inventor "comes upon" the new idea or principle, and the discoverer "uncovers" and makes plain. But all the ideas and all the new and novel discoveries, and all the laws, were there before: we only reach them when we have climbed to a sufficient height to be able to apprehend them. So the musician who reaches the spirit of Bach has, by the attunement of his thoughts and his aspirations, crept into the heart of the music and has tugged at the musician's heart-strings. He has touched the composer's soul, and henceforth he plays Music, not notes.
Again, Bach, and all the masters of Music have in their turn but discovered the Music that was already there. No man really creates, any more than the gardener creates an oak tree by the planting of an acorn. The gardener provides the necessary conditions in which the oak, already miraculously pent within the acorn, can unfold and develop. So the musician also provides the necessary conditions in which the spirit of Music can blossom and bear fruit. He need take to himself no vast amount of credit, for he is but a trustee of that which has been lent to him: he neither creates it nor owns it. His music is a gift of spirit, and when by his life's work he has glorified that gift, then henceforth that is his contribution to the universal store of spirit, and his Art belongs to the ages.
Inspiration is a commonplace of life, though only too often we think of it solely in connection with religion, and especially with reference to the Bible. Because thought flies free and ever consorts like with like, so almost every moment of our days we are inspiring others and being inspired in return. It is mere delusion that we consider ourselves independent units, for we are literally built of one another. Memory largely constitutes the man, for his every experience and thought is recorded by his subconscious memory, and goes to the making of his characteristics and his personality. Day by day we meet, and perforce remember each other: we remember also those to whom we may never have spoken, and so—unintroduced—they creep in this subtle way into our personality. "We are, each one of us, united by bonds of emotional influence with the personalities of all those with whom we have had to do. If we could see them, they would guide us to their objects, for they never lose their way. Thus by threads of love, threads of hatred, threads of adoration, threads of thought, the universe of souls is interpenetrated and linked up into a unity of correlated activity, an intricate web of life." Something of myself goes, in my thoughts, into this written word: you read it, and as the thought incorporates itself in your mind so does some tenuous element of my personality creep into your own. Our independence is a fiction. We inspire each other, whether we like it or no.
[Note 9: C. J. Whitby, M.D. "The Open Secret."]
But inspiration is of all kinds: it is like those neutral forces of faith and thought, which depend for their result upon the direction in which they are turned. Inspiration can uplift, but it may also degrade. We ourselves by the tuning of our own thoughts determine which it shall accomplish. Like can only answer to like: anger can never play echo to love, for their vibrations are so far apart in attunement that the one cannot influence the other. But anger answers to anger, and love to love. It is the eternal response of the love implanted in the spirit of man that ever bids him answer to the love that radiates from the divine. Hence, in whatever age or clime we look, always there is to be seen man in quest for the unseen, after joy, beauty, truth, happiness, after all those spangles that glitter on the garment of love.
The mind of man is ever the tenuous instrument upon which are playing the invisible forces of inspiration. All the thoughts that have existed, exist still: all the thoughts that man can ever think are there already, they do but await the time and season in which he can sense and interpret them. These are the future discoveries for you and for me. The pioneers who have passed our way are still working at the tasks that were at once their life and love: and they have not gone so far upon the journey that they have outspanned the reach of thought. If our thoughts be fine and unselfish enough, if aspiration tune them sufficiently high, they will reach their aim: and the reply will be vouchsafed. There was never yet an aspirant who was unable to find a teacher. It is most true that the living and the dead are still one family, for of course there are no "dead," unless we most correctly put into this category the dull of hearing, the dull of heart, and the loveless who still walk this earth. But if we deem the pioneers defunct and inarticulate, then it is little likely that we shall comprehend the reality and the naturalness of this interplay and inspiration. If we never seek, information and insight will scarcely drop upon us from the skies.
We talk of inspired playing, inspired teaching, the gift of song, and so on, and we talk of a reality. The playing that is not inspired is worth but little, it has the worth of a nutshell with the kernel gone amissing. It is sound, perhaps it may even be fine sound, yet it signifies nothing: it is as the painted face aping true beauty. Art without inspiration is our electric light bulb disconnected from the main current. There are prophets in the world to-day, for a prophet in the strict sense of the word is one who speaks forth his message. Everyone who senses something of the eternal message—which is love—is in his degree a prophet, yea and a saviour too. He may speak or sing, he may perform or compose, he may wait and serve, or he may just pass his message on with a handshake and a smile: he is an interpreter, a medium twixt wisdom and the unwise. Thus we must place the true artist, whatever be the particular bent of his activities, as a prophet in his day and his generation. That he may be far from being regarded as such by those to whom he ministers is merely one of the incidental disadvantages of being a prophet.
Quite obviously also there will be both good prophets and bad: even a prosaic telegram may be repeated on payment of half the original cost, because of the possibility of error occurring in the text. How much more may error occur, then, when tenuous messages are being sent from high sources by the power of thought, and when the receiving instrument is so often imperfect, so frequently out of gear, and when that instrument in addition is more than a trifle wilful and tainted with selfishness. Inspiration is ever ready, it floats around us like tuned wireless vibrations waiting to be picked up by a sympathetic receiver. Yet so few receivers, being but human after all, are sensitive enough and sufficiently delicate in in their poise to catch the floating news: and so the harvest is plenteous but those who garner it are few.
Perhaps Sullivan felt something of this when, in the "Prodigal Son," he penned the simplest and yet most eloquent of melodies to the words, "O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments," ending up with the words, set too simply for any but a consummate artist to sing with complete effect,—"Turn ye, turn ye—why will ye die?" The marvel truly is that we are already so dead, so immured and petrified in our hard self-satisfaction, when we might so easily develop the freedom, fluidity, and delicacy of fine response to these tenuous intimations of our own spirituality and high destiny. Here we live, as some writer has aptly said, on top of a gold mine, and the tragedy is that we are ignorant of the gold. We live, and move, and have our being in an ocean of spiritual and inspiring thought: surely our problem is to find the conditions that will avail to put us in touch with this lively world of inspiration in which we are accustomed to pass so dead and unresponsive an existence.
THE CONDITIONS OF INSPIRATION
"The greatest Masterpieces in Music will be found to contain sensuous, emotional, and rational factors, and something beside: some divine element of life by which they are animated and inspired"
W. H. Hadow
It may be interesting for a little space to consider the conditions under which Inspiration operates, for, like any other faculty, it is subject to the control of law. We have already emphasised the universality of vibration and the call of like to like, but the theme will bear some further elaboration.
We adventure into the study of sound and its laws and we find that all sounds are propagated by means of waves. These proceed in circular fashion, as do the ripples upon the still surface of a lake into which a stone has been thrown. Further, these waves are of differing rates. Middle C, on the piano, for instance, is made by waves that reach us at the rate of about 256 per second. As sound travels roughly at 1,100 feet to the second, it is clear that the wave of this note is something over four feet from crest to crest. The wave of a note an octave higher would be double the rate and half the length. In addition to this there may be big waves and little waves travelling at the same rate, and also the actual shape of the waves may differ very widely. Thus waves have points of similarity and yet their infinite variety, as do human beings.
This variety in the shape of the waves results in the difference in timbre between various tones. Nobody could fail to distinguish between the sound of a note played on a penny whistle and the same note given out on a violin or a cornet: yet the actual rate of wave would be the same in each case. The reason is that no tone is a pure fundamental tone, there are always super-added a number of other tones, termed the overtones. These are, to the original tone, exactly what the flavouring is to the pudding. You have your fundamental tone and you can add your overtones to taste: you can flavour with the penny whistle, the violin, or the cornet timbre to suit yourself. But according to the flavouring, so is the shape of the wave. Isolated fundamental tones are apt to be colourless and monotonous, like the diapason work on an organ. The organist is able to flavour his fundamental tone at will, by the stops he draws to add to it: he has a special supply of "mixtures" which sound truly dreadful and impossible by themselves, but these in combination with the fundamental go to the making of a successful timbre. Carrots, by themselves, are not a Christmas diet, but we understand that they go to improve the flavour of the festive pudding.
In some such way as this thoughts are tuned, and from the thoughts we think, the desires we entertain, and the aspirations which fill our souls, the timbre of our life is determined. No one is fundamentally and wholly good or bad, we have all of us our overtones, and some of us have very curious mixtures which go to make us what we are. But just as the gramophone will take in all the wonderful complexity of sound waves which are sent out by a whole orchestra of instruments, and will combine these into one wavy line on the record—a kind of compound wave containing "all the elements so mixed"—so also it is with ourselves. All the thought elements are so mixed in us that as we go through life we vibrate to a note that is unique, compounded as it is of all those inner thoughts and emotions that are so exclusively our own. To those who sound the same note, or one that is in harmony, we are akin. We meet them for the first time, and in a moment we have known them for years, perhaps always: we play unison or harmony in our sympathetic attunement. On the other hand, sounding our persistent middle C on our little journey, perhaps we come up against an equally insistent C sharp: excellent notes, each of them—yet there promises but doubtful harmony. Keep to your own key, and be happy.
Whatever note we sing is an invisible, and yet most potent, influence in our lives. We may deem that our thoughts do not matter overmuch, and that it is only deeds that count. Heresy and mistake. Thoughts make us or mar us. Sympathy ensures that we are surrounded and encompassed by that which we ourselves attract. There is a law of consonance, and we are responsible for things in a way that but few realise. This note we sing, this mirror of our personality, this invisible force attracts our friends: change the note—the personality—and we inevitably alter the friendships which were determined thereby. This same note selects the clothes we wear, the things we eat, it chooses the books we read and the avocations we pursue. It is reflected in the pictures on our walls, and in the furniture which decorates our rooms. It determines the prospects which are before us, just as it has attracted the appropriate difficulties and trials that we have left behind. It marries us, and eventually it buries us. Sometimes our overtones of desires or greed inter us long before our lease of life is due to expire. But perhaps most important of all, it determines and selects the Inspiration we are able to receive.
Thoughts of every kind beat upon our minds, as the waves lap the seashore, but we are only able to respond to those that call and awaken some sympathetic answer within us. The heart that is pure can live in an ocean of impurity, and yet remain unsullied: but the character with anger implanted within will find that anger blazing out in echo and answer to a hundred provocations a day. Hatred means nothing, in temptation or response, to a heart overflowing with love. Thus this attunement is at once an avenue for our assault, or our sure shield of defence, according as its note determines. A low tone is an ever-present danger, and a high one a permanent safeguard.
Inspiration is therefore only possible to us at our own level, and unless we are mentally attuned to a high note the inspiration itself will reach no lofty measure. It is true that a mood of exaltation, of earnest prayer or aspiration, may enable us to catch a glimpse of the higher vision, but under these circumstances it is apt to be elusive and fragmentary. The condition of any permanent influx is that the attunement should be habitually and continuously lofty. When this condition is at length reached we are not so very far from that "prayer without ceasing," which most truly means "the practice of the presence of God."
The avenue of inspiration is the subconscious part of the mind, that part of us which in fact constitutes the greater self. In ordinary life this department of mind is more or less shielded by the consciousness. It would retain the permanent impress of every idea it came across, were it not that the consciousness off-hand and summarily rejects a number of impressions which might otherwise prove detrimental. One man calls another a fool, but this one knows very well that he is nothing of the kind, and so the idea carries very little weight in its record on the subconscious. On the other hand, if there were no protective mechanism of this nature, the subconscious might very well accept the statement and believe that its owner certainly was the fool he had been dubbed. The effect, therefore, of consciousness is thus to limit and reduce this sensitiveness and susceptibility of the subconscious part of mind.
As the consciousness passes out of action, as in dream states, brown studies, and in the induced sleep of hypnosis, this sensitiveness and activity of the subconscious gradually emerges. The normal sleep, or as Iamblichus calls it—"The night-time of the body"—is, to continue his remark, "the day-time of the soul." Thus it is so often in the Bible stories that we find the phrase—"The Lord—or the Angel of the Lord—appeared, in a dream." These waves of thought and Inspiration are continually lapping the margin of our subconscious selves, both by day and by night, leaving the dream-traces of their impress as the ripple leaves its marks upon the sand. It is the connection between this under-mind and the consciousness that is so frequently at fault, so that we remain unaware of the tidings. Usually the consciousness is kept so busily engaged that it never has a minute to itself, and so peace, quiet, and receptivity are unknown. The subconscious tries hard to get in its modest word occasionally and edgeways, but the consciousness rarely stops talking: the whole business is one-sided. Plenty of material goes from the consciousness to the subconscious, but comparatively little is able to come in the reverse direction.
This, of course, is a distorted method of existing: there should ever be in the mind a process corresponding to the in-breathing and out-breathing of the lungs. The active and acquisitive consciousness procures the mental food: the subconscious stores this up, assimilates it, and turns it into a kind of inner mentor or conscience which in due course issues its orders and offers its advice. But just as we are said to stifle the "still, small voice," so also do we strangle our possible inventions and discoveries, and so do we cause our inspirations to remain still-born. This is the price we pay for our mad rush after the things that do not matter. We have said that no aspirant ever lacks a teacher, but we would further say that when a person is content to make use of the subconscious powers he possesses, he will find that the knowledge and the inspiration he earnestly seeks will be granted him. "With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the heart of things." The acorn is already in the garden of the mind, we need only to provide the requisite conditions for growth, and the oak tree will then follow as a matter of course.
[Note 10: Wordsworth.]
Things grow and fashion themselves in this under-mind, as the novelist and dramatist will testify. The artist finds his picture forming itself before his inner vision, and so the musician hears his composition. "It comes," they say: so does the oak. But like the oak it can only come when conditions allow, and one of the main conditions is that the consciousness should not rule the roost, and hold sway and dominance to the exclusion and smothering of the still, small voice. "Be still, and know."
Many things and conditions clog communication from the under-mind to the consciousness. The well-being of the body is of the utmost importance: a clogged and constipated body is no medium for inspiration. High living kills the genius of inspiration, and masterpieces are more often produced in the garret than where luxury rules. Success is an even greater test of true genius than is poverty. A bilious attack will put a stop to the most perfervid outpourings of genius, and a common cold in the nose will play havoc with a work of Art. An unstable temperament will have its moments of exaltation and its hours of despair: this is sensitiveness uncontrolled. Sensitiveness is indeed the stock-in-trade of all who work in the temple of Art, but unless it be controlled by reins of more than ordinary strength it is a very doubtful blessing. We must ever be able to keep our souls in tune so that they afford no echo to the undesirable. Indulgence of the body in any form hampers its work as an instrument of the spirit, while self-discipline (tho' by no means to the verge of asceticism) increases its sensitiveness, and occasional quiet periods afford the opportunity for the subconscious treasures to reveal themselves.
On the mental side, selfishness is one of the most complete and effectual deadeners of inspiration. The delicate intimations of finer things can make no impression on a hide-bound mind. As Trine somewhere puts it—"The man who is always thinking of himself generally looks as if he were thinking of something disagreeable." The self-centred mind is a mind closed to other things, and to this extent it is nearly always unbalanced and distorted. Under these conditions such inspiration as it may receive is liable to be of an uncouth and bizarre nature. Hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness tune the mind to very undesirable levels, and at this level it will come in touch with the whole body of similar undesirable thought that is circulating around it. It both gives out and receives. Such a mind is indeed doing active work in the world, but in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, the individual who sets himself to work positively and constructively to utilise inspiration, as it assuredly may be used, is in some degree helping his generation and becoming a prophet, and maybe a saviour.
"I like joy, for it is life. I preach joy, for it alone gives the power of creating useful and lasting work"
There are, roughly speaking, three classes of interpreters in Music: performers or executants, composers, and teachers. The function of each of these is, by a special sensitiveness, to apprehend the message of spirit, and then, by their own technique and in their own particular way, to pass it on for the benefit of others. In the body the nervous system, which is the link between spirit and matter, serves somewhat the same purpose. Spirit is too tenuous to be able to act directly upon the comparatively inert matter of the body, but through the medium of the brain and nervous system it makes contact with spirit at the one end, and at the other the nerves control the muscular system, which effects the necessary and desired movements. Thus the spirit in music is sensed by the artist in solitude and communion, and is given out by him to the multitude in public.
The artist thus necessarily has two sides to his work, the inner and the outer, the artistic and the technical. No amount of technique alone will ever make an artist, nor will artistic or spiritual perception by itself enable the message to secure adequate treatment. Both sides are indispensable. But there has been far too much worship of mere technique in Music, until at times even the fact that there has been any message at all has been overlooked. In times, happily now gone by, a simple melody which perhaps by itself might have conveyed a homely message, has been smothered under showers of variations, decked out in wearisome arpeggios, and entangled in meaningless scales, until it has reminded one of nothing so much as a vulgar and greatly over-dressed woman: and yet this has been looked upon as music. Technique is indeed necessary, but only as a means to an end. Directly it begins to obscure the meaning, or is developed for its own sake without reference to its task, it is missing the mark. It puts itself on a par with the stupidity that leads a man to undertake to play the piano for twenty-four hours without stopping.
So many hours' scales per diem would be warranted to drive the spirit of music to distraction: the utmost perfection in scales does not of necessity lead to any illuminating message. It cannot be too strongly urged that the feeling and the emotion are the real things, and that the object of technique is simply that these may be expressed in the best and most intelligible manner. Indeed the artist himself is secondary in importance to the message, it is the spirit that works in and through him that must ever come first. The true artist never seeks to obtrude, or to make his own personality the first thing. He will, of course, endeavour to make his technique fully equal to all demands that can be made of him, but he will realise that he is doing his work in trust. "No MAN ever did any great work yet: he became a free channel through which the eternal powers moved." In thus working the artist shines, as does the electric bulb, by reason of the unlimited power which according to his own measure may flow through him: and this limitless power may be relied upon to secure its own effect, if only the steward be faithful.
[Note 11: Newlandsmith. "The Temple of Art."]
Contrast the work done in this spirit with that accomplished under the stimulus of financial gain, or for the end of mere selfish display. The latter is a species of artistic prostitution. Superficially the performances may seem something alike, the difference may be intangible, but it exists and is real. Time is ever the winnower. Things always prove their survival value, that is to say the real things last, while the shams are sooner or later extinguished. It is necessary, no doubt, to make a living, no one will be so foolish as to overlook this elementary fact: but the mere aim of making a living only too often obscures the actual meaning of life. Balanced and informed views of life work, through a law of consonance, to ensure a corresponding equilibrium in the outer circumstances: in other words, if we seek first the inner Kingdom, all these things, financial means and so forth, will be added. But there are thousands who drive for the financial and other incidental ends, and as a matter of fact miss the Kingdom entirely. To find the personal centre of gravity in the world is to master life, to fail to find it is to be mastered by life.
A performance that has self as its central motive can never ring true or achieve any lasting success. Inferior music may be decked out by a capable performer to sound impressive or pretentious, or be invested with a glamour which is largely fictitious, but this surely amounts to false pretences. It is simply a method of misleading the public. Such a performer has misconceived his function, which should be to act as interpreter, guide, philosopher, and friend to those who follow his efforts. What is to be said to the singer of royalty ballads? Here is a vocalist who receives, maybe, two or three guineas for each dozen times he sings particular songs, the publisher of the song in question being his paymaster. Of this type of song a contemporary Musical Journal states:—"Every serious musician knows it, and, scenting the boredom, tries to avoid it. It is highly sentimental, it moves within a limited scope, emotionally and technically, and it deals with a few well-worn subjects. Gardens, spring, sunshine, flowers—these are favourite themes. If only, the singer tells us, he could have a cottage on the hillside, with honeysuckle round the door (this appears to be of great importance), heaven would indeed be there." These MAY be compositions of artistic worth, in which case financial gain and true musical interest consort together: but on the other hand they may NOT. Which, then, is to receive the first consideration? Is the artist to refuse the guineas because the ballad possesses no intrinsic worth, or is he to pocket the cash and deck out with all the devices of his Art the twopenny-ha'penny shop-tune, and make it sound something like the real thing? No doubt under these circumstances the song may achieve a certain measure of appreciation. Some of the audience will buy it, and only when they come to try it at home will they realise what feeble stuff it truly is. The artist has been paid to betray those who trusted in him and followed his taste. In this he may have been eminently successful, but what is the value of such success? And what of Art—and Music?
Wherein is the particular glory of a top note, or the specific value of a compass that extends a note-and-a-half beyond that of anyone else? Why should it be considered meritorious to be able to bang louder or to scramble more quickly over the keys than one's competitors? Yet we have certainly met singers and players who gloried in such accomplishments. A performer may also know every device and trick of the trade, he may be well aware of what will go down with his audience, he may play up to all their little foibles and weaknesses and give them exactly what they want: we can indeed scarcely quarrel with this. But so many are apparently content to allow the matter to remain on this lowly level. A singer who is thus able to play upon his audience and hold them in his grip can surely also lead them up to the appreciation of better things.
An audience is normally receptive and impressionable, they come expecting to receive satisfaction and enjoyment for the money they have expended in the purchase of a ticket, or because they have some other interest in the proceedings. Presumably if they were not interested they would not be there. This element of expectation stimulates their receptivity, and aids the performer in his work of giving out. Whatever the audience receives, by the mere fact of its making some impression on the delicate nerve-stuff of the brain, is retained and becomes actually a part of them. Thus the artist is definitely building the minds of his audience: he is forming their taste, and giving them that material in mind which will enable them to enjoy and understand music the better for the future. He is passing on the message according to his ability. Therefore that individual who is merely seeking for compass, technique, press notices, or his fee, shows that he has not appreciated the elements of his task. Being thus in search of all the things that really do not matter, he is putting himself into a position that will ensure him a more or less comfortable mediocrity, provide he is lucky enough to escape actual failure.
We call to mind a press criticism that appeared in a first-class London daily newspaper, with reference to a singer quite unknown to fame. It stated that "every note was pure joy." Could one say anything finer than this, and would not anything added to it but serve to spoil it? It epitomises what we have here been endeavouring to express. There could be no "pure joy" apart from spirit, and in giving this forth in song the singer achieved the aim of Art. This joy would become part of the life of those who heard her, because it can never be too clearly understood that we are built of our memories, and though we seem to forget, yet these memories are absolute. So the joy that the singer gave out went to gladden the world, and that which she gave, paradoxically enough, remained with her. That which we express, by the record of that expression we tend to become.
Herein the personality of the interpreter counts for much. The music, it is true, carries its own meaning and message, but this is reinforced by the mediumship and the imagination of the performer. "Imagination is the life of art. Why so many performers give such little pleasure and leave the audience coldly critical is simply because their imagination is of the feeblest." Necessarily there is always a certain coloration from the mind which transmits the message, just as the tones of two violins though played by the same hand might be different. Moreover, as a resonant instrument would amplify the sound and an inferior one would hamper it, so a greater artist would interpret a message to more effect than one less capable. The gramophone will give us the actual notes of the singer, but it depends upon ourselves as to whether we catch the real thing or not. What is actually there is the shell: there is no personality unless we ourselves build up that personality of the singer in our imagination. We must supply that which the machine lacks, or else perforce go without. When the artist is present in person we need no effort of the imagination, and though the machine can give us a personal rendering it can never offer us the personality. In much the same way the mechanical piano-player may give So-and-so's exact rendering if only we follow the requisite directions, but it is impossible for it to be the same. Two things seem alike, but one is stuffed, and the other hollow.
[Note 12: Lancelot, in the "Referee."]
Personality, then, must always be a vital factor since it colours and vitalises, as well as reinforces the meaning of the music. Spirit is a fact, but a beautiful personality will invest it with all the glamour of romance. The emotion may be "pure joy" but it needs a warm heart to give it out to full effect to a coldish world. Consequently, for the beauty to shine through, the artist's personality must be finely wrought. A selfish soul might sing a love-song, but a woman would not be taken in by it—unless she thought twice: it would not ring true enough. Beauty lies in the heart of all worthy music, so the artist who studies it and lives in its atmosphere gradually builds that beauty into the life and the character: the mere expression henceforth makes it part of him through memory. So, beautiful thoughts are needful food to the mind of the artist, and no amount of cleverness in the simulation of this or that emotion will ever enable the same effect to be produced, as when beauty is reinforced by beauty. Personality counts beyond all calculation.
The music that is written shows whether its composer was an artist or a mechanic in music. "The spirit of anything which a man makes, or does, is his nature expressed in those things, and the fineness or poorness of his work and actions depends upon the way in which he feels or thinks." The academic writer, steeped in his contrapuntal devices and harmonic progressions, so intent upon the orthodox resolution of his discords, is apt to produce excellent dry bones without the informing spirit. We have even heard it stated that no music publisher would deign to consider for publication a song manuscript with Mus. Doc. on the title page. Yet Parry's books of "English Lyrics" stand as permanent testimony that scholarly music may also contain the emotional and spiritual elements to infuse it with abundant life: the pity is that the combination is none too frequent. "A vast proportion of what is printed and sold as music... is meaningless, and therefore worthless." Such music as is composed, or selected, for popular consumption is frankly written for this purpose of pot-boiling, and as such it settles its own fate. We need waste no tears upon it. Nor need we devote much consideration to the sentimental ballads issued by the hundred, for "if music has no further function than to appeal to the emotions, then it is nothing better than melodious nonsense." Of the dance and other miscellaneous music issued broadcast some, no doubt, is genuine music, but the greater part of it is avowedly commercial in tone and intention: in any spiritual scale its weight is of the lightest.
[Note 13: Leigh Henry. "Music."]
[Note 14: Sir Henry Hadow.]
[Note 15: Sir Henry Hadow.]
The interpreter who works in collaboration with others, the choral singer or the orchestral performer, should be bound by the same canons of Art as the soloist. A chorus does not merely consist of a certain number of voices, any more than eleven football players constitute a team. Even the footballers must have their technique and must play with their heads as well as their feet: but to ensure success they must individually have subordinated their personal interests to that of the team, they must play in the spirit of the game. Equally so a choral singer must first have the vocal ability, then the intelligence, and furthermore the spiritual vision. His individual aims must also be subordinated in "team play," so that collectively, as individually in the case of the soloist, the purport of the music may find its due expression.
The one point to be emphasised is that, in whatever capacity the exponent and interpreter of Art be concerned, the paramount consideration must be the transmission of the artistic impulse. People do not send telegrams flying about the country except for the purpose of conveying a message: in the absence of a message there is, naturally, no telegram. It would be a step in the right direction if it were generally recognised that Art-work should be based upon somewhat the same substantial and bed-rock foundation.
"The teachers of this country have its future in their hands"
Ideas on the subject of the teaching of Music are changing at such a rapid rate to-day that the position of the teacher as an interpreter may well receive some consideration. The study of psychology and the many new discoveries in the realm of mind bid fair to revolutionise our conception of teaching: the old standards are fast becoming obsolete. Once the idea of education was more or less to get something into the pupil, the newer ideal is to get something out: instead of compression or repression the process is now regarded as one of expression. We aim at developing the latent faculties and exploiting the hidden resources of the mind. It is assumed that the various qualities and abilities are embodied in mind, just as the possibilities of the oak were implanted in the acorn: it is the function of the teacher to ensure the requisite conditions under which these qualities may come to fruition.
From this it is clear that the modern teacher is more occupied in teaching the pupil than the subject. The old method of grinding in scales, scales, and yet more scales until those scales had become second nature is recognised as being worse than merely futile. What can it profit a pupil if he gain the whole world of scales and lose his artistic soul? So also with other points, the centre of attention is transferred from the subject to the pupil. Furthermore, the wise teacher recognises that as music is a part of life, so the understanding of music should lead to a larger comprehension of life. There are no watertight compartments in our lives, everything is acted upon and reacts: all life is of a piece, and nothing comes out of the mind in exactly the same condition as it entered. Things become transformed and assimilated in the process of mental digestion. Consequently the discerning teacher knows that he is working in terms of life through the agency of the music. He is helping to modify, form, or transform the mind of the pupil through his memories, he is moulding his character: and his character weighs in the eternal scales. The teaching thus stands on a base that is wider than life itself, and such a teacher is invested with a dignity and worth that can never attach to the time-server or the crammer.
The Royal Academy of Music gives the Licentiate diploma for (a) teachers and (b) performers: this is a technical distinction without any real difference. It is the function of both alike to reveal and to pass on a message of spirit. The performer passes it on to an audience of many, and the teacher to a little audience of one. Teachers are "artists to whom the most priceless material has been committed." There is an idea abroad that those who are not clever enough to perform can always take to teaching, but this is of course a lamentable perversion of the truth. There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit, and certainly as high a degree of spiritual perception is necessary for the teacher as for the executive artist. The teacher has merely chosen a different technique for its expression. Not so many years ago the teaching profession was known as "the refuge of the destitute," but we are changing all that with the revaluation of values which is being forced upon us by the logic of events. In course of time the old type of teacher must become as extinct as the dodo.
[Note 16: Canon J. H. Masterman.]
Effective teaching can never be done to pattern, for the simple reason that pupils are not machines or blocks of wood and cannot be turned out to sample. Every pupil is unique: he is the inheritor of a spirit which is peculiarly his own, and of a body in its endowments and proportions unlike that of anyone else, and in his nervous system he possesses special pre-dispositions and "potentially linked paths" which provide him with particular adaptabilities and traits. Were the teacher to treat every pupil alike, his scheme would probably truly fit none of them: but as a matter of fact each one of them calls for insight and special treatment. So the teacher learns from every pupil, and the experience garnered from contact with the many phases of human nature renders his judgment the surer and his sympathy the more sound. But this, quite obviously, is mind-moulding and character-building, with the emphasis laid upon the teaching of the pupil rather than the subject.
The three generally accepted divisions of mind are (a) intellect; (b) feelings; and (c) will; and in these directions the teaching of music should have far-reaching effects upon the culture and the outlook. Observation is the root of all mental growth: it supplies the mind with the necessary food for development and expansion, and according to the range and definiteness of the evidence supplied by the senses, so is the foundation laid for a good memory and a lively quality of imagination. The earliest lessons will thus be a stimulus to mental growth: the pupil will learn to take in by the eye and the ear, and what he takes in will enable him to understand and to appreciate more and yet more. He will be taught that everything in music means something, and even exercises will be invested with a meaning and a purpose of their own. Purely mechanical work has gone, never, we may hope, to return: and meaningless music is discarded in favour of that which expresses something. It may illustrate a mood or an emotion, a scene, an action, or a fairy tale—it matters not what so long as it possesses a meaning to lend it point and purpose. So right from the beginning the action of the pupil will be the expression of the emotions and ideas that hold sway in his mind.
In this connection we may quote an actual instance. A teacher writes:—"A young pupil (age 14) came for a lesson, playing Farjeon's 'Prelude and Pavane.' She had learnt the 'Prelude,' and had had one lesson, a fortnight before, on the 'Pavane.' We went through the technique, and I told her a little about the 'Pavane'—when it was danced, the derivation of the name, and so on. When she played it, she played it very, very slowly, but quite correctly and finished in detail. I asked her if she liked it quite as slowly as that, and she replied that she thought 'the Court ladies with their long dresses would not be able to dance any quicker' and that it 'sounded grander very slowly.' So I left it." This, we may add, is an illustration of method quoted by a teacher in a diploma Examination paper, but it aptly shows the new spirit. The teacher had no mind to force her own views upon the pupil. Had she insisted that the dance should be played more quickly, she might have spoiled the child's mental picture and destroyed her interest in the piece. The incident also points the way in which the pupil's observation, imagination, and powers of deduction were being stimulated, so that, as we have been endeavouring to show, the music—of value for its own sake—was also ministering to the larger end of life-growth.
The world of affairs and the world of education see to it that our intellect and will are duly and properly brushed up, they exact their penalties in default from the stupid and the invertebrate, but the feeling and emotional side of the nature is too often ignored. It is left to develop by chance instead of being nurtured by design. As a consequence a vast amount of distorted feeling exists in the world, and a very great deal of emotion is repressed. Music is at once a means of cultivating the rightful feelings towards life, and an outlet for the repressed emotions. The interpreter recognises that his true function is to serve his day and his generation, and so he places this ideal of Service in the forefront of his vision. If he substitute Selfishness he is permanently wrongly adjusted to life, and nothing can go truly right with him. He is off the lines of his spiritual evolution, and Nature will take pains to impress the fact upon him: she has her larger vision to which he must, willy-nilly, conform. The teacher, in handing on the torch, will thus be able at the very outset to point to this ideal of Service, exemplified in finding out the beauty or the meaning of the music, and in passing it on for the benefit of others in song or sound.
Repressed emotions are now recognised as a potent source of trouble, both mental and physical. In the adolescent stage of youth vital forces surge through the body, they are perhaps indefinable but they are none the less potent. "The emotions are there, and it is for us to find the way in which we can best turn them upward: the time has passed when we need or can deny their existence, or their expression." These emotions cannot be permanently repressed, they are too deeply embedded in the self: they may find an outlet in the amours of youth, or in some other way. But music offers a means and a channel through which these emotions may flow in useful direction, and this is a most valuable service. Failing legitimate expression they not infrequently find an inappropriate or distorted outlet. There is discord within, and it is far better that the discord should be resolved harmoniously rather than ill, or not at all. The study of music at this period may thus result in marked benefit to the physical health in a perfectly natural manner: for to forbid any expression to these emotions would be much as if we forbade a canary to sing or a lambkin to jump. If they can be reflected in "pure joy" in song we may indeed be sure that the outlet they are finding is a happy one. The subject is a very important one, but it leads us far afield from the present scheme. The reader who is interested may find further treatment of this topic in the present writer's "The Hidden Self, and its Mental Processes."
[Note 17: Ernest Hunt. "The Hidden Self."]
The modern teacher has progressed beyond the stage of imposing his own standard of judgment upon the pupil. By introducing the element of musical appreciation and making the pupil familiar with a wide range of musical ideas, he will gradually build up his power of discrimination and judgment and his standard of taste. These are no fixed things, but will grow as the experience of the pupil himself grows. As his sympathy and insight also increase, so will his knowledge of the good and evil of music progress. This is a vastly different process to any arbitrary enforcement of "this is good and that is bad" standards, and indeed it is but a poor compliment to any teacher when we find pupil after pupil a more or less complete imitation of the same original.
One thing that is conspicuously lacking in the world to-day is the ability to be one's self. Suggestion and habit are ever at work to kill originality and to stifle self-reliance and initiative. Thousands can copy, few can invent. The reason may be that only the few are able and willing to go to the fountain-head of spirit, where there is the infinite variety of universal thought to be their inspiration. The many are content to live their teachers' ideas over and over again, building their lives and abilities on quite ordinary models in a quite ordinary way. In music we already possess far too many "dittos," ditto programmes, ditto compositions, ditto renderings, and ditto ideals. Praise the Lord for originality wherever it may be found. The conventional goes round and round in a circle, like a puppy after its own tail: but originality rises at each revolution and so reaches on and up, in progress like a spiral. So to-day the teacher fosters originality, shaping it with kindly criticism or helpful suggestion, but never damning it with a fatal "don't." Education's maxim to-day is "Do; but do better next time."
In this larger view of teaching, the technique, though not despised and rejected, is relegated to its proper place in the scheme of things. The cult of the head and the heart predominates, and the whole course of the instruction is an integral part of the training for life. If it be true that we are making "houses built without hands, for our souls to live in," then music is determining no small part of the architecture for the student who follows the gleam. The inspired teacher (and, without the vision, teaching must ever be the veriest drudgery) is engaged upon one of the noblest of tasks as well as one of the most responsible. We may even hope that one day the world will awaken to this fact. Incidentally teachers themselves, by thinking more nobly of their tasks, can do much to dignify their calling. They are truly in the van of progress, and "with the power of the Spirit almost untried and the possibilities of Prayer as little known, with the inheritance of Love still unclaimed and the ocean of Truth yet unexplored, life is full of an immensity of purpose."
[Note 18: Kirkham Davis. "Where dwells the Soul Serene."]
THE SOUL OF SONG
"All the hearts of men were softened By the pathos of his music: For he sang of peace and freedom, Sang of beauty, love, and longing: Sang of death, and life undying In the Islands of the Blessed, In the Kingdom of Ponemah, In the land of the Hereafter."
The power to sing is innate in practically everybody, and the number of people who are actually incapable of any musical expression through the voice is really very small. Suggestion plays an important part in this matter, for there are few children having mothers or nurses who sing to them who fail to pick up and imitate that singing. The reason is fairly clear, because every idea in mind tends to pass into action unless something intervenes to stop it: consequently the child having the idea of singing in mind, simply from having heard others sing, has the initial impulse to song. As he gradually acquires the control and co-ordination of his faculties, song will follow as a matter of course. On the other hand if the child never hears anyone sing, from where is the motor impulse to come?
Those good people who boast that they cannot sing have very often, by the simple denial of their ability, ensured a kind of mental atrophy in the function. It is quite a usual thing for us to fasten unnecessary limitations upon ourselves by refusing to believe in our own powers, and most of us have a large stock of very real inhibitions, which prevent us from doing things otherwise well within our capacity. If we do not believe we can do a thing, as a rule we do not try: or if we try, it is in a half-hearted, beaten-before-we-start kind of fashion. Thus we find that as a matter of experience things generally do turn out for us according to our belief. It is in this spirit that a man professes himself unable to tell the difference between the National Anthem and "Pop goes the Weasel." There are cases, of course, where the individual may be able to distinguish the tunes mentally, and yet may be unable to sing them correctly, or even to vary the tones of the voice according to the desired pattern: in this case the fault probably lies in a lack of the power of co-ordinating the various activities. The necessary associations between the hearing centres and the motor centres for the control of voice have not been built up. But they can be so built, and then the inability to sing vanishes. A person who can speak has the necessary machinery for song, and to say that one has "no voice" is mostly nonsense.
Many people possess quite good voices until they learn singing. Their natural aptitude, which so largely depends upon the models they may have had for imitation in the earliest days, is possibly quite excellent. Then comes the Voice Specialist on the scene with his pet theories for improving upon Nature, and he gets busy. He may have his ideas upon "breaks," registers, and a thousand other details. Perhaps he has written a book on the way in which Nature has made a botch of the voice, creating it in a number of sections like a fishing rod, specially to provide an interesting and lucrative profession for the voice trainer. On the other hand he may be wise enough to thank Heaven when he finds a good natural voice, and leave it alone. Voices when naturally used have beauty, ease, compass, and an even tone without break throughout: this, we assert, in spite of the fact that many a famous contralto possesses apparently two voices, so marked is the break. There is a technical alteration of the working of the vocal chords at a certain pitch, but with a rightly-used voice this is automatic and unfelt: the whole body is full of such wonderful adjustments. To be called upon to deal consciously with such details is generally proof that they have gone wrong. Your attention to your digestion is enforced by dyspepsia: nobody notices a perfectly acting digestion.
Some voices are expressive and carry emotion easily, while others are hard and inelastic. Some correspondence in the temperament will nearly always be found. Therefore the teacher who works at the voice (which is a means of expression of the temperament) without touching the inner characteristics, is like the man who tries to make an ill-regulated clock keep time by altering the hands. Lack of tone colour is not to be cured by cultivating a number of different sizes and shapes for the mouth and a selection of assorted smiles for the features. If a person feels sad, he will talk sadly. Carrying the same principle into song, we find that a voice naturally shows the timbre appropriate to the mood. Therefore in order to ensure proper tone colour the prime requisite is imagination and the ability vividly to call up and experience the various emotions. It will be evident that we are endeavouring to impart into vocal work precisely those same principles which we assert to be fundamental to the whole of music, namely—the importance of the idea as behind, distinct from, and manifested through, the technical means. The vocal machinery must necessarily be in first-class order, but the influence of the mind upon the body is so intimate and so extraordinary that even technical acquirement hangs to no small extent upon mental working.
Seeing that song, then, is to be the vehicle for emotion, even though that emotion be so tenuous as almost to defy verbal expression, for the most part we ally words and music. The timbre of a voice, singing tones without words, might carry a message to the sensitive, just as the inflection of a voice may be exquisite joy or suffering to a lover: but it would be insufficient to move the average hearer to any response. The reason is that there is always a dual process at work in mind: there is the sense-perception of the actual sound, and a brain-recognition of its meaning. This latter must be supplied by the hearer himself from his own imagination or experience. The non-musical multitude has neither, and is therefore unable to complete this second process of recognition. Thus the hearer hears, but does not understand. It is probably for some such reason as this that we resort to words to make the message clear. Herein lies the importance of the words themselves, and of the diction of the singer.