SONG, either an actual “singing” performance, or in a literary sense a short metrical composition adapted for singing or actually set to music. In the second sense of the word it must strictly be lyrical in its nature; but musicians and others frequently use the word in the wider sense of any short poem set to music. A “song,” as a form of poem, usually turns on some single thought or emotion, expressed subjectively in a number of stanzas or strophes. Almost every nation is in possession of an immense store of old simple ballads (q.v.), which are the spontaneous outcome of the inspiration of the people (“folk-songs”), and represent in a remarkable degree their tastes, feelings and aspirations; but in addition to these, there are, of course, the more finished and regular compositions born of the conscious art of the civilized poet.
In a purely literary sense the song may exist, and does largely exist, without any necessary accompaniment of music. With the accession of Elizabeth the attention of the English poets was immediately drawn to the importance of this branch of lyrical literature. The miscellanies, one of which Master Slender would have paid more than forty shillings to have in his pocket on a celebrated occasion, were garlands of songs, most of them a little rude in form, only mere “packets of bald rhymes.” But about 1590 the popularity of the song having greatly increased, more skilful writers were attracted to its use, and the famous England’s Helicon of 1600 marked the hey-day of Elizabethan song-writing. In this Shakespeare, Sidney, Lodge, Barnfield and Greene, to name no others, were laid under contribution. Lyly, with such exquisite numbers as “Cupid and my Campaspe” (1584), had preceded the best anthologies, and is really the earliest of the artist-songsters of England. Among superb song-writers who followed were Marlowe (“Come live with me and be my love”), Campion (“My sweetest Lesbia”) Ben Jonson (“Drink to me only with thine eyes”) and Fletcher (“Here ye Ladies, that depise”),most of these being dramatists, who illuminated their plays, and added a delicate ornament to them, by means of those exquisite lyrical interpolations. Side by side with such poets, and a little later, began to flourish the school of cavalier song-writers, for whose purpose the lyric was self-sufficient. They added to our literature jewels of perennial lustre—Wither, with his “Shall I wasting in despair,” Herrick with “Bid me to live”and “Gather ye Rosebuds,” Carew with “Ask me no more where June bestows,” Waller with “Go, lovely Rose,” Suckling with “Why so pale and wan, fond Lover?” and Lovelace with “Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind.” This was the classic age of the true British song, which survived all other forms of poetry after the decay of taste, and continued to flourish in the hands of Dryden, Sedley, Aphra Behn and Rochester down to the last decade of the 18th century. That outburst of song was followed by nearly a hundred years during which the simplest and more direct forms of lyrical utterance found comparatively little encouragement. Just before the romantic revival the song reasserted its position in literature, and achieved the most splendid successes in the hands of Burns, who adapted to his purpose all kinds of fragmentary material which had survived up to his time in the memories of rustic persons. In Scotland, indeed, the song was rather revived and adorned than resuscitated; in England it may be said to have been recreated by Blake. At the opening of the 19th century it became the vehicle of some of the loveliest fancies and the purest art of Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Byron and Landor; while in a later day songs of rare perfection were composed by Tennyson and by Christina Rossetti. (E. G.)
Song in Music.
The history of song as a musical form falls into two main divisions, the one belonging to the folk-song, the other to the art-song. Though the line of demarcation between the two cannot be definitely drawn, for they have acted and reacted upon each other ever since music existed as a cultivated art, yet it may reasonably be maintained that the folk-song, which lies at the base of all music, preserves, and has in all ages preserved, characteristics such as must always distinguish the rude and unconscious products of the human mind, working more by instinct than by method, from the polished and conscious products of the schools. For the purposes then of this article, art-song may be distinguished from folk-song by the fact that it is the work of trained musicians and is designed, at any rate after the close of the 16th century, for voice with instrumental accompaniment, whereas we shall restrict the term folk-song to such melodies as appear to have been the work of untutored minds, and to have arisen independently of any felt necessity for harmonic support.
The early history of song on its musical side may be regarded as the history of the evolution of melody: and since what is known of melody before the end of the 16th century, apart from the folk-song, is extremely slight, it is in the folk-song itself that this evolution is primarily to be studied. Previously to the period named the instrumental accompaniment to vocal melody, both in the folk-song and in the art-song, played an entirely insignificant part. Afterwards the new conception of harmony which came in with the 17th century not only shifted the basis of melody itself but made the instrumental accompaniment an essential feature of artistic song. Though it lies beyond the province of this article to discuss fully the complex questions involved in the evolution of vocal melody, some slight sketch is a necessary preliminary to a proper understanding of the subject under consideration.
It may be assumed that in the course of ages the uncouth vocal utterances of primitive man developed, under the influence of an instinct for expressing his inner nature through a more expressive medium than language alone, into sounds of more or less definite pitch, bearing intelligible relationships Origins. one to another; and that from these emerged short phrases, in which rhythm probably played the principal part, reiterated with that interminable persistency, which many travellers have noted as characteristic of savage nations in the present day. A further stage is reached when some such primitive phrase is repeated at a different level by way of contrast and variety, but melody in any true sense of the word does not begin till two different phrases come to be combined in some sort of scheme or pattern. When the power to produce such combinations become common in a nation, its musical history may be said to have begun. Racial characteristics are displayed in the choice of notes out of which such phrases are formed. But in all races it may be surmised that the main determining cause in the first instance is that natural rise and fall of the voice which gives expressiveness and meaning to speech, even though contributory causes arising from the imitative faculty common to man may perhaps be admitted—such as the sound of the wind, the waves of the sea, the cries of animals, the notes of birds, the striking of one object against another, and finally the sounds made by primitive instruments. The tendency of the speaking voice to fall a fourth and to rise a fifth has often been noted. It is probable that these intervals were among the first to be defined, and that the many modes or scales, underlying the popular melodies of the various nations of the world, were the result of different methods of determining the intervening sounds. It has been generally assumed that the fall of a fourth is the interval earliest arrived at by the instinct of the Indo-European race—and that inter- vening sounds were added which resulted eventually in the three possible forms of the diatonic tetrachord, the earliest being that which is characteristic of the ancient Dorian mode or scale (the basis of the Greek musical system) in which two tetrachords, having the semitone between the lowest note and the next above it, are superimposed (see Bourgault Ducoudray, Introduction to 30 Chansons de Grece et d’Orient).
It must, however, be remembered that the popular instinct knows nothing about tetrachords or scales, which are abstractions, and only creates melodies, or at least successions of sounds, which are the outward expression of inward feelings. The Greek theorists therefore, in recording certain modes as being in use in their day, were in effect merely stating results arrived at by analysing popular melodies—and from the persistence with which the Greeks, and following them, most of the musical historians of Europe, have insisted upon a tetrachordal basis for the art of music it may be assumed that in these melodies a basis of four diatonic notes was a conspicuous feature.
It is a feature which marks a considerable number of folk- songs heard in Greece at the present day, and also of many folk- songs which are not Greek, the Breton, for example (see Bourgault Ducoudray, Chansons de Basse-Bretagne) . The interval of a fourth is nearly always prominent too in the music of savages. If it is natural to connect these facts with the drop of a fourth, characteristic of the speaking voice, it is dangerous to assume an exclusively “tetrachordal period” of primitive song, at any rate till it can be shown that melodies based on other principles did not exist side by side with those that are tetrachordal. From the rise of a fifth and the fall of a fourth, the octave, which results from combining these intervals, may well have become familiar at a very early epoch. Indeed a prolonged howl beginning on a high note and descending a full octave in semitones— or notes approximately resembling semitones—is recorded both of the Caribs and of the natives of Australia, so that familiarity with the octave need not presuppose an advanced stage of musical development.
To pass from the sphere of mere speculation nearer to the domain of history, it may be asserted with confidence that the oldest form of song or chant which can be established is found in certain recitation formulae. These, as is natural, will be found to be derived from the rise and fall of the voice in speech. It is therefore not surprising that O. Fleischer (Sammelbande der internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft, Jan.–Mar. 1902) is able to trace practically identical formulae in the traditional methods of reciting the Vedas, the Koran, the Jewish and Christian liturgies. The s ; mplest form consists of four notes (a diatonic tetrachord), a rec'ting note, preceded by two notes rising to it, and followed by a fall, or cadence, for the close, the voice rising above the reciting note in order to emphasize important words, or according to the nature of the sentence. An extended form is both natural and common.
The influence of these and similar formulae upon popular melodies can be illustrated by countless examples (for which the reader is referred to I.M.G.). As characteristic as any is the melody of the Christian hymn which begins
Another is the Hungarian folk-song: Nem Szoktam.
Many French songs have been collected in recent years, of which the following formula, or variations of it, form an essential feature:—
This corresponds closely with the third example given above. That the melodies in question are of great antiquity may be inferred from the fact that they are almost confined to the oldest class of folk-song, that which celebrates May Day and the beginning of spring. M. Tiersot (La Chanson populaire en France, Paris, 1889) plausibly finds in them a survival of a melodic fragment, which may have belonged to pagan hymns in honour of spring, basing his supposition upon the fact that the phrase in question occurs in the melody of the Easter hymn “O Filii et Filiae.” The medieval Church, acting on principles familiar in all ages, may well have helped to merge a pagan in a Christian festival by adopting, not merely old rites and observances, but the actual melody with which these had for ages been associated. A similar survival in French folk-song is that of the melody of the Tonus peregrinus, the chant used for the psalm “When Israel came out of Egypt” (mentioned in the 9th century by Aurelian Reome as being very old). Its appearance, like that of the Easter hymn, in songs, which on other grounds can be proved to be of great antiquity, points to the probability of its being of popular origin. It also bears equally strong marks of being derived from a recitation formula, as indeed its appropriation for chanting a psalm sufficiently indicates.
Endeavours to detach other primitive formulae from the popular melodies in which they are enshrined form a branch of folk-lore now being actively pursued. It may be hoped that “comparative melodology”—if the phrase may be coined—will do for this department of musical knowledge what the science of comparative philology has done for language. Oscar Fleischer (I.M.G. i. 1) has endeavoured to trace the history in Europe of the primitive phrases belonging to the melody of “Les Series” (or Unus est Deus) as given by De Villemarque in Barzaz-Breiz No. 1 , in the musical appendix, as also of the opening phrase in the old Christian hymn, “Conditor alme siderum” (attributed to Bishop Ambrose):—
The phrase here belongs to a melody in the Phrygian mode, but when it is used in major melodies its characteristic notes are those of the common chord, with a rise to the sixth at the point of climax, corresponding to the rise in the recitation formulae given above.
By what processes the notes of the common chord became universally established it is not possible to determine, but it may be said in a general way that the reference to a given tonic was felt in all ages to be a necessary condition even of the simplest melody, and that, as the melodic instinct grew, an almost equal necessity was found for a point of contrast, and that this point of contrast became with most nations of Aryan origin the fifth note above the tonic, at any rate in the more popular scales. Combarieu (La Musique, p. 121) observes that we owe the use of the octave, the fifth and the fourth to the South and East, but that the importance of the third in our modern musical system is due to the instinctive genius of the West and North, i.e. to England and Scandinavia (see also Hugo Riemann, Geschichte der Musiktheorie, Leipzig, 1898, and Wooldridge, Oxford History of Music, i. 161-162, where the well-known quotation from Giraldus Cambriensis, or Gerald Barry, of the 12th century, establishing the fact of part-singing in England, is given). If, as has been shown, the origin of many melodies can be traced to formulae originally used for chanting or reciting, it must not be forgotten that formulae thus derived assume very different characters under the influence of more decided rhythms than that of speech. To accompany bodily movements (which by a natural law become rhythmical when often repeated) with music, vocal or instrumental, is an almost universal human instinct, whether to alleviate the burden or the monotony of labour, as in rowing, sowing, spinning, hammering and a score of other pursuits, or to promote pleasure and excitement, as in the dance.
It is unsafe to infer, as some have done, from the custom, known in all ages, of dancing and singing at the same time, that song arose as a mere accessory to the dance. It is more probable that the dance has its origin in the mimetic actions, which are the natural accompaniment of rudimentary song. At the same time, no one will deny that races with ballads of their own early made use of them for the dance, and that, especially on the rhythmical side, melody owes to the dance an incalculable debt.
It may be assumed then that upon some such basis as has been roughly indicated the different nations of the world have developed each their own musical phraseology, emanating from and answering to their several needs and temperaments and that the short melodic phrases, out of which folk-tunes are made, have their roots in a past as distant as that in which the elements of language were formed, and that the popular instinct which through countless ages has diversified those forms and arranged them into melodies, whose constructions are mostly susceptible to analysis, is the same instinct as that which has given to language its grammar and its syntax.
In proceeding now to the actual history of song in Europe, it must be remembered that it is inseparably connected with poetry. Melody till within comparatively recent times continued to fulfil its original function of enhancing the value and expressiveness of language. For poetry of the epic kind with the long lines common to early History of Song in Europe. European peoples, some such forms of chanting as have been indicated must have sufficed.
Melody, as we understand it, with compact form and balanced phrases, could only have existed if and when the same qualities appeared in popular poetry. This was probably the case long before the taste for long epic narratives began to disappear in favour of more concise forms of ballad and of lyric. The stanza form must have been generally familiar in the early middle ages from the Latin hymns of the Church, and these hymns themselves are likely to have been formed, in part at any rate, on models which were already known and popular.
We have definite information that in the early middle ages two sorts of popular poetry existed—the historical ballads (descendants of those alluded to by Tacitus in his Germania as characteristic of the Germans, and as constituting their only historical records), and popular songs of a character which caused them to be described as cantica nefaria Popular song. by St Augustine; the council of Agde (506) forbade Christians to frequent assemblies where they were sung: St Cesaire, bishop of Aries, speaks of the chants diaboliques sung by country folk, both men and women; the Council of Chalons menaced the women, who seem to have been the chief offenders, with excommunication and whipping; lastly Charlemagne, whose love for the better class of song is attested by the fact that he ordered a collection of them to be made for his own use, said of the other “canticum turpe et luxuriosum circa ecclesias agere omnino, quod et ubique vitandum est.” Beyond the fact of their existence we know nothing of these songs of the early middle ages. Their influence on the popular mind was vigorously resisted, as we have seen, by the Church, and for many centuries efforts were made to supplant them by songs, the subjects of which were taken from the Gospel narratives and the lives of the saints, so that folk-song and church song strove together for popularity. Doubtless the church song borrowed musical elements from its rival: nor was the folk-song uninfluenced in its turn by the traditional music of the Church. In considering this latter music, it is important to distinguish between the melodies adapted to the prose portions of the ritual without definite rhythm, and those of the hymns, where the metre of the Latin verses and their stanza form necessitated a corresponding rhythm and musical form. Rhythm in music, which has its origin and counterpart in the regular bodily movements involved in various departments of labour and in the dance, must, as has already been said, have always been an essential feature of popular melody, and it is reasonable to conclude from its absence in the plain-song, and indeed for many centuries in the compositions of musicians, which had the plain-song for their basis, that these hymns, which represented the popular part of the Church services, were also representative of the popular tastes of the time. In all ages the Church has drawn largely from popular song for the melodies of its hymns. It is moreover in the highest degree improbable that the Church should have been able to evolve out of its inner consciousness, without pre-existing models, a melody—to take a single instance—like that of “Conditor alme siderum”—the survival of which in innumerable European folk-songs has already been alluded to.
Numerous additions to the store of plain-song melodies were made by the monastic composers of the middle ages; the most notable is that of the Dies Irae, of which the words are attributed to Thomas de Celano (d. 1250).
Reference should also be made to the music of the liturgical dramas or mysteries, popular in medieval times: The Lamentation 'of Rachel, The Wise and Foolish Virgins and The Prophets of Christ, are given, both text and music, in Coussemaker’s L’Harmonie au moyen âge. They reflect the severe style of the plain-song, and were probably intended for cultivated rather than popular audiences. The same is probably true of the secular songs quoted in the same work. These have a special interest as being the earliest specimens of song which have come down to us in Christian times. The best known is the “Complainte,” on the death of Charlemagne (quoted in many histories), the dignified, if somewhat dreary, melody of which revolves mostly on the first three notes of a major scale, once rising to the fourth (thus recalling the old recitation formula). Rhythm is practically absent. On the other hand, the song in honour of Otto III. has definite rhythm and a degree of tunefulness. The “modus Ottino” was a well-known air, which, unlike the rest of those quoted by Coussemaker, was probably of popular origin, for the Latin words do not fit the melody and probably represent a free translation from an original in the vernacular tongue.
More remarkable still is a “Chanson de Table” of the 10th century, a really graceful melody, the quotation of which may serve to destroy the illusion that the major scale, so often described as modern, has any other claim to the title than the fact that it has been preserved by modern musicians, while others have been discarded.
In the same collection may be found, beside other historical songs, two odes of Boethius and two odes of Horace, set to music; but whether the melodies given represent medieval music or Roman music, corrupted or not, it is. impossible to determine. These songs have been dwelt upon, for they not only represent some kinds of music that were sung in the 9th and 10th centuries, but indicate the sources from which later on the work of the troubadours was derived. They may be summed up as a church-song and folk-song, and the songs by more or less cultured persons made after these models. For the subsequent history of the art the folk-song represents by far the most potent influence, but the melodies quoted by Coussemaker which might be regarded as the works of the popular instinct afford insufficient data for safe generalization. More direct evidence is to be found in the 12th-century pastoral play—Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion, till within recent years considered as the work of Adam de la Hale, but since the able criticisms of M. Tiersot in the work referred to above, likely henceforth to be regarded as the oldest collection of folk-songs in existence; for the original compositions which Maître Adam has bequeathed to posterity preclude us from believing that he could have originated the dainty airs contained in that play, of which Robin m’aime is generally familiar, and is still to be heard on the lips of peasants in the north of France (see Tiersot, p. 424, n.). If M. Tiersot’s view is correct, the melodies in Robin et Marion may be taken to represent the popular style of an epoch considerably anterior to the date of the play itself (though allowance must be made for the correcting hand of a professional musician) which is our excuse for introducing them at this place.
Before speaking of the songs of troubadours, trouvères and minnesingers, allusion must be made to a class of men who played a part the importance of which both in the social and political life of the middle ages is attested by innumerable chroniclers and poets, viz. the skalds, bards or minstrels—the chief depositories of the musical and poetical traditions of the several countries to which they belonged. They varied greatly in rank. Some were attached to the retinue of kings and nobles, whilst others catered for the ear of the peasantry (eventually to be classed with jugglers, acrobats, bearwards and the like, sharing the unenviable reputation which attached to these representatives of popular medieval amusements). That these latter were also welcome at the halls of the great, is an established fact, which may serve as a reminder that in feudal times the distinction that now exists between the music of the cultivated classes and of the peasantry was but slight. The style of the church music was as universally familiar as the style of the folk-song. For musicians, both of high and low degree, no other models existed. This fact is patently clear when the songs of the troubadours, trouvères and minnesingers are studied. Those minstrels continued the traditions of the better class of their predecessors, with strivings after a more polished, elaborate and artistic style. In forming their style upon an admixture of folk-song and church-song they in fact assimilated neither, and created a mongrel product without real vitality—a product that left practically no mark upon the subsequent development of the art. The astonishing skill which they exhibited in adapting the language of poetry to the most complicated metrical forms deserted them when they touched the question of musical form and of melody. Indeed their music, except in rare instances, was an adornment which the poetry could have dispensed with, and may be regarded in the main simply as a concession to the immemorial custom of treating music and poetry as inseparable arts.
The real importance of these courtly minstrels in the history of song consists in their having firmly established the rhyming stanza as the vehicle for the expression of lyrical feeling, for with the rhyming stanza a corresponding compact and symmetrical melodic form was bound to come. It was, however, reserved for the popular instinct, and not for trouvères and minnesingers, to develop this form (it is probable too that some at least of the stanza forms employed belonged first to popular poetry and were afterwards developed and elaborated by these musicians of the great houses). The scheme upon which the lyrical stanza was usually based was one in which two similar parts (called by the German Meistersingers, Stollen or props, and constituting the Aufgesang or opening song) were followed by an independent third part, the length of which was not prescribed (called Abgesang or concluding song). The complete stanza was called Lied and was knit together by different schemes of rhyme. For the first part the trouvères and Meistersingers were content with some simple phrase, often borrowed direct from the folk-song, repeating it, as was natural, for the exactly similar second part: then for the third the style was apt to change towards the ecclesiastical and to wander aimlessly on to an unconvincing conclusion. The popular instinct was finer, for we find in innumerable folk-songs, belonging to the 14th and 15th centuries, that the greater length of the Abgesang was seized upon as an opportunity, not merely for introducing fresh material, after the repetition of the phrase attached to the two Stollen, but also for a return to that phrase, ov some reminiscence or variation of it, by way of conclusion, thus producing a compact form, answering to the natural requirements of the artistic sense. Thus the favourite scheme of the troubadours, which may be represented as AAB, had developed in the folk-song into the scheme AABA—and this scheme has served for thousands of popular melodies throughout Europe. In some rare cases the contrasting portion might be conceived as implying modulation into the key of the dominant, thus foreshadowing the form of the first movement in modern sonatas and symphonies. But the present writer is sceptical, from the evidence afforded by folk-song melodies recently collected, of an instinct for modulation among a peasantry unfamiliar with harmonic music. Be that as it may, the courtly minstrels both of France and Germany rendered a real service to music in following the popular verdict in favour of the major scale or Ionian mode, and in so doing prepared the way for modern harmony, which is based upon a particular relationship of contrast between the notes composing the chord of the tonic and those composing the chords of the dominant and the subdominant—a relationship inherent in no other scale of the Gregorian system but the Ionian. On it the secret of musical form in the modern sense depends, for it brings with it the power of modulation (unknown to medieval times), i.e. the power of treating the same note as belonging to different tone centres (G, for instance, as the dominant of the scale of C, and also as the tonic of the scale of G), and the further power, by means of the chord of the dominant seventh, of proceeding from one tone centre to another. As long then as musicians held the Ionian scale at arm’s length, progress in the modern direction was impossible. They did indeed arrive eventually at the goal, partly through the practice of using popular melodies as the foundation, or canto fermo, of masses and motets, and of arranging the melodies themselves for choirs of voices, and also through the increasing need, as the art of part-writing became more elaborate and better understood, of modifying the strict character of the modes by the introduction of accidentals, till, as Sir Hubert Parry remarks, “after centuries of gradual and cautious progress they ultimately completed a scale which they had known all along, but had rather looked down upon as an inferior specimen of its kind.” The melodic instinct, thus developing consciously in the minds of trained musicians, and unconsciously in the makers of folk-songs, arrived eventually at the same result. But the major scale once firmly established, the trained musician based upon it a new art of harmony; further, he modified existing minor scales for harmonic purposes, leaving the old traditional scales as the almost exclusive possession of the folk-song (which has cherished and preserved them in their pristine integrity up to the present day) and working out the problem of musical composition, and of melody itself, on a new foundation.
The fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, and the troublous times that ensued in Europe, involved the removal of the patronage to which the higher kinds of minstrelsy owed their position and their influence. Song passed with the close of the age of chivalry from the noble to the burgher class. The Minnesingers were succeeded by the Meistersingers, the first gild of whom is said to have been established in 1311 by Heinrich von Meissen (popularly known as Frauenlob) at Mainz. In their hands song was treated more in the spirit of a trade than an art, and subjected to many absurd and pedantic regulations. In Wagner’s famous opera is given a very accurate and faithful picture of their methods and ideals. Their importance in the history of song consists not so much in actual work achieved as in the enthusiasm widely spread through their means in the class from which most of the great German composers were eventually to spring.
The real interest for the historian of song centres during this period not in the attempts of minstrels and burgher gilds to improve upon the folk-song, but in the folk-song itself. Those who have studied the large collection of medieval melodies contained in Böhme’s Altdeutsches Liederbuch for Germany, and in Duyse’s Het oude Nederlandshe Lied for the Netherlands, will on other grounds than those mentioned above be ready to confirm this judgment. It is not too much to say that they contain many of the noblest melodies which the world possesses, earnest and dignified in spirit, broad of outline, and knit together in all their parts with rare and unconscious art, on principles of structure which are carefully analysed in the chapter on folk-song in Sir Hubert Parry’s The Art of Music. To the examples there quoted may be added the wonderful Tagelied (“Der Dag wil nict verborghen sin”), Ik sek adieu, Lieblich hab sich gesellet, Abschied von Innspruck (of which both Bach and Mozart are reported to have said that they would rather have been the author than of any of their own compositions), and “Entlaubet ist der Walde” (which, like so many of the popular songs of the 14th and 15th centuries, was utilized by the Reformers for one of their finest hymns).
A characteristic feature of many of these songs, both German and Dutch, is the melisma, or vocal flourish, of the concluding phrase, derived, if German historians are to be trusted, from the vocalization on the last syllable of the word Alleluia, which in the early Church represented the congregational portion of its services and which afterwards developed into the sequences, so popular in the middle ages.
A similar feature is not uncommon in French melodies of the same period (see L’Amour de moi, Vrai Dieu d’amour, and Réveillez-vous, Piccars, in Chansons du xv e siècle, by Gaston Paris and Gevaërt, Paris, 1875). If the charming English song “The Nightingale” (Medieval and Plainsong Society) is of popular origin, it may serve as an indication that these melismata were also common in England (cf. also “Ah! the sighs that come from my heart,” which belongs to the reign of Henry VIII.).
It is in the highest degree unfortunate that no collections were made of English popular songs of the middle ages: everything points to the fact that quantities of them existed. The importance of song in the social life of every class is attested by all the chroniclers and poets. An age that produced “Sumer is a cumin in” (1240) must have been prolific of melody. It is impossible to regard it as an isolated phenomenon. The beauty of songs by early composers, and of others, which are possibly of popular origin, met with in the reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Elizabeth (see Wooldridge’s edition of Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time) argue a great and healthy activity in the preceding centuries. It is sufficient to mention Morley’s “It was a lover and his lass” and “O Mistress mine,” or “The Three Ravens,” which though it first appeared in print in 1611 is undoubtedly a folk-song belonging to a much earlier period (for versions still to be heard see Kidson’s Traditional Times). The same is probably true of “A poor soul sat sighing” and many others. It is to be remarked, however, that printed versions of popular songs can seldom be relied upon as faithfully representing their original form, or even the form in which they were sung at a particular epoch. Editors have seldom resisted the temptation of tampering with popular airs, if by so doing they can render them more attractive to polite tastes. Within recent years, however, the collection and publication of folk-songs, has been undertaken in a different spirit—and it is possible in most countries to study the folk-songs in versions which have been taken direct from the lips of the peasantry and are presented without editorial alterations. The question as to the propriety of such alterations, or the larger question of what is suitable in the way of instrumental accompaniment, need not be discussed here more than to point out that the strictly scientific point of view —which seeks to understand the folk-song in its native simplicity—should not be mixed up with that of the artist who aims at adding to the world's store of beautiful music.
It is to be deplored that the English composers of the 15th and 16th centuries did not follow the example of Dutch, German and French musicians, who utilized popular melodies as the foundation or canto fermo of their masses and motets (one example only is known, “O Westron Wynde”) and also arrange them in parts for music-loving circles (to a limited extent this appears to have been done in England, e.g. the Freemen's Songs in Deuteromela). But in England, as in other European countries, survivals of medieval melodies are still to be found among the peasantry in quantities which vary according to the degree in which modern music has penetrated to country districts. In Germany, for instance, where musical culture has been most widely spread, the medieval folk-song, according to Herr Bohme, is no longer heard; it is possible, however, that this statement may be contradicted or modified, if the same systematic search for the Germanic folk-song, which has been made recently in France, England and elsewhere, is undertaken before it is too late. Melodies formed by composers under the principles of modern harmonic music have largely usurped their place.
The folk-song is eventually killed by the products of the musical manufactories of the town. The peasantry provided with songs from outside is relieved from the necessity of providing for its own needs, or of cherishing with the love of earlier times its own traditional inheritance. It is true that for many centuries numbers of composed songs have found their way into the popular repertory and have there undergone in many instances transformations which serve as a complete disguise to their real origin: but in general a fine ear can detect these intruders. For even when they have suffered change or transformation in passing through a new environment the stamp of an individual or a period remains, whereas the folk-song of tradition is the work not of one age, but of many, not of the individual, but the collective mind. For songs made by uncultivated persons, and passed on to others without the aid of writing or of printing, soon lose in the course of oral transmission even such traces of individual authorship as they may once have possessed. Moreover the makers of folk-songs are concerned with nothing so little as the assertion of their own individuality. They know that it is the most familiar that is the most acceptable. Novelty has no charms for themselves or their audiences. Instinct as well as policy keep them to recognized types and formulae; and the innumerable variations which these undergo from age to age are probably far more frequently due to lapses of memory than to capacity for invention. Major tunes inadvertently sung in minor modes, or vice versa, or the accidental application of a tune to verses, for which it was not originally intended, give rise in many cases to practically new melodies. Though an author might be named, if it were possible to know the history of a folk-melody, for each change that it has assumed in the course of its history, it is clear that authorship of this kind is not what we mean when we name Dibdin as the author of “Tom Bowling.” The theory that the folk-song is but the degenerate offspring of a cultivated ancestry, that the peasantry have, in fact, taken their music from a superior class, and transformed it to suit their own tastes and idioms, has been and is still held apparently by many (see Closson, Chansons populaires beiges; and Combarieu, La Musique, p. 114). This is tanta- mount to the assumption that the presence among songs of the peasantry of beautiful melodies involves pre-existing musical civilization, and that the popular instinct is incapable, without cultivation, of creating melodies that are artistically beautiful. It would be difficult to support this assumption in the case of the German and Dutch medieval songs, to which reference has been made; the cases that could be cited, in which well-known airs of the town have passed to the country and suffered transformation, are insufficient data for establishing a general rule as to the origin of folk-songs. Indeed, the very fact of such transformation tends to prove the existence of a strictly popular music, into whose idiom the town music is transformed. To deny that uncultivated peasants can create melody is to forget that the languages even of savages have their grammar and syntax, as well as qualities that are rhythmical and musical, and that even among civilized people those same qualities existed long before they were analysed and tabulated by grammarians, and further developed by trained literary men. The case of melody is strictly analogous to that of languages. As every country has its own store of folk-songs in which national characteristics find expression through idioms which differentiate its songs from those of other countries, it would be arbitrary to select the songs of one country rather than those of another for separate discussion.
The history of the art-song has now to be considered, of
solo song, that is, with instrumental accompaniment as an
essential part. Songs for two or more voices with
or without accompaniment, though they properly
belong to the subject of this article, are passed over, The
Art-Song. for they but exhibit the tendencies manifested in solo song when applied to more complicated forms. Operatic songs and arias are likewise omitted (except in the early Italian period), as belonging to a branch of music which requires separate treatment (see Aria; Opera). Instrumental song arose during the 16th century, a time in which composers, released by the spirit of the Renaissance from the exclusive service of the Church, were already becoming active in secular directions. The madrigal was the favourite form of composition and was rapidly approaching its period of maturity: it was now to be superseded as the popular diversion of cultivated society by solo song. The habit had already sprung up of supplying voices that might be missing in a madrigal by instruments: if all the voices but one were absent, the effect of a solo with instrumental accompaniment was realized. A still nearer approach to solo song was made when singers, selecting one part of a madrigal for the voice, themselves played the rest on lute or chilarrone. In such performances the voice part was likely to receive most attention—even in madrigal-singing it was not unknown for the soprano to embroider her part with gruppetti and ornamental passages (see Kiesewetter’s Schicksale u. Beschaffenheit des Weitlichen Gesanges, p. 72, for an example of a simple part as embellished by the well-known Signora Vittoria Archilei)—and the accompaniment to undergo processes of simplification, thus preparing the way for melodies, simple or ornate, with unobtrusive accompaniments, and perhaps also contributing to the invention of that declamatory or recitative style, attributed to Cavalieri, Peri and Caccini, the founders of oratorio and opera. Such melodies are found in Caccini's famous Nuove Musiche, published in Venice in 1601 (“Feri Selvaggi” may serve as a beautiful, specimen of simple melody; “Cor mio” is typical of the ornate style, “Deh! dove son fuggite” of the declamatory: the last two are quoted in Kiesewetter, Geschichte und Beschaffenheit des Weitlichen Gesanges, p. 73). Caccini claimed in the preface to that work to be the first to invent songs” for a single voice to the accompaniment of a simple instrument." It is true that his friends in Rome (his native city), at whose houses these new compositions were performed, assured him that they had never heard the like before, and that his style exhibited possibilities for the expression of feeling, that were excluded, when the voice sang merely one part in a contrapuntal work. But, about thirty years before Caccini, lutenists in France had anticipated his innovations, and composed solo songs, with lute accompaniments, in which is evidenced the struggle, not always successful, to break away from, polyphonic traditions. Le Roy’s Airs de Cour, published in 1571, may be cited in proof of this statement. Of these airs “Je suis amour” is somewhat in the declamatory recitative style of Caccini’s Nuove musiche (see Sammelbände, Int. Musik Gesellschaft, article “Airs de Cour of Adrien le Roy,” by Janet Dodge). Generally speaking, it may be said of early French songs that they were longer in shaking off the influence of the past than the songs of the Italians, many tricks of expressions, belonging to polyphonic times, surviving both in voice parts and accompaniments. In the voice parts sometimes the influence of popular song is evident, at others they are neither melodious nor yet declamatory, but merely suggest a single part in a polyphonic composition, while the accompaniments for the lute are generally a mixture of chords used with harmonic effects, and certain polyphonic tricks inherited from the past two centuries. In England two books of “Ayres,” for a single voice with lute accompaniment, one by Jones, and another by Campion and Rosseter, were published in 1601; Jones in his preface claims that his songs were the first of the kind, and Rosseter says that those of Campion had been for some time “privately imparted to his friends.” Both sets therefore seem to be independent of Caccini’s Nuove musiche, the influence of which was not felt for some years. In England the break with the past was less violent and sudden than in Italy; for the established practice of arranging popular songs and dances as lute solos led naturally to, and profoundly influenced, the later “ayres” with lute accompaniment. As Dr Walker remarks (History of Music in England, p. 121, Clarendon Press, 1907), “A folk-song of 1500, a song of Thomas Campion and a song of Henry Lawes are all bound together by a clear and strong tie.” In a simple and unpretentious way these first English attempts at solo-song were singularly successful. The best of them, such as Rosseter’s “And would you see my Mistress’ face?” and Campion’s “Shall I come if I swim?” rank as masterpieces of their kind. Both in structure and in feeling they exactly catch the essentials of the lyrics of the period. Their daintiness and charm make it easy to forgive an air of artificiality, which was after all inevitable—if the songs were to represent the spirit of their environment.
Meanwhile Italian composers, who, in spite of the frottole, villote, villanelle, balletti and falalas (arrangements in vocal parts of popular melodies common in the last half of the 16th century) seem to have been unaffected in the new song movement by popular influences, went straight from the polyphonic to the recitative style, and advanced with extraordinary rapidity. Melody was quickly added to relieve the monotony of recitative which must have been acutely felt by the hearers of the early operas, and considerable advance in this direction was made by Cavalli and Cesti (see Oxford History of Music, vol. iii., for details of their methods). Monteverde, though a greater genius than either of them, did not succeed in forcing the daring qualities of his own conceptions on others. The famous lament of Ariadne was the expression of an individual genius casting all rules aside for the sake of poignant emotional effect rather than the beginning of a new epoch in song. Carissimi and Rossi in oratorio and cantata (a word which then merely described a piece that was sung, as sonata a piece that was played, and consisted generally of alternate recitative and aria) brought the organization of melody to a high degree of elaboration, far beyond anything attempted by Cavalli and Cesti. In their hands the declamatory methods of Monteverde were made subordinate to larger purposes of design. A broad and general characterization of emotional situations was more natural to them and to their successors than a treatment in which points are emphasized in detail. It was moreover inevitable in these early developments of musical style, in which melody had to play the leading part, that such sacrifices as were necessary in balancing the rival claims of expression and form should be in favour of the latter rather than the former. But the formal perfection of melody was not the only problem which 17th-century Italian composers had to face. The whole question of instrumental accompaniment had to be worked out; the nature and capacities of instruments, including the voice itself, had to be explored; the reconciliation of the new art of harmony with the old art of counterpoint to be effected. It speaks volumes for the innate musical sense and technical skill of the early Italian composers that the initial stage of tentative effort passed so quickly, and that at the close of the 17th century we are conscious of breathing an atmosphere not of experimental work, but of mature art. Alessandro Scarlatti (1659–1725) sums up the period for Italy. That much of his work is dry, a mere exhibition of consummate technical skill without inspiration, is not surprising when the quantity of it is realized, and also the unfavourable conditions under which operatic composers had to work, but the best of it is singularly noble in conception and perfect in design. The same is true of the best work of Legrenzi, Stradella, Caldara, Leonardo Leo, Durante, work which was of incalculable importance for the development of musical, and particularly of vocal, art, and which will always, for minds attuned to its atmosphere of classical intellectuality, severity and self-restraint, possess an abiding charm: but comparatively few specimens have retained the affections of the world at large. Carissimi’s “Vittorta,” Scarlatti’s “O Cessate” and “Le Violette” are the most notable exceptions (“Pietà, Signore” is not included, as no one now attributes it to Stradella).
The almost universal preference of the Italians in the 17th and 18th centuries for the aria in da capo form involved serious sacrifices on the dramatic and emotional side: for although this form was but an elaboration of the folk-song type, ABA, yet it involved, as the folk-song type did not, the repetition note merely of the melody of the opening part, but of the words attached to it. It is this double repetition which from the point of view of dramatic sincerity forms so disturbing an element. But composers, as has been remarked, were too much occupied with exploring the formal possibilities of melody to establish a really intimate connexion between music and text (Monteverde being a notable exception), a detailed interpretation of which lay outside their scheme of song. Elaboration of melody soon came to involve much repetition of words, and this was not felt as an absurdity so long as the music was broadly in accord with the atmosphere or situation required. A few lines of poetry were thought sufficient for a fully developed aria. Exceptions are however to be found in what is known as the recitativo arioso—of which remarkably fine specimens appear in some of Scarlatti’s cantatas—and in occasional songs in slighter form than the tyrannous da capo aria, such as Caldara’s “Come raggio di sol”—which foreshadows with its dignified and expressive harmonies the Schubertian treatment of song.
Before Scarlatti’s death in 1725 symptoms of decline had appeared. He was himself often compelled to sacrifice his finer instincts to the popular demand for mere vocal display. A race of singers, who were virtuosi rather than artists, dominated the taste of the public, and forced composers to furnish opportunities in each rôle for a full display of their powers. An opera was expected to provide for each favourite five kinds of aria! (aria cantabile, aria di portamento, aria di mezzo carattere, aria parlante and aria d’ agilità). It was not long before easier and more obvious types of melody, expressing easier and more obvious feelings, became the fashion. The varied forms of accompaniment, in which a good contrapuntal bass had been a conspicuous feature, were wasted upon a public which came to hear vocalists, not music; and stereotyped figures, of the kind which second-rate art after the first half of the 18th century has made only too familiar, took the place of sound contrapuntal workmanship, till the Italian school, which had stood as a model for the world, became identified with all that was trivial, insipid, conventional, melodramatic. Not that the Italian tendency in the direction of mere tunefulness was in itself either unhealthy or unworthy. It was indeed a necessary reaction from the severe earlier style, as soon as that style began to lose its earnestness and sincerity, and to pass into cold and calculating formalism. But the spirit of shallowness and frivolity which accompanied the reaction involved the transference of musical supremacy from Italy to Germany, the only country, which, while accepting what was necessary to it of Italian influences, steadily remained true to its own ideals.
Before speaking of German song, it is necessary to glance at what was being done outside of Italy in the 17th century. Reference has already been made to the French as pioneers in establishing solo song to lute accompaniment, which here, as in Italy, originated in adaptations of polyphonic compositions. But in France from the first the main influence was derived from popular sources, the native folk-song and the vaudeville, the ditties of country and of town. In both that union of grace, simplicity and charm, characteristic of the French nation, tended to produce an art of dainty unpretentious attractiveness, in strong contrast to the serious and elaborate Italian work. It preserved these characteristics in spite of the artificial atmosphere of the French court, in which it mainly flourished up to the time of the Revolution, in spite too of the somewhat different influences which might have been expected to affect it, derived from opera, the mania for which did not, as in Italy, kill the smaller branch of vocal music. Brunettes, musettes, minuets, vaudevilles, bergerettes, pastourelles, as the airs de cour were styled according to the nature of the poetry to which they were attached, may be found in Weckerlin’s Échos du temps passé, but the reader must beware of judging the real character of these songs from that which they assume under the hands of the modern arranger.
With the latter part of the 18th century came in the languid and sentimental romance, in which the weaker phases of Italian melody are felt as an enervating influence. The romance became after the Revolution the most popular form of polite song, leading by degrees to that purely melodious type of which Gounod may be considered the best representative, and which other composers, such as Godard, Massenet, Widor, have been for the most part content to follow and develop, leaving to more adventurous spirits the excitement of exploring less obviously accessible regions.
In England, as in France and Italy, the beginning of the 17th century brought into existence solo song. Its beginnings have already been alluded to in speaking of the songs of Rosseter, Jones, Campion and Dowland. The work of H. Lawes, and his contemporaries, Wiliam Lawes, Coleman and Wilson, was equally unpretentious and simple. A gem here and there, such as “Gather ye Rosebuds” (W. Lawes), is the student’s reward for a mass of uninspired, though not ungraceful, work in which is to be noted an attempt to come to closer quarters with poetry, by “following as closely as they could the rhythmical outlines of non-musical speech: they listened to their poet friends reciting their own verses and then tried to produce artificially exact imitations in musical notes” (Ernest Walker, History of Music in England, p. 130), producing what was neither good melody nor good declamation. Such tentative work, in spite of Milton’s sonnet to H. Lawes, could only have a passing vogue, especially with a Purcell so near at hand to show the world the difference between talent and genius, between amateurish effort and the realized conceptions of a master of his craft. Songs like “Let the dreadful Engines” and “Mad Bess of Bedlam” reach a level of dramatic intensity and declamatory power, which is not surpassed by the best work of contemporary Italian composers. “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly” is so familiar in its quiet beauty that we are apt to forget that melodies so perfectly proportioned were quite new to English art (though Dr Blow’s “The Self-banished” deserves fully to stand with it side by side). Monteverde’s “Lament of Ariadne” has already been alluded to. It is interesting to contrast its emotional force, obtained by daring defiance of rule, with the equally intense, but more sublime pathos of Purcell’s “Lament of Dido,” in which song a ground bass is used throughout. The “Elegy on the death of Mr John Playford” (quoted in full by Dr Walker, p. 176 of his history) exhibits the same feature and the same mastery of treatment. The “Morning Hymn” is scarcely less remarkable, and has likewise a ground bass. Purcell died in 1695; Bach and Handel were then but ten years old, and Scarlatti had still thirty years to live—facts of which the significance may be left to speak for itself.
It is among the ironies of musical history that so great a beginning was not followed up. There are echoes of Purcell in the generation that succeeded him, in Croft, Greene, Boyce and Arne: but they quickly died away. The genius of Handel first and of Mendelssohn later seem to have prevented English- men from thinking musically for themselves. At least this is the orthodox explanation: but it should be borne in mind that a list of English composers, who have been willing to sacrifice ease and prosperity to a life of devotion to artistic ideals, would be exceedingly difficult to draw up and would certainly not include many of the best-known names. From the death of Purcell to the Victorian era there is no consistent development of artistic song that is worth recording in detail. The only songs that have survived are of the melodious order; of these Arne contributes several that are still acceptable for an air of freshness and gracefulness which marks them as his own. “Where the Bee sucks” and “Blow, blow, thou Winter Wind” are typical of his style at its best, as “The Soldier tired of War’s Alarms” is typical of it at its worst. Song writers that followed him, Shield, Hook, Dibdin, Storace, Horn, Linley (the elder) and Bishop, were all prolific melodists, who have each left a certain number of popular songs by which their names are remembered, and which are still pleasant enough to be heard occasionally; but there is no attempt to advance in any new direction, no hint that song could have any other mission than to gratify the public taste for tuneful melodies allied to whatever poetry—pastoral, bacchanalian, patriotic or sentimental—lay readiest to hand.
The musical genius of Germany, which has created for the world the highest forms as yet known of symphony, oratorio and opera, is not less remarkable as the originator of the Lied—the term by which are most easily conveyed the modern conceptions of ideal song.German progress. Germany is moreover the only country in which in orderly and progressive development the art of song may be traced from the simple medieval Volkslied to the elaborate productions of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. If Germany is united to the rest of Europe in her debt to Italy, still her final conceptions of song belong to herself alone. And these conceptions have more profoundly influenced the rest of Europe than any Italian conception ever influenced Germany. When the rest of Europe was content with the vapid outpourings of Italian and pseudo- Italian puerilities, an acute observer could have read the signs in Germany, from which the advent of a Schubert might have been foretold. The student therefore is more profitably employed in studying the phases of song-development in Germany than in any other country. German ideals and German methods of technique have permeated the best modern song-work of countries differing as widely in idiom as Russia, Norway, France and England.
It is not necessary to dwell, except in very general terms, upon German song of the 17th century. There had been no development corresponding with that which produced the airs de cour of France and the ayres of England. The very literature necessary for such development was wanting. Indeed German art was too profoundly affected by the spirit which produced the Reformation to develop freely in secular directions. Even in the domain of the Volkslied the sacred songs can scarcely have been less numerous than the secular; and at the Reformation adaptations of secular airs to sacred words constituted borrowings on a very large scale. In the 17th century the work of the Italian monodists was bound eventually to stimulate German composers to make songs, but their main interest lay in larger choral-instrumental works, in which solo songs naturally appear, not in song as an independent branch of art. A good general view of such isolated songs as appeared can be obtained from Reimann's collections Das deutsche geistliche Lied and Das deutsche Lied (Simrock). In spite of some stiffness and awkwardness, these 17th-century songs exhibit a loftiness of aim, a touching earnestness and sincerity, which mark them off as quite distinct from any work done elsewhere at the same time. On the other hand there is not that sure grasp of their material, nor the melodic and declamatory power, which make Purcell in England stand out pre-eminently as the greatest song composer of the 17th century. The treatment of the aria by Bach and Handel is discussed in separate articles (see Aria; Bach; Handel), which render unnecessary any further comment here. Nor need we pause to consider the vastly inferior work of lesser composers such as Telemann, Marpurg and Agricola, most of which is confined to opera, oratorio and cantata. Our concern is rather with the smaller lyrical forms, and to these the absence of suitable poetry was for long an insurmountable barrier. It was not till the middle of the 18th century that the reform in German poetry associated with the name of Martin Opitz (who translated Rinuccini's text of Dafne, J. Peri’s first opera, for Heinrich Schütz) bore real fruit.
At the outset it is necessary to make a broad distinction between the more distinctly popular form of song, known as the Volkstümliches Lied, in which the same music served for each stanza of a poem (as in the Volkslied itself, on which the Volkstümliches Lied was modelled), and the Kunstlied, or, to adopt the more descriptive term, the durch-componirtes Lied, in which the music forms a running commentary on a poem, without respect to its form—or, if stanza form is preserved, varying the music in some stanzas or in all in accordance with their poetical significance. Generally speaking the former aims at a wider audience than the Kunstlied, the appreciation of which, when it is worth appreciating, involves some degree of culture and intelligence, inasmuch as it aims as a rule at interpreting more complex and difficult kinds of poetry. In the 18th century the simpler Volkstümliches Lied in strophic form was most in favour, and those who care to trace its history in the hands of popular composers like J. A. Hiller, J. A. P. Schulz, Reichhardt, Berger and Zelter, can easily do so by consulting Härtel’s Liederlexicon (Leipzig, 1867) or one of a number of similar publications. Side by side with the outpouring of somewhat obvious and senti- mental melodiousness, which such volumes reveal, it must be remembered that the attention of greater men to instrumental composition, the growing power to compose for keyed instruments (which began to replace the lute in the middle of the 17th century), and the mechanical improvements, through which spinet, clavichord and harpsichord were advancing toward the modern pianoforte, were preparing the way for the modern Lied, in which the pianoforte accompaniment was to play an increasingly important part. C. P. E. Bach (d. 1788) alone of his contemporaries gave serious attention to lyrical song, selecting the best poetry he could get hold of, and aspiring to something beyond merely tuneful melody. The real outburst of song had to wait for the inspiration which came with Goethe and Schiller.
It is unfortunate that Haydn and Mozart, pre-eminently endowed with every gift that makes for perfect song except that of literary discernment, should have left us so little of real value. There is indeed much to admire in some of Haydn’s canzonets, of which “My Mother bids me bind my Hair” fully deserves its continued popularity, while Mozart’s “Schlafe mein Prinzchen”—if it is Mozart’s—and a few others, like these in simple strophic form, are isolated treasures which we could not afford to lose. But in only two songs by Mozart, “Abendempfindung” and “Das Veilchen,” is the goal, to which the art was to advance, clearly discerned and in the latter case perfectly attained. Both are durchcomponirt, that is, they follow the words in detail; in both the general spirit, as well as each isolated point of beauty in the verses, is seized and portrayed with unerring insight. “Abendempfindung” is indeed seriously marred by some carelessness in accentuation (worse examples may be seen in “An Chloe”) and by annoying repetition of words, due to the development of the melody into a formal and effective climax. In the process the balance of the poem is destroyed, and the atmosphere of suffused warmth and tenderness, which pervades the rest of the song, is almost lost. The lyrical mood passes into one in which the operatic aria is suggested on the one hand, and on the other the formality of instrumental methods of developing melody. Not till Schubert were these traditions, fatal to the pure lyric, finally overthrown, and the conditions of true union between music and poetry perfectly realized. In “Das Veilchen” however, where Mozart touched a poem that was worthy of his genius and appealed to his extraordinarily fine dramatic instinct, he produced a masterpiece—rightly regarded as the first perfect specimen of the durch-componirles Lied. Every incident in the flower’s story is minutely followed, with a detailed pictorial and dramatic treatment (involving several changes of key, contrasts between major and minor, variations of rhythm and melody, declamatory or recitative passages) which was quite new to the art. The accompaniment too takes its full share, illustrating each incident with exquisite fancy, delicacy and discretion—and all with no violence done to the form of the poem.
With Beethoven song was suddenly exalted to a place among the highest branches of composition. Taken in hand with the utmost seriousness by the greatest musician of the age and associated by him for the most part with lyrical poetry of a high order, it could at last raise its head, and, freed from the conventional formalities of the salon, look a larger world confidently in the face. It cannot, however, be admitted that Beethoven, in spite of several noble songs, was an ideal song composer. His genius moved more easily in the field of abstract music. The forms of poetry were to him rather a hindrance than a help. His tendency is to press into his melodies more meaning than the words will bear. The very qualities in fact which make his instrumental melodies so inspiring tell against his songs. Though his stronger critical instinct kept him as a rule from the false accentuation which marred some of the work of Haydn and Mozart, yet, like them, he often failed to escape from the instrumentalist’s point of view, especially in the larger song-forms. The concluding melody of “Busselied” would be equally effective played as a violin solo: the same might be said of the final movements of “Adelaide” and of the otherwise noble cycle “An die feme Geliebte”—movements in which the words have to adapt themselves as well as they can to the exigencies of thematic development, and to submit to several displacements and tiresome repetitions. In songs of a solemn or deeply emotional nature Beethoven is at his best, as in that cycle, to sacred words of Gellert, of which “Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur” stands as a lasting monument of simple but expressive grandeur, in “Trocknet nicht,” in “Partenza,” “In questa tomba,” in the first of his four settings of Goethe’s “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,” and more than all, in the cycle “An die feme Geliebte,” which represents a further stage reached in song on the road marked out by Mozart in “Das Veilchen.” We have left behind the pretty artificialities so dear to the 18th century, that play around fictitious shepherds and shepherdesses, and entered the field of deeper human feeling with the surrounding influences upon it of nature and romance. The new spirit of the age, represented in German poetry by the lyrics of Burger, Voss, Claudius and Holty, members of the famous Göttinger Hainbund, and more notably by those of Goethe and Schiller, communicates itself in Beethoven to song, which now assumes its rightful position of joint interpreter. It needs no deep study of Beethoven’s songs to perceive that the accompaniment has assumed, especially in the “Liederkreis,” an importance, immeasurably greater than in the songs of any previous composer. It begins to act the part of the chorus in Greek drama and to provide both a background and a commentary to the central personages.
The tentative and uninspired work of Zelter, Reichardt, Schulz and others, when they attempted anything beyond a merely tuneful melody in the strophic form, may be passed over, but a word is due to J. R. Zumsteeg, because in spite of the sometimes childish simplicity of his work he yet, in the kind of use which he made of modulation as a means of lyrical expression, anticipated, more than any other composer of songs, one of the chief features of the greatest song writer of all ages, Franz Schubert. Schubert's “Erlkönig” was written a few months before Beethoven's “Liederkreis,” “Gretchen am Spinnrade” about a year before the " Erlkönig ." He was eighteen when he composed the latter, in 1815. Lyrical song, divorced from all hindering elements and associations, whether of salon or theatre, was here at the threshold of his short career in almost full maturity and plenitude of power. It is sufficiently remarkable that a lad with so little education should have composed such music: it is more astonishing still that he should have penetrated with such unerring insight into the innermost secrets of the best poetry. Two of the necessary qualifications for a great song composer were thus at last united. Schubert possessed the third—a knowledge of the human voice, partly intuitive, partly the result of his experience as a chorister boy. The beauty of his melodies is scarcely more striking than the gratefulness of their purely vocal qualities. The technique of singing had indeed been understood for nearly two centuries; but Schubert was the first to divine fully its emotional range, and to dissociate it in lyrical work from all traditions of the schools. From the beginning to the end of his career he never penned a note or a phrase because it was vocally effective. What he wrote for the voice to sing was there because for him the poetry could not have it otherwise. This was inherent in his method of working, in which he relied implicitly upon his musical inspiration for a response, usually instantaneous, to the inordinate receptivity of his mind to the impressions of poetry. To read through a poem was for him not only to seize its innermost significance, and every salient point of language or of form, but also to visualize the scheme by which both the whole and the parts could be translated and glorified through the medium of music. As the singer Vogl, the first of his profession to appreciate him, remarked, " He composed in a state of clairvoyance." Hence the impossibility of summarizing in a short space the innovations he introduced, for new poems invariably suggested new types of song. His settings of Goethe's lyrics (that is, the best of them) differ as essentially from his settings to those of W. Muller in the cycles “Die Schöne Müllerin” and “Die Winterreise,” as these again from his settings of Heine. Hardly a single development in subsequent phases of the art (except those which eliminate the melodious element) is not foreshadowed in one or other of his six hundred (and more) songs. Brahms, perhaps the greatest of his successors, said that there was something to be learned from every one of Schubert's songs. He was as perfectly at home in the durchcomponirtes Lied as in the simple strophic type or the purely declamatory (" Der Wegweiser," " Nähe des Geliebten," " Der Doppelgänger " may serve as familiar but supreme examples of each). Certain features may be selected for emphasis, first, his use of modulation as a means of emotional expression. " Du liebst mich nicht" traverses in two pages more keys than would serve most composers for a whole symphony, whilst the discords on the words "Die Sonne vermissen" and "Was blüh'n die Narcissen " gave a piercingly thrilling effect, which is quite modern. The modulations in " Wehmuth " illustrate the subtle atmospheric effects which he loved to produce by sudden contrasts between major and minor harmonies. More familiar instances occur in " Gute Nacht," " Die Rose," " Rosamunde." Secondly, his inexhaustible fertility in devising forms of accompaniment, which serve to illustrate the pictorial or emotional background of a poem; we have the galloping horses (and the horn) in "Die Post," the spinning wheel in " Gretchen," murmuring brooks in many songs from " Die Schöne Müllerin " and in " Liebesbotschaft," the indication of an emotional mood in “Die Stadt” or " Litanei." Occasionally, it is true, the persistence of a particular figure and rhythm induces monotony, as in " Ave, Maria!" or " Normans Gesang," but generally Schubert has plenty of means at his command to prevent it, such as the presence of an appropriate subsidiary figure making its appearance at intervals, as in " Halt," " Der Einsame," or some enchanting ritornello, by which a phrase of the vocal melody is echoed in the accompaniment, as in " Liebesbotschaft," " An Sylvia," " Ständchen " and " Fischerweise." Thirdly, the sudden entrance of declamatory passages, as in " Der Neugier’ge," " Am Feierabend," in " Gretchen," at the famous " Ach sein Kuss," and in " Erlkönig " at " Mein Vater, mein Vater." Fourthly, the realistic touches by which suggestions in a poem are incorporated into the accompaniment, such as the cock crowing in " Frühlingstraum," the convent bell in " Die Junge Nonne," the nightingale's song in " Ganymed " or the falling tears in " Ihr Bild." Finally should be noted the extreme rarity of any slips in the matter of the just accentuation of syllables, and this is especially remarkable in a song writer who relies so much upon pure melody as Schubert, for to preserve a perfect melodic outline which shall do not the least violence to a poet's text, presents far more difficult problems than the declamatory style. Yet Schubert is as successful in " Liebesbotschaft " as in " Prometheus." Purists may be disturbed by the repetitions of words involved in the magnificent “Dithyrambe”—but Schubert cannot be expected to betray a sensitiveness which is really post-Wagnerian. Nor is it just to a composer of over 600 songs to fasten for critical purposes on those which do not represent him at his best. His best level is so often attained as to make attacks on points which he has missed—as in some of the songs from Wilhelm Meister—somewhat beside the mark. It is usually the work of enthusiasts who wish to exalt others at Schubert's expense. For further details the reader is referred to the brilliant essay on Song with which Mr Hadow concludes vol. v. of the Oxford History of Music. It must suffice here to point out in a general way that in wideness of scope and aim, in intensity of expression Schubert produced the same transformation in the lyrical field that Beethoven had produced in the larger forms of sonata, string t quartet and symphony. Beethoven's work was necessary before Schubert could arise, but Schubert's conceptions and methods were the fruit of his own genius. Of his contemporaries Loewe deserves mention for his singular success in overcoming the difficulties involved in setting long ballads to # music. To preserve homogeneity in a form in which simple narration presents perpetually shifting changes of action, of picture, of mood, is a problem which Schubert himself only once triumphantly solved. Weber contributed nothing to song, except in his operas, of permanent value, beyond a few strophic songs of a popular nature. He disqualified himself for higher work by that singular preference for vapid and trivial verse which so often led Haydn and Mozart astray. Mendelssohn's literary tastes took him to the best poetry, but he made but little attempt as a rule, to penetrate beyond its superficial and obvious import. His own lovable personality is far more clearly revealed in his songs than the spirit of his poets. Differences of literary style affected the style of his music perhaps less than that of any other distinguished composer. He attained his highest level in "Auf Fliigeln des Gesanges," the first of the two songs to Zuleika, and Nachtlied. It is noteworthy that there is no trace of Schubert's influence. Had Schubert not lived, Mendelssohn's songs would have been just the same. Hence in spite of graceful and flowing melodies, elegant but simple in form, and instinct with that polished taste and charm of manner which endeared both himself and his works to his own generation, his songs have exercised no permanent influence upon the art. Their immediate influence, it is true, was enormous: it is felt occasionally in Schumann, only too often in Robert Franz, and a host of lesser composers in many countries besides his own, such as Gade, Lindblad, Sterndale Bennett, and others who need not be specified.
Of far greater importance is the work of Robert Schumann, I whose polyphonic methods of technique and peculiarly epigrammatic style enabled him to treat complex phases of thought and feeling which had hardly become prominent in Schubert’s time with quite extraordinary success. Both by temperament and by choice he is identified with the so-called romantic movement, a movement in which both poetry and music have tended more and more to become rather a personal revelation than “a criticism of life.” Thus with Schubert the note of universality, the abiding mark of the classical composers, is stronger than the impress of his own personality. With Schumann the reverse is the case. If the romantic movement gave a new impetus of vast importance both to music and literature, yet it had its weaker side in extremes of sensibility, which were not always equivalent to strength of feeling. Mendelssohn’s songs admittedly err on the side of pure sentimentality—Schumann, with Liszt, Jensen and Franz, frequently betrays the same weakness, but his best work, his settings to Heine (especially the Dichterliebe) , the Eichendorff “Liederkreis,” Chamisso’s “Frauenliebe u. Leben” (with some reservations), besides a fair number of other songs, such as “Widmung,” “Der Nussbaum,” “Ihre Stimme,” and his one completely successful ballad, “Die beiden Grenadiere,” are strong in feeling and full of poetic and imaginary qualities of the very highest order. The new poetry called for new methods of treatment. These Schumann, instinctively an experimenter, provided, first, by a closer attention to the minutiae of declamation than had hitherto been attempted—and herein syncopation and suspension furnished possibilities unsuspected even by Schubert—secondly by increasing the role of the pianoforte accompaniment—and in this he was helped on the one hand by novel methods of technique, of which himself and Chopin were the chief originators, and on the other by his loving study of Bach, which imparted a polyphonic treatment, quite new to song. In nearly all Schubert’s songs, and in quite all of Mendelssohn’s, the melody allotted to the voice maintained its position of supremacy. In Schumann it not infrequently becomes the secondary factor, the main rôle of lyric interpreter passing to the accompaniment, as in “Es ist ein Flöten u. Geigen” or “Röselein.” He also gave quite a new prominence to the opening and closing instrumental symphonies, which become in his hands no merely formal introduction or conclusion but an integral part of the whole conception and fabric of the Lied. This may be illustrated by many numbers of the Dichterliebe, but most remarkable is the final page, in which the pianoforte, after the voice has stopped, sums up the whole tenour of the cycle. This feature has been seized upon by many subsequent composers, but by few with Schumann’s rare insight and judgment. In Franz, for instance, the concluding symphony is often introduced without necessity, and becomes a mere irritating mannerism. In Brahms however it is developed, both at the opening and close of many songs, to an importance and pregnancy of meaning which no other composer has attained.
A third point in Schumann’s method is his fondness for short interrupted phrases (often repeated at different levels) in place of the developed Schubertian melodies; it is alluded to here because of the great extension of the practice by later composers, too often, as in the case of Franz, without Schumann’s tact. On many grounds, then, Schumann may be regarded as having widely extended the conception of the Lied; his example has encouraged later composers to regard no lyric poetry as too subtle for musical treatment. Unfortunately in presenting complexity of mood Schumann was not invariably careful to preserve structural solidity. Many later composers have followed the occasional looseness of design which is his fault, without approaching the beauty of spirit, in which he stands alone.
A bold experimenter in song was Franz Liszt, whose wayward genius, with its irrepressible bent towards the theatrical and melodramatic, was never at home within the limits of a short lyric. It is true that there is sincerity of feeling, if not of the deepest kind, in “Es muss ein Wunderbares sein” and “Über allen Gipfeln”; but concentrated emotion, which involves for its expression highly organized form, was alien to Liszt’s genius, which is more truly represented in songs like “Die Lorelei,” “Kennst du das Land,” “Am Rhein”—in which are presented a series of pictures loosely connected, giving the impression of clever extemporizations on paper. It is not sufficiently recognized that such work is far easier to produce than a successful strophic song, even of the simplest kind, because the composer ignores the fact that a formal lyric implies formal music, and that the most formal poetry is often the most emotional. Critics, who measure the advance of song by the increase in number of those that are durchcomponirt, and the decreasing output of those which have the same music to each stanza, are in danger of forgetting the best qualities both of music and of poetry. Formless music never interpreted a finely formed poem, and unless the durchcomponirtes Lied has more form instead of less than the strophic song, it is artistically valueless. The popularity therefore of “Die Lorelei” is not so much a tribute to Liszt’s genius as an example of the extent to which gifted singers and undiscerning critics can mislead the public. Mere scene painting, however vivid, however atmospheric—and these qualities may be conceded to Liszt and to others who have followed his example—takes its place upon the lower planes of art.
The admiration expressed by Liszt and Wagner for the songs of Robert Franz, and the cordial welcome extended by Schumann to those which first made their appearance, have led to an undue estimate of their importance in many quarters. They are characterized by extreme delicacy both of feeling and of workmanship, but the ingenuity of his counterpoint, which he owed to his intimate knowledge of Bach and Handel, cannot conceal the frequent poverty of inspiration in his melodic phrases nor the absence of genuine constructive power. To build a song upon one or two phrases repeated at different levels and coloured by changing harmonies to suit the requirements of the poetic text (as in “Für Musik” and “Du bist elend”) is a dangerous substitute for the power to formulate large and expressive melodies. But it is the method which Franz instinctively preferred and elaborated with skill. His songs are mostly very short and in the strophic form, some alteration being nearly always reserved to give point to the last verse. His tricks of style and procedure so quickly become familiar as to exhaust the patience even of the most sympathetic student. But the sincerity of his aims, the idealistic and supersensitive purity of his mind (which banished as far as possible even the dramatic element from his lyrics), its receptiveness to the beauties of nature and all that is chaste, tender and refined in human character render his songs an important contribution to our knowledge of the intimate side of German feeling, and compensate in some degree for the lack of the larger qualities of style and imagination. All his best qualities are represented in the beautiful setting of Lenau’s “Stille Sicherheit.” Those who care to study his limitations may compare his settings of Heine’s lyrics with the masterpieces of Schumann in the same field, or the dulness of his “Verborgenheit” (Mörike) with the romantic fervour imparted to that poem by the later genius of Hugo Wolf.
A higher value than is usually conceded attaches to the songs of Peter Cornelius, a friend of Liszt and Wagner, but a follower of neither. Before he came under their influence he had undergone a severe course of contrapuntal training, so that his work, though essentially modern in spirit, has that stability of structure which makes for permanence. He was, moreover, an accomplished linguist, a brilliant essayist, and a poet. That perfect fusion between poetry and music, which since Schubert has increasingly been the ideal of German song, is realized in an exceptional manner when, with Cornelius as with Wagner, librettist and musician are one person. More exquisite declamation is hardly to be found in the whole range of song than in the subtly imaginative “Auftrag,” whilst for nobility of feeling, apart from technical excellencies of the highest order, the “Weihnachtslieder,” the “Brautlieder” and much of the sacred cycle “Vater Unser,” are hardly surpassed even by Schumann at his best, and point to Cornelius as one of the most beautiful and original spirits of the 19th century.
In the song-work of the 19th century, though Schubert remains the rock upon which it has been built, Schumann represents the most directly inspiring influence, even when, as in the case of Adolph Jensen (whose spontaneously melodious and graceful, if not very deep, songs deserve mention), there are importations from such widely divergent sources as those of Mendelssohn and Wagner.
The application of the principles of Wagnerian music-drama to lyrical work, allied, as was natural, with the exaggerations and unconventionalities of Liszt and Berlioz, was sooner or later bound to come, bound also for a time to issue in confusion; to rescue song from which was the work of two men of genius, who, though approaching the task from standpoints removed by the whole distance of pole to pole, may be considered as placing the crown of final achievement upon the aspirations of 19th-century song—Hugo Wolf and Johannes Brahms.
Wolf exhibits an entirely unconventional and original style. He is as untroubled by tradition as Schubert, whom he resembles not often, as in “Fussreise,” and “Der Gärtner,” in pure melodiousness, but in the intensity of his power to penetrate to the very heart of poetry. To him may also be most fitly applied the epithet clairvoyant. He is the first who published songs for voice and pianoforte, not songs with pianoforte accompaniment, thus finally asserting the identity of singer and accompanist in true lyrical interpretation.
The unerring sagacity of Brahms discerned that the possibilities of song on the lines set by Schubert were far from being exhausted: his practical mind preferred to develop those possibilities rather than to seek after strange and novel methods, conforming thus in song to his practice in other branches of composition. A broad melodic outline is for him an essential feature: equally essential is a fine contrapuntal bass. In form the majority of his songs follow the orthodox A B A pattern, the central portion being so organized as to offer, with the least possible introduction of new unrelated material, a heightened contrast with the opening portion by means of new treatment and new tonalities and at the same time to justify itself by producing the mood in which the return to the opening portion is felt as a logical necessity. Chromatic effects in Brahms’s scheme of melody are rarely introduced till the middle section, the opening being almost invariably diatonic. It must however be admitted that Brahms’s formal perfection involves occasionally an awkward handling of words, and that in a few instances (see Magelone-lieder, Nos. 3 and 6), they are frankly sacrificed to that formal development of his material which has been criticized in the cases of Mozart and Beethoven. No part of his songs deserves closer study than the few bars of instrumental prelude and conclusion, in which is enshrined the very essence of his conception of a poem. It may almost be said that, since Schumann set the example, the first and the last word has passed from the voice to the instrument. Accompanist, like singer, must understand poetry as well as music: but with no composer is his responsibility greater than with Brahms. Complete mastery in close organization of form was allied in Brahms not only with the warmth and tenderness of romance, but with the imagination and insight of a profound thinker. Concentration of style and of thought have nowhere in the whole history of song been combined on a plane so high as that which is reached, with all perfection of melodic and harmonic beauty, in “Schwermuth,” “Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht,” “Mit vierzig Jahren,” “Am Kirchhof,” “O wüsst’ich doch den Weg zurück” and the “Vier ernste Gesange,” which closed the list of his 197 songs. The alliance to song of so dangerous a companion as philosophy, or at any rate of thoughts which are philosophical rather than lyrical, proved no obstacle to Brahms’s equal success in the realm of romance. This side of his genius may be illustrated by numerous songs from the Magelone cycle (notably “Wie froh und frisch” and “Ruhe, süss, Liebchen”) and by others, of which “Liebestreu,” “Die Mainacht,” “Feldeinsamkeit,” “Wie rafft' ich mich auf in der Nacht,” “Minnelied” and “Wir wandelten” are a few examples picked at random.
It has already been indicated that Brahms was a deep student of Schubert. If he had not Schubert’s absolute spontaneity of melody, he restored it to its Schubertian place of supreme importance. In spite of all the tendencies of his age he never shirked that supreme test of a composer, the power to originate and organize melody: but it is melody often of a type so severe in its outline and proportions as to repel those hearers who are unable to attain to his level of thought and feeling. All mere prettiness and elegance are as alien to his nature as even the slightest approach to sentimental weakness on the one hand, or to realistic scene-painting on the other, so that for the world at large his popularity is jeopardized by an attitude which is felt to be uncompromisingly lofty and severe. It has hardly yet had time to reconcile itself to the union of modern lyrical poetry with a style whose elaborate contrapuntal texture differs as much from the delicate polyphony of Schumann as that in its turn differed from the broad harmonic system of Schubert. But that Brahms was never difficult without reason, or elaborate when he might have been simple, appears plainly from the preference he felt for his slighter songs in the Volkstümlich style and form, rather than for those which were durchcomponirt. He was strongly influenced by the Volkslieder of his country, the words of which he loved to repeat to himself, as they suggested ideas even for his instrumental compositions. His arrangements of Volkslieder mark an epoch in that field of work.
In the history of song Brahms’s name is likely to stand for the closing of a chapter. It is difficult to conceive of more complete work on lines that are essentially classical. The soundest traditions find in him their justification and their consummation. He has enshrined the best thought and the noblest feeling of his age in forms where elaboration and complexity of detail serve essential purposes of interpretation, and are never used as a brilliant artifice to conceal foundations which are insecure.
It is not proposed to discuss the work and tendencies of contemporary German composers—of whom Felix Weingartner (b. 1863), Max Reger (b. 1873) and Richard Strauss have attracted the largest share of attention. The above summary, though necessarily incomplete and confined only to the most conspicuous names, may yet provide some points of view from which the songs of other countries than Germany may be regarded, especially those in which German conceptions and German methods of technique have been dominant factors. Actual settings of German lyrics figure largely in the works of many non-German composers, and these it is hard to judge except by German standards. But, strongly as German influence has been felt in Russia, for instance, in Norway and in Finland, yet the last half century has seen the rise of more distinctly national schools of song in all these countries, and to this result the cult of the folk-song has very largely contributed. Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Balakirev, César Cui (b. 1835), and Moussorgsky in Russia, Nordraak (1842–1866) and Grieg in Norway, Sibelius (b. 1865) in Finland, are conspicuous names in this connexion.
The Latin countries have, as is natural, been but little subject to German influences; of these France alone seems to be working her way towards a solution of artistic problems which has interest for those who live beyond her borders and which bears emphatically her own hallmark.Modern French Song. The melodious style of Gounod, which has so powerfully affected composers like Massenet, Godard and Widor, has begun to yield during the last quarter of a century to tendencies which correspond closely with those of the impressionist movements in French literature and painting. The deeper side of the movement, in which a strong element of mysticism plays an important part, is represented in the best songs of César Franck, Faure and Bruneau, a notable group of composers, whose occasional extravagances are atoned for by original impressions of nature in her more unusual moods, and- by much that arrests attention both in thought and style. The songs of Duparc (b. 1848) and Vincent d’Indy likewise repay study. Nothing can be clearer than that traditional methods were inadequate, if modern French poetry was to find interpretation in the sister sphere of music; but how far the work of composers such as those named is likely to be regarded as final, it is premature to ask. The world had hardly had time to feel at home with them before it was called upon to face what it is difficult not to regard as representing the extreme limits of impressionistic style in Debussy. We are still too much accustomed to melody and rhythm, to harmonies that have some intelligible principle in their successions, to judge securely of music which is neither melodious nor rhythmical nor in the accepted sense harmonious. We are still too much accustomed to music regulated by analysable laws to feel at ease with music that seems, at any rate at present, to acknowledge none. Whether the work of Debussy is the beginning of a new epoch the future alone can decide, but it is permissible to feel apprehensive of an art which is based upon impressions rather than upon convictions; and the value of impressions is apt to be measured more by the degree in which they are fugitive, elusive, evanescent, or merely peculiar to the composer's temperament, than by the relation which they bear to permanent elements in nature or humanity. Hence in the modern school of song-writers, which finds its culmination in Debussy, the quality of unselfconsciousness is the one which seems most difficult for them to attain. In French art we are too often reminded how close the sublime is to the ridiculous, the dramatic to the theatrical, pathos to bathos, truth to paradox. Even in the quieter pictures we are conscious of a forced atmosphere, an unnatural calm, not the abiding peace of a landscape by Corot or Millet. Lastly, the opinion of Bruneau (La Musique française, p. 233) that prose will in time supplant poetry in drama and song is, at least to those to whom form is still an essential element of beauty, a disquieting omen for the future. The best qualities of the French nation, its unaffected gaiety, its sincerity, grace, humour, pathos, tenderness, are far more touchingly and truthfully revealed in the simple melodies of the country-side—or in the less pretentious songs (of which Bruneau and Massenet have given examples, as well as many others) formed upon their model.
Limitations of space do not form the only reason for dealing in a cursory manner with English songs of the 19th century. A more valid one is to be found in the absence, until its two closing decades, of great names to which can be attached the history of any orderly Modern English Song.development, of any well-conceived and definite ideals. The authors of the very limited number of good songs are too often the authors of others in larger quantities which are bad, and that not in every case owing to failure of inspiration but to a lowering of ideals in order to gratify the tastes of an unintelligent public on the one hand, and the demands of exacting publishers on the other. That a healthier art might have arisen is indicated by the presence of such songs as Hatton's " To Anthea," Loder's unexpectedly fine setting of " The Brooklet " (the words of which Schubert had already immortalized in its original German version as " Wohin "), Sullivan's fresh and original settings of several Shakespearian lyrics, and of Tennyson's uninspired cycle of verses entitled " The Songs of the Wrens," and Clay's " I'll sing thee songs of Araby." The name of Sterndale Bennett stands out as that of a composer who remained steadfastly true to his ideals. His output was indeed a small one, and covered a somewhat limited range of style and feeling: but the thought, like the workmanship, is always of delicate and beautiful quality. Though Mendelssohn's influence is apparent he has a touch which is all his own. " To Chloe in sickness," " Forget-me-not," " Gentle Zephyr " and " Sing, Maiden, sing," have certainly not yet lost their charm. Sterndale Bennett marks the beginning of higher ideals in English song—but it is only within the last twenty-five years that we have begun to see their realization, owing to the training of many English musicians in German schools and to the increasing familiarity of the musical public with the best German Lieder. The lead has been taken by Parry and Stanford—composers who have published large numbers of songs in great variety of styles, and with uniform seriousness of aim and treatment. Parry's delightfully fresh early work is represented at its best . in " A Spring Song," " A Contrast," and " Why does azure deck the skies?" The transition to a later manner is marked by the four anacreontic odes; and several small volumes of lyrics have since made their appearance. If some of these miss the true lyrical note, of which absolute spontaneity is an essential condition, yet a lofty level of thought and workmanship is always manifest, rising to highest inspiration perhaps in " When we two parted," " Through the ivory gate," and " I'm weaving Sweet Violets." Stanford has essayed songs in many styles, suited to poems drawn from many periods, but he is most himself and most successful in Keats's weird and dramatic ballad " La Belle dame sans merci," in Browning's cavalier songs, in the cycle of sea songs (H. Newbolt) and above all in the Irish idyll (Moira O'Neill)—where in six pieces of rarest beauty the composer has revealed different phases of Irish feeling, pathos and humour with a poetical and imaginative power unequalled in British art. It is hard to imagine a more perfect alliance between poetry and music, from the general conception of each song down to the minutest detail of declamation, than is found here. As an arranger of Irish melodies—of which four volumes have been published—Stanford has also shown himself a complete master. Cowen, Mackenzie and Elgar have contributed few songs worthy of reputations gained in larger forms of composition. Of the work done and being done by younger composers much might be said. There is activity in many directions; a cycle of songs by Arthur Somervell from Tennyson's Maud is an artistic work of very real value, beautiful and original as music, and forming a highly interesting commentary upon the poem. R. Vaughan Williams, in the more difficult . task of setting six sonnets from Rossetti's House of Life and in three of Stevenson's Songs of Travel, has displayed imaginative qualities of a remarkable order. Not less original is the highly finished and poetical work of H. Walford Davies. Somewhat slighter in style and thought, but instinct with true lyrical tenderness and charm, are the songs of Roger Quilter, drawn mainly from the Elizabethan period, and the poems of Herrick. Various songs by Maude V. White, W. H. Hadow, Hamilton Harty, Harold Darke, Ernest Walker, Donald Tovey, William Wallace and others give evidence, with the work already mentioned, of a revolution in the treatment and conception of song in England, which is full of promise for the future. Its fulfilment however is likely to depend upon a change in the prevailing conditions, under which professional vocalists have a financial interest in popularizing inferior productions. Good songs, apart from the initial difficulty of finding a publisher, are thus penalized from the start, whilst the larger and less instructed portion of the public, which forms its taste upon what the singers of the day provide, remains ignorant of precisely those works which are most necessary for its enlightenment.
Bibliography.—In Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (new ed.) Mrs E. Woodhouse's article on " Song " (vol. iv.) gives a practically exhaustive bibliography of the whole subject of song and folk-song, country by country; her account is quite unique, and indispensable to the student. The following list is mainly of books which the present writer has found most valuable: Sir Hubert Parry, Art of Music (London, 1897); Oxford History of Music (1901–1905), esp. vol.iii.;" The Seventeenth Century "by Sir Hubert Parry, vol. iv. ; " The Age of Bach and Handel " by J. A. Fuller- Maitland, vol. v.; "The Viennese Period" by W. H. Hadow, vol. vi.; "The Romantic Period" by E. Dannreuther; Combarieu, La Musique, ses lois et son evolution (Paris, 1907) ; Ambros, Geschichte der Musik (1862–1882) ; Coussemaker, Histoire de l'harmonie au moyen âge (1852); Kiesewetter, Schichsale u. Beschaffenheit des weltlichen Gesanges (1841) ; Reissmann, Das deutsche Lied (1861 ; rewritten as Geschichte des deutscken Liedes, 1874); Schneider, Das musikalische Lied (1863) ; E. Walker, History of Music in England (1907) ; W. Nagel, Geschichte der Musik in England (1894–1897); C. J. Sharp, English Folk-songs, some Conclusions (1907) ; J. Tiersot, Histoire de la chanson populaire en France (1889) ; Lavoix, La Musique française (1891).
Collections of songs with valuable introduction and notes (those marked with an asterisk have pianoforte accompaniments) : P. M. Boehme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1877); Gaston Paris and Gevaert, Chansons du XVe siècle (Paris, 1875); J. Tiersot, Chansons populaires des Alpes françaises (Grenôble, 1903) ; De la Villemarque, Barzaz-Breiz, Chansons pop. de la Bretagne (Paris, 1867) ; *Bourgault-Ducoudray, 30 melodies pop. de la Basse-Bretagne (Paris, 1885); *Champfleury and Weckerlin, Chansons pop. des provinces de France (Paris, 1860); *Weckerlin, Echos du temps passe (3 vols., Paris, 1855), and *Chansons pop. du pays de France (2 vols. Paris, 1903); *V. D'Indy, Chansons pop. du Vivarais, op. 52 (Paris) ; Hjalmar Thuren, Folkesangen paa Faererne (Copenhagen, 1908) ; F. van Duyse, Het oude nederlandsche Lied (The Hague, 1903–1905) ; *E. Closson, Chansons pop. des provinces belges (Brussels, 1905); *Bourgault-Ducoudray, 30 melodies pop. de Grece et d 'orient (Paris, 1897); Eugénie Lineff, Peasant Songs of Great Russia (St Petersburg and London, 1905) ; *W. Chappell, Popular Music of the Olden Time (London, 1855–1859) ; *E Wooldridge, revised edition of the above, with title Old English popular Music (London, 1893) ; Folk-song Society's Journals; *C. J. Sharp, Folk-songs from Somerset (5 vols., Barnicott & Pearce, Taunton) ; *J. A. Fuller-Maitland and L. E. Broadwood, County Songs (Novello) ; *Sharpand Baring-Gould, Songs of the West (Methuen) ; *L. E. Broadwood, English Traditional Songs and Carols (Boosey). (W. A. J. F.)
The Song of Birds
The characteristic modulated voice of birds is the outstanding example of natural " song " in the animal world. The essential requirements of a vocal organ, the pressure of vibratory membranes or chord, are found in the bird's syrinx (see Bird), but how these membranes act in particular, and how theii tension is modified by the often numerous syringeal muscles, we do not know. The voice of birds is produced entirely by the syrinx; the larynx no doubt modifies it, but the tongue seems to play no part in it. The " loosening of the tongue " by cutting its frenum; in order to assist a bird in talking &c, is an absolutely silly operation. The possession of the most elaborate syrinx is not enough to enable a bird to sing. In this respect they are like ourselves: special mental faculties are required to control the apparatus. Anatomically the raven has the same elaborate syrinx as the thrush or the nightingale, and yet the raven cannot " sing " although it can modulate its voice and can even learn to talk. As a rule the faculty of singing is restricted to the males, although the females possess the same organs; moreover, birds vary individually. Some learn to sing marvellously well, while others remain tyros in spite of the best education. But given all the necessary mental faculties, birds sing only when they are in such a healthy condition that there is a surplus of energy. This, of course, is greatest during the time of propagation, when much of the surplus of the general metabolism comes out—to use homely words—in unwonted functions, such as dancing, posing, spreading of feathers and giving voice. Every one of these muscular exertions is a spasm, releasing some energy, and—again in homely parlance—relieving the mind. In many cases these antics and other manifestations become rhythmical, and music consists of rhythmical sounds. Of course birds, like other creatures, are to a certain extent reflex machines, and they often sing because they cannot help it, just as male frogs continue to croak long after the pairing season, and not necessarily because they or their mates appreciate those sounds. But birds stand mentally on such a high level that we can scarcely doubt that in many cases they enjoy, and therefore sing their song. Many a tame bird, a canary, starling, magpie, will repay its keeper with its song, out of season, for any kindness shown to it, or for his mere presence.
If we regard any sound made by a bird under the all-powerful influence of love or lust as its " song," then probably every bird is possessed of this faculty, but in the ordinary acceptance of the term very few, besides the oscines, can sing, and even this group contains many which, like the ravens and the crows, are decidedly not songsters. On the other hand, it seems unfair not to call the charming series of notes of the dove its song.
D. Barrington in a very remarkable paper ("Experiments and Observations on the Singing of Birds," Phil. Trans., 1773, pp. 249–291) defines a bird's song " to be a succession of three or more different notes, which are continued without interruption during the same interval with a musical bar of four crotchets in an adagio movement, or whilst a pendulum swings four seconds." The late A. Newton (Ency. Brit., 9th ed., iii. 771; see also Dict. Birds, s.v. “Song,” pp. 892-894), taking a much wider view of “song,” proceeds as follows:—
“It seems impossible to draw any but an arbitrary line between the deep booming of the emeu, the harsh cry of the guillemot (which, when proceeding from a hundred or a thousand throats, strikes the distant ear in a confused murmur like the roar of a tumultuous crowd), the plaintive wail of the plover, the melodious whistle of the wigeon, 'the cock's shrill clarion' the scream of the eagle, the hoot of the owl, the solemn chime of the bell-bird, the whip-cracking of the manakin, the chaffinch's joyous burst, or the hoarse croak of the raven, on the one hand, and the bleating of the snipe or the drumming of the ruffled grouse, on the other. Innumerable are the forms which such utterances take. In many birds the sounds are due to a combination of vocal and instrumental powers, or, as in the cases last' mentioned, to the latter only. But, however produced—and of the machinery whereby they are accomplished there is not room here to speak—all have the same cause and the same effect. The former has been already indicated, and the latter is its consummation. Almost coinstantaneously with the hatching of the nightingale's brood the song of the sire is hushed, and the notes to which we have for weeks hearkened with rapt admiration are changed to a guttural croak, expressive of alarm and anxiety, inspiring a sentiment of the most opposite character. No greater contrast can be imagined, and no instance can be cited which more completely points out the purpose which ' song ' fulfils in the economy of the bird, for if the nightingale's nest at this early time be destroyed or its contents removed, the cock speedily recovers his voice, and his favourite haunts again resound to his bewitching strains. For them his mate is content again to undergo the wearisome round of nest-building and incubation. But should some days elapse before disaster befalls their callow care, his constitution undergoes a change and no second attempt to rear a family is made. It would seem as though a mild temperature, and the abundance of food by which it is generally accompanied, prompt the physiological alteration which inspires the males of most birds to indulge in the ' song ' peculiar to them. Thus after the annual moult is accomplished, and this is believed.to be the most critical epoch in the life of any bird, cock thrushes, skylarks, and others begin to sing, not indeed with the jubilant voice of spring but in an uncertain cadence which is quickly silenced by the supervention of cold weather. Yet some birds we have which, except during the season of moult, hard frost, and time of snow, sing almost all the year round. Of these the redbreast and the wren are familiar examples, and the chiffchaff repeats its two-noted cry, almost to weariness, during the whole period of its residence in this country.
“Akin to the ‘song of birds,’ and undoubtedly proceeding from the same cause, are the peculiar, gestures which the males of many perform under the influence of the approaching season of pairing, but these again are far too numerous here to describe with particularity. It must suffice to mention a few cases. The ruff on his hillock in a marsh holds a war-dance. The snipe and some of his allies mount aloft and wildly execute unlooked-for evolutions almost in the clouds. The woodcock and many of the goatsuckers beat evening after evening the same aerial path with its sudden and sharp turnings. The ring-dove rises above the neighbouring trees and then with motionless wings slides down to the leafy retreat they afford. The capercally and blackcock, perched on a commanding eminence, throw themselves into postures that defy the skill of the caricaturist—other species of the grouse-tribe assume the strangest attitudes and run in circles till the turf is worn bare. The peacock in pride spreads his train so as to show how nearly akin are the majestic and the ludicrous. The bower-bird, not content with its own splendour, builds an arcade, decked with bright feathers and shining shells, through and around which he paces with his gay companions. The larks and pipits never deliver their song so well as when seeking the upper air. Rooks rise one after the other to a great height and, turning on their back, wantonly precipitate themselves many yards towards the ground, while the solemn raven does not scorn a similar feat, and, with the tenderest of croaks, glides supinely alongside or in front of his mate.”
The following may be cited as the principal treatises on the subject, besides Barrington's paper quoted above: J. Blackwall, Mem. Litt. Phil. Soc, Manchester (1824), pp. 289–323; also in Froriep's Notizen (1825), col. 292–298; F. Savart, Mémoir sur la voix des oiseaux, Froriep's Notizen (1826), col. 1–10; C. L. Brehm, Naumannia (1855), pp. 54–59, 96–101, 181–195; and Journ. f. Ornith. (1855, pp. 348–351: 1856, pp. 250–255); C. Gloger, Journ. f. Ornith. (1859), pp. 439–459; J. E. Harting, Birds of Middlesex (London, 1866), where the notes of many of the common English birds are musically expressed; J. A. Allen, Bull. Comp. Zool. Harvard (1871), ii. 166–450; L. Paolucci, Il Canto degli uccelli (Milan, 1878), and Milano soc. ital. anti. 20 (1877), pp. 125–247; C. L. Hett, A Dictionary of Bird Notes (Brigg, 1898) ; C. A. Witchell, Bird-Song and its Scientific Teaching (Gloucester, 1892); F. S. Mathews, Field Book of Wild Birds and their Music (New York, 1904). See also W. Warde Fowler, A Year With the Birds (1886). (H. F. G.)
If the one phrase is represented by A, and the other by B, the
commonest melodic schemes presented by the folk-songs of the
world may be viewed thus—AB, AAB, ABB, ABA, ABAB, AABB,
AABA, ABBA. Of these, those in which the opening phrase A is
repeated at the conclusion are the most satisfactory, for both instinct
and reason are gratified by a connexion between the beginning and
As exact conformity to pattern becomes wearisome and is alien to the progressive instinct, the element of surprise is introduced into the above schemes by various modifications of the repeated phrase on its second appearance, or by the entrance of an entirely new phrase C. In some fine melodies there is no repetition of phrase, a number of different phrases being knit, by principles, which defy analysis, into one structure. Such melodies imply a melodic sense of an exceptional order. Many melodies involve more than four phrases; of these the rondo form should be mentioned—ABACADA.
- The derivation of such formulae from more primitive incantations of magicians and medicine-men is a possible and plausible theory (see J. Combarieu, La Musique: ses lots et son evolution. Paris, 1907).
- For the growth of the refrain from communal dancing and singing, see C. J. Sharp, English Folk-Songs, p. 93. Nor should the association of dancing with all primitive religious ceremonies be forgotten—see K. J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas (1907).
- This melody, which is plainly derived from recitation, with A as tonus carrens, closely resembles that of Ljómur, a folk-song of the Faeroe islanders, noted by H. Thuren in 1902 and identified by him with a piece of recitation (“Fili care”) from a 12th-century “Drame liturgique” (deciphered by O. Fleischer, Neumenstudien, Bd. II. p. 23). See Folkesangen paa Farøerne, H. Thuren (Copenhagen, 1908). Identity of style between a popular song of the 9th century, a drame liturgique of the 12th and a folk-song still sung in the 20th is sufficiently striking—especially in view of the fact that in the Faeroe Islands instrumental music is practically unknown.
- Lord Ashburnham has a Virgil of the 10th century, “dans lequel les discours directs de l’Eneide sont accompagnés de notations musicales” (Coussemaker).
- For examples see Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, Nos. 131 and 195.
- Modal folk-song melodies are often tested by their conformity or otherwise to the modes as known from medieval composers. This is to limit our conception of natural forces by the use made of them by a few men at a particular epoch for special purposes. If a mode can be said to exist for a purpose, that purpose is melody: to apply to modal folk-melodies the canons laid down by composers with whom melody was a quantité négligeable is sheer perversity. Recent discoveries in the field of folk-song place us in a far better position for understanding the true nature of the modes than medieval composers: for in the folk-song their free development has not been hampered by restrictions, which were a necessary condition of polyphonic work.
- The error must be guarded against of supposing that melodies, heard to-day among the peasantry, which suggest medieval times, are necessarily medieval in origin. It has been already indicated that dorian, aeolian and mixolydian modes (to name those which are most prevalent) are natural modes, not church modes; they are still employed by folk-singers in many parts of Europe. A melody in the modern major scale is just as liable at the present day to submit to transformation into the mixolydian or some other mode, as melodies in other modes are liable to become major.
- John Dowland, the chief of English lutenists, published his first book of songs and ayres in four parts in 1597, “So made that all the parts together or either of them severally may be sung to the lute, orpherion or viol da gamba.” Though not strictly speaking solo-songs they are too important not to be mentioned. Three other books followed in 1600, 1603 and 1612, in the second of which appears the famous “Flow my tears” (Lachrymae) for two voices, but almost equally effective as a solo, and doubtless often used as such. It is published in vol. vii. of Euterpe (Breitkopf & Härtel, London), which also contains a valuable monograph on English lutenists and lute music by Miss Janet Dodge. Dowland’s few solo-songs are unimportant.
- Their value may be tested by comparing them with the small volume containing arrangements by R. Franz, which are sympathetically done but without inspiration, with those of Tappert, which are models of what such things ought not to be, and with the dull, uninviting work of A. Saran. Many of Reimann’s arrangements, however, deserve cordial recognition as both sympathetic and scholarly. One fact emerges clearly from the study of folk-song arrangements, in Germany and elsewhere, that success depends upon qualities which are as rare as, and are seldom dissociated from, the power of original composition. Only a great composer can be a great arranger.