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Is there no secret in't,
SER v ANt.
Unto my chamber, father,
(Enter Juan and Raymond.)
What—Raymond sure, it cannot be.
To enter into an elaborate investigation or a philosophical discussion of the principles of musical science, is altogether foreign to our present purpose. The few loose and desultory remarks we may make will refer principally to its effects.
Poets have sung the reeds of the Nile, the flute of Pan, and the lyre of Apollo, as the first attempts at musical instruments, but we are inclined to believe that to no fortuitous circumstance, or instruction of heathen god or goddess, can be ascribed the origin of the art. That man from his very creation employed his vocal powers in the production of musical sounds, we think cannot be doubted. The complaints of pain and the exclamations of joy, required no other instructor than the feeling, to be developed; the heart furnished the “to be expressed” music the means of expression. Although our knowledge of ancient music is necessarily very limited, yet from all we are able to learn of it, we must inser that it was extremely unlike that of modern date, both in nature and effects. Many of the accounts which are transmitted to us, concerning its almost miraculous influence in olden time, are quite incredible, though there are many considerations which should have their weight in our decisions respecting their truth, which are usually unappreciated. We do not find diseases now obedient to its power as they are reported formerly to have been:-the melody of the lyre, in these days of architectural improvement, would scarcely be an efficient power for raising the walls, not of a second Thebes, but even of a common dwelling:—and Paganini himself, we imagine, would be unwilling, Amphion-like, to cast himself into the sea, relying upon the power of his harmony. Though there is doubtless much of poetic fiction mingled in these singular tales, yet we cannot but believe that ancient music did actually produce effects which we never witness as its result.
In order to produce the greatest impression, music had not to await that comparative perfection at which it has arrived in modern times; nay, this very improvement has weakened, rather than increased its power. The mind in its comparatively simple state was better fitted to receive strong impressions from the sounds, and the taste was as yet unhampered by that fastidiousness which has characterized it since. The ear uninstructed, unmodelled, received and conveyed at once the music to the heart, being entirely unoccupied with the considerations of the complicated and intricate mazes of harmony, which are at present the “sine quá non.” Science has exerted her influence upon music, and now, although the feelings awakened are perhaps of a more delicate and higher cast, yet we have at the same time lost the power of communicating and receiving those intense and transporting emotions, which in earlier years lay within its province. We are inclined to smile at the stories of diseases cured, maniacs restored to reason, and the power of the deadliest poisons rendered ineffectual by the influence of musical incantation; at the same time there may be more of truth than we are apt to imagine even in such tales. We know that if any note of the musical scale be sounded, a vibration will take place in the corresponding string of any musical stringed instrument which may be near, and we shall hear the same note swelling like an echo from the vibrating string. By what mysterious sympathy this is effected, we cannot tell; but upon the same principle may we not suppose that there are certain nerves or fibres of the human system, which may receive an impulse srom musical sound causing their vibration ? There is not only a possibfity, but we think an exceeding probability, that the effect of music in certain disorders may be favorable; if not directly affecting the nerves, yet operating by its soothing influence upon the mind, and through the mind upon the nervous system; and we think it by no means difficult to conceive that a combination of poetry and music might produce extraordinary effects; that as the poetry stimulated the mind, and the musical sounds gave motion to the nerves, the servid conceptions in the one, and the powerful intonations of the other, were sometimes capable of influencing both intellect and sensation, and that transient changes in the mental and corporeal economy might result. We see even in our own time the influence of the combination of poetry and simple music in exciting the passions of the human heart. The Marseilles Hymn, when sung in grand chorus by a French populace, is said to arouse them to fury; here the music simply does not exert the influence, but as connected with the spirited appeal of the poetry. It is doubtful whether music by itself, without the assistance of its sister art, would ever attain its highest power, and gain that command of human seeling which even we sometimes witness. It is true that all the music of particular regions is frequently characterized by peculiarities to such a degree, that we immediately recognize it without the aid of language: the Scottish music, for instance, is noted for its singular wildness and melancholy; this may in a measure be accounted for, by the nature of the country and habits of the inhabitants: among the highlands the scenery is picturesque, but rather of a gloomy character; long tracts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath, and frequently wreathed in mists, the mournful dashings of the waters along the numerous friths and lakes, the unearthly sounds which every change of wind calls forth in such a region of cliffs, caverns and echoes:—these and various other circumstances may contribute to produce that peculiar and mournful wildv O. L. I. I. 22
ness with which their music abounds, and being of such a nature, it less requires the aid of poetry, though even here it is a great advantage. Mysterious as is the “modus operandi” of musical sounds, it is very evident that with them nature has connected powerful emotions. They are the keys which free from their confinement the passions of the soul, and call them forth at will. Sounds judiciously arranged and varied, and united with suitable words, can melt to pity, depress with sorrow, transport with joy, or excite to bloodthirsty revenge. The experience of every one will testify to the power of gentle and gliding harmony, which by its liquid tones and soft, soothing expression calms the heart when distracted by gries, and subdues the sury of human passion. Music of this latter nature has a peculiar power in cherishing the tender emotions of the soul, and calling up from forgetfulness past scenes of interest, and their attendant circumstances. How often when at evening some plaintive air comes floating by upon the mild sufimmer breeze, have we drank in its witching melody; and erchance it be one which we have heard in former days, how vividly does it bring the image of the past before the mind: forms of those we loved seem once again to surround us, and murmuring voices whose low, sweet tones once filled our bosoms with ecstatic joy. We are in the spirit-land, and until the spell is broken, bid farewell to the dull cares and realities of life, and to the tide of woe which is perhaps rolling its dark waves over our brightest prospects. Thus the Swiss peasant, when in other lands, far from the home of his youth, will weep at the sound of some simple, national air, so touching is it in its very nature, and in this case rendered peculiarly so from association. It recalls the white cliffs, dark ravines and thundering torrents of the noble Alps, amid which, when a youth, he roamed in all the wild freedom of nature, the green sward of his own peaceful valley, the home of his childhood, rise as by magic before him, and perchance the thought of one united to him by no common tie, awakens a still deeper interest;-all these fond remembrances thick-coming, surcharge his swelling heart, and produce a melancholy, which nothing but the enjoyment of their reality can dissipate. There is yet another kind of music, concerning which, gentle reader, while we say a few words, we beg your indulgence. Although constantly surrounded by the music of nature, from its very continuity we are not so much affected by it. Go forth into the fields at early dawn, when the morning breeze is gently stirring among the whispering leaves, and dislodging the glittering dew drops, when animated nature is just shaking off her slumbers, and here and there is heard the sweet carol of some solitary feathered warbler:-by degrees, as morn advances, other voices join the swelling chorus all in perfect harmony; soon the busy hum of man mingles in the melody, and the breeze, freshening as it sweeps along, calls forth from its various harps their full and mellow tones.