Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/250

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If, therefore, we are unable to explain our music to ourselves, and the ancients could not explain their music to themselves, it should not cause surprise if we fail to comprehend their music. For, although it is said, "Human nature is the same in all ages," the tonal art, which appeals to every individual's own inner nature so very directly and intimately, reveals strongly marked differences among men.

The difficulties to be overcome in forming an adequate conception of the music of other peoples are, therefore, great. If, after persistent effort or even a life-long devotion to performance and composition, we find perplexing mysteries at every turn, we may naturally anticipate encountering inscrutable enigmas in the endeavor to comprehend the true nature of the forms of art specially adapted to the necessities of races so far removed in time and place, thought and feeling, as the ancient Orientals.

Even the music of the modern occupants of the East is so strange and foreign to our wants and inclinations, that many persons speak of it with disrespect; and travelers and generally well-informed artists, judging of its merits by the casual performances of poor peripatetic musicians, are frequently led to the belief that it is unworthy special regard. It would be more philosophical to assume that an art practiced throughout the Orient by all classes of persons, in all times, would, if seriously studied, present many aspects worthy of deep reflection. However little we may be able to sympathize with Chinese, Hindoos, Persians, and other peoples in their artistic aspirations, we should not be tempted to provoke a smile at their expense, but approach the study of their music with the greatest respect. In this spirit let us proceed.


Music and its instruments were commonly believed in the East to be gifts from Heaven, and therefore its cultivation and their preservation became religious duties. The Orientals took no credit to themselves for inventing the various extraordinary instruments with which they performed their wonder-working melodies, and, as will be presently shown, no modern nation has yet invented a really new one; for all those we employ are either enlarged or simplified forms of prototypes that were in use at the earliest times of which we have any record, and are really prehistoric.

The sacred books of the Chinese give a complete account of their organ—most exact measurements of the lengths, diameters, thickness, materials, etc., of each pipe, and so on—not to suggest improvements, or take credit for the devices mentioned; but simply that, should the instrument from any cause become obsolete, it could be revived; and thus this great gift, from some remote ancestor, would still be secured for future generations. Confucius and various emperors are portrayed performing on the kin (a stringed instrument), and music occupies the first rank among the sciences.

In India, Brahma himself is believed to have presented music to