Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/391

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music with German, it is at once seen that the latter is developed more highly in an intellectual sense.

Our modern music is styled a new art, chiefly because it requires advanced mental powers of a special kind on the part of composers and auditors. Instead of being a succession of monotones, it is a complex web of many tones, that the hearer must analyze to understand and enjoy. In the ordinary church-quartet there are four such interwoven threads; in a symphony by Beethoven, many more. An elaborate tonal plexus demands from the listener considerable mental effort, unless he has acquired by study a "polyphonic ear," or the power of perceiving the relationships of all the parts heard simultaneously, as clearly as one, looking down upon a ball-room scene, may perceive the symmetrical forms of a mazy dance.

It is interesting to consider the birth of a new art, and gratifying to note that our modern civilization is marked by so rare an event. We need not, therefore, lament that at the Renaissance no specimens of Greek music were forthcoming; for these might have influenced the early composers, whose special duty it was to strive to express the new thought and feeling of the time, and of the Latin and Germanic races, not of Greeks or Orientals. When the mental sleep of the dark ages passed to the waking dream or semi-consciousness of the middle ages that led to the complete awakening, there was great productive activity in all branches of art.[1]

But, whereas, in architecture, painting, poetry, dancing, sculpture, dramatic representation, etc., models of classic antiquity were at hand, in the department of music nothing came to light but the didactic treatises of the Greeks. These works, which were printed in Holland in the original text and studied carefully by musicians, failed to exercise any marked influence on the art, for there were no actual compositions found that would illustrate the theories so carefully elaborated. Our modern art, therefore, is no Euphorion, born of a Faust and Helen—of Christian and pagan ancestry—for there was no artistic dualism in music at the Renaissance.

Although the Church had, in the Bible, a foundation for poetical and musical art, it neglected Hebraisms. Being reared on classic ground, its first hymns and poetic forms were Greek and not Oriental. But this early Church music could not supplant that which missionaries found in Western countries. Strong as the Church was, in many senses, in those days, it could not hinder the introduction and recognition of. the new polyphonic style. In this one particular it seemed powerless to dominate over the free spirit of man that thus formed for itself its own mode of expression. The musician was left unhampered in his actions, while throughout the Renaissance there was a constant struggle between the styles of the mediæval artists and

  1. See article in "The Popular Science Monthly" on the "Imperfections of Modern Harmony," vol. xvi, p. 516.