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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/253

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ORIENTAL MUSIC.

major and minor scales, which are exclusively used by all those peoples who do not employ the Hungarian system. Now, although these scales have hardly been in general use for two centuries, there is gradually growing up among ourselves a recognized scheme of characterization or symbolism analogous to the schemes formulated by the Orientals. For we not only speak of major modes as bright and genial, and minor modes as sorrowful and depressed, irrespective of the music to be cast in these modes—and also regard our sharp keys as brilliant, and flat keys as calm and soothing, irrespective also of the music to be rendered in them, and although we are perfectly certain of the fact that mathematically they present no variation—but we notice that the notes in any one key have each their special signification.

Attempts have been made to define these characteristics, which must be allowed to be successful, for thousands of persons are unanimous that their experiences agree.

The most satisfactory proof of this is that large choral bodies have been trained to sing from printed copies of music, at first sight, most elaborate compositions, simply by being taught to identify the various notes by recognizing uniformly their character, and thus to sing them correctly without the aid of an instrument. The societies acquainted with this—the tonic sol-fa system, in which particular ideas are associated with each note—have for twenty years competed successfully for prizes, at large festivals in England, with the best organizations trained in other methods.

We are, therefore, rapidly forming complex psychologic systems, side by side with our technical systems, which to the ancients would prove as strange and unaccountable as some of theirs do to us; or even still more strange, for the want of sympathy would not be entirely due to difference of musical temperament of scales, or to mere remoteness of period and nation, but to the use of harmony and simultaneous melodies that render our music bewilderingly complex in its structure to those nations who do not employ polyphony.

An elaborate characterization of even one isolated interval—say of the sweet-sighing-sadness of the sixth sound of the Æolian harp, the dominant seventh of nature—could be no more intelligible to one who had never experienced the combination than the sweetness of honey be made known to one who had never tasted it.

Here one would willingly address thoughtful musicians, who strive to understand the present condition of their art, by tracing the history of its phases, being able to appeal to their technical knowledge of our own formal systems of scales, etc., in giving details of other and more complex systems, which can not be made readily comprehensible to the general public. But we must be content to pass on and speak of other links, connecting the present with the most remote ages.

No more ready proof of the great musical acquirements of the ancients can be found than in the marvelous skill shown in their instru-