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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/25

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THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC.

ing any beauty were it not for its remembered connections with, passages in the immediate past and the immediate future. If, for example, from the first movement of Beethoven's Funeral-March sonata the first five notes are detached, they appear to be meaningless; but if, the movement being known, they are joined with imaginations of the anticipated phrases, they immediately acquire meaning and beauty. Indefinable as are the causes of this perceptional pleasure in many cases, some causes of it are definable. Symmetry is one. A chief element in melodic effect results from repetitions of phrases which are either identical, or differ only in pitch, or differ only in minor variations: there being in the first case the pleasure derived from perception of complete likeness, and in the other cases the greater pleasure derived from perception of likeness with difference—a perception which is more involved, and therefore exercises a greater number of nervous agents. Next comes, as a source of gratification, the consciousness of pronounced unlikeness or contrast; such as that between passages above the middle tones and passages below, or as that between ascending phrases and descending phrases. And then we rise to larger contrasts; as when, the first theme in a melody having been elaborated, there is introduced another having a certain kinship though in many respects different, after which there is a return to the first theme: a structure which yields more extensive and more complex perceptions of both differences and likenesses. But while perceptional pleasures include much that is of the highest, they also include much that is of the lowest. A certain kind of interest, if not of beauty, is producible by the likenesses and contrasts of musical phrases which are intrinsically meaningless or even ugly. A familiar experience exemplifies this. If a piece of paper is folded and on one side of the crease there is drawn an irregular line in ink, which, by closing the paper, is blotted on the opposite side of the crease, there results a figure which, in virtue of its symmetry, has some beauty; no matter how entirely without beauty the two lines themselves may be. Similarly, some interest results from the parallelism of musical phrases, notwithstanding utter lack of interest in the phrases themselves. The kind of interest resulting from such parallelisms, and from many contrasts, irrespective of any intrinsic worth in their components, is that which is most appreciated by the musically-uncultured, and gives popularity to miserable drawing-room ballads and vulgar music-hall songs.

The remaining element of musical effect consists in the idealized rendering of emotion. This, as I have sought to show, is the primitive element, and will ever continue to be the vital element; for if "melody is the soul of music," then expression is the soul of melody—the soul without which it is mechanical and meaningless,