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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/394

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is also thought that at the Crusades, when we learned so much from the Arabians, in mathematics, etc., we also acquired their musical systems, which are marvels of ingenuity and complexity; but these were utterly rejected, and the Arabians, on their part, refused to admire the little we could then accomplish with the new science of harmony. So little did our music take its rise in the East (although all our instruments originally came from thence), that the Irish harps and harpers were sent to Italy, where they gained the praises of Dante and Galileo. The Italians subsequently sent their sons westward, to learn counterpoint, as Americans now study in Europe.

In early times music was much more troublesome to learn than it is now. The instruments were difficult to tune, and keep in tune; and the notes had to be identified by the ear. Now, a deaf or ignorant performer may provide himself with the tonal system ready-made and symmetrically laid out as on a piano-forte finger-board. The complex nature of the new art demanded such a simplification, and some arrangement by which an executant might operate many notes at the same time. The advances made in the physical sciences generally, and especially in pneumatics, hydraulics, electricity, and acoustics, aided in the improvement of organs.

The mere act of reducing the musical dream to positive statement in writing marks a mental advance, especially when it is remembered that this notation has proved capable of recording conveniently the most highly elaborated forms of modern compositions. It is far simpler than the Chinese notation, and more direct than tablature, which gave directions how to find the notes, instead of indicating them directly by letters that form a kind of algebra. With this notation the musician has been able to avail himself of the printing-press, and thus to spread his apparently indescribable imaginings broadcast throughout Christendom. Singularly enough, his harmonies are still unappreciated elsewhere.

The study of comparative psychology has been followed up. Hence we now find in the works of Chopin an ideal reflection of the sorrows of the Polish people, long suffering from quarrels not of their own making; and, in the passionate music of the Italian, a marked contrast with the deeper-felt expressions of his Teutonic neighbor. Modern introspection, as in Byron's "Manfred" and Goethe's "Faust," finds its counterpart in the overtures of Schumann and Wagner, whose "Faust Overture" is acknowledged to be a portraiture of a definite soul-state.

Although the drama has declined, modern music has become preeminently dramatic. A symphony by Beethoven is an idealized form of the Shakespearean drama, rather than that of the Greeks; for it has not a mere trio of parts, but many; and a complex scheme of plots and counter-plots, incidental passages, etc. Its voices are persons (in the sense of personare, "to sound through"), and they are heard