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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/21

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11
THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC.

perfectly displayed in musical utterance, is imperfectly displayed in emotional speech. Just as under emotion we see swayings of the body and wringings of the hands, so do we see contractions of the vocal organs which are now stronger and now weaker. Surely it is manifest that the utterances of passion, far from being monotonous, are characterized by rapidly-recurring ascents and descents of tone and by rapidly-recurring emphases: there is rhythm, though it is an irregular rhythm.

Want of knowledge of the principles of evolution has, in another place, led Mr. Gurney to represent as an objection what is in reality a verification. He says:—

"Music is distinguished from emotional speech in that it proceeds not only by fixed degrees in time, bat by fixed degrees in the scale. This is a constant quality through all the immense quantity of embryo and developed scale-systems that have been used: whereas the transitions of pitch which mark emotional affections of voice are, as Helmholtz has pointed out, of a gliding character" (p. 113).

Had Mr. Gurney known that evolution in all cases is from the indefinite to the definite, he would have seen that as a matter of course the gradations of emotional speech must be indefinite in comparison with the gradations of developed music. Progress from the one to the other is in part constituted by increasing definiteness in the time-intervals and increasing definiteness in the tone-intervals. Were it otherwise, the hypothesis I have set forth would lack one of its evidences. To his allegation that not only the "developed scale-systems" but also the "embryo" scale-systems are definite, it may obviously be replied that the mere existence of any scale-system capable of being written down, implies that the earlier stage of the progress has already been passed through. To have risen to a scale-system is to have become definite; and until a scale-system has been reached vocal phrases can not have been recorded. Moreover had Mr. Gurney remembered that there are many people with musical perceptions so imperfect that when making their merely recognizable, and sometimes hardly recognizable, attempts to whistle or hum melodies, they show how vague are their appreciations of musical intervals, he would have seen reason for doubting his assumption that definite scales were reached all at once. The fact that in what we call bad ears there are all degrees of imperfection, joined with the fact that where the imperfection is not great practice may remedy it, suffice of themselves to show that definite perceptions of musical intervals were reached by degrees.

Some of Mr. Gurney's objections are strangely insubstantial. Here is an example:—

"The fact is that song, which moreover in our time is but a limited branch of music, is perpetually making conscious efforts; for instance, the most peaceful melody may be a considerable strain to a soprano voice, if sung in a very high