In some cases strange and extravagant hyperbole leads to a general notion being formed of the character of certain forms, but yet to great uncertainty as to their actual nature. In the case of some Oriental nations, the perfected systems, the theories and their symbolical analogies and illustrations came to be valued more highly than the music based upon them. The Chinese, for instance, compared at a very early period the twelve notes of the chromatic scale with the lunar zodiac, and the expression of each note with the expression of outward nature—the weather of each month.
Their various modes have characteristic significations. That of Koung (= fa) represents the emperor—the sublimity of his doctrine, the majesty of his countenance, and the high importance of his actions; the mode Cheng (= sol) represents the minister—his intrepidity in the exercise of his duties, firm administration of justice, and slight rigorousness; and so on, throughout the complete series.
The Hindoos were also led to personify all their modes, but their excited, unbridled imaginations led them to place in their heaven the presiding deity of each. Their systems are complicated, symbolical, mystical, and beautiful. They believed in miracle-working melodies, called Ragas, each having its own special power on rain, harvests, sun, wild beasts, etc., and the faith in their efficacy still exists. It is rarely tested because of the alleged difficulty in finding an executive artist competent to perform the music with the proper expression in the particular locality selected for the trial.
The Persians, who regarded music as physic for the soul, found in a tree and its roots and branches a fitting emblem and convenient illustration for their technical system of modes, and, in the strings of their lute, correspondences with their seasons.
The Chaldeans and Egyptians required the whole cosmos for an exemplification of their systems; and thus, through the Greeks, the expression "music of the spheres" has come down to us.
Here, at least, we find a link connecting the dead past with the living present. Pythagoras and the mathematical musicians of his age and country made the middle string of the Greek lyre typify the sun, and the others the planets; and even their opponents, Aristotle and the practical musicians, were led to acknowledge that, when this middle string was out of tune, the whole instrument was out of tune, but that if any other string were untuned the lyre would still be playable. Here evidence is found that there then existed a vague, glimmering notion of the peculiar and inherent importance of some one note, which we now fully recognize, and commonly speak of as the key-note—from which all the other notes are measured, and in which all find justification.
And, further, the Greek modes, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc., which were somewhat similar to the ecclesiastical modes that bear the same names interchanged, have given place in Europe to our modern