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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/27

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THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC.

by a fine chord. Clearly this vague emotion forms a large component in the pleasure which harmony gives.

While thus recognizing, and indeed emphasizing, the fact that of many traits of developed music my hypothesis respecting the origin of music yields no explanation, let me point out that this hypothesis gains a further general support from its conformity to the law of evolution. Progressive integration is seen in the immense contrast between the small combinations of tones constituting a cadence of grief, or anger, or triumph, and the vast combinations of tones, simultaneous and successive, constituting an oratorio. Great advance in coherence becomes manifest when, from the lax unions among the sounds in which feeling spontaneously expresses itself, or even from those few musical phrases which constitute a simple air, we pass to those elaborate compositions in which portions small and large are tied together into extended organic wholes. On comparing the unpremeditated inflexions of the voice in emotional speech, vague in tones and times, with those premeditated ones which the musician arranges for stage or concert-room, in which the divisions of time are exactly measured, the successive intervals precise, and the harmonies adjusted to a nicety, we observe in the last a far higher definiteness. And immense progress in heterogeneity is seen on putting side by side the monotonous chants of savages with the musical compositions familiar to us; each of which is relatively heterogeneous within itself, and the assemblage of which forms an immeasurably heterogeneous aggregate.

 

Strong support for the theory enunciated in this essay, and defended in the foregoing paragraphs, is furnished by the testimonies of two travelers in Hungary, given in works published in 1878 and 1888 respectively. Here is an extract from the first of the two:—

"Music is an instinct with these Hungarian gypsies. They play by ear, and with a marvelous precision, not surpassed by musicians who have been subject to the most careful training. . . . The airs they play are most frequently compositions of their own, and are in character quite peculiar. . . . I heard on this occasion one of the gypsy airs which made an indelible impression on my mind; it seemed to me the thrilling utterance of a people's history. There was the low wail of sorrow, of troubled passionate grief, stirring the heart to restlessness, then the sense of turmoil and defeat; but upon this breaks suddenly a wild burst of exultation, of rapturous joy—a triumph achieved, which hurries you along with it in resistless sympathy. The excitable Hungarians can literally become intoxicated with this music—and no wonder. You can not reason upon it, or explain it, but its strains compel you to sensations of despair and joy, of exultation and excitement, as though under the influence of some potent charm."—Round about the Carpathians, by Andrew F. Crosse, pp. 11, 12.

Still more graphic and startling is the description given by a more recent traveler, E. Gerard:—