What is Music? By Isaac L. Rice, Author of "Analysis and Practice of the Scales." 94 pp. Price 50 cents. New-York: D. Appleton & Co.
This is an ingenious essay by a musical professor who not only practises the art, but speculates freely and boldly upon its nature and origin. The theories of music which have been hitherto proposed do not satisfy him, and he is inclined to consider that the ancients were nearer right in their views of the subject than the moderns. The contrast between the ancient and the modern stand-points he takes to be, that the ancients looked upon music cosmically, or considered it a part of Nature, while the moderns are more disposed to regard it as something subjective. The first half of the work is devoted to an exposition of the various theories that have been proposed—Chinese music, Hindoo music, Egyptian, Grecian, Arabic, and Persian theories, and its scholastic interpretations in the middle ages. The doctrines of Euler, Helmholtz, and Herbert Spencer, are reviewed, and with the latter author Mr. Rice takes issue on many of his positions. The latter half of the work is devoted to a presentation of his own views of the subject. His idea seems to be that, as beauty of form or color is a principle of Nature, displayed in space, so music is a principle of beauty in Nature displayed in time. The key to the author's position is given in the following passage:
"Now, what is music? The beautifier of time, is the simple and categorical answer—an answer, too, from which further answers to all questions springing from the original question may be deduced; an answer that serves as the corner-stone of the fundamental theory of music itself. It is to adorn the ever-moving space of existence that music was generated and the germs of its development were placed within it. In the space of rest, in visible Nature, Nature itself has undertaken the task of beautifying. And there she has lavished beauties untold and unnumbered. Beauty reigns on the mountain and in the valley, on the hill and in the dale. It is present in the gentle grove as well as in the mighty forest. It is in the little brook and in the magnificent ocean. It is in man and woman, in the birds, in the plants—anywhere, everywhere, it meets our eyes, if we will but see. There are beauties of all kinds and degrees, from the sublime to the graceful, from the magnificent to the picturesque. All this has Nature done for space—and to do something similar for time is the grand and holy object of music. The materials of which music is composed exist only in Time, and here we have the explanation of many of the characteristics of music. Time is motion, is life, yet the sure bringer of change, of death. As it is motion, its influence upon us is emotional, agitating; as it constantly tells us of change and death, it awakens the feelings of melancholy within us. Music, as it beautifies the passing moments, yet tells us that they are passing, and consequently it is so prone to cause sadness."
Without indorsing Mr. Rice's views, which seem to us rather fanciful, his little work will be found suggestive, and contains withal much curious information that will interest the lovers of musical literature.
Chemical Examination of Alcoholic Liquors. A Manual of the Constituents of the Distilled Spirits and Fermented Liquors of Commerce, and their Qualitative and Quantitative Determination. By Albert Prescott, Professor of Organic and Applied Chemistry in the University of Michigan. 108 pp. Price $1.50. New York: D. Van Nostrand.
This volume concentrates the rays of the latest chemical science upon the subject of spirituous liquors. The author has nothing to say of the physiological, pathological, or moral effects of alcoholic beverages, but occupies himself simply with the question of their composition, production, constituents, and imitations; and his book being written under no bias, but simply to state the scientific facts, may be taken as entirely trustworthy. Its especial value will be to chemists who may be required to investigate the constituents and the purity of alcoholic liquors.
Elements of Magnetism and Electricity. By John Angell. 172 pp. Price 75 cents. New York: Putnams.
Though the author's purpose is to fit students to "pass in the first class in the elementary stage of the government science examinations" for aspirants to position in the civil service of Great Britain, the work has a value of its own, as being a succinct statement of the sciences of magnetism and electricity.