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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/26

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

whatever may be the merit of its form. This primitive element may with tolerable clearness be distinguished from the other elements, and may coexist with them in various degrees: in some cases being the predominant element. Any one who, in analytical mood, listens to such a song as Robert, toi que j'aime, can not, I think, fail to perceive that its effectiveness depends on the way in which it exalts and intensifies the traits of passionate utterance. No doubt as music develops, the emotional element (which affects structure chiefly through the forms of phrases) is increasingly complicated with, and obscured by, the perceptional element; which both modifies these phrases and unites them into symmetrical and contrasted combinations. But though the groups of notes which emotion prompts admit of elaboration into structures that have additional charms due to artfully-arranged contrasts and repetitions, the essential element is liable to be thus submerged in the non-essential. Only in melodies of high types, such as the Addio of Mozart and Adelaide of Beethoven, do we see the two requirements simultaneously fulfilled. Musical genius is shown in achieving the decorative beauty without losing the beauty of emotional meaning.

It goes without saying that there must be otherwise accounted for that relatively modern element in musical effect which has now almost outgrown in importance the other elements—I mean harmony. This can not be affiliated on the natural language of emotion; since, in such language, limited to successive tones, there can not originate the effects wrought by simultaneous tones. Dependent as harmony is on relations among rates of aërial pulses, its primary basis is purely mechanical; and its secondary basis lies in the compound vibrations which certain combinations of mechanical rhythms cause in the auditory apparatus. The resulting pleasure must, therefore, be due to nervous excitations of kinds which, by their congruity, exalt one another; and thus generate a larger volume of agreeable sensation. A further pleasure of sensational origin which harmony yields is due to contrapuntal effects. Skillful counterpoint has the general character that it does not repeat in immediate succession similar combinations of tones and similar directions of change; and by thus avoiding temporary overtax of the nervous structures brought into action, keeps them in better condition for subsequent action. Absence of regard for this requirement characterizes the music of Gluck, of whom Handel said—"He knows no more counterpoint than my cook; and it is this disregard which produces its cloying character. Respecting the effects of harmony I will add only that the vague emotional accompaniment to the sensation produced by a single sweet tone, is paralleled by the stronger emotional accompaniment to the more voluminous and complex sensation produced