Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/July 1895/Professional Institutions III
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 interpretation, it may be well to remark that negative evidence is furnished by those savages who have no permanent chiefs or rudimentary kings; for among them these incipient professional actions are scarcely to be traced. They do indeed show us certain rude dances with noisy accompaniments; but these are representations of war and the chase. Though the deeds of celebrated warriors may occasionally be simulated in ways implying laudation of them, there do not commonly arise at this stage the laudations constituted by joyous gesticulations and triumphant songs in face of a conqueror. At later stages ceremonies of this primitive kind develop into organized exercises performed by masses of warriors. Thus among the Kaffirs the war-dances constitute the most important part of their training, and they engage in these frequently; and it is said that the movements in the grand dances of the Zulus resemble military evolutions. So, too, Thomson writes that the war-dance of the New Zealanders approximated in precision to the movements of a regiment of European soldiers. Clearly it is not from these exercises that professional dancing originates.
That professional dancing, singing, and instrumental music originate in the way above indicated, is implied by a familiar passage in the Bible. We are told that when David, as general of the Israelites, "was returned from the slaughter of the Philistines"—
Here the primitive reception of a conquering chief by shouts and leaps, which has, along with semi-civilization, developed into more definite and rhythmical form, vocal and saltatory, is accorded both to a reigning conqueror and to a conqueror subordinate to him. But while on this occasion the ceremony was entirely secular, it was, on another occasion, under different circumstances, predominantly sacred. When, led by Moses, the Israelites had passed the Red Sea, the song of Miriam, followed by the women "with timbrels and with dances" exhorting them "sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously," shows us the same kind of observance toward a leader (a "man of war," as the Hebrew god is called) who is no longer visible, but is supposed to guide his people and occasionally to give advice in battle. That is, we see religious dancing and singing and praise having the same form whether the object of them is or is not present to sight.
Usages which we find in existing semi-civilized societies, justify the conclusion that ovations to a returning conqueror, at first spontaneous expressions of applause and loyalty, gradually pass into ceremonial observances used for purposes of propitiation. It becomes the policy to please the ruler by repetitions of these songs describing his great deeds, and of the dances expressive of joy at his presence. Describing the Marutse, Holub says:—
So, Schweinfurth tells us that at the court of king Munza, the Monbutto ruler, there were professional musicians, ballad-singers, and dancers, whose leading function was to glorify and please the king. And in Dahomy, according to Burton, "the bards are of both sexes, and the women dwell in the palaces. . . the king keeps a whole troop of these laureates." Official praises of this kind are carried on by attendants not only of the king but of subordinate rulers. In processions in Ashantee, "each noble is attended by his flatterers, who proclaim, in boisterous songs, the 'strong names' of their master;" and on the Gold Coast, "every chief has a horn-blower, and a special air of his own." Similarly we learn from Park that among the Mandingos there are minstrels who "sing extempore songs in honor of their chief men, or any other persons who are willing to pay them:" showing us an unobtrusive divergence from the original function. Winterbottom indicates a like divergence.
Passing beyond Africa we read that in Madagascar "the sovereign has a large band of female singers, who attend in the courtyard, and who accompany their monarch whenever he takes an excursion." Raffles, too, says that in Java there are three classes of dancing-girls, who perform in public: 1. The concubines of the sovereign and of the hereditary prince. These are the most skillful. 2. The concubines of the nobles. 3. The common dancing girls of the country. In these cases we are shown that while saltatory and vocal forms of glorification, at first occasional and spontaneous, have become regular and ceremonial; and while those who perform them, no longer the people at large, have become a specialized class; two further changes have taken place. Instead of being both singers and dancers, as the primitive celebrants were, these permanent officials have become differentiated into the two classes, singers and dancers; and, if not of the singers, yet of the dancers we may remark that their performances, ceasing to be expressions of welcome and joy before the ruler, have grown into displays of agility and grace, and are gone through for tho purpose of yielding æsthetic pleasures. Among the Hebrews this development had taken place in the time of Herod, when the daughter of Herodias delighted him by her dancing; and a like development is shown at the present day throughout India, where troops of bayaderes are appendages of courts.
That laudatory dancing and singing before the visible ruler are associated with like observances before the invisible ruler, the Hebrews have shown us. To the case of the prophetess Miriam and her companions, may be added the case of David dancing before the ark. Hence we shall not be surprised to find such facts among other semi-civilized peoples. Markham, describing a Puharrie festival, and saying of a certain receptacle that "in it the Deity is supposed to dwell," adds that "upon this occasion the deptha, or ark, is brought forth with much solemnity, and the people decked out with flowers and ears of corn dance around it." In an account of the Bhils we read, concerning a class of men called Barwás who are votaries of the hill-gods, that
An analogous use of dancing occurs in Abyssinia. The duties of priests "consist in reading the prayers, chanting, administering the sacrament, and dancing; the latter being indulged in during religious processions." That the dancing is in this case imported into the quasi-Christian religion by adoption from some previous religion (a like adoption being common with Roman Catholic missionaries) is a conclusion supported by an instance from a remote region. Describing the usages of the Pueblos, Lummis says:—
But the way in which singing and dancing before the visible ruler differentiate into singing and dancing before the ruler no longer visible, is best seen in the early records of civilized races. To the above illustrations furnished by Hebrew history may be added various others. Thus I Samuel x, 5, tells of "a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them;" and, according to some translators, dancing and singing. Again in I Chronicles ix, 33, we read of certain Levites that "these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites." And in Psalm cxlix, there is the exhortation:—"Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp:" worship which was joined with the execution of "vengeance upon the heathen."
This association of dancing and singing as forms of worship, and by implication their more special association with the priesthood, is not so conspicuous in the accounts of Egypt; probably because the earlier stages of Egyptian civilization are unrecorded. According to Herodotus, however, in the processions during the festival of Bacchus, the flute-player went first and was followed by the choristers who chanted all the praises of the deity. Naming also cymbals and flutes and harps as used "in religious ceremonies;" Wilkinson says that "the sacred musicians were of the order of priests and appointed to the service, like the Levites among the Jews." Songs and clapping of hands are mentioned by him as parts of the worship. Moreover the wall-paintings yield proofs. "That they also danced at temples, in honor of the gods, is evident from the representations of several sacred processions." Wilkinson is now somewhat out of date, but these assertions are not incongruous with those made by later writers. The association between the temple and the palace was in all ways intimate, and while, according to Brugsch, one steward of the king's household "was over the singing and playing," Duncker states that "in every temple there was a minstrel." So too, Tiele, speaking of Im-hotep, son of Ptah, says—
But Rawlinson thinks that music had, in the days of historical Egypt, become largely secularized:—"Music was used in the main as a light entertainment. . . The religious ceremonies into which music entered were mostly of an equivocal character."
Similar was the genesis which occurred in Greece. A brief indication of the fact is conveyed by the statement of Guhl and Koner that all. the dances "were originally connected with religious worship." The union of dancing and singing as components of the same ceremony, is implied by Moulton's remark that—
And that the associated use of the two was religious is shown by the description of Grote, who writes:—
In like manner Donaldson tells us "that music and dancing were the basis of the religious, political, and military organization of the Dorian states;" remarking also that—
On which statement, however, we may remark that it contains a species of error common in historical interpretations. It is erroneously assumed that these dances were introduced by legislators, instead of being continuations of observances which arose spontaneously. How in Greece there early began the secularization of music is shown by the traditions concerning the religious festivals—the Pythian, Olympian, etc.—which presently furnished occasions for competitions in skill and strength. The Pythian games, which were the earliest, exhibited the smallest divergence from the primitive purpose; for only musical and poetical contests took place. But the establishment of prizes shows that out of the original miscellaneous chorus had arisen some who were marked by their more effective expressions of praise and finer vocal utterances. And on reading that out of those who played accompaniments to the sacred songs and dances, some became noted for their skill, and that there presently followed at the great Greek games prizes to the best performers on flutes, trumpets, and lyres, we see how there arose also that differentiation of instrumentalists from vocalists which presently became pronounced. Says Mahaffy concerning a performance about 250 b. c.—
Hence, after a time, a complete secularization of music. Besides musical performances in honor of the gods, there grew up in later days performances which ministered solely to æsthetic enjoyments. Distinguishing the sacred from the secular, Mahaffy says the first "were quite separate from the singing and playing in private society, which were cultivated a good deal at Athens, though not at all at Sparta, where such performances were left to professional musicians."Parallel evidence is furnished by Roman history. We read in Mommsen that—
So, too, Guhl and Koner write:—
Congruous with this statement is that of Posnett, who, after quoting an early prayer to Mars, says—
Here we see a parallelism to the triumphal reception of David and Saul, and are shown that the worship of the hero-god is a repetition of the applause given to a conqueror when alive in celebration of his achievements: the priests and people doing in the last case that which the courtiers and people did in the first. Moreover in Rome, as in Greece, there eventually arose, out of the sacred performances of music, secular performances—a cultivation of music as a pleasure-giving art. Says Inge—
But in the days of the Cæsars musical culture had become part of a liberal education; and we have, in illustration, the familiar remembrance of Nero as a violinist. At the same time "trained choirs of slaves were employed to sing and play to the guests at dinner, or for the delectation of their master alone."
On tracing further the evolution of these originally twin professions, we come upon the fact that while, after their separation, the one became almost wholly secularized, the other long continued its ecclesiastical connections and differentiated into its secular forms at a later date. Why dancing ceased to be a part of religious worship, while music did not, we may readily see. In the first place dancing being inarticulate, is not capable of expressing those various ideas and feelings which music, joining with words, is able to do. As originally used it was expressive of joy, alike in presence of the living hero and in the supposed presence of his spirit. In the nature of things it implies that overplus of energy which goes along with elated feeling, and does not serve to express the awe, the submission, the penitence, which form large parts of religious worship in advanced times.
Naturally then dancing, though it did not in the middle ages wholly disappear from religious worship, practically fell into disuse. One part only of the original observance survived—the procession. Alike in the triumphal reception of a returning conqueror and in the celebration of a god's achievements, the saltatory actions were the joyous accompaniments in a moving stream of people. But while the saltatory actions have ceased the moving stream has continued. Moreover there have survived, even down to our own day, its two original forms. We have religious processions, now along the aisles of cathedrals and now through the streets; and besides other secular processions more or less triumphal, we have those in which either the ruler or the representative of the ruler is escorted into the city he is approaching by troops of officials and by the populace: the going out to meet the judges, who are the king's deputies, shows us that the old form minus the dance is still extant.
A further fact is to be noted. While dancing has become secularized it has in part assumed a professional character. Though, even in the earliest stages, it had other forms and purposes than those above described (as shown in the mimetic representations of success in the chase, and in primitive amatory dances), and though from these, secular dancing has been in part derived; yet if we bear in mind the transition from the dancing in triumphal processions before the king, to dancing before him as a court-observance by trained dancers, and from that to dancing on the stage, we may infer that even the forms of secular dancing now familiar are not without a trace of that origin we have been following out.
Returning from this parenthesis and passing from the evidence furnished by ancient civilizations to that furnished by the pagan and semi-civilized peoples of Europe, we may first note the statement of Strabo concerning the Celts.
And the assertion is that these bards recited the exploits of their chiefs to the accompaniment of the harp. The survival of pagan observances into Christian times probably gave origin to the class distinguished among the Scandinavians as "skalds" and among the Anglo-Saxons as harpers and gleemen. Thus we read:—
Moreover in the old English period the minstrel "was sometimes a household retainer of the chief whom he served, as we see in the poem of Beowulf." And since it was the function of the minstrel now to glorify his chief and now to glorify his chief's ancestors, we see that in the one capacity he lauded the living potentate as a courtier, and in the other capacity he lauded the deceased potentate as a priest lauds a deity.
While, with the decay of the worship of the pagan gods, heroes, and ancestors, some music became secularized, other music began to develop in connection with the substituted religion. Among the Anglo-Saxons, "music was also cultivated with ardor. . . . Permanent schools of music were finally established in the monasteries, and a principal one at Canterbury. So, too, was it under the Normans:" great attention was now paid to Church music, and the clergy frequently composed pieces for the use of their choirs." And then in the fifteenth century—
But the best proof of the clerical origin of the musical professor during Christian times, is furnished by the biographical notices of early musicians throughout Europe. We begin in the fourth century with St. Ambrose, who set in order "the ecclesiastical mode of saying and singing divine service;" and then come to St. Gregory who in 590 arranged the musical scales. The tenth century yielded Hucbaldus, a monk who replaced the two-lined stave by one of more lines; and the eleventh century the monk Guido d'Arezzo, who further developed the stave. A differentiation of sacred into secular was commenced in the twelfth century by the Minnesingers: "their melodies were founded on the Church scales." Developed out of them, came the Meistersingers, who usually performed in churches, and "had generally a sacred subject, and their tone was religious." "One of the first composers who wrote in regular form" was Canon Dufay of the Cathedral of Cambrai in 1474. The sixteenth century brought Lasso, who wrote thirteen hundred musical compositions, but whose status is not named; and then, showing a pronounced secularization, we have, in the same century, Phillipus de Monte, Canon of Cambrai, who wrote thirty books of madrigals. About that time Luther, too, "arranged the German mass." In the next century we have the distinguished composer Palestrina who, though originally a layman, was elected to priestly functions; and the priest, Allegri, a chorister and composer. At later dates lived Carissimi, chapelmaster and composer; Scarlatti also maestro di capella. France presently produced Rameau, church-organist; and Germany two of its greatest composers—Handel first of all capellmeister in Hanover and then in England; and Bach, who was primarily an organist, and who, "deeply religious," developed "the old Church modes" into modern forms. Among other leading musicians of the eighteenth century were Padre Martini, and Zingarelli, both chapel-masters; and there flourished during the same period the Abbé Vogler, and Cherubini, a chapel-master. To all which cases abroad should be added the cases at home. Beginning in 1515 with Tallis "the father of English Cathedral Music," we find him called "gentleman (chorister) of the Chapel Royal." In the same century comes Morley, chorister, "epistler," and "gospeller," who, thus semi-priestly, composed secular music; Byrd, a similar functionary similarly characterized; Farrant, also clerical in character; and a little later Gibbons, an organist but largely a writer of secular music. In the next century we have Lawes, "epistler" of the Chapel Royal composer of sacred music; Child, chorister, organist, and sacred composer; and Blow, the same. Then come the four generations of Purcells, all connected with the Church as choristers and organists; Hilton, organist and parish clerk, and writer of secular as well as sacred music; and Croft, organist, chief chorister, and composer, secular and sacred. And so with later composers, Boyce, Cook, Webbe, Horsley, who, still in part Church-functionaries, are chiefly known by their songs, glees, and catches.
We must not, however, ignore the fact that though out of the cultivation of music for purposes of worship, music of the more developed kinds originated, there independently grew up simple popular music; for from the earliest times emotions excited by the various incidents of life have prompted spontaneous vocal expression. But recognition of this truth consists with assertion of the larger truth that the higher developments of music in modern times, arose out of elaborated religious worship, and were for a long time the productions of the priest-class; and that out of this class, or semi-secularized members of it, there were eventually differentiated the composers and professors of secular music.
One further differentiation which has accompanied the last has to be noted. The musician's art, developed by the priestly class in the service of the church, and gradually influencing the simple secular music existing among the people, began to evolve out of this the higher forms of music we now know. Whether or not the popular dances in use during recent centuries had arisen de novo, or whether, as seems more probable, they had descended with modifications from the early dance-chants used in pagan worship, inquiry discloses the remarkable fact that out of them have grown the great orchestral works of modern days. The suites de pièces of Bach and Handel were originally sets of dances in different times; and these have developed into the successive movements of the symphony, which even now, in the occasional movement named "minuet," yields a trace of its origin. And then, along with these developments of music, has taken place one further differentiation—that of composer from performer. Though some performers are also composers, yet in large measure the composer has become an independent artist who does not himself, unless as conductor, take part in public entertainments.
In this case, as in other cases, the general process of evolution is exemplified by the integration which has accompanied differentiation. Evidence furnished by ancient civilizations must be postponed to the next chapter as more closely appertaining to it. Here we may content ourselves with indicating the illustrative facts which modern days furnish.
Beyond the unorganized body of professed musical performers and beyond the little-organized body of professors and teachers of music, there is the assemblage of those who, having passed examinations and acquired degrees in music, are marked off more distinctly: we see the increased definiteness which accompanies integration. There are also the multitudinous local musical societies; the local musical festivals with their governing organizations; and the several incorporated colleges, with their students, professional staffs, and directors.
Then as serving to unite these variously-constituted groups of those who make the musical art a profession, and of those who give themselves to the practice of it as amateurs, we have a periodical literature—sundry musical journals devoted to reports and criticisms of concerts, operas, oratorios, and serving to aid musical culture while they maintain the interests of the teachers and performers.