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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/376

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

PROFESSIONAL INSTITUTIONS.

III.—DANCER AND MUSICIAN.

By HERBERT SPENCER.

IN an essay on The Origin and Function of Music, first published in 1857, I emphasized the psycho-physical law that muscular movements in general are originated by feelings in general. Be the movements slight or violent, be they those of the whole body or of special parts, and be the feelings pleasurable or painful, sensational or emotional, the first are always results of the last: at least, after excluding those movements which are reflex and involuntary. And it was there pointed out that, as a consequence of this psycho-physical law, the violent muscular motions of the limbs which cause bounds and gesticulations, as well as those strong contractions of the pectoral and vocal muscles which produce shouting and laughter, become the natural language of great pleasure.

In the actions of lively children who, on seeing in the distance some indulgent relative, run up to him, joining one another in screams of delight and breaking their run with leaps, there are shown the roots from which simultaneously arise those audible and visible manifestations of joy which culminate in singing and dancing. It needs no stretch of imagination to see that when, instead of an indulgent relative met by joyful children, we have a conquering chief or king met by groups of his people, there will almost certainly occur saltatory and vocal expressions of elated feeling, and that these must become, by implication, signs of respect and loyalty—ascriptions of worth which, raised to a higher power, become worship. Nor does it need any stretch of imagination to perceive that these natural displays of joy, at first made spontaneously before one who approaches in triumph as a benefactor and glorifier of his people, come, in course of time, to be observances used on all public occasions as demonstrations of allegiance; while, simultaneously, the irregular jumpings and gesticulations with unrhythmical shouts and cries, at first arising without concert, gradually by repetition become regularized into the measured movements we know as dances and into the organized utterances constituting songs. Once more, it is easy to see that out of groups of subjects thus led into irregular ovations, and by and by into regular laudatory receptions, there will eventually arise some who, distinguished by their skill, are set apart as dancers and singers, and presently acquire the professional character.

Before passing to the positive evidence which supports this in-