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Title: Contemporary Composers
Author: Mason, Daniel Gregory
Language: English
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                        CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS


                            [Illustration]

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                 NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
                        ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

                       MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                      LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
                               MELBOURNE

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
                                TORONTO


                    [Illustration: =VINCENT d'INDY=]



                        CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS

                                  BY
                         DANIEL GREGORY MASON

            AUTHOR OF "BEETHOVEN AND HIS FORERUNNERS," "THE
           ROMANTIC COMPOSERS," "FROM GRIEG TO BRAHMS," ETC.

                               NEW YORK
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                 1918
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                           COPYRIGHT, 1918,
                       BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

            Set up and electrotyped. Published July, 1918.

                             Norwood Press
                J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
                        Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



                                PREFACE


"We live," wrote Stevenson to Will H. Low in 1884, "in a rum age of
music without airs, stories without incident, pictures without beauty,
American wood-engravings that should have been etchings, and dry-point
etchings that ought to have been mezzo-tints.... So long as an artist
is on his head, is painting with a flute, or writes with an etcher's
needle, or conducts the orchestra with a meat-axe, all is well; and
plaudits shower along with roses. But any plain man who tries to follow
the obtrusive canons of his art, is but a commonplace figure.... He
will have his reward, but he will never be thought a person of parts."

What would Stevenson say, I wonder, could he witness the condition to
which this confusion of aims, rapidly spreading since he wrote, has
now reduced all the arts, and perhaps especially music? "Painting
with a flute" hardly sounds fantastic any longer, now that symphonies
have given place to symphonic "poems," orchestral "sketches," and tone
"pictures," and program music has taken the place of supremacy in the
art of tones that magazine illustration occupies among graphic arts.
Anyone who tries nowadays to write mere music--expressive of emotion
through beauty--is more than ever "a commonplace person." The "persons
of parts" are those who give it the quaint local color of folk-songs,
like Mr. Percy Grainger; or who make of it an agreeable accessory of
dance or stage picture, like Ravel and Strawinsky, or of colored lights
and perfumes, like Scriabine; or who spin it into mathematical formulæ
as a spider spins web, like Reger; or who use it as a vehicle for _a
priori_ intellectual theories, like Schoenberg, or as noise for a nerve
stimulant, like Mr. Leo Ornstein.

The reader will look in vain for these names, in recent years on
everyone's lips, in the table of contents of this book on "Contemporary
Composers." In the work of most of them there is, indeed, much of
charm or interest, of vividness, perhaps of permanent power. But the
time when critical appraisal of them can be anything like final has not
yet arrived; and meanwhile there is in their centrifugal tendencies,
I believe, a real menace to the best interests of music. One and all,
they look away from that inner emotion "to which alone," as Wagner
said, "can music give a voice, and music only." They all represent in
one way or another that trivializing of the great art, that degradation
of it to sensationalism, luxury, or mere illustration, some of the
historic causes of which I have tried to suggest in the introduction.
No sincere lover of music can regard with anything but the gravest
apprehensions such tendencies toward decadence.

Fortunately these are, however, powerfully counteracted, even now, by
more constructive forces, carrying forward the evolution of music in
and for itself which was the main concern of the great elder masters
who regarded it as a supreme emotional language--Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms, Wagner, Franck. It is the representatives of this sounder
tradition (despite the programmism of Strauss and the sybaritism of
Debussy) that I have selected for discussion here. They have also the
further advantage of having been long enough before the public to have
vindicated already their claims to permanent place in musical history.

The present volume, it may be added, completes the series of studies of
great creative musicians from Palestrina to the present day begun in
"Beethoven and His Forerunners," "The Romantic Composers," and "From
Grieg to Brahms." For permission to reprint the essays it contains,
acknowledgment is made to the editors of the _Musical Quarterly_, the
_Outlook_, and the _New Music Review_.

                                                            D. G. M.

  NEW YORK,
  January 26, 1918.



                               CONTENTS

                                                     PAGE

          I. INTRODUCTION: DEMOCRACY AND MUSIC         3

         II. RICHARD STRAUSS                          43

        III. SIR EDWARD ELGAR                         93

         IV. CLAUDE DEBUSSY                          133

          V. VINCENT d'INDY                          153

         VI. MUSIC IN AMERICA                        229



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

        VINCENT d'INDY                         _Frontispiece_
                                                 FACING PAGE

        RICHARD STRAUSS                               45

        SIR EDWARD ELGAR                              95

        CLAUDE DEBUSSY                               135

        VINCENT d'INDY AS A YOUNG MAN                155



                                   I

                             INTRODUCTION

                          DEMOCRACY AND MUSIC



                                   I

                             INTRODUCTION

                          DEMOCRACY AND MUSIC


Lovers and critics of modern music who are at the same time interested
students of the social changes which have preceded and accompanied its
growth must often ask themselves whether there is any deep connection
of cause and effect between the two sets of phenomena, or whether they
merely happened to take place at the same time. Have the important
social transformations of the nineteenth century reached so far in
their influence as to the music of our time? Has sociology any light to
throw upon musical art? The question raises a problem as difficult as
it is fascinating; and the suggestions which follow are to be taken as
guesses and hints, intended to provoke fertile thought, rather than as
constituting in any sense a finished theory.


                                   I

The change in the nature of the musical public that has taken place
during the nineteenth century has been gradual but far-reaching. The
essence of it is expressed by saying that at the end of the eighteenth
century music was in the hands of the nobility and gentry, and that at
the beginning of the twentieth it is in those of all the people. Under
feudal conditions it was organized by the patronage system according to
the tastes of the aristocratic few. The thirty most fruitful years of
Haydn's life were spent in the employ of Prince Esterhazy; Mozart, a
skilled pianist as well as composer, was less dependent on his patron,
but his life was probably shortened by the hardships he had to face
after he had broken with him; Beethoven, staunch democrat though he
was, realized what he owed his four patrons, Archduke Rudolph, and
Princes Lobkowitz, Kinsky, and Lichnowsky, and wrote, after the death
of some of them had reduced the value of his annuity: "In order to
gain time for a great composition, I must always previously scrawl
away a good deal for the sake of money.... If my salary were not so
far reduced as not to be a salary at all, I should write nothing but
symphonies ... and church music, or at most quartets." No doubt the
patronage system had its faults and abuses, which have been quite
adequately discussed by critics; the fact remains that under it was
done the supreme creative work of the golden age of music. Greater
than any of its material advantages was the spiritual homogeneity of
the group who practised it. By excluding the lower classes, however
unjustly, they achieved, though artificially, a unity of feeling that
could not then have been achieved otherwise; and as art is in essence
an emotional reaction this unity of feeling provided a soil in which
its seeds could grow.

But with the French Revolution and the passing of feudalism this old
order perished. The proclamation of liberty, equality, and fraternity,
paving the way for individualistic competition, introduced the epoch of
industrialism and capitalism, in which art, like everything else, was
taken out of the hands of a privileged class, and made theoretically
accessible to all. As the appreciation of art requires, however, mental
and emotional experience, discipline, and refining, a process which
takes time, what actually happened was that those gradually emerging
from poverty through industrialism--the workers themselves and their
children and grandchildren--availed themselves much more slowly and
timidly of these spiritual privileges than of the material ones. There
remained over from the feudal world a nucleus of cultivated people,
sufficiently homogeneous in feeling to retain a standard of taste,
sufficiently numerous to exert an influence on production: these
were the guardians of the better traditions. They were gradually but
steadily interpenetrated and overrun by the emergents, at first in a
minority but rapidly becoming the majority, and remaining, of course,
unavoidably far more backward in artistic feeling than in economic
independence and social ambition. Thus was introduced a formidable
cleavage in the musical public, the majority breaking off sharply by
their childlike crudity from the more disciplined minority.

The situation was further complicated by the presence of a third class,
the idle rich, becoming more numerous under capitalism. It may be
doubted whether their attitude towards art was qualitatively different
in any important respect from that of the frivolous nobility under
feudalism. Both groups regarded music either with complete indifference
or else as an amusement, a plaything, a fad; both exercised an
influence which through its essential artificiality was potentially
perhaps even more baleful than that of the honest crudity of what
we have called the emergent class, though actually less disastrous
because they were a small minority instead of the majority. But the
contribution of this group to the confusion and disorganization
characteristic of art under democracy was greater than that of the
feudal nobles, because their relation to society as a whole counted
more. When they were placed by the emergence of the democratic majority
in a vigorous opposition of attitude to the bulk of the people their
influence no longer remained largely negative, but made positively
for cleavage and disunion. Thus the unity of social emotion on which
art so largely depends for a healthy universality was still further
disrupted.

We find, then, under democracy, not a fairly homogeneous musical
public with emotionally a single point of view, such as existed
under feudalism, but a division into a well-meaning but crude
majority and two minorities, one cultivated, the other frivolous:
all three, but especially the two extremes, held apart by profound
differences of feeling. Despite the inevitability and the desirability
of democratization as the only path away from slavery, such a
disorganization, even if temporary, must evidently, while it lasts,
work serious injuries to art. It is worth while to try, taking frankly
at first the attitude of the devil's advocate, to trace a few of the
more striking of these injuries as they show themselves in contemporary
music.


                                  II

Of the "emergents" who constitute the most novel element in the
contemporary situation, the well-meaning but crude listeners who form
a numerically overwhelming majority of our concert-goers, the effect
may be described, in most general terms, as being to put a premium on
all that is easily grasped, obvious, primitive, at the expense of the
subtler, more highly organized effects of art--on sensation as against
thought, on facile sentiment as against deep feeling, on extrinsic
association as against intrinsic beauty. Mentally, emotionally, and
æsthetically children, they naturally demand the childlike, if not the
childish.

There seems to be something far deeper than accident in the coincidence
of the rise about 1830, that is, about a generation after the French
Revolution, under Berlioz and Liszt, of that program music which is
generally acknowledged to be peculiarly characteristic of our period,
with the invasion of concert-halls by masses of these childlike
listeners, as eager for the stories that music might be made to suggest
as they were unprepared to appreciate its more intrinsic beauties.
They were drawn by the "program" before they grew up with the "music."
Lacking the concentration needed to hold all but the simplest melodies
together in their minds, pathetically incapable of the far greater
range and precision of attention required to hear synthetically a
complex work like an overture or a symphony, they were puzzled or bored
by Beethoven, and in their helplessness to follow a musical thread
could only grope in the dark until they found a dramatic one. Such
a clue in the labyrinth was the "program." They hailed it with the
delight of the comparatively unmusical person in opera, who considers
it the highest type of music because it supplies him with the largest
apparatus of non-musical commentaries (scenery, gestures, words) on the
music he cannot understand. Program music, a sort of idealized opera
with scenery and actors left to the imagination, fulfilled the same
indispensable service for the novice in the concert-room.

The immense popularity of the program idea, from that day to this,
is evidence of its complete fitness to the needs of its audience.
It says to them, in effect: "You have little 'ear' for music, and
take no more joy in the highly organized melodies of a Beethoven
symphony or a Bach fugue, with their infinite subtlety of tonal and
rhythmic relationships, than in the most trivial tunes. Never mind: I
will give you two or three short motives, clearly labeled, that you
cannot help recognizing. This one will mean 'love,' that 'jealousy,'
that 'death,' and so on.... You are not fascinated by, because you
are unable to follow, the creative imagination by which such masters
as these build whole worlds of musical beauty out of a few simple
themes--an imagination as truly creative as that which carried Newton
from the falling apple to the law of gravitation, or directed the
infinite patient delving in detail of a Pasteur or a Darwin. Never
mind. Remember the story, and you will know that during the love scene
the composer must be developing the 'love' motive.... You are even more
indifferent to the broader balance of part with part, the symmetry and
coöperation of all in the whole, harder to grasp just as the concinnity
of a Greek temple as a whole is harder to feel than the charm of a bit
of sculpture here or the texture of the marble there. Never mind. I
will give you a structure in sections, like a sky-scraper. Section will
follow section as event follows event in the plot.... In short, the
story shall be 'All you know, and all you need to know.' It shall be a
straw that will keep you from drowning as the inundation of the music
passes over you, and that will save you the trouble of learning to
swim."

Of course, this does not mean that music of a high order cannot
be associated with a program, or that the two cannot be not only
coexistent but fruitfully coöperative. They are so in many a
representative modern work--in Strauss's "Death and Transfiguration,"
for instance, or d'Indy's "Istar," or Dukas's "L'Apprenti Sorcier,"
or Rachmaninoff's "Island of the Dead." What is meant is that the
program idea derives both its popularity and its peculiar menace in
large measure from the stress it places on the appeal to something
outside music--to association, that is--at the expense of the appeal
to music itself, and thus from the official sanction it seems to give
to what is essentially an unmusical conception of music. The program
school of composers is the first school that has not merely tolerated
but encouraged, elaborated, and rationalized the conviction of the
unmusical that music is to be valued chiefly not for itself, but for
something else. How dangerous such a compromise with the majority
may be, both to public taste and to the composer, is startlingly,
not to say tragically, illustrated by the steady tendency of the
greatest master of the school, Richard Strauss, to become more and
more trivially "realistic" with each new work, and by the complaisance
of the public in paying him vast sums of money for thus progressively
corrupting it. In every one of his symphonic poems, from the exuberant
"Don Juan" (1888) to the surprisingly banal "Alpensymphonie" (1915),
glorious pages of music have alternated with silly tricks of imitation,
as for instance the splendid development of the husband theme in the
"Symphonia Domestica" with the bawling of the baby; but in the latest
we have the maximum of imitation and the minimum of music. Apart from
their gorgeous orchestral dress its themes are with few exceptions
commonplace, dull, and pretentious. Except in one or two passages
they are not imaginatively or significantly developed. On the other
hand there is no end of "tone-painting," much of it a revamping of
the distant-hunting-horns, rustling-leaves, and warbling-bird-calls
which have been timeworn theatrical properties of music ever since
Raff's "Im Walde" and Wagner's "Waldweben"; some of it more original,
like the pictures of sunrise and sunset with which the work begins and
ends. In these associatively vivid but musically amorphous passages
melody, harmony, rhythm, key disappear in a strange opaque cloud of
tone, realistically representing night--the kind of night to which the
German wit compared Hegel's Absolute--"in which all cows are black."
The same childish realism which made Wagner show us his dragon on the
stage instead of in our own imaginations introduces a wind-machine in
the storm and sheep bells in the mountain pasture. In all this we see
an artist who was once capable of writing the introduction and coda of
"Death and Transfiguration" taking his art into the nursery to play
games with.

But the effect of music on childlike audiences, indisposed to active
mental effort and all for taking music passively like a kind of tonal
Turkish bath, reaches its logical extreme not in the program music of
which Strauss is the most famous exponent, but in that superficially
different but fundamentally related movement known as impressionism,
which is led by the other most discussed composer of our day, Debussy.
Strikingly contrasted as are these two leaders of contemporary music
in temperament, in artistic aims, in technical methods, their æsthetic
theories are at one in the slight demands they make on the attention of
an inevitably inattentive public. Both encourage the listener to look
away from the music itself to something that it suggests to him. But
impressionism goes further than programmism. May not those people, it
says, who find organic melody, development, and form fatiguing, and to
whom you give a program to help them out--may they not find the program
fatiguing, too? May not its being prescribed offend their sense of
"freedom"? Why exact of them the effort to follow even the story?
Better to give them simply a title, as vague and elusive as possible,
and foster the mood of day-dreaming thus suggested by avoiding all
definite melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic features in the music, while
enhancing its purely sensuous charm to the utmost degree possible.
Such, carried out with extraordinary talent, is the artistic creed
of Debussy. Just as programmism appeals from music to association,
impressionism appeals to sentiment, to fancy, and to the phantasmagoric
reveries upon which they are ever so ready to embark.

It is noteworthy, moreover, that both programmism and impressionism,
however systematically they may minimize their demands on the
intelligence of their audience, do not abate, but rather tend
constantly to increase, their ministration to its sense. Indeed,
they systematically maximize their sensuous appeal; and though their
characteristic methods of making this appeal differ as widely as their
general attitudes, that of programmism being extensive and that of
impressionism intensive, the insistence of both on sensuous rather
than on intellectual or emotional values is surely one of the most
indicative, and it may be added one of the most disquieting, symptoms
of the condition of modern music.

The method of the program school in general, and of Strauss in
particular, is extensive in that it aims at boundless piling up of
means, a formidable accumulation of sonorities for the besieging of
the ear. Its motto is that attributed to the German by the witty
Frenchman: "Plenty of it." Berlioz, the pioneer of the movement,
with his "mammoth orchestras," and his prescription, in his requiem,
of four separate brass bands, one at each corner of the church,
and eight pairs of kettle-drums in addition to bass drum, gong,
and cymbals; Mahler, commencing a symphony with a solo melody for
eight horns; Strauss, with his twelve horns behind the scenes in the
"Alpensymphonie," to say nothing of wind-machine, thunder-machine,
sheep bells, and a whole regiment of more usual instruments--all these
disciples of the extensive or quantitative method aim to dazzle,
stun, bewilder, and overwhelm. They can be recognized by their abuse
of the brass and percussion groups, their childlike faith that if a
noise is only loud enough it becomes noble. They have a tendency,
too, to mass whole groups of instruments on a single "part," as
Tschaikowsky, for instance, so often does with his strings, whatever
the sacrifice of interesting detail, for the sake of brilliance and
_éclat_. To some extent, of course, all this is justified, even
necessitated, by the vast size of modern concert-halls; but a candid
observer can hardly deny that it is systematically overdone in the
interests of sensationalism. The same tendency is observable also in
other than orchestral music. The piano, treated with such admirable
restraint by Chopin and by Debussy, has been forced by Liszt and his
followers toward jangling, crashing sonorities that can penetrate the
most callous sensorium. The equipment of organs with "solo stops"
and other devices for the tickling of idle ears has turned the king
of instruments too often into a holiday harlequin. Even the string
quartet, last rallying-ground of music against the ubiquitous
onslaught of sensationalism, begins in many modern scores, with their
constant double stops and tremolos, and their "effects" of mutes,
pizzicato, "ponticello," "col legno," and the rest, to sound like a
rather poor, thin orchestra, striving for a variety and fulness of
color beyond its capacity.

The fallacy of the extensive method is that it is trying to satisfy a
craving essentially insatiable. Such an appetite for mere quantity of
sound grows by what it feeds on; luxury breeds ennui; and, as every
sensualist knows to his sorrow, there never can be "plenty of it."
A sense of this futility inherent in the extensive method as it has
been practised in modern Germany and elsewhere has led another school,
chiefly modern French, to try for similar results by a different
method, which may be called the intensive. Such a composer as Debussy,
who may here be taken as typical, aims, to be sure, primarily at
sensuous rather than at mental or spiritual values, but achieves them
by qualitative refinement and contrast rather than by quantitative
accumulation, and avoids exaggeration in favor of a delicate, almost
finical, understatement and suggestiveness. While sonority is as
much his god as Strauss's, he is the connoisseur of subtle, elusive
sonorities, each to be sipped like a wine of rarest bouquet, rather
than an enthusiast of the full-bodied brew. The subtlety of the
methods often leads his admirers to claim a superior "spirituality"
in the aims, but this is a mistake. His school is more spiritual
than Strauss's only as a _gourmet_ is more spiritual than a glutton.
Both schools prefer sensation to thought and emotion, association to
intrinsic beauty, color to line. The difference is that "Pelléas et
Mélisande" is the violet or ultraviolet end of the spectrum of which
"Salome" is the red.

A curious by-product of the cult of the elusive sonority is the
exaggerated, the almost morbid, interest that has emanated from
modern France in novelty of harmonic idiom. One would suppose, to
read many contemporary critics, that the sole criterion of a good
composer depended on his use of some recondite scheme of harmony,
whether based on the whole-tone scale, on the mediæval modes, on
new applications of chromaticism, on the "harmonic polyphony" of
Casella and others, or on the arbitrary asperities of the Italian
noise-makers and Mr. Leo Ornstein. If you wish to be considered an
"ultra-modernist" you may do quite as you please, both as regards
commission and omission, in rhythm, melody, polyphony, form, provided
only you are harmonically eccentric. This insistence on harmony, on the
momentary tone-combination, suggests a predominant concern with the
sensuous side of music which is highly significant as a symptom. It is
a stressing of that which the senses alone can perceive from moment
to moment, without any aid from memory, imagination, comparison, and
other mental acts required for the perception of rhythm and melody. In
short, it is an evidence of the same materialistic tendency to rely on
the physical rather than the mental appeal, on the investiture of the
idea rather than on the idea itself, which we noted in the extensive
method. Whatever their differences, both methods are thus at one in the
tendency to use materials as makeshifts for thought. Mahler failing
to get with eight horns the effect that Schubert got with two--plus a
great melodic idea--at the opening of his C Major Symphony, Debussy
confectioning a banal bit of tune in muted string or pastoral flute
sonorities with piquant harmonies--both are appealing, with varying
success, from our minds and hearts to our auditory nerves. The
increasing measure of success attending such appeals shows vividly the
numerical advantage that the hungry or curious auditory nerves have, in
the modern democratic audience, over the enlightened minds and hearts.


                                  III

And indeed, how should we expect it to be otherwise? Enlightened
minds and hearts, we must remember, are the finest and rarest fruits
of civilization, to be cultivated only under conditions of decent
leisure, fair physical and mental health, and free association with
"the best that has been done and thought in the world." When they
are so rare even in the class that has all these advantages, how
shall we expect them to be common among those living either in an
industrial servitude that for monotony of toil is almost worse than
chattel slavery, or by clerical and other secondary work that through
the modern specialization and subdivision of labor condemns each
individual to a more or less mechanical repetition of a few small acts
through the larger part of his working hours, a routine the relation
of which to human life as a whole he often does not see? Writers on
sociology are beginning to realize[1] that such conditions of work
inevitably produce a morbid psychological condition in the worker,
dulling his mind by the meaningless drudgery and depressing his body
and nerves by fatigue-poisons, so that even in his few hours of leisure
his perfectly natural seeking for pleasure does not take entirely
normal paths. Too exhausted to respond to delicate shades and subtle
relationships, whether in sensuous or mental objects, his jaded nerves
cry out for violent stimuli, for sharp contrasts, for something to goad
and whip them into new activity. This craving for violent stimuli is
the essential feature of the fatigue-psychology. Now, is it not highly
suggestive that the age of industrialism is also the age of a hundred
goads for tired nerves--of the newspaper headline, the dime-novel and
"penny-thriller," the lurid moving-picture drama, ragtime and the
"revue"? And is it not possible that the sensationalism of so much
modern music is only another evidence, on a somewhat higher plane, of
the working of this same psychology of fatigue?

Again, these overworn nerves of ours have within a comparatively short
period had brought to bear upon them, through the progress of modern
invention with its cheap printing, quick transportation, and long
distance communication, a thousand distractions. No longer insulated
from the outlying world, so to speak, by time and space, as were our
more simply-living ancestors, we read, hear, and see as much in a day
as they did in a week. The inevitable result has been a diffusion of
attention fatal to concentrated thought except for the most resolute,
breeding in the average man mental indigestion and habits of disorder
and impatience, and gradually evolving the characteristic modern
type--quick, sharp, and shallow. Outward distraction has thus added its
influence to inner weariness to urge our art away from quiet thought
towards ever noisier solicitation. For thought always depends on
simplification, on inhibition: in order to think we must neglect the
given-by-sense, as we see strikingly in the case of the absent-minded,
in order to attend to the given-by-memory-and-imagination; and
over-stimulation of sense is therefore just as hostile to thought as
the depression of the higher mental faculties through fatigue. Thus it
is highly characteristic of our prevailing attitude that we strive,
not for elimination, but for accumulation, distraction, dissipation.
The formula is always mental apathy, physical and nervous excitement.
Not having the joy of the mastery which comes only through thought,
because we lack both concentration and favorable opportunity to
discipline ourselves, we seek the stimulus of constant change. We
digest nothing, taste everything; "eclecticism" is our euphemism for
spreading our attention very wide and very thin; and the nightmare that
you soon uncover under all our art is not that our minds may become
bewildered (for that they are already), but that our senses may become
jaded--which of course they do.

Still another line of influence that may be traced from general modern
conditions to the peculiar qualities of modern art concerns especially
the third of the classes described above, the capitalist class. Here
again we find a morbid condition, a distortion of wholesome human
contacts; but here instead of the impediment of meaningless drudgery,
it is the incubus of a fruitless, selfish idleness. Cut off from the
normal outlet of energy in useful work, the luxurious classes become
pampered and bored, and develop through very vacuity a perverted taste
for the unusual, the queer, the generally upside down and backside
to. Every season sees a new crop of the "isms" thus produced, the
ephemera of the world of art, which live a day and die as soon as they
lose their one interest, novelty. Of all manifestations of so-called
"art" they are the most sterile, the most completely devoid of
vital relation to any real impulse. They might be ignored did they
not complicate still further an already complicated situation, and
were they not an additional, though a largely negative, illustration
of the close causative relation between general social conditions
and artistic expression that our discussion is making more and more
evident. Fortunately they produce little enduring effect beyond their
own narrow circles; for as they spring not from any vital interest,
but only from an unguided curiosity and desire for excitement, they
take mutually opposing forms and largely cancel each other. Thus, for
instance, fads for very old or for very new music, directed as they are
toward the mere age or the mere newness, and having no concern with the
quality of the music itself, leave the actual public taste just where
it would have been had they never arisen. Nevertheless the diversion of
so much energy, which might under better conditions find an outlet in
fruitful activity, to a sterile posture-making, is uneconomical and to
be regretted.

So far, we have been looking chiefly from the point of view of the
devil's advocate, at the injurious influences on contemporary music
that can be traced with some degree of plausibility to the capitalistic
and industrial social system of the nineteenth century. Noting the
sensational bent, whether extensively or intensively expressing itself,
of the chief contemporary schools, we have asked ourselves whether
it could be attributed in some measure to the kind of demand made by
an audience dulled by overwork at monotonous tasks and depressed by
fatigue-poisons. Remarking the multiplicity of fads and "isms" by which
our art is confused, we have asked how far these might be attributed
to the cravings of a group whose normal appetites have been perverted
by luxury and self-centered isolation. All of these evils, we have
insisted, are aggravated in their effects by the distractions under
which we live. It is now time, however, taking a more positive view and
attempting a more constructive theory, to ask how these evils may be
combated, what more hopeful elements already exist in the situation,
and what others may be expected to develop in the future.


                                  IV

First of all, it may be suggested that, so far as these evils are
fairly attributable to the social conditions of the nineteenth
century, they may fairly be expected to be mitigated somewhat by those
changes which already seem probable in those of the twentieth. The
capitalistic era seems likely to be followed by an era of coöperation
or communism; and in countless ways such a change must eventually be
deeply revivifying to all forms of art. Of course, it is only too easy
to indulge in baseless dreams of the results upon art of a millennium
brought about in this way, only too easy to forget that we are only at
the threshold of such new systems of organization, and that they may go
the wrong way instead of the right. All we can safely say is that if
they do go the right way they will rescue art, among many other human
interests, from the condition to which much of it has been prostituted
under capitalism.

Let us suppose, for instance, that something like what Mr. H. G.
Wells calls the Great State[2] eventually results from the troublous
reconstructions through which we are living. The Great State is only
one of three possibilities he sees in the further adjustment of the
leisure class and the labor class of our present order. The first
possibility (and a disagre vivid one it must seem to all thoughtful
Americans) is that "the leisure class may degenerate into a waster
class," and the labor class "may degenerate into a sweated, overworked,
violently resentful and destructive rebel class," and that a social
_débâcle_ may result. The second possibility is that the leisure
class "may become a Governing Class (with waster elements) in an
unprogressive Bureaucratic Servile State," in which the other class
appears as a "controlled, regimented, and disciplined Labour Class."
The third possibility is that the leisure class "may become the whole
community of the Great State, working under various motives and
inducements, but not constantly, nor permanently, nor unwillingly,"
while the labor class is "rendered needless by a general labour
conscription, together with a scientific organization of production,
and so re-absorbed by reendowment into the Leisure Class of the Great
State."

The first two of these possible conditions would be fatal to art,
one through anarchy and loss of standards, the other through
conventionalization. The third would bring about a renascence, after
a troubled period of conflicting standards and of readjustments such
as we find ourselves in to-day. The main elements in such a progress
would be, first, the gradual refining, deepening, and vitalizing of
the taste of the general public under the influence of increasing
leisure, health, self-respect, and education; second, the cutting
off of extravagance, luxury, and faddism in the wealthier classes
by a wholesome pressure of enforced economy; third, increasing
solidarity of feeling in the whole social fabric through such a mutual
_rapprochement_, giving the indispensable emotional basis for vital art.

There are already some encouraging evidences of such developments. Much
preparatory work towards the formation of better standards of public
taste has been unobtrusively done, at least in our larger cities, by
free lectures and cheap recitals and concerts. Two disadvantages,
however, have often attended such work, reducing its benefits. One
has come from the common fallacy that what is done for the many
must be done so as to please the many--a view often supposed to be
"democratic." Emerson was more truly democratic when he told us to
"cease this idle prating about the masses," and set about extracting
individuals from them; for real democracy never forgets that the
majority are always inferior, and its aim must be to give the superior
minority a chance to make their influence felt. In other words, to
level down to the people is to vulgarize rather than to popularize.
Theodore Thomas set a model for the conductor of popular concerts in
the best sense, for all time, when he replied to one of his orchestra
players who said that people did not like Wagner: "Then we must play
him until they do."

The second disadvantage is even harder to avoid, even for
administrators of the highest standards, because it seems to be almost
intrinsic in this kind of work. It comes from the passive nature of
the people's participation. Giving even the best concerts seems often
too much like handing the people music at the end of a stick--"Take
it or leave it"; naturally, having so little choice in its selection,
they often leave it; and even when they try their best to take it,
they cannot get so much out of it as if they were actively helping to
produce it. This is the reason that more active forms of music-making,
even if crude, like the music school settlement work and the community
choruses that have been making such strides in recent years, seem so
full of promise. The singing in the public schools, too, would have
done far more than it has, had not the standards been debased, as Mr.
T. W. Surette has ably shown,[3] to the childish tastes, not of the
children themselves, who could appreciate better things, but of their
dull and routine-enslaved elders. Yet here again we must beware of a
too easy optimism.

There is no magic about the community chorus that can suddenly change
bad taste to good. Too often we seem here, as in all other activities
for popularizing music, to oscillate helplessly between two evils.
On the one hand is the crudity of actual taste: the majority prefer
ragtime and the musical comedies to folk-songs or the simple classics.
On the other hand is the apathy that comes of prescriptions from
outsiders: musical activity that is not spontaneous is sterile.
Progress seems to come painfully and uncertainly from a constant
zigzagging between these two evils, getting gradually away from them as
the taste of the minority exercises its persuasiveness.

As for the wealthier classes, it must be confessed that there are
so far few evidences of any permanent displacement of luxury and
artificiality by saner and simpler tastes. Yet there are even here
one or two hopeful signs, of which the most conspicuous is the recent
enthusiasm for folk-songs. This is rather too good to be altogether
true. It is hard to believe in the complete sincerity of those who go
into the same rhapsodies over a perfectly simple and rather crude
peasant song that a year or two ago they reserved for the exquisite
day-dreams of Debussy or the exotic inconsequentialities of Cyril
Scott. Moreover, the appreciation of folk-song, though a normal and
indeed indispensable stage in musical education, is only the very first
phase of initiation to the deeper and subtler beauties of musical art,
and not a stage to be dwelt in with complacency. Yet so far as it goes,
and in the measure of its sincerity, the interest in folk-song is of
good augury. It means concern with melody, always and everywhere the
soul of music, rather than with externalities like orchestral color, or
harmonic "effects," or quasi-poetic associations and programs. It means
sympathy with simple and broadly human, universal emotions, such as
inspire the greatest as well as such primitive music. It may mean the
beginning of a real and eventually a developed taste for good music.
And it is a good foundation for such a _rapprochement_ of all classes
of music-lovers as may come, we may hope, with the coming of the Great
State.

If our cursory examination of the general tendencies of our day reveals
no striking preponderance of good over bad, shows us no movement of
any majority that we can acclaim without qualification, we may now
remind ourselves for our comfort that this has always been the case
in all times, and that there is indeed a curious illusion, resolvable
only by close scrutiny, that makes our own time seem worse to us, in
comparison with others, than it really is. We have to remember that the
baser elements of our own time make a much greater impression on us,
in relation to the finer ones, than those of the past. A living fool
can make as much noise as a wise man (if not far more); a dead one is
silent forever. The gold of Beethoven's day, of which he was himself
the purest nugget, comes down to us bright and untarnished, so that we
forget all the dross that has been thrown on the scrapheap of time. Our
own gold is almost hidden from us by the glitter of the tinsel.

"The world of music," says Sir Charles Stanford,[4] "is not
substantially different from what it has been. It has always exalted
those of its contemporary composers who dealt in frills and furbelows
above those who considered the body more important than its clothes.
Only a few wise heads knew of the existence of Bach. Rossini was rated
by the mass of the public far higher than Weber, Spohr than Beethoven,
Meyerbeer than Wagner. Simrock said that he made Böhm pay for Brahms."

It is always necessary to wait for the winnowing process of time before
we can see the true proportions of an age. Hence we can never see our
own age in its true proportions, and since the second- and third-rate
elements in it are ever more acclaimed by the majority than the
first-rate, we always see it worse than it is. We live, so to speak, in
the glare of noon-day, and cannot see the true coloring of our world,
which will appear only at evening. Hence in every age the tragi-comedy
is repeated of acclaiming the mediocre and the meretricious, and
ignoring worth. The Gounods always patronize the Francks. The answer of
philosophy is Emerson's:

"Ideas impregnable: numbers are nothing. Who knows what was the
population of Jerusalem? 'Tis of no importance whatever. We know that
the Saint and a handful of people held their great thoughts to the
death; and the mob resisted and killed him: and, at the hour, fancied
they were up and he was down; when, at that very moment, the fact was
the reverse. The principles triumphed and had begun to penetrate the
world. And 'tis never of any account how many or how rich people resist
a thought."

Our final question, then, resolves itself to this: Are there in the
music of our day, known or unknown to the majority, any such vital
"thoughts," based on principles that a discerning criticism may see
even now to have "triumphed and begun to penetrate the world"? Is there
music being written to-day which is modern, not through its pampering
to jaded sense or dulled intelligence, but through its intuition and
expression of the deeper emotional experience and spiritual aspiration
of our time? Is there music, in short, not only seductive to the ear
but beautiful to the mind? To answer such a question intelligently
we shall have to take account of certain truths which the foregoing
discussion has tended to establish, and which may now be made explicit.
Thought, emotion, all that we call the spiritual side of music,
expresses itself not through sonorous or harmonic effects, primarily
sensuous in appeal, but through melody and rhythm and their interplay
and elaboration in so-called thematic development. In truly great music
we remember, not such and such a bit of tone-color, not this or that
sonority, but the soaring or tender curve of the themes, their logical
yet ever new unfolding, their embodiment, in the whole composition, of
richest variety with completest final unity. The man in the street is
absolutely right in feeling that music succeeds or fails by its tunes;
his limitation arises in his conception of "tune."

Again, since the creation and manipulation of great "tunes" or themes,
unlike the hitting off of sonorous effects or the discovery of _rococo_
harmonies, comes never by luck, but only through a discipline based on
the assimilation of all that is best in music, we always find that
all really fine music is firmly founded upon tradition, and reaches
its roots into the past, while blossoming, so to speak, into the
future. The artist, despite the popular supposition to the contrary,
depends on his forerunners quite as closely as the scientist. You can
no more write a solid sonata without knowing Beethoven than you can
work efficiently in biology in ignorance of Darwin. Yet on the other
hand this assimilation of the past has to produce, not an academic and
sterile complacency with what is, but an equipped and curious advance
upon what is to be: the artist, like the scientist, brings all his
learning to the test in acts of creative imagination, leaps in the
dark. Thus artistic advance may be figured as like the shooting of
frost crystals on a window pane; never is there a crystal that is not
firmly attached by traceable lines to the main body; yet no one can
prophesy whither each fine filament may strike out in its individual
adventure. The great artist is bound to the past by love and docility,
to the future by a faith that overleaps convention.

Looked at in the light of these considerations, contemporary music
presents a scheme of light and shade somewhat different from that
ordinarily accepted. If some high lights are overshadowed, others
seem to shine more brightly. There is plenty of hopeful promise
for the future. Leaving aside the sounder elements in Strauss and
Debussy, in whom there is so much of the richness of decay, we shall
find the chief centers of truly creative activity perhaps in three
composers who in their differing ways and degrees carry on the great
tradition: Rachmaninoff in Russia, Elgar in England, and d'Indy in
France. Each of these men reaches back roots to the primal sources of
musical life--Bach and Beethoven: Rachmaninoff through Tschaikowsky,
the eclectic Elgar through Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, and others,
and d'Indy through Wagner and Franck. Each, as we see in such modern
classics as "Toteninsel," the A flat Symphony, and "Istar," can create,
in settings of modern opulence of color, nobly beautiful forms,
melodies that live and soar in a spiritual heaven. All, too, though
in varying degrees, move on as creators should toward the unknown.
Here the Frenchman has perhaps, with his characteristic lucidity and
logic, something the advantage of the more sensuous Slav and the
more convention-beset Anglo-Saxon. Rachmaninoff, for all his warmth,
does not always escape the vulgarity of Tschaikowsky, and Elgar
cannot always forget the formulæ of oratorio. But in d'Indy, with his
untrammeled experimental attitude toward all modern possibilities,
we have an influence destined steadily to grow and already clearly
suggesting an epoch combining the best of the old ways with new ones at
which we can for the present only guess.

                              FOOTNOTES:

[1] See, for example, "The Great Society," by Graham Wallas, and "Work
and Wealth," by J. A. Hobson.

[2] "Social Forces in England and America," by H. G. Wells, New York
and London, 1914.

[3] In an article on Public-School Music, Atlantic Monthly, December,
1916.

[4] "Pages from an Unwritten Diary," C. V. Stanford.



                                  II

                            RICHARD STRAUSS


                [Illustration: =RICHARD STRAUSS=]



                                  II

                            RICHARD STRAUSS


                                   I

The chronology of Richard Strauss's artistic life up to the present
time arranges itself almost irresistibly in the traditional three
periods, albeit in his case the philosophy of these periods has to
be rather different from that, say, of Beethoven's. "Discipline,
maturity, eccentricity," we say with sufficient accuracy in describing
Beethoven's development. The same formula for Strauss will perhaps be
tempting to those for whom the perverse element in the Salome-Elektra
period is the most striking one; but it is safer to say simply: "Music,
program music, and music drama." Born in 1864, he produced during
his student years, up to 1886, a great quantity of well-made and to
some extent personal music, obviously influenced by Mendelssohn,
Schumann, and Brahms, and comprising sonatas, quartets, concertos,
and a symphony. He himself has told how he then came under the
influence of Alexander Ritter, and through him of Wagner, Berlioz,
and Liszt; how this influence toward "the poetic, the expressive, in
music" acted upon him "like a storm wind"; and how the "Aus Italien,"
written in 1886, is the connecting link between his earlier work and
the series of symphonic poems that follows in the second period. The
chief titles and dates of this remarkable series may be itemized here:
"Macbeth," 1886-7; "Don Juan," 1888; "Tod und Verklärung," 1889; "Till
Eulenspiegel" and "Also Sprach Zarathustra," 1894; "Don Quixote,"
1897; "Ein Heldenleben," 1898; and the "Symphonia Domestica," 1903.
The period of program music, containing also, of course, other works
such as the operas "Guntram" and "Feuersnot," innumerable songs, and
a violin sonata strayed from the first period, thus lasts from his
twenty-second to his thirty-ninth year. Since then Strauss has devoted
himself chiefly to works for the stage, comprising "Salome" (1906),
"Elektra" (1908), "Der Rosenkavalier" (1911), "Ariadne auf Naxos,"
(1913), and "Josephs Legende" (1914). His latest work is again in the
province of instrumental music--an "Alpine Symphony."

This rapid survey of Strauss's creative activity shows that the
natural bent of his mind is toward the realistic and dramatic side of
his art; it was only in his youth, before he had found himself, that
he wrote self-sufficing music; and though lyrical power is shown in
many of his songs and in passages of almost all the orchestral works,
yet it is on the whole true to say that the essential Strauss is
Strauss the dramatist. And if we ask ourselves what are the qualities
of temperament requisite to a dramatist, we shall find in Strauss's
possession of them in altogether unusual measure the key to his
commanding position among the musico-dramatists of our day.

These qualities are the same for a dramatic artist who works in tones
as for one who works in words. First of all he must be a man of keen
observation, of penetrating intelligence, able to note all that passes
about him and to interpret it with something of cold scientific
precision. He must be able to seize human types and divine human
motives quite different from his own, as they are objectively. He
must resist distorting them by reading into them his own impulses and
sentiments, as a man of more subjective temperament and less critical
detachment always does. In short, he must be of the active rather than
the contemplative type, and have a good measure of that faculty of
impersonal intellectual curiosity which gives a Shakespeare his supreme
power of objective observation.

But though he must not distort others by viewing them through himself,
he must nevertheless interpret them through reference to his own
feelings, since these are the only feelings with which he is directly
acquainted. That is to say, he must be able to place himself, by
sympathetic imagination, at the points of view of those he studies.
Such sympathetic imagination is so very different a thing from
subjective distortion that without it no real understanding of one's
fellows is possible at all. The great dramatist needs, then, deep
and rich emotion, quite as much as the lyric singer--but emotion ever
guided by the sympathy which brings it into play. It is this emotion,
guided by sympathetic imagination, that gives the very aspect of life,
and its power to move us, to the creation that mere intellectual
observation alone could never vitalize.

And finally, the dramatic artist, besides observing keenly and
interpreting sympathetically, must view all that he sees with a certain
magnanimous many-sidedness, a sort of sweet and mellow wisdom, which
is hard to describe but unmistakable when encountered. We find it in
all really great creative artists, who seem to view life not only
keenly, not only sympathetically, but also wisely and as if from above,
from that vantage point of a wider insight than that of any of their
subjects, so that in their summing up of them they are able to set
them in proper relation one to another, and by so doing to get a true
and calm picture of human life as a whole. This power of philosophic
or poetic vision, this magnanimity, we instinctively demand of the
artist. It satisfies a fundamental human craving. The moral in the
fable is a naïve embodiment of it; it comes even into the uncongenial
atmosphere of the light comedy of manners in the rhymed epilogue; its
musical incarnation we find in many of the quiet codas of Brahms,
or in the thoughtful "Der Dichter spricht" at the end of Schumann's
"Kinderscenen."

The object of the present essay is to show that Strauss has, in unequal
but high degree, these qualities of the dramatist: observation,
sympathy, and magnanimity. The first he has in almost unparalleled
measure; the second somewhat fitfully, sometimes inhibited by his
ironic cynicism; the third in his most genial moods, as for instance,
in the epilogue to "Till Eulenspiegel," but not when misled by
over-realistic aims. The evidence of his possession of these qualities
that we shall especially look for will be not that afforded by his acts
or his sayings, but rather the irrefragable testimony of his musical
works themselves.


                                  II

Since a man's temperament is what ultimately determines the peculiar
combination of qualities making up his artistic individuality--his
characteristic powers and shortcomings--the first questions we have to
ask ourselves regarding any artist we propose to study will always be:
"What is his temperament?" "To which of the two great types does it
belong, the active or the contemplative?" "Does its power lie primarily
in observation or in introspection?" "Does it impel him towards
objective characterization or toward the utterance of subjective
feeling?" Elsewhere, in studying these antitheses of temperament in
particular cases, such as those of Mendelssohn and Schumann,[5] and
of Saint-Saëns and Franck,[6] occasion has been taken to discuss in
some detail the rationale of their musical expression. At present our
interest is in finding in Strauss a rather extreme case of the active
temperament, a man of positively explosive nervous energy.

It is only necessary to assemble a few of his characteristic melodic
motives to see that this energy naturally translates itself,
melodically, into wide erratic skips and incisive abrupt rhythms. Here
are a few of them:

                       [Illustration: =FIGURE I.
                   (_a_) From "Till Eulenspiegel."=]


                 [Illustration:=(_b_) From "Don Juan."=]


             [Illustration:=(_c_) From "Ein Heldenleben."=]


         [Illustration:=(_d_) From "Also Sprach Zarathustra."=]


         [Illustration:=(_e_) From the "Symphonia Domestica."=]


The chief theme of the arch mischief-maker, "Till Eulenspiegel," is
necessarily capricious, but it is doubtful if even for him anyone but
Strauss would have thought of those surprising jumps, landing each time
on an unexpected note. In the main theme of "Don Juan" we have a good
example of his rhythmic energy. Note the variety of the figures: the
sixteenth notes in the first measure, swarming up to the high E; the
still further ascending triplet; the even more incisive dotted group
leading to the emphatic half notes. In similar general style is the
chief theme of "Ein Heldenleben," depicting the hero, but less lithe,
more burly and almost awkwardly powerful. The theme of "great longing"
from "Also Sprach Zarathustra" conveys its impression through the wide
jumps, covering almost three octaves in two vigorous dashes. The theme
of "the Wife," from the "Symphonia Domestica," illustrates Strauss's
love of turning the unexpected way. Notice the downward jump of a
ninth, and the cadence transferred to a higher octave than we expect.

The same story of overflowing nervous energy is told by two other
characteristics of Strauss's melody. Like all sanguine natures he
has more rising than falling phrases. The buoyancy of (_b_), (_c_),
and (_d_) in Figure I is irrepressible; (_a_) has a falling curve,
somewhat coy; (_e_) begins in the same wheedling vein, but ends with
a rise of self-confident energy. A canvass of all the motives in the
symphonic poems would probably demonstrate that seventy-five per cent
of them rise in pitch. The second peculiarity is more subtle but even
more significant--a preference for "rising" or anacrustic rhythms,
culminating in an accented final note after several unaccented ones,
to "falling" or thetic rhythms beginning with the heavy part of the
measure. The elasticity of the rising rhythm is clearly shown in all
the excerpts of Figure I except that from "Ein Heldenleben"; that,
naturally, begins doggedly on the down beat. Only a systematic study
can show the extent of Strauss's addiction to the rising rhythm.

These considerations, to which might perhaps be added his preference
for the major to the minor mode, and for the vigorous duple to the
more subtle triple meter, afford us quite ample internal evidence
of his belonging to the temperamental type of the actives, like
Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns (however he may differ from them musically)
rather than to that of the contemplatives,--the Schumanns and the
Francks. To these positive points we might add negative ones, dealing
with his emotional shortcomings. This, indeed, we shall have to do
later, in the interest of a just critical estimate; but for the present
it will be better worth while to examine the positive results, in
the way of keen observation and masterly characterization, of this
active-minded interest of Strauss in what lies about him.


                                  III

Strauss's characterization is consummate. Superlatives are dangerous,
but probably no other musician has ever carried to such a point the
power of music to depict, or at least, to suggest, varieties of
character, both in human beings and in inanimate objects. Strauss's
reported remark that music was becoming so definite that we should
soon be able to portray a tablespoon so unmistakably that it could
be told from the rest of the silverware is probably an instance of
his sardonic delight in hoaxing the public; but if anyone is going
to subject the art of tones to this curious test, we are all agreed,
doubtless, that it should be Strauss himself. Meanwhile, failing a
tablespoon, we have a sufficiently varied collection of portraits in
his gallery, each sketched with a Sargent-like penetration.

We have seen, for example, in Figure I_a_, Till Eulenspiegel the arch
mischief-maker, irrepressible, incorrigible. Here, on the other hand,
is Till sentimental, making love to a village maiden, his original
insolence tamed into a simpering persuasiveness, his theme, at first so
galvanic, now languishing in its plaintive downward droopings (Figure
II, page 57). Later we see him, repulsed by the maiden, storming in
ungovernable fury.[7]


                      [Illustration: =FIGURE II.
                           "Till" in love.=]


                      [Illustration: =FIGURE III.
           Don Quixote, the knight of the sorrowful visage.=]


Here, again, belonging to a quite other world, is Don Quixote, "the
knight of the sorrowful visage," aging and broken, yet full of
chivalrous and idealistic notions, and thus at once inspiring and
pathetic (Figure III, page 57). What a contrast is his rascal of a
servant, Sancho Panza, good-natured and irresponsible, sauntering
through life with a minimum of effort and a maximum of diversion:

                      [Illustration: =FIGURE IV.
                            Sancho Panza.=]


We find a somewhat similar principle of contrast, though between very
different types of character, in the themes of the husband and the wife
in the "Symphonia Domestica." The latter has been cited at Figure I_e_.
Its suggestion of coy graciousness and feminine charm is due in part to
the tender downward inflections of the opening figure, and partly to
the anacrustic rhythm (beginning with unaccented notes). The theme of
the husband, with which the work opens, starts out with an "inversion"
of this three-note figure of the wife: the motives complementary to
each other, so to speak, as if Strauss had wished to suggest the
reciprocal relation of marriage. Yet the rising inflection and the
falling rhythm of the husband version give it a vigor that completely
differentiates it from the other, even if we ignore for the moment the
effect of the contrasting keys of F major and B major, a matter of
which we shall have more to say presently.

The subtlety of the composer's use of rhythm for characterization
can hardly be exaggerated. It almost justifies the extreme detail
of his annotator's analyses, as for example of Mr. Wilhelm Klatte's
diagnosis of the hero's character in "Ein Heldenleben." This reads
like an old-fashioned phrenological chart. Mr. Klatte finds in his
hero "a genial nature, emotional and vibratory" (measures 1-6 and 9-12
of the opening theme), a "haughty and firm step" (measures 6-8), and
an "indomitable will" (measures 13-16). Furthermore the continuation
in B major and A flat, Mr. Klatte tells us, shows that the paragon
has "richness of fantasy, warmth and elasticity of feeling, allied
with lightness of movement--whose tendency is always toward buoyancy
and onward and upward effort, thus imparting an effect of inflexible
and well-directed determination instead of low-spirited or sullen
obstinacy." Mr. Klatte makes a considerable demand on our powers of
credence. Yet we must be reluctant to place limits to a power of
rhythmo-melodic suggestion that can give us such extremes of opposed
character as the naïve innocence of the "Childhood" motive in "Tod und
Verklärung," and the degenerate superstition and pathological fear of
Herodias, with her eerie whole-tone scale, in "Salome."

Highly characteristic of Strauss, both in its subtle use of
rhythmo-melodic characterization and in the rather malicious quality of
its humor, is the "Science" section in "Also Sprach Zarathustra." This
powerful if over-ambitious work deals with a matter that can hardly be
put into music, even by Strauss: with the opposition, namely, between
the Christian ideal of self-abnegation and Nietzsche's philosophy
of self-fulfilment. In this particular section of it Strauss is
trying to suggest the dustiness, mustiness, and inconclusiveness of
"Science" from the standpoint of the passions; this he does by making
a frightfully complicated fugue from his main theme. How slyly does he
here satirize science! How to the life does his fugue theme, starting
off boldly in C major and square-cut rhythm, and presently wandering
into chromatic harmonies and indecisive triplets, symbolize the initial
arrogance and final futility of scholastic systems!

                       [Illustration: =FIGURE V.
    "Of Science." Fugue theme from "Also Sprach Zarathustra."=]


In the use of harmony for characterization Strauss is no less skilful
than in the more important matters of melody and rhythm. The essential
quality of his harmony is perhaps less "ultra-modern" than is sometimes
supposed. In spite of the sensational innovations of "Salome" and
"Elektra," he is so intensely German in feeling and so well founded
on the German classics that the nucleus of his harmonic system is the
diatonic scale, simple and rugged. One thinks of such powerful themes
as that of "Transfiguration" or the "Hero" as the essential Strauss.
Even "Salome" has its Jochanaan, and the "Symphonia Domestica" is
surprisingly diatonic. Strauss is more nearly related to the virile
Wagner of "Die Meistersinger" than to that other more sensuous Wagner
of "Tristan und Isolde." Of course, there are wondrously expressive
chromatic passages in Strauss, as for instance the "Grablied"
in "Zarathustra"; but on the whole his musical foundation is
tonic-and-dominant, like Mozart's, Beethoven's, and Brahms's.

                      [Illustration: =FIGURE VI.
                     Cadence from "Don Quixote."=]


It is in the boldly imaginative and unconventional arrangement of
simple material that Strauss gets his most striking harmonic effects.
Plain "triads" and "dominant sevenths," the small musical change of
hack composers, turn to gold in his hands. The touchingly expressive
cadence of Don Quixote's theme will illustrate. The material is
of the most ordinary, yet the effect is magical and its dramatic
appropriateness surprising. In the words of Mr. Arthur Kahn,[8] "These
confused harmonic windings through which the central chords of the
previously established key are reached, characterize strikingly the
well-known tendency of Don Quixote towards false conclusions. He goes
carefully out of the way of natural sequences and palpable facts, in
order not to demolish therewith his fancy structures."

Strauss has carried this principle of the close juxtaposition of
chords more or less foreign to each other, and even of different keys,
to greater and greater lengths in his more recent works, and to the
effects of "queerness" which result when these foreign tonal groups
quickly follow each other, and of more or less extreme dissonance
when they occur simultaneously, he owes much of the violently adverse
criticism to which he has been subjected. Indeed, nothing has more
retarded his general acceptance than these abrupt transitions and
unaccustomed discordancies. The matter is of sufficient importance to
intelligent appreciation of him to justify a brief digression here. For
any composer who conceives music as a number of melodies proceeding
together in greater or less amity, but preserving the measure of
independence that individuality and vigorous movement demand--and
Strauss is to a peculiar degree such a polyphonic composer--a certain
amount of physical harshness at moments when the melodies happen to
clash is not only unavoidable but positively desirable, as tending to
throw each into relief. According to the degree of his experience the
listener follows the composer in this respect: that is, he accepts with
something more than passive endurance, yes, with active pleasure, the
physically disagreeable clashes (dissonances) which by setting off the
differing contours of the melodies emphasize for him their mental and
emotional appeal; but not--and the point is of prime importance to the
would-be music-lover--not if he does not follow the melodies, that is,
not if he cannot hear consecutively as well as moment by moment--for
it is only by following the threads, so to speak, that we can untangle
the knots. Accordingly most untrained listeners dislike, probably,
music that contains many of these knots, the presence of which makes
it so interesting and exciting to the experienced ear. The woman who
confessed to her piano teacher that she did not like Bach's Two-part
Inventions because they were so "ugly" was not less cultivated but only
more frank than many who have not discovered that Bach has to be heard
"horizontally" (to borrow a figure from musical notation) rather than
"vertically."

This gift of horizontal hearing is peculiarly necessary to anyone who
would disentangle the tonal knots in which Strauss delights, working
as he does with many more than two voices and with the vast fund of
harmonic possibilities accumulated since Bach's day to draw upon.
And he is not the man to use his resources timidly, or to make any
concessions to laziness or inexperience in his listeners. Here is a
reduction of a passage from "Ein Heldenleben" to its essential elements.

                  [Illustration: =FIGURE VII.=]


The heavy brass gives the foundation harmonies; the strings and
woodwind have an upward-moving melody, and the eight horns blare forth
at the same time a slower-moving downward melody. If we read almost any
single chord vertically, we shall find it has its measure of harshness,
sometimes considerable. If we listen to the coherent voices, none of
these dissonances will trouble us in the least. This is a very simple
example of what Strauss is constantly doing in a far more complex
way.[9]

It is a real difficulty in the way of Strauss appreciation that while
only familiarity can enable us to follow the intricate windings of the
threads that make up his gorgeously rich fabrics, frequent hearings
of his later and more complex symphonic poems are not to be had, even
in the large cities. In the meanwhile we have no recourse but piano
arrangements, unsatisfactory for two reasons. In the first place, it
is physically impossible to play with two hands even a respectable
fraction of the melodies that Strauss delights to elaborate for two
hundred; and four-hand versions are better only in degree, not in kind.
Secondly, piano versions fail us precisely in this matter of unraveling
dissonance, since by reducing a colored pattern to monochrome they
diminish the salience of the lines we are trying to follow, and by
juxtaposing in one tone-quality tones that in the orchestra are
softened by difference of timbre they notably increase the physical
harshness of the combinations. Obviously, then, we must be exceedingly
chary of condemning Strauss, or any other composer, for orchestral
dissonance that we have either become acquainted with insufficiently,
or only through piano arrangements.

After making these subtractions, however, there undoubtedly remain many
puzzling clashes of tone in Strauss's scores, which can be accounted
for only as introduced either for color or for dramatic expression.

The use of dissonance for the sake of color enrichment is a familiar
proceeding in modern music, especially in that of impressionistic type
like Debussy's and Ravel's. Such use is essentially decorative. To a
more or less clearly defined harmonic nucleus are added softer tones,
clashing with it, and thus forming about it an aura or atmosphere
elsewhere compared to the mist which softens the outlines of the
landscape.[10] Strauss is too fond of clear outlines and solid mass to
employ these impressionistic methods habitually, or even frequently;
but when he does, it is with his usual skill and daring. The theme
of the silver rose in "Der Rosenkavalier" is the inevitable example:
the last pages of the score are crowded with those silvery, scarcely
audible triads of celesta and flutes, shifting and settling on the
stronger G major chord like snowflakes on a leaf (Figure VIII, page 70).

                     [Illustration: =FIGURE VIII.
          The silver rose motive, from "Der Rosenkavalier."=]


Delicious as are these shimmerings, a use of dissonance on the
whole more characteristic of the masculine nature of Strauss is the
harsher, more insistent juxtaposition of clashing tones for the sake
of their potency in the expression of the tragic, the gruesome, or
the abnormal. Naturally this is pushed furthest in the treatment of
such pathological subjects as "Salome" and "Elektra," where its effect
is carefully enhanced by contrast with strong or clear consonant
harmonies--"Salome" has its Jochanaan and "Elektra" its Chrysothemis.
The close juxtaposition of foreign tone groups, either successive or
simultaneous, is carried to great lengths in these operas. The theme
of the chattering Jews in "Salome" is an example of the successive,
as is the curious succession of the chords of F minor and B minor at
Chrysothemis' entrance in "Elektra."[11]

The simultaneous kind was foreshadowed in the famous ending of "Also
Sprach Zarathustra," where the woodwind instruments sound the chord of
B major against the softly plucked C of the strings; but we have to go
to the operas again to find it carried to its logical and sometimes
cruel extreme. There we find alien triads marching uneasily together
in double harness;[12] dominant sevenths similarly shackled;[13] and
strange passages in which the upper parts move naturally, but above
a dislocated bass.[14] Such procedures, which, it must always be
remembered, because of differences in tone quality between instruments
of different families, sound far less harsh in the orchestra than on
the piano, even if they are no less queer musically, can theoretically
be carried to any extent. How far Strauss sometimes carries them, a
single example must suffice to show.

                     [Illustration: =FIGURE IX.
          Passage from "Elektra," vocal score, page 63.=]


Whether one "likes" such passages as this or not is of course a
question of taste. But one thing at least is certain: it will not do to
charge Strauss with mere musical anarchy in writing them--his work as a
whole shows too keen a sense of the traditional harmonic values. That
æsthetic insensibility, posing as "freedom from rules," "independence,"
"liberalism," and the like, to which in the minds of so many modern
composers all keys are the same, is happily not one of his failings.
That he has the keenest possible sense of the individual qualities
of the different keys, and of the structural importance of their
interrelationships, each one of his long series of symphonic poems
has by its masterly design shown afresh. How remarkable, for example,
is the antithesis of C, minor and major, and B, minor and major,
which is the constructive principle of "Also Sprach Zarathustra!"
How interesting is the choice of F major for the easy-going husband
in the "Symphonia Domestica," and of the keener, more brilliant B
major for the wife! And how this strong tonal sense not only guides
the design as a whole, but suggests endless charming and imaginative
details! At the end of the lullaby, in the same work, when the child
has fallen asleep and the music has sunk to a tranquil G minor chord,
this quietude is irradiated by a flash of B major and three notes of
the wife-theme,--the loving tenderness of the waking and watching
mother over the sleeping infant. Twice this happens, and each time the
somnolent G minor returns. Thus does genius use tonality.

Being thus brought back to consider how Strauss uses all the elements
of music, even this subtlest one of contrasting tonalities, in the
interest of characterization, we may ponder with profit one final
interpretation which might seem over-ingenious had we not the example
of Mr. Klatte to spur our critical imaginations. Why is it that we so
seldom hear the four tones of Till Eulenspiegel's main theme on any
other degrees of the scale than A, F, B, C? Why is it that, in spite
of the constant movement from key to key of the music, this theme is
hardly ever carried also into the new key?[15] Why does Strauss so
insist on this A, F, B, C, not only when the music is in F major, but
when, as at Till's anger, it is in D minor, when, as in the procession
of the burghers, it is in A minor, and when, just before the return of
the main theme, it is in C major? Why always A, F, B, C, whatever the
key? Is it not because Till, half-witted, perverse, self-imprisoned, is
not subject to social influences, and remains unplastically himself,
whatever his environment? To transpose a theme into the key prevailing
at the moment is to make order--but Till represents disorder....
Such at least is the ingenious explanation of a woman who understands
character as well as Strauss understands keys.


                                  IV

All that we have been saying so far has concerned itself primarily
with Strauss's powers of observation and characterization; we have
noted how broad a field of human character he covers, and what
varied artistic resources he brings to its depiction; we have seen
how peculiarly fitted he is for this part of his work by his active
temperament, with its accompanying intellectual alertness and freedom
from self-consciousness. But we saw that the great dramatist needs
not only observation but sympathy, in order that his work may be as
moving as it is vivid; and in this power of emotion we may at first be
inclined to consider Strauss deficient. There is undoubtedly a popular
superstition which puts him among the intellectuals. The clean-cut
efficiency of his personality, his businesslike habits, his mordant
wit, both in words and in notes (was there ever anything so witty
as "Till Eulenspiegel"?), even questionably relevant details like
his exquisitely neat handwriting and his well-groomed and not in the
least long-haired appearance,--all these create the impression of a
personality by no means _schwärmerisch_, far removed indeed from the
rapt dreamer who is the school-girl's ideal composer.

There is perhaps a measure of truth in this picture. Many of Strauss's
most characteristic merits, as well as defects, may be traced to his
lack of the introspective tendency which has been so fundamental in
most of the other great German musicians, from Bach to Wagner, and
which is seen perhaps at its purest and best in Schumann. Strauss is at
the other pole from Schumann--and music is wide! Mr. Ernest Newman, in
the ablest studies of Strauss yet published in English,[16] points to
the internal evidence of this lack in his earliest and therefore least
sophisticated compositions. "The general impression one gets from all
these works," writes Mr. Newman, "is that of a head full to overflowing
with music, a temperament that is energetic and forthright rather than
warm ..., and a general lack not only of young mannish sentimentality,
but of sentiment. There is often a good deal of ardour in the writing,
but it is the ardour of the intellect rather than of the emotions." And
again: "Wherever the youthful Strauss has to sing rather than declaim,
when he has to be emotional rather than intellectual, as in his slow
movements, he almost invariably fails.... He feels it hard to squeeze
a tear out of his unclouded young eyes, to make those taut, whip-cord
young nerves of his quiver with emotion."[17]

Now, although Mr. Newman would not accept his own description of
Strauss the youth as a fair account of the mature composer, although,
indeed, he specifically insists, in a later passage, that Strauss's
musical imagination lost, at adolescence, its "first metallic
hardness" and "softened into something more purely emotional," yet
his vivid phrases seem to give us a picture of Strauss that is in
essentials as true at fifty as it was at fifteen. "A temperament
that is energetic and forthright rather than warm," "an ardour of
the intellect rather than of the emotions"--these are surely still
Straussian characteristics. And what is more they are characteristics
that, whatever their dangers, have exerted a splendid influence in
modern music. Schumann's was a noble introspection that no one who
knows it can help loving; but in natures less pure the introspective
habit of German romanticism has not always been so happy in its
effects. An unhealthy degree of self-contemplation tends to substitute
futile or morbid imaginings for the solid realities of life; the
over-introspective artist cuts himself off from a large arc of
experience and is prone to exaggerate the importance of the more
intimate sentiments, and when, as in German romanticism, such a
tendency is widespread, a whole school may become febrile and erotic.
The vapors of such confirmed sentimentalism can best be dispersed
by a ray of clear, cold intelligence, such as Shaw plays through
contemporary literature and Strauss through contemporary music.
"Cynicism," says Stevenson, "is the cold tub and bath towel of the
emotions, and absolutely necessary to life in cases of advanced
sensibility." Strauss has administered this tonic shock to us, immersed
as we were in the languors of the Wagnerian boudoir. He has rooted us
out of our agreeable reveries, sent us packing outdoors, and made us
gasp with the stinging impacts of crude existence and the tingling
lungfuls of fresh air. Is it not worth while, for this vigorous life,
to sacrifice a few subtle nuances of feeling?

If then we so emphasize his possession of the active rather than the
contemplative temperament, it is not to blame him for not being a
Schumann, but to render as precise as possible in our own minds the
notion of what it is to be a Strauss. If there is a point where blame
or regret must mingle with our appreciation, it will be likely to come
not at the preliminary determination of what his temperament is, but
at the further discovery of certain extremes to which he has allowed
his interest in externals to carry him, especially in his later work.
And here we must try to set right a misconception with which Mr. Newman
leaves the student of his essay on "Program Music."[18]


                                   V

Mr. Newman, wishing to draw a reasoned distinction between
self-sufficing, or "pure," or "abstract" music--that is, music that
makes its appeal directly and without the aid of any verbal tag--and
"poetic" music, or, more specifically, music with a definite program
or title, adopts, seemingly without criticism, the popular notion that
the first is less "emotional" than the second, and supports it by
piling up epithets which beg the very question he is supposed to be
examining. It is easy to "damn a dog by giving him a bad name," and it
is easy to make music without program seem a dry and academic affair
by calling it "abstract note-spinning," "mathematical music," "mere
formal harmony," "embroidery," "juggling," "the arousing of pleasure in
beautiful forms"--much too easy for a man of Mr. Newman's penetration
and fair-mindedness.

One expects this kind of thing from inexperienced youths whose
enthusiasm has been inflamed by the gorgeous color and the easily
grasped "story" of such a work as, let us say, Tschaikowsky's "Romeo
and Juliet," who have not had time to live themselves into accord
with the profound emotional life of the great musical classics such
as Bach's fugues and Beethoven's symphonies; but from Mr. Newman such
superficialities, especially when they are associated, as these are,
with many penetrating and true observations, and an argument in the
main convincing, come as a surprise.

The central fallacy that vitiates Mr. Newman's conclusions lurks in his
assumption that "specific reference to actual life" necessarily means
greater emotion, and that the generality or "abstractness" of classic
music is a symptom of emotional deficiency. "In the old symphony or
sonata," says Mr. Newman, "a succession of notes, pleasing in itself
but not having specific reference to actual life--not attempting, that
is, to get at very close quarters with strong emotional or dramatic
expression, but influencing and affecting us mainly by reason of its
purely formal relations and by the purely physical pleasure inherent
in it as sound--was stated, varied, worked out, and combined with
other themes of the same order...." And again: "The opening phrase of
Beethoven's 8th Symphony refers to nothing at all external to itself;
it is what Herbert Spencer has called the music of pure exhilaration;
to appreciate it you have to think of nothing but itself; the pleasure
lies primarily in the way the notes are put together." To this a
footnote is appended: "There is emotion, of course, at the back of the
notes; the reader will not take me to mean that the pleasure is merely
physical, like a taste or an odour. But the emotive wave is relatively
small and very vague; it neither comes directly from nor suggests any
external existence." Once more, the assumption that degree of emotion
is in a direct ratio with externality of suggestion.

But as a matter of fact is not the exact opposite the truth? Are we
not most deeply moved when we are lifted clean out of the concrete and
carried up to the universal of which it is only an example? Is not the
general far more moving than the particular? Do we not feel external
details to be irrelevant and even annoyingly intrusive when we are
stirred to the recognition of inward truths, of spiritual realities?
No doubt program music owes to its reference to the particular story,
the well-known hero, the familiar book or picture, a certain vividness,
an immediateness of appeal even to the unmusical, a rich fund of
associations to draw upon; but even program music, surely, tends in
all its more powerful moments to penetrate below this comparatively
superficial layer of external facts to the profounder (and of
course vaguer) emotional strata of which they are, so to speak, the
outcroppings. It is odd how little difference there is between program
music and music, without the tag, in their more inspired moments; in
all symphonic poems it is the symphonic rather than the poetic element
that is chiefly responsible for the effect produced; and indeed,
increasingly realistic as Strauss has become in his later works, even
here the memorable moments are those of emotional fulfilment and
realization, in which we tacitly agree to let the program go hang.
Far from the "emotive wave" being proportional to the suggestion
of "external existence," then, one would say that it was rather
proportional to the realization of universal spiritual truth, and
that in systematically confronting us with ever more and more crassly
external existences Strauss has in his later works followed a practice
as questionable as the theory which supports it, and levied an ever
greater tax of boredom on our joy in the finer moments of his art.

Even in "Tod und Verklärung," which remains to this day, in the words
of M. Romain Rolland,[19] "one of the most moving works of Strauss,
and that which is constructed with the noblest unity," the repulsively
realistic details with which the gasping for breath of the dying man
is pictured consort but incongruously with the tender beauty of the
"childhood" passages and the broad grandeur of the "transfiguration."
The love of crass realism thus early revealed has grown apace, by
even steps, unfortunately, with the extraordinary powers upon which
it is parasitic. In the works conceived partially in a spirit of
comedy, to be sure, such as "Till Eulenspiegel" and "Don Quixote," it
finds a whimsical, witty expression for itself which not only seldom
strikes a false note, but is often exceedingly amusing. Till's charge
among the market-women's pots and pans, the bleating of the sheep in
"Don Quixote," even perhaps the baby's squalling in the "Symphonia
Domestica," are clever bits of side play, like the "business" of
an irrepressible comedian, which are not out of key with the main
substance of the music. But even here these realistic touches are
exuberances, and inessential; the essential thing in "Till," for
example, is the spirit of mischief and destruction that existed in the
human heart for centuries before the rascal Eulenspiegel was born, and
that respond in us to his pranks; and this essence Strauss expresses in
the purely musical parts of his work, and by means identical in kind
with those employed in a Beethoven scherzo.

And if realistic detail is in such instances subordinate to musical
expression it may in the treatment of more serious subjects become
positively inimical to it. Do we really care very much about supermen
and "convalescents" and the rival claims of Christianity and
neo-paganism when we are listening to "Also Sprach Zarathustra"? Does
not that everlasting C-G-C, with its insistence on an esoteric meaning
that we never knew or have forgotten, pester us unnecessarily? What
we remember in "Zarathustra" is much more likely to be the poignant
passion of the "Grablied," or the beautiful broad melody of the
violins, in B major, near the end, which bears no label at all save
the tempo mark "Langsam." Similarly, in the "Symphonia Domestica"
the family squabbles, growling father giving the réplique to bawling
infant, leave us skeptically detached or mildly amused. It is the
musical charm of the "easy-going" parts in F major, the cradle song,
above all the largely conceived slow movement with its wonderful
development of the husband's "dreamy" theme, that really stir us. As
for "Ein Heldenleben," what an unmitigated bore are those everlasting
Adversaries!

Thus in the later works Strauss's shortcomings on the subjective side,
his native tendency to concern himself more with concrete appearances
than with essential emotional truths, seem exaggerated to such a degree
as seriously to disturb the balance of his art. As he has interested
himself more and more in externals he has not entirely evaded the
danger of exalting the "program" at the expense of the "music," and his
work, for all its extraordinary brilliance, its virtuosity, its power,
has become over-emphatic, ill-balanced, hard in finish and theatrical
in emphasis. It is ultimately a spiritual defect that compels us to
withhold our full admiration from "Ein Heldenleben" or the "Domestica."
We admit their titanic power, their marvelous nervous vitality;
their technical temerities grow for the most part acceptable with
familiarity; it is their emotional unreality that disappoints us. This
charge of unreality, made against realism, may surprise us, may seem
to savor of paradox; but it is inevitable. For music, as we have been
told _ad nauseam_, but as we must never be allowed to forget, exists to
express feeling; the only truth essential to it is truth to emotion;
and therefore realism, looking as it does away from inward emotion to
external fact, ever tends toward musical unreality.

How shall we account for this progressive externalizing of Strauss's
musical interest? Is it all temperament? Has environment had anything
to do with it? Do those high-sounding but dubious things "modern German
materialism" and its accompanying æsthetic "decadence" bear in any way
upon the matter? These are questions too large for a humble annalist
of music to answer. M. Romain Rolland, however, in his essay on French
and German Music in "Musiciens d'aujourd'hui," has one suggestion
too relevant to be neglected here. "German music," says M. Rolland,
"loses from day to day its intimateness: there is some of it still in
Wolf, thanks to the exceptional misfortunes of his life; there is very
little of it in Mahler, despite his efforts to concentrate himself upon
himself; there is hardly any of it in Strauss, although he is the most
interesting of the three. They no longer have any depth. I have said
that I attribute this fact to the detestable influence of the theatre,
to which almost all these artists are attached, as Kapellmeisters,
directors of opera, etc. They owe to it the often melodramatic or at
least external character of their music--music on parade, thinking
constantly of effect."

One hesitates to accept so damning a charge as this against any artist,
especially against a musical artist, who above all others should
render sincere account of what is in his own heart rather than "give
the public what it wants." Yet there is only too much in the later
Strauss that it explains. How else shall we account for the exaggerated
emphasis, the over-elaboration of contrasts that seem at times almost
mechanical, and that suggest shrewd calculation of the crowd psychology
rather than free development of the musical thought? What else explains
so well the sensational elements so incredibly childish in an art so
mature as Strauss's: the ever-increasing noisiness, the introduction
of wind-machines, thunder-machines, and heaven knows what diabolic
engines; the appetite for novelty for novelty's sake? And is there not
a reflection of the "saponaceous influences of opera," as Sir Hubert
Parry so well calls them, in the cloying over-sweetness, the sensuous
luxury, of those peculiar passages, like the oboe solo in "Don Juan,"
the love music in "Ein Heldenleben," which form such conventional spots
in the otherwise vital tissue of the music? Surely the opera house, and
not the concert hall, is the place where such sybaritisms naturally
breed.

For one reason and another, then--temperament, environment, the
enervation of the operatic atmosphere with its constant quest of
"effect"--the fresh and vital elements in Strauss's art have not
entirely escaped contamination by more stale, conventional, and
specious ones. Particularly has he failed of his highest achievement
when desire for immediate appeal, the bias of an over-active mind,
or the fallacies of a one-sided æsthetic have led him too far from
the subjective emotion which is truly the soul of music. Yet when
all subtractions are made he must remain one of the great creative
musicians of his day. His surprising vigor and trenchancy of mind,
his wit, his sense of comedy (in the Meredithian use of the word),
his unerring eye for character, and, at his best, his sympathetic
interpretation of life and his broad grasp of its significance as a
whole, combine to produce a unique personality. Some of the eloquence
we find in the more pompous parts of "Zarathustra" or "Ein Heldenleben"
posterity will probably dismiss as bombast; but posterity will be
stupid indeed if it does not prize "Till Eulenspiegel" and "Don
Quixote" as master expressions of the spirit of comedy in music. "Till
Eulenspiegel" particularly is a well-nigh perfect blending of the
three qualities of the master dramatist we began by discussing. It
combines the observation of a Swift with the sympathetic imagination of
a Thackeray. Beneath its turbulent surface of fun is a deep sense of
pathos, of the fragmentariness and fleetingness of Till, for all his
pranks; so that to the sensitive it may easily bring tears as well as
smiles. Above all, it has that largeness of vision, rarest of artistic
qualities, which not only penetrates from appearance to feeling, but
grasps feeling in all its relations, presents a unified picture of
life, and purges the emotions as the Greek tragedy aimed to do. All is
suffused in beauty. The prologue: "Once upon a time there was a man,"
and the epilogue: "Thus it happened to Till Eulenspiegel," make a
complete cycle of the work, and remove its expression to a philosophic
or poetic plane high above mere crude realism. There are doubtless
more impressive single passages in later works, but it may be doubted
if anything Strauss has ever written is more perfect or more tender
than this wittiest of pieces, in which the wit is yet forgotten in the
beauty.

                              FOOTNOTES:

[5] See especially "The Romantic Composers."

[6] In the essays on these composers in "From Grieg to Brahms."

[7] The passage, page 13 of the two-hand piano arrangement, page 26 of
the orchestra score, is too long to quote here.

[8] Don Quixote, erläutert von Arthur Kahn, Der Musikführer no. 148,
Leipzig.

[9] The jump of the horns in the fourth measure illustrates another
obstacle to understanding that the inexperienced listener often meets
in Strauss. He is quite careless as to what register, high or low, the
"resolutions" of his dissonances occur in; they jump about from octave
to octave; and the hearer, to follow them, has to be equally agile.

[10] Essay on Chopin, in "The Romantic Composers."

[11] Vocal score, page 35.

[12] "Elektra," vocal score, page 21.

[13] _Ibid._ Page 23.

[14] _Ibid._ Page 20, the first line.

[15] It _is_ transposed into B flat in the episode wherein Till dons
the vestments of a priest.

[16] "Richard Strauss," in the Living Masters of Music Series, and
"Richard Strauss and the Music of the Future," in "Musical Studies."

[17] "Richard Strauss," pages 30-32.

[18] In "Musical Studies."

[19] "Musiciens d'aujourd'hui," page 123.



                                  III

                           SIR EDWARD ELGAR

                    [Illustration: =EDWARD ELGAR=]



                                  III

                           SIR EDWARD ELGAR


The most inspiring chapters of musical history are those that tell of
the struggles of great men, spurred by the desire for free, sincere,
and personal speech, to wrest the musical language out of the triteness
long conventional usage has given it; to make it say something new; to
add, so to speak, to the impersonal organ chord it sounds an overtone
of their particular human voices. This is what stirs us when we think
of Beethoven, after he had written two symphonies in the style of Haydn
and Mozart, finding himself at the opening of "a new road," leading
he knew not whither, but irresistibly summoning him; of Gluck, at
fifty, protesting against the hollowness of the Italian operas he had
been writing up to that time; of Franck, still older, finding at last
the secret of that vague, groping, mystical harmonic style he made so
peculiarly his own. Men dread liberty, says Bernard Shaw, because of
the bewildering responsibility it imposes and the uncommon alertness
it demands; no wonder that they acclaim as truly great only those
artists who fully accept this responsibility and successfully display
this alertness. And it may be suggested that the more conventional, and
therefore paralyzing to personal initiative, the style from which the
artist takes his departure, the more alertness does he require, and the
more credit does he deserve if he arrives at freedom. If this be true,
Sir Edward Elgar, who, starting at English oratorio, has arrived at
the cosmopolitan yet completely individual musical speech of the first
Symphony, the Variations, and parts of "The Dream of Gerontius," is
surely one of the great men of our time.

For nothing, not even stark crudity, is so unfavorable to artistic
life as the domination by a conventional formalism like that of the
Handel-Mendelssohn school from which Elgar had to start. It may take a
great artist like Dvořák or Verdi to build an art on the naïvetés of
Bohemian folk-song or the banalities of Italian opera; but to free an
art from the tyranny of drowsy custom, as Elgar has done, requires not
only a great artist, but something of a revolutionary.

Elgar is English in character, but cosmopolitan in sympathies, style,
and workmanship. In other words, while retaining the personal and
racial quality natural to all sincere art, he has been magnanimous,
intelligent, and unconventional enough to break through the charmed
circle of insularity which has kept so many English composers from
vital contact with the world. Such insularity cannot but be fatal
to art. It is bad enough when it confines the artist to narrow
native models. It is even worse when, ignoring native music of the
finest quality, such as that of Purcell, it follows blindly, through
timidity or inertia, traditions imported by foreigners of inferior
grade. Generations of English musicians have stultified themselves
in imitating Handel's burly ponderousness and Mendelssohn's somewhat
vapid elegance. They have turned a deaf ear, not only to the greater
contemporaries of these idols--to Bach and to Schumann--but also to
the more modern thought of Wagner, Franck, Tschaikowsky, and Brahms.
They have been correct and respectable in an art which lives only
through intense personal emotion. They have narrowed their sympathies.
They have been national in an age of dawning internationalism.

Elgar, on the contrary, together with a few others whose work deserves
to be better known than it is, has had the courage to aspire to a
cosmopolitan breadth of style. He has made up for the lack of what are
called "educational advantages" by something far more valuable--an
insatiable intellectual curiosity. Self-taught except for a few violin
lessons in youth, he has been all his life a tireless listener,
observer, and student. When he was a boy, having no text-books on
musical form, he wrote a whole symphony in imitation of Mozart's in G
minor, "following the leader" with admirable and fruitful docility.
As a youth he would play violin, at the last desk oftentimes, in
any orchestra to which he could gain admission, for the sake of the
experience; and between rehearsals would laboriously collate the
instrumental parts to find out why a certain passage sounded well or
ill. He would travel two hundred and fifty miles to London, from his
home in Worcester, to hear a Crystal Palace Saturday concert, returning
late at night. Knowing well that any potent individuality like his
own grows by what it assimilates, he has had none of the small man's
fear of injuring by the study of others his "individuality." The
internal evidence of his works shows that there are few modern scores
he has left unpondered; yet no living composer has a more unmistakably
personal style than his.

His intellectual activity has by no means confined itself to music.
He has always been an omnivorous reader. And while much of this
reading naturally proceeded in desultory fashion, for the sake of
relaxation, and took him sometimes as far afield as Froissart, the
fourteenth-century French chronicler, as suggested by his early
overture of that name, he has never lost the power of concentration,
and can study a book to as good purpose as a score. His analytic
notes to his symphonic study "Falstaff" (1913) reveal a surprisingly
detailed knowledge both of Shakespeare and of Shakespeare's
commentators. Science also interests him, and for some years his
hobby was scientific kite-flying. He is of the nervously irritable
temperament so often coupled with mental alertness, walks about
restlessly while conversing, and detests all routine work like
teaching. "To teach the right pupil was a pleasure," he once said,
"but teaching in general was to me like turning a grindstone with a
dislocated shoulder." In 1889 he married, gave up most of his teaching,
and moved to London. Since then he has lived partly among his native
Malvern Hills, partly near London, but has devoted himself almost
entirely to composing and conducting.

Elgar's whole life has thus been a gradual and progressive
self-emancipation from the limitations of inherited style, an escape
from habit to initiative, from formality to eloquence, from insularity
to cosmopolitanism. Nor has this progress been the less inspiring
in that it has been spasmodic, subject to interruptions, and never
complete. In that respect it shares the lovable imperfection of
all things human. It has been instinctive rather than reasoned, has
proceeded largely by trial and error, and has counted among its
experiments almost as many failures as successes. There are commonplace
pages in almost everything Elgar has written, unless it be the "Enigma"
Variations. But the important point is that however much, in moments of
technical inattention or emotional indifference, he may fall back into
the formulæ of his school, he has at his best left them far behind, and
made himself the peer of his greatest continental contemporaries in
wealth and variety of expression--of such men as Strauss in Germany and
d'Indy in France.

What are these never-quite-ejected formulæ, lurking in Elgar's brain,
ever ready to guide his pen when for a moment he forgets to think and
feel? If we look at the opening chorus of "The Black Knight," written
in 1893, and numbered opus 25, we shall get a working notion of them
(Figure X, page 102).


                     [Illustration: =FIGURE X.
             Opening chorus from "The Black Knight."=]


How this passage calls up the atmosphere of the typical English choral
festival: the unwieldy masses of singers, the scarcely less unwieldy
orchestra or organ, the ponderous movement of the music, half majestic,
half tottering, as of a drunken elephant, the well-meaning ineptitude
of the expression, highly charged with good nature but innocent
of nuance! There is the solid diatonic harmony, conscientiously
divided between the four equally industrious parts. There is the
thin disguising of the tendency of this hymn-tune type of harmony
to sit down, so to speak, on the accent of each measure, by a few
conventional suspensions. There is the attempt to give the essentially
stagnant melody a specious air of busyness by putting in a triplet here
and a dot or short rest there. And there is the sing-song phraseology
by which a phrase of four measures follows a phrase of four measures
as the night the day. In short, there is the perfectly respectable
production of music by the yard, on the most approved pattern,
undistorted by a breath of personal feeling or imagination.

How far Elgar, whenever his imagination is stirred, can get away from
this conventional vacuity, even without departing materially from
its general idiom, may as well be shown at once, for the sake of the
illuminating contrast, by the quotation of a bit of genuine Elgar--the
"Nimrod" in the "Enigma" Variations, opus 36 (1899).


                     [Illustration: =FIGURE XI.
             "Nimrod," from the "Enigma Variations."=]


This touching tribute to a friend of the composer, Mr. A. J. Jaeger
(the English equivalent of whose name, hunter, suggested the title),
has all the serious thoughtfulness, the tenderness coupled with
aspiration, the noble plainness, that belong to Elgar at his best.
And it is a striking fact that the originality of the passage (for
no one but Elgar could have written it) is due to subtle, almost
unanalyzable qualities in the mode of composition rather than to any
unusual features of style. The harmonic style, indeed, is quite the
same simple diatonic one as that of "The Black Knight" chorus, showing
that, in music as in literature, noble poetry can be made from the same
materials as doggerel. There is the same predominance of simple triads
and seventh chords, especially the more rugged sevenths, for which
Elgar has a noticeable fondness; the same frequent use of suspensions,
though here it is dictated by emotion rather than by custom; the same
restless motion of the bass, one of the hall-marks of Elgar's style.
The melody, however, shows a tendency to large leaps, often of a
seventh, in alternating directions, giving its line a sharply serrated
profile. This, it may be noted, is also one of the outstanding features
of his more personal thought. But above all should be observed the
rhythmic flexibility that here takes the place of sing-song--the free
sweep of the line, scorning to rest on the accents, soaring through its
long continuous flight like a bird in a favoring gale.

We have here, then, the vein of expression at once plain, serious,
and noble, which makes Elgar at his best both English and universal.
It recurs frequently throughout the whole body of his work: in the
"Go forth" chorus in "Gerontius," so finely used in the prelude; in
the theme of the Variations; in the fundamental theme of the first
Symphony, which dominates the entire work and in which Elgar reaches
perhaps his most exalted utterance; in the themes of the slow movement
of the same symphony; and in another way in the Prince Hal theme
of "Falstaff." Some may feel that this is the essential Elgar. Yet
there is also in this quiet Englishman a passionate mysticism, a
sense of subtle spiritual experience, which has urged him to develop
progressively quite another mode of musical speech. On this side he is
related to Wagner and to César Franck. Like them he has realized that
there is a whole range of feeling, inaccessible to the diatonic system
of harmony, that can be suggested by harmony based on the chromatic
scale, and even more vividly and subtly by a harmonic system that
opens up a path between all the keys, that makes them all available
together--by what we may call, in short, "polytonal" harmony. This
polytonal harmonic system is common to "Tristan und Isolde," to
Franck's "Les Béatitudes," to much of Chopin, and to many parts of "The
Dream of Gerontius," however much they may differ in other respects.

Elgar began early to experiment in this direction. Even in "The Black
Knight," for example, at the word "rock" in the lines

  When he rode into the lists
  The castle 'gan to rock,

we have the following progression, equally striking from the musical
and the dramatic point of view:

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XII.
                     From "The Black Knight."=]


This is what Mr. Carl W. Grimm has well named a "modulating sequence";
that is, each unit group of harmony (in this case a measure in length)
is the sequential repetition of the preceding, yet the chromatic
texture is so managed that each begins in a new key; the total effect
is thus much more novel and exciting than is that of the traditional
monotonal sequence. Yet, as Mr. Stillman-Kelley has pointed out in a
closely reasoned essay,[20] however ingenious may be the arrangement
of the modulating sequence on the harmonic side, it is liable to the
same fault that besets the monotonal sequence--that is, rhythmic
monotony. Once we have the pattern, we know what to expect; and if the
composer gives us exactly what we expect the effect is too obvious,
and we are bored. It is precisely by his avoidance of this literal
repetition, says Mr. Kelley, that Wagner, in such a modulating sequence
as that of the Pilgrims' Chorus, maintains both the rhythmic and the
harmonic vitality of the music.

Judged by the standard thus suggested, the sequence on the word "rock"
is seen to be too literally carried out. The pattern is applied with
the mechanical regularity of a stencil, necessarily with an equally
mechanical result. It must be said in the interest of just criticism
that Elgar frequently falls into this fault. Even Gerontius' cry of
despair, so magnificently developed by the orchestra, contains less of
subtle variety than is given to that curiously similar cry of Amfortas
in "Parsifal" by the "inversion" of the parts, while the priest's
adjuration to his departing soul[21] and the chorus afterward based
on it, become irritatingly monotonous through the literal repetition
of a pattern admirable in itself. At the beginning of the Development
in the first movement of the second Symphony there is a passage
illustrating the same fault. The tonal and harmonic coloring here are
singularly impressive, and quite original; as Mr. Ernest Newman remarks
in his analysis:[22] "A new and less sunny cast has come over the old
themes.... The harmonies have grown more mysterious; the scoring is
more veiled; the dynamics are all on a lower scale." Everything favors,
in fact, a most impressive effect except the structure; but that,
through its over-literal application of the modulating sequence, almost
jeopardizes the whole.

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XIII.
          In the Mountain,--Night. From "The Apostles."=]


Fortunately, however, happier applications of this harmonically so
fruitful device are not far to seek in Elgar's scores, especially the
later ones. The following theme from "The Apostles," appropriately
marked "mistico," is a fine example of the kind of mysticism that is
not unmindful of the needs of the body and of the intelligence as well
as of the soul. The principle is still that of the modulating sequence,
but the application is here not mechanical but freely imaginative.
Two of the one-measure units are in each phrase balanced by a unit
twice as long, so that the rhythm is as a whole far more organic than
in our earlier examples of sequences. Furthermore the purely harmonic
treatment makes use of unforeseeable relations, so that the effect of
stereotype is successfully evaded. Finally, here is a theme from the
second symphony in which the sequential principle is still further
veiled, so far as harmony is concerned. The harmonic progressions seem
here to "shoot," so to speak, with complete spontaneity; we cannot
anticipate whither the next move will take us, and we get constantly
to interesting new places; yet the unity of the whole, beginning and
ending in E-flat[23], prevents any sense of aimless wandering.

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XIV.
                    Theme from Symphony No. 2.=]


The alert student will probably still feel, nevertheless, perhaps
without being able to account in any way for his impression, that
even in these last excerpts there is an unsatisfactory element, a
something that keeps them on a lower level of art, for all their
opaline color, than that of the forthright and transparent "Nimrod."
This something, perhaps on the whole Elgar's most ineradicable fault,
is rhythmical "short breath." He gets away from it, to be sure, in all
his finest pages; but except when his imagination is deeply stirred
his melodic line shows the dangerous tendency to fall into short
segments, a measure or two in length, into a configuration of scallops,
so to speak, rather than wide sweeps, exemplified in the three last
illustrations. Instead of flying, it hops. Examples will be found
right through his works, from the second theme of the early overture
"Froissart" to that of the first movement of the Violin Concerto, opus
61.

                            [Illustration:
           =FIGURE XV. Second theme from "Froissart."=]


                            [Illustration:
      =Second theme of first movement of Violin Concerto.=]


This kind of sing-songiness is as fatal to noble rhythm in music as it
is in poetry--in much of Longfellow, for example; and the frequency
with which Elgar relapses into it suggests that he has some of the
same fatal facility, the tendency to talk without thinking, which so
often kept the American poet below his best. The parallel might be
carried out, if it were worth while, in some detail. Both men wrote
too much, and both are "popular" in the bad sense as well as the good.
The "Pomp and Circumstance" Marches are saved, despite the frequent
triteness of their melody, by their buoyant high spirits; but of the
vapid and sentimental "Salut d'Amour," which has sold in the thousands
and been arranged for all possible combinations of instruments,
including two mandolins and a guitar, the less said the better. Yet it
is noteworthy that the very tendency to an over-obvious, monotonous
rhythmic scheme which works for the popularity of a small piece with
the thoughtless and trivial-minded, works against it in the case of a
larger composition which appeals to the musically serious, and wins its
way gradually at best. Thus Elgar's second symphony, which suffers much
more from this besetting fault than the first, has been less popular
for that very reason. Statistics are significant in such cases. The
second symphony was played twenty-seven times before it was three years
old, a considerable number for so serious a work[24]; but the first,
called by Nikisch "Brahms's Fifth," a compliment which could be paid
to few other modern symphonies without absurdity, achieved the almost
incredible record of eighty-two performances in its first year, in such
widely scattered places as London, Vienna, Berlin, Leipsic, Bonn, St.
Petersburg, Buda-Pest, Toronto, Sydney, and the United States.[25]

Of course it is not intended to account for the wide favor accorded
this symphony by adducing so technical a matter, from one point of
view, as its comparative freedom from a rhythmic weakness to which
its composer is unfortunately peculiarly subject. What is meant is
simply that sing-song balance of short phrases is often a symptom of
superficial feeling, and that, _per contra_, elastic, vigorous, and
imaginative rhythms are a constant result, and therefore a reliable
evidence, of the emotional ardor that makes a piece of music live.
The A-flat Symphony is a work intensely felt by the composer, a work
that, coming from his heart, finds its way to the hearts of others.
And in this respect, in its emotional sincerity, earnestness, and
subjectivity, it differs from his other works more in degree than
in kind. For in everything Elgar writes there is the preoccupation
with inner feeling which we find in such a composer as Schumann, but
from which most of our contemporaries have turned away. Elgar is an
introspective musician, not an externally observant tone-painter like
Strauss. It is noteworthy how completely his treatment of death, for
example, in "The Dream of Gerontius," differs from that of Strauss
in "Tod und Verklärung." By no means accidental is it, but highly
significant of the opposed attitudes of the two artists, that while
Strauss emphasizes the external picture--the panting breath, the
choking cries--Elgar penetrates to the inward emotional state. He has
written surprisingly little program music. Aside from a few realistic
touches scattered through the choral works, and the delicate little
vignette of the friend at sea in the "Enigma" Variations, there is only
"Falstaff"--and that deals more with character than with picture. In
this respect Elgar deserves well of his contemporaries for standing
against a popular but dangerous tendency to externalize the most
inward of the arts, and for showing that even in the twentieth century
the spiritual drama set forth in a work of pure music, like his
first symphony, can be as thrilling as those that have made immortal
Beethoven's later quartets and sonatas.

That this attitude indicates a preference rather than a limitation is
proved by the felicity of the external characterization in passages
scattered all through the choral works, as for instance the setting
of the line "The castle 'gan to rock," cited above, from the "Black
Knight," the music of the devils in "Gerontius," or the scene in "The
Apostles" where Peter walks upon the water, and even more strikingly
in "Falstaff," the composer's single contribution to program music.
Here he frankly takes the Straussian attitude, and skilfully uses the
Straussian methods. Leading themes, as he tells us in his analysis,[26]
depict the fat knight, one "in a green old age, mellow, frank,
gay, easy, corpulent, loose, unprincipled, and luxurious" (_a_);
another "cajoling and persuasive" (_b_); and a third in his mood of
"boastfulness and colossal mendacity" (_c_).


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XVI.
                 Three of the "Falstaff" themes.=]


                        [Illustration: =(_b_)=]


             [Illustration:=(_c_) Grandioso e largamente=]


These portraits evidently belong to the same gallery as Strauss's Don
Quixote, Sancho Panza (_cf._ the first quotation), Till Eulenspiegel,
and others; they are sketched in the same suggestive and telling lines;
in the third there is even the same touch of caricature. The picture
of Eastcheap, too, where, "among ostlers and carriers, and drawers,
and merchants, and pilgrims and loud robustious women, Falstaff has
freedom and frolic," has something of the German composer's brilliant
externality. It should, as Elgar says in his notes, and it does,
"chatter, blaze, glitter, and coruscate." Yet, vivid as all this
is, even here from time to time, notably in the two "interludes,"
the composer characteristically withdraws from the turbulent outer
world he has conjured up, to brood upon its spiritual meaning; and
it is noteworthy that after stating in his analysis that "some lines
quoted from the plays are occasionally placed under the themes to
indicate the feeling to be conveyed by the music," he immediately
adds, "but it is not intended that the meaning of the music, often
varied and intensified, shall be narrowed to a corollary of these
quotations only." This intensification arises, of course, through the
universalizing of all the particulars by the power of music to express
pure emotion.

The same instinctive leaning to introspection is curiously shown in
the Enigma Variations.[27] "I have in the Variations," writes Elgar
in a private letter, "sketched portraits of my friends--a new idea, I
think--that is, in each variation I have looked at the theme through
the personality (as it were) of another Johnny." The idea was not
indeed quite new, however originally applied, as Schumann had already
sketched a number of his friends in the "Carnaval." But what is of
much greater import is that Schumann and Elgar, both introspective
temperaments, go about this business of portrait painting in the same
characteristic way--not by recording the external aspects of these
"other Johnnies," but by sympathetically putting themselves at their
points of view and becoming, so to speak, the spokesmen of their souls.
The tender intimateness of Elgar's interpretations is their supreme
charm. Whatever the character portrayed, whether the tender grace of
C. A. E. (Lady Elgar), the caprice of H. D. S-P., the virile energy
of W. M. B., the gossamer delicacy of Dorabelle, or the nobility of
"Nimrod," we feel in each case that we have for the moment really got
inside the personality, and looked at the world along that unique
perspective. Even in the indescribably lovely Romanza, Variation XIII,
calling up the thought of a friend at sea, though programistic devices
are used, the spirit looks away from externalities. Violas in a quietly
undulating rhythm suggest the ocean expanse; an almost inaudible
tremolo of the drum gives us the soft throb of the engines; a quotation
from Mendelssohn's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage," in the dreamy
tones of the clarinet, completes the story. Yet "story" it is not--and
there is the subtlety of it. Dim sea and dream-like steamer are only
accessories after all. The thought of the distant friend, the human
soul there, is what gently disengages itself as the essence of the
music.

In his two symphonies the composer gives us even less encouragement
to search for detailed programs. It is true that the second bears the
motto from Shelley:

  Rarely, rarely, comest thou,
  Spirit of Delight.

But it will be observed, first, that these lines contain no pictorial
images which would prevent their application to the most purely
emotional music--a symphony of Beethoven, for example; and second,
that even their emotional bearing is somewhat ambiguous, as we are
left in doubt whether it is the Spirit of Delight itself, or the
rareness of its visitations, that we are asked to consider. Mr. Ernest
Newman thinks the former, and finds in the symphony the "jocundity
and sweetness" which characterize English music from the earliest
times. We read in the Musical Times,[28] however, that there is "some
disagreement ... with the composer's own opinion that it is on a
totally different psychological plane from that of the first symphony,
and represents a more serene mood," although the writer adds that "it
is unquestionable that the themes, even in the slow movement, speak
of a lighter heart and more tranquil emotions." If there is thus room
for doubt even as to the emotional content of the work, no attempt to
read into it a "story" is likely to be successful. Even Mr. Newman,
programist _à outrance_, is forced in this case to the admission that
"though practically every musical work of any emotional value must
start from this basis [of the composer's life-experience],[29] the
connection of it with the external world or with the symbols of the
literary and plastic arts may range through many degrees of vagueness
or precision, according to the psychological build of the composer."

Coming now at last to Elgar's masterpiece, the Symphony[30] in
A-flat, No. 1, opus 55, first performed under Dr. Hans Richter at
Manchester and at London in December, 1908, we find Elgar's method at
its purest--the preoccupation with spiritual states and experiences is
complete. It is true that this may be the symphony upon which he was
reported nine years earlier to be at work, and which was to bear the
title "Gordon." If this is the case it shows only that he was moved to
musical expression by the heroism of the great Englishman, as Beethoven
was by that of Napoleon before it transpired that he was a tyrant. The
A-flat Symphony is not for that reason any more program music than
Beethoven's "Eroica." The two are indeed similar in being throughout
profound searchings of the human spirit, highly dramatic in the
vividness of their introspection, but never realistic. They penetrate
to a level far deeper than that of action; they deal with the emotional
springs of action; we may even say that each suggests a philosophy,
since the philosophies, too, are born of those deep inarticulate
emotional attitudes toward life which only music can voice in their
purity.

This fundamental attitude is in the A-flat Symphony far more mature and
chastened than that of the ebulliently youthful "Eroica." If we wished
to find its analogue in Beethoven (and it is a high compliment to Elgar
to say that there are few other places we could find it) we should
have to go rather to the Ninth Symphony and to the later sonatas and
quartets. It is in essence the attitude of religious resignation, and
has as its constituents the primary opposition between the ideal and
reality, the disappointment, softening, and impersonalizing of the soul
by experience, the reciprocal activity of the soul winning its values
out of experience, and the final reconciliation between them. Of course
it is not meant that these ideas are intellectually formulated in the
music. It is simply that the music expresses the emotional states that
accompany such universal human experiences, and thus suggests and at
the same time by its beauty transfigures them.

The noble melody in A-flat major with which the symphony starts,
recurring in the finale, and indeed the nucleus of the whole work,
suggests aspiration, resolute will, the quest of the Ideal. Everything
about it,--its steady movement, its simple, strong harmonic basis,
its finely flexible rhythm, notably free from the short breath of the
composer's less exalted moments, even its rich and yet quiet tonality
of A-flat major, raises it into a rarefied atmosphere of its own,
above the turmoil of everyday life. With the theme in D minor marked
Allegro appassionato, on the contrary, we are brought rudely down to
earth, with all its confusion, its chaos, its meaningless accidents
(note the constant feverish motion of the bass, the phantasmagoric
nightmare harmonies at index letter 7, the increasing restlessness of
the whole passage). Presently more poignant or tender phrases (10 and
11) suggest the longing of the spirit for the sweet reasonableness of
the lost ideal world, and at 12, in the "second theme" in F major,
we do get for a moment a breathing interval of peace. The beautiful,
tender phrase, as of divine pity, beginning in the fourth measure of 11
and ushering in this theme, should be especially noticed for its deep
expressiveness and its complete originality. This "phrase of pity," as
we shall see, is destined to play an important part in the structure of
the movement. Soon earlier fragments return, reintroducing the restless
mood, the intensity of the feeling steadily grows, and at 17 we have a
magnificent climax in which the "phrase of pity," much slower and more
emphatic than before, suggests the first crisis of the struggle.

With the return of the theme of the ideal, now in C major (18) and
in tentative accents, begins the long and complex development of
the themes. We need not go into detail here, further than to remark
that the strange, devious new theme at 24 seems almost to have some
concrete "meaning," undisclosed by the composer, and introduces the
most baffling element we find anywhere in the symphony. The development
proceeds much upon it. At 32 begins the recapitulation of themes of
the orthodox sonata-form, treated freely and with many interesting
modifications. The climax recurs at 44, now impressively amplified.
Even finer is the gradual but irresistible return of the fundamental
theme, the "Ideal," and its triumphant statement through 49, 50, and
51. The sinister, groping theme returns, however, seeming to darken the
atmosphere as when clouds come over the sun. The "Ideal" theme is heard
in faltering, uncertain accents, and reaches, just before 55, a timid
cadence on the tone C. Now comes one of the most exquisite things,
not only in this symphony, but in modern music. While the clarinet
holds this C, reached in the original key of A-flat major, the muted
strings, high and tenuous, in the remote key of A minor, like voices
from another world, gently breathe the "phrase of pity." It is magical.
With fine dignity of pace they reach the tone C, whereupon we are again
quietly but conclusively brought back to A-flat, and with a single
plucked bass note the chord of the clarinets sinks to silence (Figure
XVII, page 128).

The two middle movements of the symphony, Allegro molto (the scherzo)
and Adagio, are played without intervening pause and conceived
together. From the point of view both of form and of content their
treatment is of exceeding interest. Structurally they are an inset
between the first movement and the finale, contrasting sharply with
them in key as well as in melodic material, embodying as they do the
"sharp" keys (F-sharp minor and D major) in opposition to the A-flat
major and D minor of the others. After this inset has been completed,
the earlier themes and keys return in the finale and round out the
cycle projected by the first movement. Thus the symphony as a whole
consists of two interlocking systems--a scheme of structure which
gives it both variety and unity in the highest degree.


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XVII.
              End of first movement, First Symphony.=]


The scherzo begins with a racing, eagerly hurrying theme, staccato,
in the violins, in the fastest possible tempo. Together with a more
vigorous, barbarically insistent tune to which it presently (59)
gives place, it seems a musical expression of the forward-looking,
all-conquering spirit of youth. These themes are separately elaborated,
are displaced for a while by a quieter Trio, and finally return with
renewed vigor, and at last in combination (75). And now, as coda, comes
one of the most remarkable passages of the Symphony. The racing theme
returns (82), but now pianissimo, mysterious, shorn of its pristine
exuberance. It hesitates, halts, seems to lose faith in itself. It
reappears in the more sombre key of F minor, instead of F-sharp minor,
and with abated pace (84). A little later it sobers to a still quieter
movement, in eighth notes (86), then (87) to quarter notes, and at last
(90) the clarinets give it out in a movement eight times slower than
the original headlong dash. Indeed, the rhythm seems about to fail
entirely when, with a change of key to D major, and of time to Adagio,
we hear the identical notes of the original theme, sung now with broad
deliberation by the violins, completely transfigured in meaning.

Thus begins the slow movement with the coming of maturity, the taming
of the blood, the sadness of self-acquaintance no longer to be
postponed. The excitement of unlimited possibilities gives place to
the sober recognition of limitations. Poignant grief there is here,
unanswered questioning, moments of passionate despair. But with the
beautiful and thoroughly Elgarian theme at 96 begins to creep in the
spirit of resignation to the inevitable, and of divine pity for human
failure, born of this bitter self-discovery. From this point on is
heard unmistakably the deeper note of religious consolation, reaching
full expression at last in the melody marked _Molto espressivo e
sostenuto_, one of the noblest, profoundest, and most spiritual that
Elgar has conceived, with which the movement ends.

The finale opens with a slow introduction, intended partly to direct
our attention back to the first movement and partly to forecast the
strains destined to complete the cycle which it began. We hear the
mysterious groping theme first heard in its development and fragments
of the "Ideal." Especial emphasis is laid, however, on a march-like
tune, given out by bassoons and low strings at the sixth measure, and
on an aspiring phrase for clarinet (measures 10-11) peculiar to the
present movement. The prevailing mood here, both in the main theme with
its emphatic interlocking rhythms (the opening Allegro) and in the
second theme at 114, with its buoyant triplets recalling the finale
of Brahms's third symphony, is energetic will. This seems to merge in
jubilant achievement in the march-like theme of the introduction at its
reëntrance at 118. For a moment, to be sure, doubt as to this triumph
seems to be suggested by a rather halting version of the "Ideal"
(129) and by a pondering version of the march theme (130). But with
the return of the main themes of the movement at its recapitulation,
beginning at 134 and now inflected towards A-flat, the radical tonality
of the whole symphony, the mood of vigorous volition revives, and
from now on to the splendid reassertion, by the full orchestra, in its
richest sonorities, of the theme of the "Ideal," all is one long climax.

It is hard to see how any candid student can deny the greatness of this
symphony. If only for the stoutness of its structure, the grasp with
which the fundamental principles of musical form are seized, however
the details have to be modified to suit the occasion, and for the
richness and variety of its treatment of orchestral coloring, it would
hold a conspicuous place among modern orchestral works. But of course
these things are only means; the end of music is expression. It is,
then, to the fact that the symphony gives eloquent voice to some of the
deepest, most sacred, and most elusive of human feelings that we must
attribute its real importance. That it does this at a time when most
musicians are looking outward rather than inward, and incline to value
sensuous beauty above thought, and vividness above profundity, gives us
all the more reason for receiving it with gratitude, and finding in it
a good omen for the future.

                              FOOTNOTES:

[20] "Recent Developments in Musical Theory," by Edgar Stillman-Kelley.
The Musical Courier, July 1 and 8, 1908.

[21] Vocal score, page 39.

[22] Musical Times, London, May 1, 1911.

[23] Is not Mr. Newman mistaken in stating that this theme begins in G
major?

[24] Musical Times, January, 1914.

[25] Musical Times, January, 1909.

[26] Musical Times, September, 1913.

[27] Arranged for piano by the composer. Novello, Ewer, and Company,
London.

[28] July, 1911.

[29] This premise, which Mr. Newman expands as if it bore directly
on the problem of program music, though true to the verge of truism,
hardly helps us to solve that problem. The question, it may be said
once again, concerns not the composer's stimulus, but his method;
whether, that is, he works through the suggestion of external object or
of inner emotional states.

[30] Arrangement for piano by S. Karg-Elert. Novello, Ewer, and Company.



                                  IV

                            CLAUDE DEBUSSY

                 [Illustration: =CLAUDE DEBUSSY=]



                                  IV

                            CLAUDE DEBUSSY


No peculiarity of contemporary musical taste is more striking than
the extraordinary popularity which the elusive songs and piano pieces
of Debussy have enjoyed during the last decade or two. They have
been heard, with a delight agreeably mixed with bewilderment, in the
drawing-rooms of the whole world, just as Grieg's were at a slightly
earlier period; and, like Grieg, their author has become the idol
of the amateur. There is no doubt of it, Debussy has been the prime
musical fad of the twentieth century. The fact is interesting--worth
examination. The reasons of it throw a strong light not only on Debussy
himself, but--which is more important--on our whole contemporary
musical life.

Claude Achille Debussy, born in 1862 at St. Germain-en-Laye, near
Paris, and educated at the Conservatoire, first gained wide fame by
his opera, "Pelléas et Mélisande," produced at the Opéra Comique in
1902. By its imaginative re-creation in music of Maeterlinck's fatalism
and atmosphere of mystery, by its dramatic directness, its justice of
declamation, its moderation and avoidance of Wagnerian exaggeration,
perhaps above all by the originality of its harmonic style and its
delicately tinted orchestration, it undoubtedly marked an epoch in
French music. Debussy had at this time already fixed the fundamental
qualities of his style in such compositions as the quartet for strings
(1893), more virile than his later works, and the well-known orchestral
prelude after a prose poem by Mallarmé, archpriest of the symbolistic
movement, "L'Après-midi d'un faune." In later orchestral pieces, the
Nocturnes for orchestra (1899), the symphonic sketches "La Mer" (1905),
the highly colored "Iberia" (1907), as well as in choral works like
the "Martyre de Saint Sébastien" (1911), we see him refining the same
manner, seeking always, like his compatriot the poet Verlaine, the
subtleties, the delicacies, the shades and half-shades, _la nuance,
la nuance toujours_. It is, however, through his smaller works--his
songs and especially his piano pieces--that Debussy is best known to
the mass of his admirers; and as the same qualities reveal themselves
here too, it is in these that we shall try to understand them. In the
"Estampes" (1903), the "Masques" (1904), the "Images" (1905 and 1908),
the "Préludes" (1910 and 1913), and many lesser pieces he has created
what is virtually a department of his own in the literature of the
piano. Here is the essential Debussy.

The adaptation between the art and the audience here, as is always
the case where there is extreme popularity, is so perfect that we can
equally well begin our study from either end. Let us start with the
audience. Not that Debussy consciously sought to "give the public what
it wants"; no artist worthy the name does that. What is meant is simply
that his qualities were spontaneously such as exactly to satisfy his
audience's requirements; or, in biological terms, the organism was
fortunate enough to be exactly suited to its environment, peculiarly
"fit to survive." As investigating biologists we can therefore either
approach the environment through the organism or the organism through
the environment--and we choose to do the latter.

The environment of the modern composer is a public numerically larger
than ever before, and qualitatively affected by this increased size
according to the law of averages--degraded, that is, from the qualities
of the minority toward those of the majority. In less abstract terms,
the modern audience contains to every one intelligent listener ten or
a hundred who are ignorant, untrained, or inattentive. The results of
this disproportion are familiar to us on all sides; they range from
such a general matter as the very conception of art, and especially
of music, as a mere amusement or diversion rather than a spiritual
experience, down to such details as the preference, natural to the
untrained, of sensuous pleasure (in rich tone-combinations, for
example) to emotion and thought (as embodied musically in melody),
and of a vague day-dreaming mood when listening to music to the
imaginative and sympathetic attention that music requires of him who
would really grasp its objective beauty.

Now it is in his appeal to this modern preference of sensation to
thought and emotion, and of subjective day-dreaming to the impersonal
perception of beauty, that Debussy has been especially happy. He is
not, of course, alone in making these appeals. The preoccupation
with the sensuous is observable in most contemporary music, an
especially striking instance being Strauss's orchestration. As for the
ministering to "mood" rather than to the sense of beauty, the whole
tendency toward "program," so characteristic of our time, might be
accounted for by a cynic as a sacrifice to the majority of something
they do not understand (music) to something they do (an opportunity
for day-dreaming). But Debussy is peculiarly thoroughgoing in his
application of these familiar modern methods. All the elements of his
art are focused upon this kind of satisfaction.

First he gives us a title admirably fitted (for he has keen literary
instinct) to liberate our reverizing impulse--"Gardens in the Rain,"
"Reflections in the Water," "Sounds and Perfumes Turn in the Evening
Air," "Gold-Fish," "Veils." Then he proceeds to establish the mood
of idle reverie thus suggested by means of a tonal web which at no
point distracts our attention by any definite features of its own,
melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, or structural. All is vague, floating,
kaleidoscopic. Sustained melody is especially avoided, for nothing
arrests attention or dominates mood like melody; we have therefore
only bits and snippets of tune, forming and disappearing like cloud
forms or the eddies in smoke-wreaths. The rhythms are equally casual
and indeterminate, often of exquisite grace, but obeying no law. The
harmonies are surprisingly various--rich, clear, or clangorous, as the
case may be; but always elusive, avoiding the definition that would
impose thought rather than encourage fancy. The effect of vagueness
is here enhanced by the much-talked-of whole-tone scale. As there is
little musical thought or emotion (melody), there is still less of that
natural growth and combination of thought with thought which we call
thematic development and polyphony. These are alien to the type of art,
and are wisely avoided.

It is curious to compare Debussy's treatment of his programs with that
of Strauss. The imagination of the German, however he may call literary
or pictorial associations to his aid, is primarily musical. A literary
idea may suggest to him a theme, as Till Eulenspiegel's capricious
mischief strikes from him that surprising Till motive, with its queer
jumps and galvanic rhythms. But once such a theme exists it begins to
act, musically, of itself, and develops such a network of musically
interesting relationships that the listener, fascinated, clean forgets
the program in his purely æsthetic delight. Strauss, probably,
forgets it too. He does for us, in spite of his programs, exactly the
kind of thing that Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann do; he creates
intrinsically significant and expressive musical forms (melodies)
capable of absorbing our attention and transfiguring all they
touch--even a rogue like Till Eulenspiegel--with their æsthetic magic.
The Frenchman's imagination, on the contrary, is primarily literary,
dramatic, pictorial. He is led by it, not to the creation of musically
significant forms, but to a keenly sympathetic realization of the mood
suggested by the program, and to a most subtle musical evocation of
it by appropriate means, chiefly sensuous. He is thus, literally, a
painter of "mood pictures." And as most people do not care to make the
effort to follow and relive a musical experience, but prefer to be
lulled by agreeable sounds into a trance in which their fancy may weave
adventures and project pictures for itself, his audience is delighted.
From this point of view symbolism is the type of art which most appeals
to the inartistic, and Debussy is the musician most beloved by the
unmusical.

We should not be talking about Debussy, however, if these negatives
were all there were to say about him. Thousands of composers before
him have succeeded in avoiding definite melody, rhythm, and harmony,
coherent thematic development, and thoughtful polyphony, and have won
only oblivion. His not distracting out attention by these musical
elements is a part of his scheme of art, but the more important
part of it is the sensuous charm by which he wins our interest and
inhibits our mental and emotional activity--the sheer tonal magic of
his sonorities. He is a miracle of deftness in the purveying of musical
sweets. This is admitted even by his detractors, who cannot deny the
seductiveness with which his music woos the physical ear, however
little it appeals to their heads or their hearts. As for his admirers,
they become rhapsodic over these "effects" and "sonorities," which they
praise with a half-religious awe that used to be reserved for ideas.
Listen, for instance, to M. Chennevière,[31] an accredited expositor:
"Voluptuous, corporeal, naturalistic--such is the Debussyan art. The
passions, the sentiments, leave him often indifferent." And again:
"The modern ear has become very fine, very delicate. It delights in
sonorities. A beautiful chord is a rare intoxication, and sometimes an
author repeats it lingeringly, the better to savor it." If we adopt,
at least tentatively, this frankly sensuous and hedonistic view of
music, we shall find much to admire in Debussy.

In the long evolution from the simple to the complex which music
shares with everything else we know we may observe two different
methods of tone-combination which, working together, have given us
the elaborate texture of the modern art. That especially suited to
melodic instruments, like those used in the orchestra or the chorus,
puts melodies together as an engraver puts together lines, each
remaining distinct, standing off clearly from the others, representing
a different musical thought, and yet all agreeing, or, as we say,
harmonizing. This method, called polyphony, requiring great skill in
the composer and close attention from the audience, is illustrated by
such masterpieces as a fugue of Bach, a string quartet of Beethoven, or
the famous passage at the end of Wagner's Meistersinger Overture, where
four themes are driven abreast as in some proud chariot. It results in
a texture essentially composite, involving relations between elements
held in mind together --that is to say, it is thoughtful, and requires
answering thought for its appreciation.

But as soon as the piano, ill suited to melody because of its
unsustained tone, began to reach any degree of development--that is to
say, about the time of Schumann (1810-1856) and Chopin (1809-1849)--it
became evident that this instrument compensated for its shortcomings
in rendering polyphony by a special aptitude for another kind of
tone-combination, which we may call the homophonic or chordal. A great
many tones could be played at once, held either by the fingers or by
the damper-pedal, and made to shimmer with those thousand hues of the
tonal rainbow we call "overtones." There was apparently no limit to
the complexity of the agglomerations of tone that the ear could thus
be trained not only to accept but to delight in--the rule being, as
Chopin in his "fluid and vaporous sonorities" showed, that the greater
in number and the more dissonant or clashing in character were these
color tones, the more agreeably rich would be the resulting impression
on the ear. But however complex these tone associations or chords, it
is important to note that this resultant psychological impression was
simple and unified--that is, the ear perceived but one thing, and not
several as in the polyphonic style. There was therefore no comparison
of different elements, no thought or emotion; there was simply
sensation, physically delightful, mentally and emotionally meaningless.

Debussy has probably brought more talent and originality to the
elaboration of this method of writing for the piano than any other
composer since Chopin and Schumann. Open his pages anywhere and you
will find these wide-spaced chords, these gossamer arpeggios and
scales embroidering them, these nicely calculated grace-notes adding
just the dissonance needed to season the dish. Take, for instance,
the opening measures of "La Cathédrale engloutie" (Figure XVIII),
characteristically marked "Profoundly calm (in a softly sonorous mist)."

The intention to produce a misty, not to say foggy, homogeneity of
tone here is so obvious that it seems strange that just such passages
have aroused the ire of pedants who have tried to apply to them the
rules of the other way of writing--the polyphonic. When we wish diverse
melodies to stand out clearly one from another, we must avoid "parallel
fifths and octaves," which make them coalesce. Accordingly Debussy has
been blamed, by those who prefer rules to reason, for using precisely
the device which will give him the physical richness with mental
vacuity which he is seeking.

                   [Illustration: =FIGURE XVIII.
          From "La Cathédrale engloutie" (Preludes, Book I).
      (The incompleted ties indicate that the chord is to be kept
                     sounding by the pedal.)=]


When this admirable colorist wishes a brighter or more incisive
sonority than one of this kind, he resorts to dissonances, and
especially to the interval of the "second"--notes adjacent in the
scale. The opening measures of "Et la lune descend sur le temple qui
fut" (Figure XIX) afford an example of this in a quiet tone; more
clangorous qualities of it will be found in "Masques," "L'île joyeuse,"
and "Jardins sous la pluie." The first example illustrates what was
said of the simplicity for the mind, whatever the complexity for the
ear, of this kind of tone-combination. The chords contain a good many
notes each; but there emerges only one melody, and that rather obvious.

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XIX.
           "Et la lune descend sur la temple qui fut."=]


The same search for rich or brilliant color that led to this use of
"seconds," carried a little further, brought the composer to that
whole-tone scale (or scale entirely made up of "seconds," as C, D, E,
F-sharp, G-sharp, A-sharp, C) which he has used with such irresistible
appeal. He has, to be sure, no patent right in it. Moussorgsky,
Borodine, and others had used it before him; his French contemporaries
have used it with skill; and now that it is common property some have
even elicited from it strains of plangent force and manly energy
foreign to Debussy's temperament. The fact remains that he has made
it peculiarly his own by the subtlety, variety, and charm of his
employment of it, as may be seen, for example, throughout "Voiles," in
the first book of Préludes, and in scattered measures in almost any of
his pieces. The whole-tone scale is indeed pre-ordained by nature as a
goal to which such an art as Debussy's inevitably tends; its clashing
tones feed the greedy ear with the richest diet the gamut can provide;
at the same time the equivocal character of the chords, or rather the
single chord (the so-called "augmented triad") that can harmonize it,
and the self-contradictoriness of its tones from the point of view of
the older scale, do away with the sense of key and even of momentary
repose, and leave us groping in a tonal night in which, since there
is nothing to be observed, we can give ourselves up undisturbed to
dreaming.

Debussy is thus a true child of his time in his quest of the sensuous,
and a true child of his country in the subtlety with which he pursues
it. His Gallic taste saves him from the coarseness of so much of the
contemporary Teutonic art; and while his aim is no more spiritual
than that of the Germans, he prefers innuendo, implication, and
understatement to the gross exaggeration of Strauss, the vehemence
in platitude of Mahler, and the plodding literalness of Reger. Thus
opposing, as he has so effectively done, the ideal of mere force,
reducing in "Pelléas" the mammoth modern orchestra to a handful of men
skilfully exploited, substituting the most elusive sonorities of the
piano for the crashing magnificence of the Liszt school, everywhere
insisting on subtle quality rather than overwhelming quantity, he has
exercised one of the most beneficial of influences against vulgarity of
the bumptious type. But sybaritism, too, has its own vulgarity; the
question of aim is fundamental in art; and in judging the distinction
of Debussy's aims we cannot evade the question whether physical
pleasure, however refined, is the highest good an artist can seek. His
charm, beyond doubt, is great enough to justify his popularity. Yet it
would be regrettable if the student of modern French music, satisfied
with this charm, were to neglect the less popular but more virile, more
profound, and more spiritual music of César Franck, Ernest Chausson,
and Vincent d'Indy.

 NOTE: Claude Debussy died in Paris, March 26, 1918.


                              FOOTNOTES:

[31] "Claude Debussy et son œuvre," by Daniel Chennevière, Paris, 1913.



                                   V

                            VINCENT d'INDY

         [Illustration: =VINCENT d'INDY AS A YOUNG MAN=]



                                   V

                            VINCENT d'INDY


                                   I

Our age, because of the natural failure of our inner powers, at first,
to keep pace with the recent unprecedented increase of our external
resources, will probably be known to the future as one of unparalleled
confusion. With the mental and moral habits and the nervous systems
inherited from a more placid generation, we find ourselves plunged in
this maelstrom produced by cheap printing, quick communication, and
facile transportation. Prepared to digest only a limited environment,
we are fed the whole world. No wonder we are distracted.... The
situation, of course, is full of interest to the more adventurous
temperaments; but however stimulating to the man of action it is
scarcely favorable to the artist, since art is born only of tranquil
emotion, firmly grasped and clearly arranged. Most contemporary
musicians are thus bewildered and to some extent defeated by the very
richness of the materials at hand; their art is not equal to the strain
put upon it by their greatly enlarged resources; and their music is in
consequence unindividual in expression, flabbily eclectic in style, and
vague or wandering in structure.

It may seem at first thought paradoxical that these melancholy results
of a momentary insufficiency of the mind to its materials should have
proved most fatal precisely in the country that in simpler times has
done most to create music. Strange it is, indeed, that Germany, which
in Beethoven voiced the spiritual aspiration, in Schumann the romantic
joy, and in Brahms the philosophic meditation of the whole world,
should find itself at length reduced to the half-impotent strivings of
a Mahler, to the learned lucubrations of a Reger, while mixed with even
the gold of its one genius, Strauss, there should be so much dross of
cheap sensationalism and irrelevant melodrama. Yet to consideration
these signs of a widespread decadence in German music will not by any
means remain incomprehensible. For it will be seen that the Teutonic
introspectiveness, the supreme gift of that temperament, incomparable
and sufficient endowment as it seemed in the musicians of the great
period, hardly suffices those who have to steer their way in a much
more complicated environment, surrounded by pitfalls, calling at every
step for qualities with which the typical German is by no means so
well supplied--intelligence, discrimination, moderation, and taste.
It is the lack of these intellectual or spiritual qualities, rather
than any falling off in purely emotional power, that has brought the
great stream of music that flowed through Bach, Beethoven, Schumann,
and Brahms to its end in the stagnant morasses of contemporary
Kapellmeistermusik, or scattered it in the showy but unsatisfying
jets of sensationalism. And as Russia still remains a bit barbaric,
England a little provincial, America immature, and Italy tainted with
operaticism (an ugly word for an ugly thing), it is chiefly in France,
with its racial genius of lucid intelligence, that we find a truly
vital contemporary music. There we owe it chiefly to the high creative
genius of César Franck, Belgian by birth and temperament, French
in education and intellectual clarity, and to the loyal co-labors,
creative, critical, and educational, of his pupils and disciples. If
there is to-day, despite the confusions of the time, a clear tradition
and a hopeful future for instrumental music, it is chiefly these modern
Frenchmen that we have to thank.

Especially has Vincent d'Indy, to-day dominant in the group,
contributed to its work for many years the indefatigable efforts of his
powerful and many-sided personality, more variously gifted than any
of the others, since he is not only a composer of genius, but a lucid
writer, an able organizer, and a teacher and conductor of singular
magnetism. He came under the influence of Franck at his most plastic
period; he was a youth of twenty-two when, in 1873, he entered Franck's
organ class at the Paris Conservatoire; and of the circumstances,
characteristic of both teacher and pupil, under which this most
fruitful relationship began, he has himself written in his "Life of
Franck."

"Having with great trouble," he says, "got upon paper a formless
quartet for piano and strings, I asked Franck for an appointment. When
I had played him the first movement, he remained a moment silent, and
then, turning toward me with a sad air, he said to me words I have
never forgotten, since they had a decisive action on my life: 'There
are good things here, energy, a certain instinct for dialogue of the
parts, ... the ideas are not bad, ... but that is not enough, it is not
made, and, in short, _you know nothing at all_.' Returning home in the
night (the interview had taken place very late in the evening) I said
to myself, in my wounded vanity, that Franck must be a reactionary,
understanding nothing of youthful, modern art. Nevertheless, calmer the
next morning, I took up my unhappy quartet and recalled one by one his
observations, ... and I was obliged to admit that he was right: I knew
absolutely nothing. I went then, almost trembling, to ask him to accept
me as a pupil."

At this time Franck, already fifty-one years old, was little
appreciated as a composer, appeared to the world as a hard-worked
organist who taught ten hours a day and wrote for two hours before
breakfast works seldom heard, and had indeed not yet discovered the
vein from which he so enriched music during the last ten years of his
life. Nevertheless d'Indy at once recognized the fruitfulness of his
ideas, devoted himself to a severe technical discipline in accordance
with them, and assumed that rôle of filial defender and expositor of
them in which he has never wearied from that day to this. There is
something not only rarely beautiful in itself, but most characteristic
of the purity of d'Indy's self-forgetful devotion to music, in the
loyalty which he has always given to his "Pater seraphicus," as
Franck's artistic sons called him, from the period when as a student
he left the conservatory which misprized his master, to the day
when, himself a master, he published his "Life of Franck." M. Romain
Rolland gives us a picture of it in his description of the first
performance, in March, 1888, of Franck's "Theme, fugue, and variation"
for harmonium and piano, at a concert of the _Société nationale de
musique_, when Franck played the harmonium, and d'Indy the piano.
"I always remember," says M. Rolland,[32] "his respectful attitude
toward the old musician, his studious care to follow his indications:
one would have thought he was a pupil, attentive and docile; and this
was touching from a young master, established by so many works--the
_Chant de la Cloche_, _Wallenstein_, the _Symphonie sur un thème
montagnard_--and perhaps better known and more popular than César
Franck himself. Since then twenty years have passed; I continue to see
him as I saw him that evening; and whatever happens now his image will
remain always for me closely associated with that of the great master
dominating, with a paternal smile, this small assembly of faithful
ones."

This "small assembly of faithful ones," the pupils of Franck, such as
Duparc, Chausson, Coquard, Bordes, Ropartz, Benoit, d'Indy, as well
as others, like Saint-Saëns and Fauré, who, though not his pupils,
have felt his influence, have virtually created since 1870, largely
under his inspiration, a new music in France. The story of it may be
read in M. Rolland's book, in the essay "Le renouveau." At the time
of the Franco-Prussian War (in which d'Indy served as a corporal of
the 105th regiment), symphonic and chamber music suffered almost
complete neglect in Paris. "Before 1870," writes M. Saint-Saëns,[33]
"a French composer who had the folly to venture into the domain of
instrumental music, had no other way to get his works played than to
organize a concert himself, inviting his friends and the critics.
The rare chamber music societies were as much closed to all new
comers as the orchestral concerts; their programs contained only the
celebrated names, above discussion, of the great classic symphonists.
At that time one had truly to be bereft of all common sense to write
music. It was in order to correct this state of things that a group
of musicians organized in February, 1871, the _Société nationale de
musique_, with the device 'Ars gallica,' and the avowed end of 'aiding
the production and familiarization of all serious musical works, of
French composers, and of encouraging, so far as may be in its power,
all musical tentatives, of whatever kind, which show on the part of
their author elevated and artistic aspirations.'" M. Rolland does not
hesitate to call the _Société nationale_ "the cradle and the sanctuary
of French art." "All that has been great in French music from 1870 to
1900," he says, "has come by way of it. Without it the greater part of
the works which are the honor of our music not only would not have been
performed, but perhaps would not even have been written." And he draws
from the programs records of the performance of important compositions
by Franck, Saint-Saëns, d'Indy, Chabrier, Lalo, Bruneau, Chausson,
Debussy, Dukas, Lekeu, Magnard, and Ravel.

Vincent d'Indy's personal contribution to the work of the society began
to be considerable from 1881 on, when the influence of the Franck
school became dominant. In 1886 his proposal to include in the programs
the works of classic and foreign composers led to the resignation of
Saint-Saëns and Bussine. In 1890, at the death of Franck, he became
president of the society. Under his influence the representation of
classical works has particularly increased--Palestrina, Vittoria,
Josquin, Bach, Handel, Rameau, Gluck, as well as Beethoven, Schumann,
Liszt, Brahms. Foreign contemporary music has been represented chiefly
by Strauss, Grieg, and the Russians. In recent years the _Société
nationale_ has been charged with taking on too exclusive a character,
especially with guarding the traditional at the expense of the new; and
the _Société musicale indépendante_ has been founded by some of the
younger men as a protest.

In 1900 d'Indy became president of the Schola Cantorum, founded six
years earlier by Charles Bordes, Alexandre Guilmant, and himself,
primarily for the cultivation of the church music based on the
Gregorian chant. In his discourse of inauguration he explained his
purpose of enlarging the function of the school to cover all musical
instruction; and while characteristically insisting that the means to
renovate modern music were to be found in the study of "the decorative
art of the plain chant, the architectural art of the Palestrina period,
and the expressive art of the great Italians of the seventeenth
century," yet promised to take his students "through the same path
that art has followed, so that, undergoing in their period of study
the transformations music has undergone through the centuries, they
will emerge from it so much the better armed for the modern combat,
in that they will have lived, so to speak, the life of art, and will
have assimilated in their natural order the forms which have logically
succeeded each other in the different epochs of artistic development."
Both in the special leaning toward the music of the church which his
devout and somewhat mystical temperament here suggested, and in the
broad eclecticism with which his intelligence insisted on combining it,
he showed clearly the influence of his master César Franck, whom indeed
he asserted to be in a sense "the grandfather of this Schola Cantorum,
since it is his system of teaching that we endeavor to continue and
apply here." Like his master he wished to cultivate in his students
both a solid learning, without which nothing vital can be contributed
to art, and the enthusiasm without which it degenerates into pedantry.
To understand the great influence for good exerted on French music by
the Schola, we need only recall d'Indy's description of "the noble
teaching of César Franck, founded on Bach and Beethoven, but admitting
besides all enthusiasms, all new and generous aspirations."[34]

In the sixteen years that d'Indy has been at the head of the Schola
Cantorum he has accomplished an amount of unselfish labor for the
advancement of music that would have been extraordinary under any
circumstances, and becomes almost incredible when we remember that
in the same period he has produced over half a dozen original works
of the first importance. He is indeed a man of unusual physical,
nervous, and mental strength, accustomed to indefatigable labor. Thus
in addition to all his teaching he organizes operatic performances
and choral, orchestral, and chamber-music concerts; he conducts, and
teaches others to conduct; he edits the classics--Rameau, Destouches,
Solomon de Rossi--and the folk-songs of his native mountains of the
Vivarais; he gives lectures and makes studies of the predecessors of
Beethoven, of Franck; he writes criticisms for the monthly press; and,
most serviceable of all perhaps to distant students, he describes the
principles of his art in a masterly and exhaustive treatise, the "Cours
de composition musicale," unfortunately not yet translated into English.

And all this is only his winter work. In the summer he retires to his
château of Faugs, near the little mountain village of Boffres, in
Ardèche, and there, in a room in the tower, whence on a clear day he
can see Mt. Blanc, he composes the works in which these principles
are so nobly exemplified. Besides the early "Chant de la Cloche," by
which he won the grand prize of the city of Paris in 1885 and first
established his reputation, he has written three other large choral
works: the two operas "Fervaal" (1895) and "L'Étranger" (1901), and
the oratorio "La Légende de St. Christophe," recently completed.
For orchestra, aside from the early trilogy of symphonic poems
"Wallenstein," over-Wagnerian in inspiration, and other early or
lesser works, there are four masterpieces of the first order: "Istar,"
symphonic variations, 1896; the second Symphony, in B flat, 1904; the
symphony, "Un Jour d'Été à la Montagne," 1905; and the symphonic poem
"Souvenirs," written to the memory of his wife, 1906. This incomplete
list may be finished with three equally masterly chamber-music pieces:
the second String Quartet, E major, 1897; the Violin Sonata, 1904, and
the Piano Sonata, 1907--not to mention the youthful Piano Quartet of
1878, or the delightful Trio for Clarinet, Violoncello, and Piano of
1887.

What, then, are these fundamental principles of composition which
d'Indy has insisted upon in his teaching, promulgated in the "Cours
de composition musicale," and exemplified in his works? They are all,
in essence, but differing forms of the central principle of all art,
of all beauty--that the utmost variety must be but the outgrowth and
flowering of a perfect unity. We have seen that many modern composers,
baffled by the richness of the materials with which they had to deal,
have failed in the effort thus to stamp unity upon them: their art
has been confused and fragmentary. Others again--the pseudo-classics
and reactionaries--have resorted to a violent simplification of the
material in order to preserve unity, and have thus impoverished their
art. Only the greatest, in the first rank of whom must be placed Franck
and d'Indy, have had at once a firm enough hold upon musical tradition
and a broad enough command of new methods and idioms to write music at
once various and unified, at once thoroughly "modern" and thoroughly
sane. To this unifying power of d'Indy's mind M. Rolland pays a
fine tribute. "Clearness!" he cries, "it is the mark of M. d'Indy's
intelligence. There are no shadows in him. His thought and his art are
as clear as his look, which gives to his face so much of youth. It is a
necessity for him to judge, to order, to classify, to unify. Never was
there a spirit more French.... And this is the more remarkable in that
his nature is far from being simple. Through a wide musical education,
a constant desire to learn, it has been enriched by many elements,
different, almost contradictory.... Not to be submerged by this
richness of opposing elements requires a great force of passion or of
will, which eliminates or chooses and transforms. M. d'Indy eliminates
almost nothing: he organizes. There are in his music the qualities of
a general: the knowledge of the end, the patient will to attain it,
the perfect acquaintance with the means, the spirit of order, and the
mastery over his work and over himself. Despite the variety of the
materials he employs, the whole is always clear."


                                  II

                   [Illustration: =FIGURE XX.=]


If we examine, as typical of d'Indy's mature style, a passage such as
the introduction to the slow movement of the B flat Symphony, shown in
Figure XX, we are struck at once by the complexity of the detail--the
bold unexpectedness of the melodic lines, the chromatic harmony, the
constantly varying rhythms--and by the perfect final clearness with
which it nevertheless impresses us, so that each note seems inevitable
and the whole unmistakable in meaning. It is this combination of
complexity and simplicity, characteristic more or less of all really
great modern composers but perhaps to a peculiar degree of d'Indy, that
we have to analyze and account for to ourselves in some detail if we
would thoroughly understand his music. What is the mysterious power
in him that enables him to give so distinctly personal a stamp to
elements drawn from so many sources? What is the unifying principle in
all this variety? What lifts this insatiable student above his studies,
and renders his knowledge not a dead lumber weighing down his mind, but
a living force making it fruitful? For of the extent of these studies,
benumbing to any but the freshest mind, there is plenty of evidence in
his work as well as in his critical writings; if it were worth while
we might enumerate "influences" at great length. There would be, for
instance, the fundamental influence of Bach and Beethoven, and the
more superficial influence of the romantics, Schumann and Mendelssohn,
as shown in "Wallenstein" (1873-1879), and other early works. There
would be the potent Wagnerian influence, of which "Fervaal" is the
chief monument, although it appears in all that he has written; and
there would be the even more pervasive and inspiring influence of his
master, Franck. We should have to take account, too, of the reflection,
especially in later works like the piano sonata, the violin sonata,
and the second symphony, of the harmonic idiom of Debussy and other
contemporaries, the whole-tone scale, and the like. And under these
individual influences we should find more general, subtle, and
pervasive ones, we should find the great communal streams of the
French folk-song and the Gregorian plain chant. Yet all these streams,
and others too many to mention, have been gathered up into one clear
personality. What has been the transmuting magic?

The composer himself suggests the answer in several passages that may
here be brought together.

"It is perfectly logical," he writes in _Mercure de France_,[35] "and
in the order of things that, when a man of genius shows himself in
one country, the artists of the other nations try to assimilate his
processes. I see nothing reprehensible in that, and this international
free trade even appears to me one of the vital conditions of the
development of art....

Moreover, can the artist ever, in spite of all influences, give
anything else than the art that he carries in himself?"

"You ask me," he says to an interviewer of the _Revue Bleue_,[36]
"to define French music. In reality there is no French music, and in
general there is no national music. There is _music_, which is of
no country; there are musical masterpieces, which belong to no one
nation." He is led on to an interesting comparison of our period,
in its desire for greater simplicity, with the end of the sixteenth
century, and the illuminating statement: "M. Debussy is a little our
Monteverde; he abandons melody for recitative, for 'the representative
style,' as they said in the first years of the seventeenth century; he
renounces the resources of counterpoint, he even foregoes modulation."
But when the interviewer, seeking to entrap him into condemnation of
his contemporary which would make good copy, asks, "And do you not
desire rather the triumph of melody and polyphony?" he replies:

"I have but one desire; it is that they write beautiful things." The
third passage is one of the axioms that he gives to his students at
the Schola Cantorum: "All processes are good, on condition that they
never become the principal end, but are regarded only as means for
making music." And finally he makes his meaning even more definite in a
discussion of M. Roger Ducasse:[37] "I am sure that when M. Ducasse is
willing to trust himself more to the impulses of his heart rather than
to researches in sonorities, he will be able to make very beautiful
music. There is in art, truly, nothing but the heart that can produce
beauty--(_Il n'est vraiment, en art, que le cœur pour engendrer de la
beauté_)."

Yes, it is his heart that guides his mind through the mazes of its
knowledge; it is his luminous sincerity that shines through all he
writes, however complex it may be in detail; both the warmth and the
light of his music come from his emotion. Responsive emotion in the
listener, accordingly, is the key to the intricacies of his style. If
we attend to the letter only we are baffled, bewildered: there are so
many notes, such queer progressions, in that passage from the symphony,
for example. But if we hearken for the spirit, all becomes clear, and
strangely moving. It is waxing and waning feeling, a wave of emotion,
that expresses itself in that rise to the strident B of the fourth
measure and in the subsequent hesitating descent. And as emotion is the
motive force of the whole, emotion it is also that explains the details.

Take for instance the very texture of the melody. We note two
contrasting figures or motives, one, which we may call _a_, melancholy
or at least contemplative, characterized by the fall of a fourth,
and another, _b_, in which the more vigorous rise of a seventh gives
a sense of opposing will. The whole passage is wrought from these
two contrasting yet mutually supplementing strands with singular
concentration. There is not a note, save the chords in the last two
measures, that does not belong to one or the other. There is something
relentless in such insistence. The grip is not relaxed for a moment.
The thought is hammered in. The music throbs like a pulse. Yet there
is in this insistence nothing of the monotony of mere repetition; the
feeling never stagnates. On the contrary, each assertion accumulates
fresh force, the emotion rises by its own expression, and there is
ordered, purposeful, relentless progression. Thus motive _a_ is stated
first from D flat; then, at *3, from D, higher and louder; then, at *5,
from E flat but this time fairly carried off its feet by its oppugnant
fellow, _b_. Similarly _b_, first heard quietly, almost timidly, in the
bass, in the key of D flat, at *2, is repeated at *4 more firmly and
in the key of D minor, making it in the main higher than before though
starting on the same note; finally it appears in the treble, as just
stated, at *5, and rises as in a passionate cry to the B, whence it
slowly subsides. In short, we see here a "logic of emotion" quite as
absolute as that of the reason, and far more appropriate to music, in
which mere reason must be content with a subordinate place. As always
in the best music, the logic of emotion involves both the fundamental
unity of the motives (since no emotion would amount to much if it was
so weak that it forgot what it was about) and their gradual cumulative
growth in diversity as they realize themselves in expression. Even
d'Indy's music is not always so true to the logic of emotion as this,
as we shall have occasion later to notice; even Homer nods; but the
motival variety in unity of all good melody, as a result of its
emotional origin, is none the less ineluctable as a principle.

Looking again at the passage we may note more specifically the
interest, vitality, and flexibility of its rhythms. This is again, as
in all the composer's best work, ultimately due to truth to emotion.
Motive _b_ occurs three times, but never twice the same. The second
time, at *4, it enters earlier in the measure than before, as if
impatient, and ends with the persistent tramp of quarter notes. The
third time it strikes in almost roughly (*5), its second and third
notes are displaced--syncopated--by agitation, while its last three
notes, comprising the crisis and its subsidence, are lengthened out
from a half measure to a measure and a half. (See Figure XXI.) We see
thus exemplified the basic principles of expression through rhythm,
the hastening or compression of the phrase in response to passion,
its retardation or expansion with returning calm. "Expression,"
writes d'Indy,[38] "consists in the translation of sentiments and
impressions, by the aid of certain characteristic modifications,
affecting the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic forms of the musical
discourse.... _Agogique_, consisting in the modifications of the
rhythmic movement,--precipitation, slackening, regular and irregular
interruptions, etc.--has for its effect to render the relative
impressions of _calm_ and _agitation_."

                  [Illustration: =FIGURE XXI.=]


Such a conception of rhythm, emphasizing its sensitive fluctuation
in response to mood, and demanding of the artist complete sincerity
and flexibility of expression, is at the pole from the conventional
notion of it as an almost mechanical balancing of equal sections of
melody, cut off so to speak with a yardstick. D'Indy leaves his readers
in no doubt as to his opinion of all such conventional sing-song,
the doggerel of music. "To beat the time and to give the rhythm of a
musical phrase," he says,[39] "are two completely distinct operations,
often opposed. The coincidence of the rhythm and the measure is an
entirely particular case, which men have unfortunately tried to
generalize, propagating the error that 'the first beat of the measure
is always strong.' This identification of rhythm with measure has had
the most deplorable consequences for music.... Rhythm, submitted to
the restricting requirements of meter, becomes rapidly impoverished,
even to the most desolating platitude, just as a branch of a tree,
strongly compressed by a ligature, becomes enfeebled and atrophied,
while its neighbors absorb all the sap."[40] Again: "In the seventeenth
century the bar-line ceased to be simply a graphic sign; it became a
periodic starting point for the rhythm, which it soon robbed of all
its liberty and elegance. Hence come those symmetrical and square-cut
forms to which we owe a great part of the platitudes of the Italianism
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."[41] Finally, summing the
whole matter up in a sentence: "The _carrure_ [that is, square-cut
phrase-balance, symmetry by measures, narrowly limited to the number 4
and its multiples] is an element of vulgarity, rarely useful outside of
certain special forms of dance music."[42]

The vulgarity of the _carrure_, of sing-song, as we may call it in
English, is due, it cannot be too much insisted upon, to the mental
and emotional inertia, the thoughtlessness, the surrender to the
mechanism of habit, of which it is the product and the index. It
proceeds from a conventionality essentially unspontaneous, uncreative,
a conventionality that permits the length and shape of the phrase to be
imposed by convenience, ease, and precedent rather than by the emotion
it ought to incarnate. Hence sing-song is found not only in all music
which, like so-called "popular songs," emanates from trivial people or
from people only superficially moved, but also in the music even of
sincere composers in their moments of inattention, pretentiousness,
or routine. Even so fine a composer as Elgar is frequently banal in
rhythm. On the other hand, deeply felt work always spontaneously
assumes individual rhythmic outlines; and undoubtedly such free
and unstereotyped outlines, though to the initiated listener they
constitute one of its most potent and lasting beauties, and thus are an
essential condition of its longevity, repel at first by their apparent
eccentricity or "obscurity" the uninitiated and the inattentive, and
thus postpone its general acceptance. Thus the attribution to d'Indy
of "dryness" and "lack of melody" which one sometimes hears may be
taken as an inverted tribute to the spontaneity of his melody and
especially of his rhythms. Only one who did not feel sympathetically
the wide ground swell of those phrases from the symphony could find
them groping or uncertain because they did not fall into exactly four
measures. The moment one felt the coördinating force of their fresh
personal emotion one would not regret the absence of the conventional
strait-jackets.

It is emotion again that explains his attitude toward harmony. Just
as he is ahead of most of his contemporaries in the fundamental and
surprisingly neglected matter of rhythm, because he conceives it as so
flexible an instrument of expression, so he is rather at odds with many
of them, especially with the impressionist school in his own country,
on the much studied--perhaps over-studied--question of harmony, because
he conceives harmony as primarily expressive, while they conceive it
as primarily sensuous.[43] A clue to his attitude is that sentence
of his in criticism of Ducasse: "I am sure that when M. Ducasse is
willing to trust himself more to the impulses of his heart rather than
to researches in sonorities, he will be able to make very beautiful
music." "Researches in sonorities"--that is, in the minds of the group
of French composers led by Debussy, almost a synonym for harmony; what
they ask of harmony is combinations of tone delicious to the physical
ear: subtly, delicately delicious, no doubt, and to a highly refined
ear, but still aiming consciously at the ear rather than at the mind
or the heart. The means of satisfying such a desire being sensations,
aural sensations ingeniously built up and combined, they have rightly
concentrated their attention on the single moment of merged sounds--the
chord--rather than on the procession of separate sounds--the melody,
and its relation to other melodies sounding with it. "Accord,"
"sonorité"--these are the slogans of the impressionists.

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXII.
  From Chant Elégiaque, in Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano.=]


To d'Indy, on the other hand, harmony, like all the other technical
elements of music, is primarily a means of expression, and therefore
results rather from the confluence of melodies, themselves dictated
by emotion, than from the adjustment of sonorities to please the ear.
One has only to look again at the passage from the symphony to see
how such an attitude works out in practise. There is no preoccupation
here with "effect"; the harmony, one might almost say, receives no
attention for itself, but is solely a result of the melodic movements;
yet so free and expressive are these movements, so truly conceived to
voice the emotions behind them, and combined with such art, that this
resultant harmony is far more poignant, far more fresh and unexpected
and striking than if it had been confected for itself alone. And this
is natural and easily comprehensible, since we should not expect any
amount of ingenuity spent on the single chord to achieve the results
that melodies, feeling out into the unknown, easily attain. Such an
attitude toward harmony requires, it is true, a certain daring: you
cannot swim with your feet on the ground; but the freedom of movement
you get by trusting yourself to the waves amply compensates your faith.

                   [Illustration: =FIGURE XXIII.
                        From "Souvenirs."=]


This melodic conception of harmony has always been a fundamental
characteristic of d'Indy's style, as examples from widely sundered
periods will easily show. The first, Figure XXII, is a bit from the
Chant Elégiaque in the early Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano
(1887). The charming unexpectedness of the twist back into E major is
thorough d'Indy, as is also the use of a persistent figure (given to
the cello in the original) and the rhythmic modification of this same
figure to provide the bass in the second measure. The second passage,
shown in Figure XXIII, dates from thirty years later, and appears in
"Souvenirs" (1906). Here again the melodies "find a way," and a more
interesting, vista-opening way than any sonorities could suggest.
Such passages enable us to get the full sense of what their composer
means when he writes: "The study of chords _for themselves_ is, from
the musical point of view, an absolute æsthetic error, for harmony
springs from melody, and ought never to be separated from it in its
application.... There is only one chord, the perfect chord [triad],
alone consonant, because it alone gives the sense of repose or
equilibrium. All the combinations that people call 'dissonant chords,'
necessitating, in order to be examined, an artificial arrest in the
melodies that constitute them, have no proper existence, since in
making abstraction of the movement that engenders them, one suppresses
their unique reason for being. Chords have too often become the end
of music; they ought never to be anything but a means, a consequence,
a phenomenon essentially transient."[44] It may be held that d'Indy
sometimes goes too far in his denunciations of harmonic theories based
on the conception of the "chord," as for example in his note on the
famous opening phrase of "Tristan and Isolde." It may also be justly
remarked that his own method is not always happy in its results--that
the way his melodies find is sometimes an obscure and wandering, or
an unnatural and forced way. Nevertheless it remains on the whole
true that on the one hand the chord conception of harmony has been
responsible for a vast mass of pedantry, and has paralyzed and
hamstrung whole generations of students, and that on the other hand
it favors the purely sensuous trifling with tones of which there is
so much in our day; while the best pages of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms,
Wagner, Franck, d'Indy show a thousand beauties and poignancies which
without the help of melody could never have been discovered.

                  [Illustration: =FIGURE XXIV.=]

  Seule la Mort l'injurieuse
  Mort appellera, la
  Clair Vie

In the course of Kaito's prophecy, in "Fervaal," there is a deeply
moving passage to the words: "Only Death, baleful Death, shall summon
Life," which strikingly illustrates its composer's way of making all
the elements of music contribute to expression (see Figure XXIV).
Here the upward inflection of the voice, the strange intervals, the
vague harmonies, the halting movement, even the sighing syncopation of
the bass, all contribute to the interpretation of the opening lines.
But above all, how inexplicably stirring is the gradual increase of
force and rise of pitch up to the clear chord of D major (note the
composer's indication, "Clair") at the word "Life" ("Vie")! Gloom and
mystery give place to hope, faith, will, to which the ecclesiastical
harmonies lend an unmistakable religious coloring. This change,
completely spontaneous in effect, is dictated by an art that conceals
itself, and introduces us to one of the most individual features of
d'Indy's harmonic technique, his ease of modulation. In his _Cours
de Composition Musicale_ he has worked out his theories of the
expressive use of modulation with characteristic thoroughness, and with
unprecedented amplitude of detail. To resume his points here, however,
interesting as they are, would take us too deeply into technical
matters, especially as our main interest is now in his application
rather than in his statement of them. The essential principles may
therefore be briefly summarized, in his own words, as follows:

(1) "Expression is the unique reason for being of modulation."

(2) "Modulation operates by a displacement of the tonic ['key-note'],
by its oscillation towards the higher fifths [that is, towards the
sharper keys, as to G, D, A, etc., from C] or towards the lower fifths
[that is, towards the flatter keys, as to F, B flat, E flat, etc., from
C]."

(3) "Modulation has for its effect to render relative impressions
of brightness [that is, movement towards sharper keys produces
'_éclaircissement_'] or of darkness [movement towards flatter keys
produces '_assombrissement_']."

(4) "Modulation can never be the _end_ of music, since it is by its
very nature a _means_ put _at the service of the musical idea_. Every
modulation which has not this character of subordination to the idea is
thereby inopportune, useless, and even injurious to the equilibrium of
the composition."[45]

Looking back at our examples in the light of these principles, and
especially with the illumination afforded by the text in Kaito's
contrast of death and life, we shall find a further element of art to
admire in them--their expressive use of modulation. The slow movement
of the symphony begins in the comparatively "dark" key of D flat,
but touches in the fourth measure, at the acme of the climax, the
brighter D major, whence with the waning emotion it subsides to the
original key. The passage cited from the _Chant élégiaque_ emerges
from the shades of E flat minor to the bright daylight of E major
(wherein starts a new statement of the main theme). The fragment from
"Souvenirs" commences in quiet grief, in the clear but rather subdued
key of A minor; with the third measure a downward inflection, a sort
of depression of mood, sinks it to hopeless groping in the glooms of G
flat and C flat, whence it again struggles forth to new assertion, in A
minor, in the phrase that follows our excerpt. Stated in bald technical
terms like these, such changes may seem crude, obvious, mechanical; but
anyone who will listen sympathetically to the music in which they are
embodied by a master will realize the infinite variety and subtlety of
their appeal.

A later appearance of this same theme in "Souvenirs," in which for
the first two notes in the second measure is substituted a triplet,
F, G, E, suggests the further remark that even ornament, so apt to be
used merely for show, is employed by d'Indy, like so many more basic
resources, singly for expression. His somewhat severe conception of
art--there is much in his style that, especially in contrast with
German sensuousness, is austere, bare, almost stark--leads him to
condemn superficial decoration. "The _fioriture_ of the Italian
dramatic school of the early nineteenth century," he insists, "intended
only to display the vocal agility of the singer (just as the Variation
of Chopin, although more musical, puts forward the fingers of the
pianist), this _fioriture_, consisting usually of embroideries about
an arpeggio, is truly more harmonic than melodic--and even the harmony
is usually extremely banal. The characteristic of the accomplished and
conscientious artist is a firm will to treat only subjects that have
a value in themselves, not borrowed from the apparel in which they
are dressed up."[46] And he elsewhere succinctly defines the Italian
_fioriture_ as "that art which consists in making heard the greatest
number of useless notes in the shortest space of time."[47] But he
takes pains to distinguish "this surcharge dictated by bad taste" from
the more essential ornament used in the "expressive vocalises of J.
S. Bach and his contemporaries, which, like the Gregorian Variation
from which they derive, form a part of the melody." And he cites
with approval melodies like the theme of the Allegretto in Franck's
Symphony, in which a short phrase is repeated not literally but with
ornamental variation resulting from the natural progression of the
thought or feeling--from what, in short, we have called the logic of
emotion. Such treatment is almost a mannerism in his own work. Other
instances, besides the place in "Souvenirs" just cited, are the first
theme of the violin sonata, the fugato in the first movement of the
quartet, the main theme of the same movement, and the main theme of
"Evening" in the "Summer Day on the Mountain" (Figure XXVII, _a_).

Finally, even in the matter of orchestration, the least essential
of any we have considered, d'Indy is still guided by the same
principle--truth to feeling. Though universally acknowledged, even by
those who dislike his music, to be one of the greatest living masters
of the resources of the orchestra, he never uses these resources, as
does for example Rimsky-Korsakoff, in a spirit of sheer virtuosity.
Nothing in his scores is put there to dazzle or to stun; all is
for eloquent musical speech; and when there is great liveliness or
brilliancy, as there often is--at the end of "Istar," for instance, in
the scherzo of the B-flat symphony, and in "Dawn" of the "Summer Day
on the Mountain"--it is in response not to an opportunity for display,
but to a mood. The sharp contrast of the general method of scoring
with Wagner's, especially in a composer so largely indebted to Wagner,
is highly instructive in this regard. Wagner in his love of rich
sonorities almost habitually doubles different groups of instruments
on a single melody; d'Indy prefers the single group, not only for
its superior clarity but even more, one must think, for the greater
eloquence of its individual voice. The passage quoted from the symphony
is a good sample of his methods. First violins on their G strings for
the opening phrase, sounding at once the right note of earnestness.
Bass clarinet alone on motive _b_. Both first and second violins for
the more emphatic repetition of the main motive, and the low strings
in their more impassioned accents for the reiteration of the bass
clarinet phrase. Then all the violins and the violas for the third,
culminating statement,--the first violins leaving off with the B flat,
the seconds with the A, and the violas, in their more veiled tones,
alone carrying the phrase down to its final A flat.

Thus does d'Indy use the various elements of musical technique--melody,
rhythm, harmony, modulation, and even ornament and orchestration--in
the interests of emotion. Before asking whether the same principle that
we thus see so multifariously at work in short sections of his music
can also be traced in the marshaling of its larger masses, let us take
one final example of its operation within conveniently narrow limits.
In Figure XXV (pages 198, 199) is shown the coda of the first movement
of the string quartet in E major, his masterpiece in chamber music.
It is entirely derived from the fragment of Gregorian chant used as a
text. We may note summarily the following points, which by no means
exhaust the interest of the passage.

                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXV.
Coda of the first movement of the String Quartet in E, opus 45 (1897),
          based on the fragment from a Gregorian chant:=]


1. Melodic. There is no salient phrase which is not derived from the
root motive. As for the variety, the reader will judge for himself.
This is a supreme case of the germinating power of a musical thought.

2. Rhythmic. The original nucleus of the theme is rhythmed mainly in
quarter notes. It is reduced to even eighth notes at the beginning of
the coda, and in that murmuring, inconspicuous form stays on a dead
level, so to speak, and makes a colorless background of accompaniment
whence the more passionate main phrases detach themselves sharply.
Beginning in the fifth measure the second violin sounds an _augmented_
form of the motive (whole notes), in expression tentative, timid. This
recurs in the viola in measure 11, with more of emphasis, and is broken
in upon by a _syncopated_ form of the same (beginning on the second
half of the measure) from the first violin. The C sharp here is the
crest of the emotional wave, whence it subsides first by the gradual
descent of the motive through three octaves in measures 17-20, and then
by the flagging of the accompaniment rhythm first to quarter notes,
then to half notes. Still a different rhythm is heard in the last
announcement by the first violin.

3. Harmonic. The harmony is absolutely the product of concurrent
melodies throughout. No notes are added merely for color. Yet the
sonorities, though effects rather than causes, are unforgettable.

4. Modulatory. The first measure strongly establishes E major as
the tonal center, and as the goal of what preceded the excerpt. A
subtle change of the violin figure obscures the sense of tonality
(by suggesting the atonal "whole-tone scale"), whereupon the first
meditative version of the theme appears in the much darker key of
A flat. The tonality is again clouded, and the theme appears once
more in A, brighter than A flat, but less bright than the original
E. The reappearance of this therefore, in the fifteenth measure,
has the effect of an "_éclaircissement_." The tonic of E major is
maintained through the last eleven measures, giving a grateful sense of
homecoming, of repose after adventure.

5. Instrumental. The student is referred to the score for detail.
Particularly notable are the keenness of the violin E string at the
moment of climax, and the earnest virility of the G string in the last
statement.


                                  III

The same loyalty to emotional truth that dictates all these processes
of detail, guides also d'Indy's treatment of a composition considered
as a whole. His conception of form, though set forth in the _Cours_
in largely intellectual terms, can be thoroughly understood only when
traced back to its emotional basis. Because for him a piece of music
must hang together emotionally, must proceed, that is, all from a few
ideas, and must evolve these freely and variously in obedience to the
logic of emotion, he takes as his central principle Variation, or
germination from root themes. Not only, he believes, should the single
movement thus proceed from a few themes, but the entire work, according
to what is called cyclic form, should result from their transformation
and recombination. In other words, just as the rhythmic waxing and
waning of the emotions embodied in a few themes gives rise to the
single movement, the regarding of the same themes _from different
points of view_, or under the domination of varying moods, will
naturally generate the contrasted movements, all thematically related,
of cyclic form.

It may at once be admitted that such a conception of form has its
pitfalls. The same process that in the glow of creative emotion is a
spontaneous reshaping of a theme to meet a new situation may in the
absence of such emotion degenerate into a hammering of recalcitrant
matter into mere distortion and ineptitude. That is what we note too
often in Liszt's similar theme transformations in his symphonic poems,
as when in "Les Préludes" he makes his love _cantabile_ do reluctant
duty as a trumpet call to war. D'Indy, let us confess it, is by no
means guiltless on this score; in uninspired moments he becomes too
easily the slave instead of the master of his process; living form
stiffens into dead formula; and we have a more or less mechanical
rearrangement of notes, as for instance that of the main theme of
the finale in the B flat Symphony, based on the choral at the end,
masquerading as a genuine reincarnation. Such scholastic passages do
indeed appear as blemishes in too many even of his finest works. But
it is fair to judge a process not by its occasional abuse, but by the
possibilities a felicitous use of it opens up. These possibilities
in the case of cyclic form are a maximum of diversity without
diffuseness, and a maximum of unity without monotony or platitude.

That a development of something of the sort was indispensable to the
progress of composition is evident when we reflect how intolerable
literal recapitulation has become to the modern ear. Much of the
prejudice against the sonata form in our day is due to the literal
recapitulations of bunglers in the use of it. The remedy is, not to
throw overboard the form, which is a natural, flexible, and convenient
one, but to bring to it a freshness of feeling which penetrates at once
to the spirit of it, ignoring the letter. Thus d'Indy, in the slow
movement of the B flat Symphony, recapitulates the main theme, shown at
Figure XXVI, _a_, not literally but in subtlest reincarnation, one
step higher in the scale, though still in the same key, and transferred
from the sultry tones of clarinet, horn, English horn, and viola to the
pure, pale sonority of a single flute, supported by lightest violin
harmonies (Figure XXVI, _b_). It is the same theme, but breathing now a
quite new sentiment.[48]


                    [Illustration: FIGURE XXVI.]
            =(_a_) Theme of slow movement, B flat Symphony.=
       (This follows immediately after the introduction shown in
                              Figure XX.)


           [Illustration: =(_b_) Return of theme in flute.=]


It is but a step from such a recreated recapitulation to a theme
transformation such as we find in the last movement of the "Summer Day
on the Mountain." This work is not only its composer's masterpiece
in the sphere of program music; it is the latest and best of a whole
series of works[49] in which he has expressed his love of his native
country of the Cévennes in southeastern France. "At this moment," he
once wrote in a letter from his château of Faugs, near Boffres in
Ardèche, "I see the snowy summits of the Alps, the nearer mountains,
the plain of the Rhone, the pine woods that I know so well, and the
green, rich harvest which has not yet been gathered. It is a true
pleasure to be here after the labors and the vexations of the winter.
What they call at Paris 'the artistic world' seems afar off and a
trifling thing. Here is true repose, here one feels at the true source
of all art."


                     [Illustration: =FIGURE XXVII.
            Finale of "Jour d'Été." Très animé et joyeux=]


                   [Illustration: =(_b_) Très lent=]


The "Jour d'Été à la Montagne," in three movements, "Aurore" ("Dawn"),
"Jour--Après-midi sous les pins" ("Day: Afternoon under the Pines")
and "Soir" ("Evening"), is characteristic of the composer in that,
despite its program, there is in it little scene-painting, such as we
find so constantly in Strauss and others. A memorable suggestion of
dawn, with its vague shapes in the half-light and its bird songs, in
the first movement[50]; a whiff of peasant dance-tune in the second,
coming up through the baking heat under the pines; in the third some
evening chimes from the valley: that is all. It is the emotional
significance of the scene in its varying aspects, its appeal to the
sympathies and associations of a poetic observer, that interest the
musician. The main theme of the last movement (Figure XXVII, _a_) thus
suggests the joy of life in the bright summer afternoon; its activity
depicts no mere external scene, we feel, but reflects the elation
of the sensitive heart, witnessing this scene. And when, at the end,
after the suggestions of descending night and the distant jangle of
chimes tempered by the evening air, the same melody returns in softest
sonorities of strings and in quietest motion (Figure XXVII, _b_), we
hear in it again no merely objective facts, but the tranquil evening
thoughts of a poet, spiritualized in meditation. Never since he first
essayed such theme transformation in a large work, in the "Symphony
on a Mountain Theme" of 1886, which M. Paul Dukas called "a single
piece in three episodes," has d'Indy been more successful in drawing
together the most opposing moods by the single subjective point of view
from which they are regarded, as incarnated in a common theme. Never
has he written a more characteristic page than that lovely breath of
evening tenderness, the meditation of a lover on the world toward which
darkness and sleep gently approach.


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXVIII.
                           (_a_) Lentement=]


                     [Illustration:=(_b_) Animé=]


                 [Illustration:=(_c_) Second theme.=]


                   [Illustration:=(_d_) Très animé=]


                   [Illustration: =(_e_) Très lent=]


A work in which the cyclic method is applied with almost unparalleled
rigor and resourcefulness, and which is therefore worthy of detailed
analysis, is the String Quartet in E major,[51] built up from four
notes of a Gregorian chant, shown at Figure XXV. The swinging main
theme of the first movement, derived from this fragment by a natural
rhythmic and tonal proliferation (see Figure XXVIII, _b_), is not
immediately stated, but is rather anticipated tentatively, and
gradually allowed to take shape, by a process dear to the composer,
first through imitative bits for the different instruments and then
through a serious fugato (Figure XXVIII, _a_). Once achieved it is
broadly treated, with a richly conceived tonal digression into E
flat major and return. A second theme, of sinuous curve and fluent
movement (Figure XXVIII, _c_), is reached through a transition passage
of more animated rhythm. The themes thus stated, development begins:
not a perfunctory worrying of the themes such as the "free fantasia"
often degenerates into in the hands of composers possessed of neither
freedom nor fancy, but a dynamic action and reaction of the themes
such as d'Indy conceives development essentially to be. "Development,"
he says, "is ... the action of the themes and ideas, and consequently
their reason for being, since an idea is of value only through the
action it is capable of exercising. When there are several ideas ...
the development expresses usually all the phases of a struggle between
them, with the final triumph of one and submission of the other....
The themes comport themselves like living people: they act and move
according to their tendencies, their sentiments, and their passions.
These modifications show themselves both in the thematic elements
which are elaborated as if to surpass themselves, or are restrained
as if to become absorbed, and in the tonal trajectories which orient
themselves toward light or toward darkness."[52] It will be seen that
in this case the development first (pages 9 and 10) takes the aspect
of a quiet presentation of the first theme in dark keys (E flat major,
etc.) and then (from index number 10, through the whole of page 11) of
a brief recurrence of the second theme and elimination of it with the
reviving force of the first, moving through more energetic rhythms and
brighter tonalities to final victorious reassertion. The themes are
then recapitulated and the movement ends with the beautiful coda we
have already examined.

The two middle movements, too complex to analyze in detail, are based
on themes strikingly illustrative of what was said a moment ago as to
cyclic form arising from the approach to a common theme from different
angles, or under the influence of varying moods. That of the scherzo
is the theme envisaged playfully (Figure XXVIII, _d_); that of the
slow movement (Figure XXVIII, _e_) shapes itself in response to a more
serious contemplation. It may be pointed out that these are no mere
clever or learned jugglings with notes, such as arise sometimes from
the abuse of the method; not only are they true textually to the theme,
but each is a faithful expression of its own mood; the resulting music
accordingly convinces us emotionally as well as intellectually.

The finale is a piece of writing extraordinary for the manifold
resources developed out of the original theme, for the bold ingenuity
of its polyphonic and rhythmic combinations, and for the variety of its
emotional content. Its main theme comes from the original motive by
_inversion_ (Figure XXIX, _a_), and derives a certain amplitude from
its three half-note rhythm proceeding deliberately against the more
agitated two-four of other parts (especially the viola, at first, with
a persistent figure taken also from the theme). Its second theme also
traces its ancestry back to the first movement, but in a more elusive
way; a comparison of Figure XXIX, _b_, with Figure XXVIII, _c_, will
reveal the connection. The elaboration of these themes, and of the
quaint staccato bridge passage between them, leads to most unexpected
combinations. The fugato of the first movement reappears, but now
_inverted_ (Figure XXIX, _c_). At the top of page 58 we find the main
theme in the second violin answered canonically by the viola, while the
first violin sustains, high above, the original motive. Finally, after
the themes have met all manner of vicissitudes and wandered through all
sorts of keys, the original motive in its most conclusive form brings
the final cadence in E major.


                     [Illustration: =FIGURE XXIX.
           (_a_) Main theme of Finale of String Quartet.=]


                 [Illustration: =(_b_) Second theme.=]


               [Illustration: =(_c_) Fugato lentement=]



                                  IV

A last illustration, in some ways the most striking of all, of d'Indy's
conviction that emotional expressiveness is the criterion of the value
of all artistic processes, is afforded by his attitude toward the
peculiar idiom that has been developed by Debussy, Ravel, and others,
and particularly toward the system of harmony based on the "whole-tone
scale." His standpoint here is that of the open-minded and curious
artist toward processes that may have new possibilities, saved from
faddishness by a thorough familiarity with traditional resources and an
indifference to novelty for mere novelty's sake. He has thus won the
distinction of being blamed by the academic for "queerness," harshness,
and obscurity, at the same time that he is patronized as reactionary by
the "ultras."


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXX.
                      (_a_) From "Fervaal."=]


The evidence of his works is that he makes free use of the whole-tone
scale, as of all other technical elements, so far as it lends itself to
the expression he has in mind, but no farther. There are already traces
of it in certain passages of the early Clarinet Trio (1887) where he
wishes to give a sense of groping uncertainty. In "Fervaal" (1895) its
peculiar coloring is skilfully used in a number of passages, as, for
example, that of the two bucklers, and its vigor and brilliancy, which
so commended it to Moussorgsky in "Boris Godunoff," are exploited in
the passage before the apparition of the cloud figures (see Figure
XXX, _a_). In "Istar" a similar use is made of it for the calls which
announce Istar's arrival at the different doors; to it is due a large
measure of the mystical expression of the B flat Symphony, especially
of the opening bass motive (Figure XXX, _b_) founded on the tritone
which used to be regarded as "_diabolus in musica_," while the middle
section of the scherzo draws upon its power of suspending the sense and
piquing the musical curiosity (Figure XXX, _c_); in the opening of the
piano sonata splendid use is made of its clangorous sonorities.


[Illustration: =(_b_) Opening of B flat Symphony. Extrêmement lent=]


                [Illustration: =(_c_) Très animé=]


But d'Indy is too sound an artist to lend himself to the abuse of any
process, however fashionable, and he has the good sense to recognize
the dangers of the whole-tone scale. In none of his critical writings
has he expressed himself more courageously and at the same time more
fairly, than in an article on "Good Sense"[53] in which he takes up
this much-disputed matter.

"In the nineteenth century," he says, "some Russian composers, in
the interest of certain special effects, employed the scale of
whole tones, which one may name atonal because it suppresses all
possibility of modulation. In the twentieth century Claude Debussy and
Maurice Ravel elaborated these methods, making often very ingenious
applications of them; but they made the mistake (one must dare to speak
the truth of those one esteems) of erecting processes into principles,
or at least of letting them be so erected by their muftis, so that the
formula now established by fashion is: 'Outside of harmonic sensation
and the titillation of orchestral timbres there is no salvation.'

"This formula is dangerous, because far from constituting an advance
it results in a retrogression of our art, and leads us backward by a
hundred years. What these prophets try to establish is the rule of
sense to the exclusion of sentiment, it is the supremacy of sensation
over the equilibrium of the heart and the intelligence. This sensualist
movement is neither new nor original. About a hundred years ago a
similar aberration of good sense tried to poison our music. At the
epoch of the Rossinis and the Donizettis the sensualist formula was
'All for and by melody!' To-day it is 'All for and by harmony!' I
should say however that, of the two maladies, the second is less grave,
for nothing is more ephemeral than new harmonies, if they do not
take their point of departure from the two other elements of music:
melody and rhythm.... In order that harmony should be durable, it must
constitute, not mere glistening surface, mere tapestry, but rather the
clothing of the living and acting being which is the _rhythmed melody_.
The costume, in this case, may safely pass out of style--the human
person, if it is well constituted, will endure.

"The scale of whole tones is far from being an improvement on our
traditional occidental scale, since it suppresses all tonality and
hence all modulation. Now, change of tonal place by modulation is one
of the most precious elements of expression. To deprive oneself of
it systematically is therefore a retrogression toward the barbaric
monotony of past ages.

"What, then, does good sense demand? It demands very simple
things--that the young composer should begin by learning his art, and
should not allow himself to be hypnotized by a process that happens to
be in fashion, employed fruitfully, to be sure, by certain natures, but
not constituting in itself the whole of musical art.

"All processes are good, on condition that they never become the
principal end, and are regarded only as means to make MUSIC."

The candor, courage, and penetration of such criticism as this, shown,
though seldom in quite such measure, in every critical page that d'Indy
has written, and the uncompromising nature of his views, not always
free from narrowness, have of course made him many enemies. Probably no
man in modern music is better loved or better hated. The devotion of
his whole life to art, with a modesty, a suppression of self, a really
religious enthusiasm rare in musicians, has naturally turned the love
of his pupils and disciples into something that is almost worship; and
this has in turn naturally enough irritated, sometimes to exasperation,
those who vent their disgust of artistic idolatries on the often
innocent idol, or who feel keenly, in a hero, the limitations of
which no human being is free, or who find especially antipathetic,
in M. d'Indy's case, certain temperamental leanings which he could
not overcome if he would, such as those to conservatism, aristocracy,
and even chauvinism in social relations, and to the strictest Roman
Catholicism in religion.

Indeed, regarded simply as an intellect, d'Indy is something of
a paradox, moments of the most penetrative insight alternating
unaccountably in him with fits of prejudice or narrowness that suggest
the existence upon his mental retina of incurable blind spots. What
could be more illuminating in their unconventionality than such
judgments as these, for example:--Of Schumann: "A genius in short and
simple works, he finds himself lost when he has to build a musical
monument. He then lets himself be guided by sentiment alone, and in
spite of his often very fine ideas he can only _improvise_ works of
limited range, hasty fruits of an art not sufficiently conscious."
Of Mendelssohn:--"Always skilful in appropriating the knowledge of
others, the Jews are seldom, true artists by nature." Of Grieg: "His
short inspiration and his absolute ignorance of composition render him
entirely inept in the construction of symphonic works; he produces then
only hybrid assemblages of short fragments, unskilfully welded together
or simply juxtaposed, without appearance of order or unity either in
conception or in execution."[54] But the fastidiousness already verging
here on the finical seems always to be in danger, in dealing with
subjects on which he has active prejudices, such as Jews, Protestants,
free thinkers, and modern Germans, of overshooting its mark, losing
the sense of proportion, and becoming narrowly sectarian. Someone once
said of him that he had the spirit of the mediæval religious fanatics,
and had he lived in the Middle Ages would have been burned at the stake
for his convictions, or would have burned others, as the case might be,
with equal ardor.

One thus catches sometimes a note of intolerance, almost of
superstition, even in some of his most valid judgments, putting one a
little on guard, perhaps rather by what is omitted or implied than
by what is actually said. Thus Bach is great, "not because of, but in
spite of, the dogmatic and withering spirit of the Reformation,"[55]
and Franck's comment on Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," that it was
"_très amusant_," is commended as one of the finest criticisms, "coming
from the mouth of the believing French musician, that could be made
of the heavy and undigested critique of the German philosopher."[56]
Again "The present-day symphonists of Germany seem totally incapable
of making anything great: they content themselves with making it big,
which is not quite the same thing." They are charged with "total
absence of artistic taste, misunderstanding of all proportion and of
all tonal order."[57] They are "almost devoid of musical taste; they
cannot distinguish good music from bad; the opinion of a German on a
musical work has no importance."[58] The sympathy of the judicial with
these pronouncements wanes as they increase in animus; the justice
of the first, to which any thoughtful musician could hardly take
exception, is obscured by the evident exaggeration of the last; and
musical criticism too evidently loses itself in chauvinism.

We need not concern ourselves here to estimate the exact proportion
between wisdom and prejudice in d'Indy's writings; the materials for
a judgment have been admirably set forth in Rolland's essay, and each
reader may judge for himself. The aim of these citations is rather
to illustrate the temperament of their author, and to show that in
the last analysis, even though these writings make up perhaps the
finest body of musical criticism produced by a creative musician
since Schumann, that temperament is after all originative rather than
judicial. Much light as there is in it, there is even more heat. D'Indy
is a crusader of beauty; the shining spear is his natural weapon; and
when he takes to the clerk's ink-horn and balance sheet it is always
with a sort of youthful impatience. He is essentially a poet, a maker;
it is in his music that he finds his truest self. Indeed, he is too
many-sided to be quite justly appreciated by his contemporaries; the
poet has too much disappeared for us behind the teacher, the scholar,
the critic, the philosopher, the devotee. On the occasion of the
revival of "Fervaal" in 1913, M. Vuillermoz published an imaginary talk
of this composite d'Indy to his adoring pupils, asking them not to
idealize him, to let him remain human, to see in him the simple human
lover, like his Fervaal, which he felt himself to be. It is time, for
our own sakes, that we paid more attention than we do to this human
lover that finds supreme expression in the Symphony in B flat, in
"Istar," in the E major Quartet, in the "Jour d'Été à la Montagne." He
it is who speaks to the young men, to his fellow lovers of immortal
beauty, to the future. For, as one of his most understanding critics,
Louis Laloy, has written of him: "Emotion is queen, and science is her
servant." If d'Indy has studied as few modern musicians have studied,
if he has drawn on the past for his ample means, it has been only in
order to take more beauty with him, and to enable us to take it, into
the future; and for all his intellectual power he has never forgotten
that "Only the heart can engender beauty."

                              FOOTNOTES:

[32] Musiciens d'aujourd'hui; Romain Rolland.

[33] _Harmonie et Melodie._ C. Saint-Saëns.

[34] _César Franck_, by Vincent d'Indy.

[35] Inquest on the influence of Germany, especially of Wagner, on
French music, January, 1903.

[36] "Revue Politique et Littéraire" (_Revue Bleue_), March 26, 1904.

[37] _Revue Musicale S. I. M._, February 15, 1913.

[38] _Cours de Composition Musicale_, Book I, page 123.

[39] _Cours_, I, 27.

[40] See the present writer's paper on "The Tyranny of the Bar-line,"
New Music Review, December, 1909.

[41] _Cours_, I, 217.

[42] _Cours_, I, 40.

[43] Compare what is said of Debussy, for example, above, page 143.

[44] _Cours_, I, 91 and 116.

[45] _Cours_, Book I, pp. 126 and 132; Book II, Part I, p. 245.

[46] _Cours_, Book II, Part I, pp. 454, 452.

[47] _Cours_, II, I, 165.

[48] Compare, also, the theme of the Piano Sonata, in E minor,
beginning with the note B, with the same theme altered, "_Mutatum_," in
E major, beginning with G sharp.

[49] See for instance the "Poème des Montagnes," opus 15, for piano,
and the Symphony on a Mountain Theme, opus 25, for piano and orchestra.

[50] Note the progress from the dark key of C minor to the bright B
major in "Dawn," reversed in "Evening," as another instance of the
expressive use of modulation.

[51] The references are to the pocket edition of the score, published
by Durand.

[52] _Cours de composition musicale_, Book II, Part I, pp. 241-242.

[53] "Le Bon Sens," _Revue Musicale_, S. I. M., November, 1912.

[54] _Cours_, Book I, Part II, pp. 406, 411, 419.

[55] _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, March, 1899.

[56] "Life of Franck," French edition, page 40.

[57] _Cours_, Book II, Part I, 487.

[58] _Revue Musicale_, December 1, 1906, quoted.



                                  VI

                           MUSIC IN AMERICA



                                  VI

                           MUSIC IN AMERICA


                                   I

In the discussions of "American music" that go on perennially in our
newspapers and journals, now waxing in a wave of patriotic enthusiasm,
now waning as popular attention is turned to something else, in war
time much stimulated by an enhanced consciousness of nationality
(unless indeed they are totally elbowed aside to make room for more
immediate subjects), a sharp cleavage will usually be observed between
those whose interest is primarily in the music for itself, wherever it
comes from, and those in whom artistic considerations give way before
patriotic ardor, and propaganda usurp the place of discrimination. One
group, in uttering the challenging phrase, "American music," places
the stress instinctively on the noun and regards the adjective as only
qualification; the other, in its preoccupation with "American," seems
to take "music" rather for granted. Unfortunately the former group
constitutes so small a minority, and expresses itself so soberly,
that its wholesome insistence on the quality of the article itself
is likely to be quite drowned out by the bawling of the advertisers,
with their insistent slogan "Made in America." All the advantages of
numbers, organization, and easy appeal to the man in the street are
theirs. Even if we ignore those venal music journals which make a
system of exploiting the patriotism of the undiscriminating for purely
pecuniary purposes, there remain enough enthusiasts and propagandists,
indisposed or unable to appraise quality for themselves, to create by
their "booming" methods a formidable confusion in our standards of
taste. Inasmuch, therefore, as we are condemned, for our sins, to be
not only producers but consumers of this "American music," it behooves
us to make careful inspection of the claims for it so extravagantly put
forth, and to assure ourselves that we are getting something besides
labels for our money.

What, then, is the precise value we ought justly to ascribe to that
word "American" as applied to music, and wherein have those we may
call champions of the adjective been inclined to exaggerate it? If we
analyze their attitude, we shall find them the prey of two fallacies
which constantly falsify their conclusions, and make them dangerous
guides for those who have at heart the real interests of music in
America. The first of these fallacies is that which confuses quantity
with quality, and supposes that artistic excellence can be decided
by vote of the majority. The second is that which identifies racial
character with local idioms and tricks of speech rather than with a
certain emotional and spiritual temper. Both lead straight to the
oft-repeated conclusion that "ragtime" is the necessary basis of our
native musical art.

Listen, for example, to one of the most persistent, courageous, and
often interesting advocates of ragtime, Mr. H. K. Moderwell. "I can't
help feeling," says Mr. Moderwell,[59] "that a person who doesn't open
his heart to ragtime somehow isn't human. Nine out of ten musicians,
if caught unawares, will like this music until they remember that they
shouldn't. What does this mean? Does it mean that ragtime is 'all very
well in its place'? Rather that these musicians don't consider that
place _theirs_. But that place, remember, is in the affections of some
10,000,000 or more Americans. Conservative estimates show that there
are at least 50,000,000 copies of popular music sold in this country
yearly and a goodly portion of it is in ragtime.... You may take it as
certain that if many millions of people persist in liking something
that has not been recognized by the schools, there is vitality in
that thing." No doubt there is, just as by the same argument there
is vitality in chewing gum and the comic supplements. The question
is, of course, what sort of vitality? Yet if you raise this question
of quality, you are immediately charged with being a "highbrow," "a
person," in Professor Brander Matthews's already classic definition,
"educated beyond his intelligence,"--a charge from which any sane
man naturally shrinks. "The best American music is that which the
greatest number of Americans like; the greatest number of Americans
like ragtime; therefore ragtime is the best American music." This is
a specious syllogism, which you may oppose only at the risk of being
thought a highbrow and a snob.

Suppose, for instance, that you really do not happen to care for
chewing gum, that just as a matter of fact, of personal taste, and
not through any principles or sense of superiority to your fellows
you prefer other forms of nutriment or exercise. You confess this
peculiarity. Can you not hear the reproachful reply? "I can't help
feeling that a person who doesn't open his heart to chewing gum somehow
isn't human. Nine out of ten travelers on the subway, if caught
unawares [with gum disguised as bonbons, let us say] will like it until
they remember that they shouldn't. What does this mean? Does it mean
that chewing gum is 'all very well in its place'? Rather that these
punctilious people don't consider that place _theirs_. But that place,
remember, is in the affections of some 10,000,000 or more Americans.
The annual output of the chief chewing gum manufacturers"--etc., etc.
Thus are you voted down if you happen to be in the minority. It does
you no good to protest that you are really quite sincere and without
desire to _épater le bourgeois_; that you can't help preferring
Mr. Howells's novels to Mr. Robert W. Chambers's, Mr. Ben Foster's
landscapes to Mr. Christy's magazine girls, Mr. Irwin's "Nautical Lays
of a Landsman" to the comic supplements, and MacDowell's "To a Wild
Rose" to "Everybody's Doing It." If you stray from the herd you must be
sick. If you vote for the losers you must be a snob.

Such charges are the more dangerous in that they sometimes contain
a half-truth. There is a kind of person, the simon-pure snob, who
casts his vote for the loser just because he is a loser, because he
is unpopular, who prides himself on his "exclusiveness," "excluding
himself," as Thoreau penetratively says, "from all that is worth
while." His is a sort of inverted numericalism, based on quantity
just as essentially as the crude gospel of the "10,000,000 or more
Americans," but on quantity negative and vanishing towards the zero
of perfect distinction. It is from his kind that are recruited the
faddists, those who "dote on Debussy," the devotees of folk-songs not
for their human beauty but as curious specimens, those who invent all
sorts of queer connections between music and painting or poetry, and
indeed seem to find in it anything and everything but simple human
feeling. It is not from these that we shall get any help towards the
truth about ragtime. Indeed, they seem because of their unsympathetic
attitude toward the spirit of music--its emotional expression--and
their preoccupation with the letter of it, to be especially susceptible
to the second fallacy of which we spoke--that of identifying racial
quality with mere idiom rather than with fundamental temper.

Mr. Moderwell shall be spokesman of this view also. "You can't tell
an American composer's 'art-song,'" he says, "from any mediocre
art-song the world over.... You can distinguish American ragtime from
the popular music of any nation and any age." Let us agree heartily
that the mediocre "art-song" (horrid name for a desolating thing) is
probably no better and no worse in our own than in other countries.
Does this not seem an insufficient warrant for the excellence of types
of art that can be more easily told apart? For purposes of labeling
specimens earmarks are an advantage, but hardly for appraising modes
of expression. If the important matter in American music is not
its expression of the American temper, but the peculiar technical
feature, the special kind of syncopation we call the "rag rhythm,"
then the important matter in Hungarian music is not its fire but its
"sharp fourth step." Beethoven ceases to be Teutonic when he uses
Irish cadences in his Seventh Symphony, and Chopin is Polish only
in his mazurkas and polonaises. Of course this will not do; and Mr.
Moderwell, to do him justice, after remarking that "ragtime is not
merely syncopation--it is a certain sort of syncopation," adds "But of
course this definition is not enough. Ragtime has its flavor that no
definition can imprison." Our ultimate question is, then, not how many
people like ragtime, or how few like it, or how easily can its idiom
be told from other idioms, but how expressive is it of the American
temper, how full an artistic utterance can it give of the best and
widest American natures? This is a question not of quantity but of
quality: of the quality of ragtime, the quality of America, and the
adequacy of the one to the other.


                                  II

Suppose, bearing in mind Mr. Moderwell's warning against snobbery, that
"A Russian folk-song was no less scorned in the court of Catherine the
Great than a ragtime song in our music studios to-day," we examine
in some detail a typical example of ragtime such as "The Memphis
Blues," of which he assures us that "In sheer melodic beauty, in the
vividness of its characterization, in the deftness of its polyphony and
structure, this song deserves to rank among the best of our time."[60]
Here are the opening strains of it.


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXI.
                    From "The Memphis Blues."=]

  Folks, I've just been down, down to Memphis town,
  Oh, that melody, sure appealed to me,

  That's where the people smile, smile on you all the while
  Just like a mountain stream ripling on it seemed


Approaching them with the eager expectation that such praise naturally
arouses, can we, as candid lovers of music, find anything but bitter
disappointment in their trivial, poverty-stricken, threadbare
conventionality? How many thousand times have we heard that speciously
cajoling descent of the first three notes, that originally piquant but
now indescribably boresome oscillation from the tonic chord in the
third measure? These are the common snippets and tag-ends of harmony,
kicked about the very gutters, ground out by every hurdy-gurdy,
familiarity with which breeds not affection but contempt. Their very
surface cleverness, as of meaningless ornament, is a part of their
offense. Russian folk-song indeed! Compare them with the simple but
noble tonic, dominant and sub-dominant, of the "Volga Boat Song"
and their shoddiness stands self-revealed. And the melody? Bits and
snippets again, quite without character if it were not for the rhythm,
and acquiring no momentum save in the lines "I went out a-dancin',"
etc., where they build up well, but to a complete anticlimax in the
return of the obvious opening strain.

As for the rag rhythm itself, the sole distinctive feature of this
music, it has undoubtedly something of real piquancy. The trick, it
will be noted, is a syncopation of half-beats, arranged so as to pull
bodily forward certain comparatively strong accents, those at the
middle of the measures[61]--a scheme to which words as well as melody
conform. The left hand meanwhile gives the regular metrical division
of the measure, and a writer in the London Times, defining ragtime
as "a strongly syncopated melody superimposed on a strictly regular
accompaniment," points out that "it is the combination of these two
rhythms that gives 'ragtime' its character."[62] This is perhaps not
strictly true, since in some of the most effective bits of ragtime the
metrical pulsation may give way momentarily to the syncopation, and
everyone remembers those delightful times of complete silence in which
the pulse is kept going mentally, to be finally confirmed by a crashing
cadence. But it is usually the case that both time schemes, metrical
and rhythmical, are maintained together. For this very reason we must
question the contention of the champions of ragtime that its type of
syncopation is capable of great variety, a contention in support of
which some of them have even challenged comparison of it with the
rhythmic vigors of Beethoven and Schumann.[63]

The subtlety of syncopation as an artistic device results from its
simultaneous maintenance of two time-patterns, the rhythmic and the
metrical, in such a relation that the second and subordinate one,
though never lost sight of, is never obtruded. The quasi-mechanical
pulse of the meter is the indispensable background against which only
can the freer oscillations of the rhythm outline themselves. The moment
the sense of it is lost, as it is sometimes lost in those over-bold
passages of Schumann where a displacement is too emphatically made or
too long continued, the charm disappears. In the following from his
"Faschingsschwank," for instance, the interest of the rhythmic accent
on beat "three" lasts only so long as we oppose to it mentally a
regular metric accent on "one."


                 [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXII.=]


In the continuation of the passage, for which the reader is referred
to the original, our minds are apt to "slip a stitch," so to speak,
letting "three" and "one" coalesce. The moment this happens the passage
becomes commonplace. But suppose, on the other hand, in the effort
to maintain our sense of the meter, we strike the bass notes on each
"one." Now equally, or indeed more than before, the charm is fled,
and the passage rendered stale and unprofitable, through the actual
presentation to the ear of so mechanical a reiteration. In short,
the metrical scheme has to be mentally maintained, but actually, so
far as possible, eliminated. Looking back, in the light of these
considerations, at "The Memphis Blues," we shall realize that whatever
the pleasing eccentricity of the rhythm, so relentless a meter as
we here find thumped out by the left hand cannot but quickly grow
tiresome, as indeed it will be felt to be after a few repetitions.

Reference to another well-known theme of Schumann will reveal a further
weakness of ragtime. The second theme of the finale of his Concerto
for piano runs as follows:


                 [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXIII.=]


Here the indescribably delightful effect is evidently due not only
to the purely rhythmic syncopation, but also to the fact that on the
silent strong beat of every second measure harmony and melody as
well as rhythm are so to speak "tied up," or suspended, in such a
way that the syncopation is at the very heart of the whole musical
conception, and cannot be omitted without annihilating the music.
Beside such essential syncopation as this the mere pulling forward of
certain notes, as in "The Memphis Blues," is seen to be superficial,
an arbitrary dislocation which may disguise but cannot correct the
triteness of the real melodic line. In fact, we seem here to have
tracked ragtime to its lair and discovered what it really is. It is no
creative process, like the syncopation of the masters, by which are
struck forth new, vigorous, and self-sufficing forms. It is a rule
of thumb for putting a "kink" into a tune that without such specious
rehabilitation would be unbearable. It is not a new flavor, but a kind
of curry or catsup strong enough to make the stale old dishes palatable
to unfastidious appetites. Significant is it that, as the writer in the
Times remarks, "In American slang to 'rag' a melody is to syncopate a
normally regular time." The "rag" idiom can thus be put on and off like
a mask; and in recent years we have seen thus grotesquely disguised,
as the Mendelssohn Wedding March, for instance, in "No Wedding Bells
for Me," many familiar melodies. To these it can give no new musical
lineaments, but only distort the old ones as with St. Vitus' dance.

Thus the technical limitations of ragtime which we have tried to
analyze are seen to be in the last analysis the results and indices
of a more fundamental shortcoming--an emotional superficiality and
triviality peculiar to it. Ragtime is the musical expression of an
attitude toward life only too familiar to us all, an attitude shallow,
restless, avid of excitement, incapable of sustained attention,
skimming the surface of everything, finding nowhere satisfaction,
realization, or repose. It is a meaningless stir-about, a commotion
without purpose, an epilepsy simulating controlled muscular action.
It is the musical counterpart of the sterile cleverness we find in so
much of our contemporary conversation, as well as in our theater and
our books. No candid observer could deny the prominence in our American
life of this restlessness of which ragtime is one expression. It is
undoubtedly what most strikes superficial observation. The question
is whether it is really representative of the American temper as a
whole, or is prominent only as the froth is prominent on a glass of
beer. Mr. Moderwell thinks the former: "I like to think," he says,
"that ragtime is the perfect expression of the American city, with its
restless bustle and motion, its multitude of unrelated details, and its
underlying rhythmic progress toward a vague somewhere." "As you walk
up and down the streets of an American city you feel in its jerk and
rattle a personality different from that of any European capital....
This is American. Ragtime, I believe, expresses it. It is to-day the
one true American music."

To such an idolatry of precisely the most hideous, inhuman, and
disheartening features in our national and musical life a lover
of music and a lover of America can only reply that, first, it is
possible that America lies less on the surface than we think, possible
that it is no more adequately represented by Broadway than France is
represented by the Parisian boulevards, or England by the London music
halls; but that, second, if indeed the land of Lincoln and of Emerson
has degenerated until nothing remains of it but "jerk and rattle," then
we at least are free to repudiate the false patriotism of "My country,
right or wrong," to insist that better than bad music is no music, and
to let our beloved art subside finally under the clangor of subway
gongs and automobile horns, dead but not dishonored.


                                  III

That type of musical æsthetic which insists much on the importance
of the racial and national differences dividing human kind into
groups, and of the special features, technical and expressive,
characterizing the music of these various groups, is constantly
challenging our American music to disavow what it calls a featureless
cosmopolitanism, and to achieve individuality by idealizing some
primitive popular strain, whether of the Indians, of the negroes,
of the British colonizers, or of our contemporary "ragtime." In so
doing it usually accepts uncritically certain assumptions. It is apt
to assume, for instance, that interpretative truth is assured by
geographical propinquity. The chant of the Indian "expresses" the
modern American because the habitat of both is west of the Atlantic
Ocean. It often assumes that characteristic turns of idiom, such as
certain modal intervals or rhythmic figures, are of intrinsic value
as making music "distinctive." You can make a tune "American" by
"ragging" its rhythm, as you make a story American by inserting "I
guess" or "I reckon" at frequent intervals. It often mistakes the
conception of the average for that of the ideal type, and supposes
that the man in the street represents the best taste of America. Above
all, it condemns any attempt at universalizing artistic utterance as
"featureless cosmopolitanism" or "flabby eclecticism," and suggests
that the musician who speaks, not a dialect but a language understood
over the civilized world (as Tschaikowsky did, for example, to the
disgust of the Russian nationalists), has "lost contact," as the phrase
goes, "with the soil." In the interest of clear thinking all these
assumptions stand in need of criticism.

It is hardly possible even to state the first without recognizing the
large measure of absurdity it contains. That the crude war-dances and
chants of the red aborigines of this continent should be in any way
representative of so mixed a people, compounded of so many European
strains, as we who have exterminated and displaced them, is a thought
more worthy of savages who believe that the strength of their enemy
passes into them when they eat him than of our vaunted intelligence,
fortified by ethnological science. We should hardly entertain it if we
were not misled by the interest that attaches to anything unusual or
outlandish, and tempted by certain idiomatic peculiarities of these
monotonous strains to exploit their "local color." This may very well
be done now and then for an artistic holiday, as MacDowell has done it
in his Indian Suite; but if a folk-music is to enter vitally into art
it must bring with it something more than quaintness or distinctive
idioms, it must be genuinely expressive of the temperament of the
people using it; and of the complex American temper Indian music can
never be thus representative.

Somewhat similar considerations apply to the British folk-songs which,
introduced by our pioneering grandfathers, have in remote regions like
the Kentucky mountains survived uncontaminated by modernisms, and
have recently been rediscovered and widely acclaimed. Here again the
piquancy of unfamiliar idiom and a simplicity that falls agreeably on
over-stimulated ears has aroused an enthusiasm that overshoots its
mark. By all means let us enjoy these fresh songs, and even embody them
in our music if we find it an interesting experiment. But can we expect
that they will have any far-reaching interpretative value for us, that
they will express our national temper? That they are not even native
to the soil is a minor objection to them, for we are importations
ourselves. But that they are, with all their charm, British through and
through, makes it unlikely that they can adequately reflect a nation
which, though partly British, is also partly almost everything else.

The case of ragtime is rather more subtle. Here is a music, local
and piquantly idiomatic, and undeniably representative of a certain
aspect of American character--our restlessness, our insatiable nervous
activity, our thoughtless superficial "optimism," our fondness for
"hustling," our carelessness of whither, how, or why we are moving if
only we can "keep on the move." If this were all of us, if the first
impression which foreigners get of us, summed up for them oftentimes
in our inimitably characteristic "Step lively, please," were also the
last, and there was nothing more solid, sweet, or wise in America than
this galvanic twitching, then indeed ragtime would be our perfect
music. But every true American knows that, on the contrary, this is not
our virtue but our vice, not our strength but our weakness, and that
such a picture of us as it presents is not a portrait but a caricature.
And similarly, as soon as we examine ragtime at all critically we
discover its essential triviality. Its melodies are commonplace, its
harmonies cheap, shoddy, and sentimental. Even its rhythm, as we have
seen, is a clever formula rather than a creative form, a trick for
giving ordinary movement a specious air of animation. It is, in fact,
as the writer in the London Times points out, "a debased imitation of
genuine negro song, just as the popular Gaiety favorites of the late
eighties, 'Enniscorthy' and 'Ballyhooley,' were debased imitations of a
certain class of Irish folk-song." A few lines later this same writer
falls into the pitfall always yawning for the theorist about ragtime,
asks if the American composer will arrive who can extract gold from
this ore, states coolly that "Ragtime represents the American nation,"
and of course ends up with an edifying reference to an art "really
vital because it has its roots in its own soil." Does he consider
that "Ballyhooley" "represents the Irish nation"? Would he advise
Sir Charles Stanford to write a symphony upon it? Only an American
journalist could be more naïve, and here is one that is. "The important
point," he says, "is that ragtime, whether it be adjudged good or bad,
is original with Americans--it is their own creation."[64] This beggars
comment.


                                  IV

So far our results are mainly negative. We have discovered fallacies
in several assumptions too commonly and easily made. We have set a
lower estimate on purely geographical considerations than is often
set. We have tried to distinguish between what in a popular strain
is merely quaint or piquant because of peculiarities of idiom, and
what is more profoundly true in expression to a national or racial
temper; and while admitting the superficial charm of such idioms and
of the "distinctiveness" to which they minister, we have insisted on
the far deeper import of interpretative truth. We have glanced at the
danger of confounding appeal to the majority with appeal to good taste,
which is always outvoted, or of supposing that "originality" is of any
importance in comparison with merit. From these criticisms certain
positive principles thus tend to emerge. It becomes evident that there
is a certain gradation of values in the qualities which a folk-music
may possess. Distinctiveness of idiom is a merit, but a less vital one
than interpretative power; higher than either is beauty, suitability
to enter into music that may bear comparison with the best music of
the world. Is there any body of folk-song available to Americans that
possesses any or all of these merits in a higher degree than the types
we have examined?

We seem to discover such a richer vein in the songs of the negroes--not
the debased forms found in ragtime and the "coon-songs" of the minstrel
shows, but the genuine old plantation tunes, the "spirituals" and
"shouts" of the slaves. In idiomatic individuality, to begin with, both
of harmonic interval and rhythmic figure, these songs will compare
favorably with those of any European nation. With many of these they
share, indeed, odd modal intervals of great antiquity, such as the
lowered seventh scale-step in major and the raised sixth-step in
minor. Like Scottish tunes they make frequent use of the incomplete or
pentatonic scale, omitting the fourth and seventh steps. A peculiarity
in which they are almost unique is a curious oscillation between a
major key and its relative minor, especially at cadences, so that
one gets a haunting sense of uncertainty that enhances tenfold their
plaintiveness. In "The Angels Done Changed My Name" (Figure XXXIV),
are exemplified the lowered seventh step--at "I went to pray"--and the
pentatonic scale; in "You May Bury Me in the East" the raised sixth
step--to the word "trumpet"--and the major-minor cadence. The last
line begins unmistakably in E flat, and ends equally unmistakably in C
minor, and gets from that veering in the wind, so to speak, a peculiar
flavor which we should recognize anywhere as "Negro." It is noteworthy
that both these songs have to be harmonized strongly and simply with
the staple triads--it is impossible to harmonize them otherwise. In
other words they are the product and expression of a primitive but pure
and strong tonal sense, refreshingly free from the effeminate chromatic
harmonies--the "barber-shop chords"--of ragtime. The one compares with
the other as the fervent childish poetry of the lines here, "Thank God
the angels done changed my name," or "I'll hear the trumpet sound in
that morning" compares with the slangy doggerel of the cabarets.[65]


                   [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXIV.
      The Angels Done Changed My Name. From "Jubilee Songs."=]


  I went to the hillside, I went to pray, I
  know the angels done changed my name, Done
  changed my name for the coming day, Thank
  God the angels done changed my name.


          [Illustration: =You May Bury Me in the East.=]


  You may bury me in the East, You may
  bury me in the West, But I'll hear the trumpet sound in that
  morning. In that morning, my Lord
  How I long to go for, For to hear the trumpet sound, In that morning.

It is often stated that the chief rhythmic characteristic of the negro
music is the so-called "Scotch jerk," the jump away from the normally
accented note to another, thrice exemplified in the third line of "The
Angels Done Changed My Name," and imitated in ragtime. A more typical
instance of it is "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel" (Figure XXXV), which
also further illustrates major-minor idiom in its constant see-saw
between G minor and B-flat major. It is pointed out that the slaves had
a strong sense of time, that the overwhelming majority of their songs
are in duple or march time, with very few in the more graceful but
less vehement triple measure, and that in their "shouts" or religious
dances they rocked themselves into paroxysms of rhythmic excitement,
one group clapping the meter while the others sang and scuffled with
a "jerking, twitching motion which agitated the entire shouter and
soon brought out streams of perspiration."[66] No doubt the jerk
evidences their love of strong accentuation; but it must be noted that
accentuation is a purely local thing, affects the meter rather than the
rhythm, and may be assumed and put off by a tune (as in the "ragging"
of a standard melody) without changing its essential curve.


                    [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXV.
                  Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?=]


  Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel D'liver
  Daniel, d'liver Daniel, Didn't my Lord deliver
  Daniel, And why not a ev'ry man?


                   [Illustration: =Going Up.=]


  Oh, yes, I'm going up, going up,
  going all the way, Lord, going up,
  going up, to see the heavenly land.


Far more significant, therefore, than their half-barbaric fondness
for the jerk is the grasp shown by negroes over the larger and nobler
reaches of rhythm, their feeling for the phrase as a whole and ability
to impress upon it a firm and yet varied profile. The second half of
"You May Bury Me in the East," with its bold festooning of outline,
even more strikingly the tune "Going Up," with its piquant silences
and its even-paced insistence on "going all the way, Lord," show a
unity in their variety, a certain "all-of-a-piece-ness," compared
with which even "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel" seems scrappy, and
the ordinary ragtime effusion pitifully poverty-stricken. There
is plenty of internal evidence, too, that these happy results are
attributable to genuine musical imagination, and not to luck in the
servile following of felicitous word-patterns. Indeed, the frequency
with which unimportant words are accented and important ones slurred
over shows that, as is so often the case with great melodists like
Schubert, the words were regarded more or less as convenient pegs to
hang the melodies on, and the specifically musical faculty did not
easily brook interference. "The negroes keep exquisite time," writes
one of the editors of "Slave Songs in the United States," the best of
the collections, "and do not suffer themselves to be daunted by any
obstacle in the words. The most obstinate hymns they will force to
do duty with any tune they please, and will dash heroically through
a trochaic tune at the head of a column of iambs with wonderful
skill." The sense of independent tone-pattern, which when possessed by
individual geniuses in supreme degree gives us the immortal melodies
of a Beethoven or a Brahms, waxes and wanes in these childlike tunes,
sometimes falling back into platitude, but sometimes advancing to a
real distinction and beauty.

Whether this beauty is of the kind we have desiderated as the highest
quality folk-song can have, rendering it "suitable to enter into
music that may bear comparison with the best music of the world," is
a further question, and one which brings us at length to the highly
controversial matter of the kind of treatment that the composer should
give folk-material in incorporating it into his more finished art.
The variations of taste concerned here are so subtle that probably
unanimity of judgement, even if it be desirable, will never be
attained. Yet it is certain that treatment of some sort there must
be. The mere collecting, collating, and setting forth of folk-songs,
attractively arranged for instruments or even orchestrated, such
as we have seen much of from all countries in recent years, is no
more musical art than a pile of bricks is a building, or a series
of anecdotes literature. So far as it tends to content the public
with such potpourris, the fad for folk-song is positively injurious
to taste, in something the same way that our modern floods of petty
journalism are injurious to the capacity for sustained reading.
Moreover, even on their own level such medleys are apt to be
unsatisfactory; for the tunes themselves are so definite, brief, and
complete, and the transitional passages between them are therefore
so obtrusively transitional, that the net effect is that of the
ill-baked bread pudding from which we eat nothing but the raisins. Mr.
Coleridge-Taylor's "Twenty-Four Negro Melodies," despite incidental
attractions, are on the whole an example of this bad model.

Far worse, however, are those "improvements" of folk-song which
consist in a general prettifying of its homely simplicity with all
the refinements and luxuries of sophisticated musical technique--as
if a country maiden should conceal her healthy color under layers of
rouge. Strange that composers skilful enough to use them should not
recognize the inappropriateness of Wagnerian chromatics and Debussyan
whole-tone scale harmonies, to say nothing of all sorts of rich
dissonantal trappings, to tunes as diatonic as "God Save the King" and
as square cut as the "Hymn of Joy." One would think that the sense
of humor, which revels in incongruity in music as in other things,
would keep them from doing it and us from taking it so seriously. It
would be invidious to name examples, but they can be discovered by the
discerning; for not even the negro complexion is proof against this
brand of talcum powder.

The kind of change that is both legitimate and necessary may perhaps be
best suggested by another example, "Deep River." Here we have, in the
first phrase, that free and firm molding of rhythmic pattern which is
often so surprising in these songs, so that we might look far in the
best composers without finding its peer in deliberate, calm beauty. But
just as our hearts are responding to the wave of emotion thus generated
it strikes, so to speak, a dead wall, falls shattered, and has to
begin over again, without being able to recover the lost momentum. The
imagination is vital as far as it goes, but its span is short, it lacks
sustained power and cumulative force. What is needed in the composer
who would deal with such material, then, in addition to a tact that
enters into its spirit, is a synthetic imagination capable of rounding
out its incompleteness, of tracing the whole of the curve it suggests,
of developing into full life what it presents only as a germ.


                   [Illustration: =FIGURE XXXVI.
                           Deep River.=]


  Deep river, my home is over Jordan,
  Deep river, Lord I want to cross over in to camp ground.


How difficult such a truly creative treatment is, only those fully know
who have tried it; how rare, musical literature testifies. To add a
measure to a folk-song is almost like adding a cubit to one's stature,
and for the same reason--that addition is not what is requisite,
but organic growth. That it is possible we see in Brahms's masterly
treatment of German student songs in his "Academic Festival Overture";
that it can be applied to negro melodies we have been shown especially
by Dvořák. In his "New World" symphony and his "American" Quartet and
Quintet he assimilated a peculiar idiom so perfectly that there is not
a note, even in the highly complex harmonies toward the end of the
symphony, that does not take its place in the scheme unobtrusively.
While the harmonic idiom preponderantly of simple triads dictated by
the material is maintained with an unerring sense of style, these
commonest of all chords are so deftly managed that they never become
commonplace. The twin pitfalls of platitude and sophistication are
avoided with equal success. The same felicity is attained in the
construction. However brief the themes, they do not sound trivial
or unconvincing, because we feel they have reached their natural
growth. Above all, the same sympathy and power that are shown in these
technical matters so control the conception as a whole that these
works form a true idealization of negro feeling, in its moods both of
half-barbaric dance and of naïvely pathetic sentiment.

Dvořák's example suffices by itself, then, to show that the negro
music, in the hands of a master, is capable of two of the three
qualities we demanded of any folk-song--idiomatic distinctiveness and
capacity for organized beauty. Does he also demonstrate in it the
third--adequacy to interpret the American temper? Something closely
kindred to that temper and easily endeared to it there certainly is in
the restless rhythmic energy, the unceasing motion and quick changes of
these scherzos, the vigor and dispatch of these allegro movements. Like
similar syncopations and other rhythmic peculiarities that we find in
those of our composers who have more than their share of our national
nervous energy, such as Chadwick and Whiting, the negro rhythms have a
crispness and buoyancy that is somehow appropriate to our clear skies
and self-helpful society. They give at least a far fairer portrait
of us than the caricature of ragtime. In its more sentimental moods,
too, negro music has an unsophistication, an unreserved naïveté,
that reminds us of similar traits in the traditional conception of
our fellow countrymen. It thus seems to express more of our national
temperament, and to leave less of it unexpressed than would on the
whole any other body of folk-song.

Yet the very attempt to formulate these considerations forces us
to realize how hopelessly inadequate they are as an account of the
possibilities of America in music. The picture they give of the
national type may do something like justice to it as it existed in
earlier times and simpler surroundings, as it appears, for instance,
in the pages of Mark Twain or Bret Harte, and as it is symbolised in
the person of Uncle Sam; but the modern American is a being quite
other, far more complex, far more cosmopolitan, the American not of
nineteenth century New England but of the twentieth century "melting
pot." He is wholly incommensurate not only with negro music or any folk
music, but with even individual composers like Dvořák in whom emotion
far outruns intellectual subtlety. No folk music, let us repeat, no
individual composer, no school of composers, can "express" America. The
age of such simplicities is past, if it ever existed. Whether we like
it or not, we have to take our age and our country as they are; they
are an age of rapidly accelerating intercommunication of all peoples
and a country in which the internationalism that thus slowly results is
being hastened by actual admixture on a heretofore unprecedented scale.
Such a condition doubtless has its bad as well as its good aspects;
but if those who bemoan our "featureless cosmopolitanism" and advocate
an impossible parochialism as the only remedy would try rather to see
how a wider outlook and a larger sympathy may deepen our art and make
it more truly human by laying less stress on local, national, or even
racial types, and more on the untrammeled expression of the greatest
possible variety of individuals, music would fare better. "National
literature:" wrote Goethe to Eckerman in 1827, "the term has no longer
much meaning to-day; the time for universal literature is come, and
each ought to work to hasten its advent." Signs are not wanting that
the condition thus discerned by the wisest men a century ago is now
gradually getting itself acknowledged in general practice.


                                   V

If we accept, in the light of the foregoing considerations, the
ideal of enlightened eclecticism, not only for our own music here in
America but measurably for all modern music, since it is all subject
to the internationalization so characteristic of our time, the chief
undertaking that remains to us will be an attempt to define the
position of the American composer in relation to such eclecticism, the
advantages and disadvantages of his situation, the pitfalls he must
avoid, and the opportunities he should embrace. From this point of
view it will be seen that the enthusiasts of nationalism, in advising
our composer to confine himself to Indian, Negro, or ragtime material,
in adjuring him not to listen to the siren voice of Europe, are not
merely misleading but cheating him. They are asking him to throw away
his birthright of wide cosmopolitan influence for a mess of purely
parochial pottage. They are bewailing the lack in America of just those
geographical and racial boundary lines that split up Europe into a
series of more or less petty and hostile camps. They are inviting us to
descend from the point of vantage good fortune has given us, a little
removed both in space and in time from the thick of the battle.

For it is indeed the peculiar good fortune of the young American
composer that he finds spread out before him, as the models through
the study of which he is to acquire an important part of his technical
equipment and of his general attitude towards art, the masterpieces
of the various European countries, among which he may pick and choose
as his individual taste directs, and without being hampered by
those annoying racial and national jealousies from which the most
intelligent European cannot quite free himself. What he may acquire
of the special virtue of each school--the delicacy and distinction of
the French, the solid structural power of the German, the suave and
rich coloring of the Russian, the austere dignity of the English--is
limited, not by the accident of birth, but only by his own assimilative
power. No element in his complex nature need be starved for want of
its proper food. He is placed in the midst of the stream of world
influences to make of himself what he will and can.

Is it not inconceivable that one thus privileged to speak, within the
measure of his ability, a world language should ever content himself
with a Negro or Indian dialect? It would be so perhaps did we not
consider that, in order to speak the world language of cosmopolitan
music as it exists to-day, one must spend years in laborious discipline
and in obscurity, while any tyro can make a certain effect and gain a
certain prominence by stammering in an idiom strongly enough tinctured
with local color. Vanity is the immemorial enemy of art; if the itch
to be conspicuous once infect him, the artist forgets all those subtle
adaptations, those difficult reconcilements, which were formerly
his passion, and makes a crude effect that appeals much more to the
primitive minds of the masses. And this he may do quite unconsciously
and in the sincere belief that he is pursuing the highest ideals. In
the presence of the immediate good, of recognition and acclaim, it is
pitifully easy to forget the remote better, the broader, finer, subtler
beauty that is not yet understood.

But if the picturesque, the quaint, the piquant, is by nature more
quick to appeal than the beautiful, it is also more short-lived. For
this reason those writers in all ages and countries who depend largely
on local color are promptly acclaimed and soon forgotten, while those
who aim at the more universal human qualities win gradually a place
that proves permanent. Bret Harte was doubtless considered more
"American" by his own generation than Emerson. Shakespeare is far less
English than Defoe, Dante is not so notably Italian, or Goethe so
notably German, as are many lesser men. Or, to come back to music,
where are now the Russian "nationalists" who excluded Tschaikowsky the
"cosmopolite" from their magic circle? For a while we listened to their
melancholy Russian cadences with fascinated interest, in spite of their
crude harmonization, their incoherent form, their lack of instinct for
style, because we were pleased with the novelty. Now the novelty has
worn off, and for human nature's daily food we find Tschaikowsky, who
made the most of his opportunities, rose above a narrow exclusiveness,
and assimilated power wherever he found it, far preferable.

The true difficulty of the American composer's position, then, is
to be found, not in the poverty of the native folk-song, but in the
confusing variety of the foreign influences in which he is so rich. He
has suffered and is still suffering from an embarrassment of riches,
from a mental indigestion. His cosmopolitanism is indeed too often
"featureless," and his readiness to be influenced an evidence of
weakness rather than strength, a flat rather than a broad eclecticism.
His technique is miscellaneous, his style without distinction, his
art as a whole lacks individuality. This featurelessness is the
typical defect of American compositions of the present generation,
perhaps--typical in spite of some notable exceptions. The technical
deficiencies of our pioneer forefathers are more and more becoming
things of the past; free intercourse with Europe and the wholesale
importation of skilled European musicians have refined away the
crudities with surprising rapidity; there are among us to-day musical
workmen whose skill in symphony, chamber music, and opera will compare
favorably with that of Europeans. Where we still fail is in that
subtle, indefinable, and indispensable touch of personal distinction
which may be recognized in artists so diverse, both individually and
racially, as Strauss, d'Indy, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Paderewski,
Sibelius, Elgar. What is the secret of this distinction?

We may get a clue to the right answer by considering a peculiar case,
an exceptional case, among ourselves--the exception that proves the
rule--the case of MacDowell. The supreme place he undoubtedly holds
among our composers is due precisely to this quality of personal
distinction, of individuality, to the fact that his music, in spite of
the pronounced Grieg and Raff elements in it, does not sound quite like
that of any one else. Technically MacDowell has grave deficiencies;
his harmonic system is singularly limited, mannered, and monotonous;
his polyphony is weak; his "drawing," as a painter would say, is often
halting and awkward. His range of expression, moreover, is not wide,
and within it he frequently cloys by an over-sweet sentimentalism. But
MacDowell is sincere, and he is always himself. There are no unfused
elements in his style, no outstanding features, that we feel to have
been borrowed and not assimilated. His style is very narrow, but it is
his own. And the result is that, although we shall soon forget some
of our composers who are far cleverer than he, we shall not forget
MacDowell.

The enemies of eclecticism have thus expressed a half-truth, we begin
to see, when they call it flabby. Only too easily does it become so.
As dangerous as it is desirable, it will contribute to the formation
of an artist only when it is controlled by an instinctive sense of how
much one can assimilate, and the courage to reject the rest. And here
we come to one of those peculiar difficulties of the position in which
the American composer finds himself. It is hard for him, recognizing,
as his natural alertness of perception and his detached point of view
enable him to do, the merits of many different European aims and
methods, and, mainly sensitive as he must be to his own shortcomings in
respect to any of them--it is hard for him to distinguish between those
that he can possibly assimilate to his own uses and those that must
remain alien to him; and it is doubly hard to let the latter alone,
voluntarily restricting his field in order that he may be the master of
it. Yet these selections, these sacrifices, are at the very foundation
of artistic personality. It is no more possible for a human being to
be, let us say, at once as subtle as Debussy and as gorgeous as Strauss
than it is to be in two places at once. Which will you do without? But
the young American composer is at once too timid and too ambitious to
do without anything; in the attempt to be everywhere at the same time
he cuts himself up into little pieces that end by being nowhere.

The frank and courageous acceptance of limitations is, in truth,
the first step toward artistic individuality; a man can never be an
individual, as the very derivation of the word may remind him, so long
as he remains divided, spread out very wide and very thin, unwilling
to take sides, but only when he concentrates himself, is loyal to
one cause, grows out from one nucleus. What this nucleus shall be,
indeed, differs according to circumstances. For the European musician
it is to some extent decided beforehand, by the conditions of birth,
of national and racial allegiance. The American, as we said, to begin
with is freer in this respect; but we may now add that he is no less
bound to find a cause, a unifying center, if he would get beyond mere
clever imitation and become a genuine person. He must love his cause
so singly that he will cleave to it, and forsake all else. Now what
is this cause for the American composer but the utmost musical beauty
that he, as an individual man with his own qualities and defects, is
capable of understanding and striving towards? And what is the "all
else" that he must forsake, save those types of musical beauty which,
whatever may be their intrinsic worth, do not come home to him, do not
arouse a sympathetic vibration in him, leave him cold? He must take
sides. He must be, not a philosopher, but a partisan. He must have good
hearty enthusiasms, and good hearty prejudices. Only so can he be an
individual.

It matters not one jot, provided this course of personal loyalty to
a cause be steadfastly pursued, what the special characteristics of
style of the music may be to which one gives one's devotion. Let A
give his life to studying the delicate color scheme of the French
"ultra-moderns"; let B find his joy in a polyphony based on Bach's; let
C develop lovingly the cadences or rhythms of Negro and Indian tunes;
all three will be good musicians, all three good Americans--for,
after all, American music is only music. The man who is neither good
musician nor good American is the botcher, the dilettante, the clever
amateur--he who is too lazy to learn his business, too pretentious to
limit his claims, too busy talking about art to study it. Such babblers
have always been, and always will be, naturally, far more numerous
than the efficient workers; and they will doubtless continue to fill
the newspapers and magazines with their silly superficialities, and do
their utmost to confuse the public into forgetting that sincerity and
skill are the only things that can ever be justly demanded of an artist.


                                  VI

In demanding skill and sincerity of our composers, however, we are
requiring of them, as a little analysis will suffice to show, labors
and sacrifices of which only the rarest natures are capable; and it may
well be that the unsatisfactory character of composition in America
is due far more to the rarity of men able or willing to undertake
such labors and endure such sacrifices than to the difficulties of
the æsthetic problems we have so far been considering. Let us, then,
in closing, try to suggest answers to the purely practical questions:
Is there anything about our social and economic system that lays
especial burdens on creative artists? If there is, is there any hope of
correcting it? Whether it may be corrected or not, may our composers,
through candid recognition of it, be saved from dissipation of energy
and helped to concentrate their efforts on objects most likely to be
achieved, and most worth achieving? We shall answer all these questions
affirmatively.

First we must note that the amount and intensity of mental application
involved in composition is something of which the layman has little
idea. The technique to be mastered by the composer is singularly
difficult; the tonal material he works in is subtle and intangible; its
relationships, harmonic, rhythmic, melodic, polyphonic, which he must
learn not only to understand but to manipulate, are of an indescribable
complexity; and he achieves command of all these fundamental or
grammatical means of his art only to face the far subtler distinctions
of structure and style on a wise apprehension of which depends his
artistic individuality. Moreover, if he would take advantage of the
wide and unbiased view of European music which we have seen to be a
special privilege of the intelligent American, he must do far more than
hear or read the chief works of many masters; he must know them in and
out, must learn to breathe the peculiar atmosphere of each,--must, in
short, live with them. And more than that, for after analysis comes
synthesis, after assimilation, creation; and as the one requires
laborious, minute, detailed study, the other requires a wide margin of
leisure in which the mind can forget all these details, empty itself of
all irrelevance, and prepare to receive whatever thoughts may visit it.
Here is more time needed, in great spaces. This is a full and varied
way of living, indeed, that we are sketching; and we have not yet made
out how the artist is to live at all. How is he to get money to support
himself?

Not, certainly, from his compositions. They will do well if they bring
him enough to pay for ink and paper; they will surely not pay for
their own copying. "A man," says Mr. Graham Wallas,[67] "who gives
the best strength of each day to dreaming about the nature of God or
the State, or the shape of the earth, or the relation of the sides of
a triangle to its hypotenuse, produces nothing which at the end of
the day he can easily sell. Since the actual process of inference is
unconscious, and his voluntary control over it indirect and uncertain,
he is not even sure that he will produce any result at all, whether
salable or unsalable, by months of effort. How then shall he live?" If
this is the situation of the creative thinker in science, what shall
we say of that of the creative thinker in art? As we have seen in
discussing the relations of democracy and music, the class which in the
eighteenth century bought the wares of the composer finds its analogue,
under our capitalistic industrial system, in the frivolous plutocracy,
who demand of music curiosities, novelties, and entertainment. The vast
mass of listeners emerging from below, on the other hand, of crude
and childlike taste, prefer stories (program music), day-dreaming,
and sensationalism to beauty. Confronted by these two classes, the
composer will find his sincerity likely to cost him dear. If he is
really sincere, if he is trying to write music that presents the kind
of beauty that he hears, and that no one else has heard in just that
way before, he will find himself enjoying it in a minority of one. Yet
the alternative, to prostitute himself and "give the public what it
wants," is even worse; and when the public says to him, in the words of
Mozart's publisher, "Write in a more easy, popular style, or I will not
print a note or give you a kreuzer," his answer can be no other than
Mozart's: "Then, my good sir, I have only to resign myself and die of
hunger."

Or rather, and here is the special irony of the situation, his
alternative is not a literal physical hunger, but that subtler hunger
that follows the denial of the imperious instinct to create beauty;
he has not to starve his body of bread, but his soul of music. For
while society withholds with one hand, so to speak, any payment for
the best work he can do, because it is too good, because it requires
too long to be understood, it freely offers him with the other a
bare livelihood, if not more, for work of secondary value--teaching,
performance, exposition, anything but creation. It constantly pulls,
pushes, cajoles, persuades, coaxes, browbeats him from the superior
to the inferior activity. It so fills his days with the one that even
if at long intervals an opportunity for the other presents itself he
has hardly the spirit to seize it. It deadens him with detail, drugs
him with drudgery, cages him until he forgets how to sing. Where, as
in America, there exists a very "high standard of living," as it is
quaintly called, meaning that many and costly material wants have to
be met before spiritual needs can be considered, the labor imposed by
such a struggle may be overwhelming. And it is superimposed, we must
remember, on the other labor, the creative one, described above. The
same nerves, body, and brain, in the same twenty-four hours each day,
must sustain the two labors, one to earn a livelihood, the other to
make use of it. No wonder few can endure it; no wonder most give it
up in despair or dull indifference, and content themselves with the
livelihood without taking the trouble to live.

Not only, moreover, are the broad facts of economics, under a
capitalistic-industrial system, thus flatly inimical to creative work,
but in a plutocratic civilization like ours the more subtle forces
of public opinion are perhaps even more fatal to it, because more
pervasive and intangible. In Europe the impecunious artist is accepted
with tolerance, even with a touch of respect, and suffered to live
undisturbed in his Bohemia and to pursue his dreams. To us, who still
as a people recognize no measure of achievement but income, and who
accept without a murmur the domination of mass-convention in most
matters of opinion, he is something worse than an interesting eccentric
or even a harmless crank; he is something of a sybarite and a skulker;
he is one who "doesn't play the game." Therefore he need look to us
for understanding or sympathy no more than for more material rewards.
If he wishes to be approved of, let him do something useful--that is,
something that pays.

When we realize the penalties that are thus piled upon the head of
the artist whose only offense is that he wishes to give something to
society of which it does not yet recognize the value, our wonder that
there is so little American composition of the first quality changes
to surprise that there is any. We begin to suspect--as Ruskin did at
forty, and devoted the rest of his life to demonstrating the truth
of his suspicion--that the decadence of art we witness all around us
is only a symptom of a deeper disease, and that, as William Morris
expressed it, "Slavery lies between us and art."[68] Capitalistic
industrialism, as Matthew Arnold saw, "materializes our upper class,
vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class"; and under
such conditions vital art can have no secure or assured life. It may
well be, therefore, that art can only in the long run be saved, like
society itself, by the fairer, freer, humaner system that socialism
promises. It cannot but thrill all true lovers of art to find its
claims, with those of a liberalized society, being championed to-day,
no longer merely by individual thinkers like Ruskin and Morris, but by
great representative bodies like the British Labor Party. "Society,
like the individual," says a draft report of this party[69] "does
not live by bread alone--does not exist only for perpetual wealth
production. The Labour Party will insist on greatly increased public
provision being made for scientific investigation and original
research, in every branch of knowledge, not to say also for the
promotion of music, literature, and fine art, which have been under
capitalism so greatly neglected, and upon which, so the Labour Party
holds, any real development of civilization fundamentally depends."

Finally, however, inspiring as are the hopes these words suggest, the
American composer need not await their realization before putting forth
those individual efforts without the aid of which, after all, they can
never attain it. Music, like society, has reached its present state
only through the struggles, against immense odds, of its martyrs and
its heroes: not only of Bach, of Mozart, of Beethoven, of Schubert,
of Wagner, of Brahms, but of countless others who have wrought and
suffered in obscurity and with a consecration of their more limited
powers to the great cause of beauty. And if American life lays almost
crushing burdens on artistic initiative, there is also in the best
American tradition a courage, an independence, a certain nonchalant and
plucky self-reliance that ought to carry an artist far on the solitary
path he has to travel. It ought to keep him from turning back, though
it could not guard him against wandering and getting lost. All that can
help him there is clearsightedness, a realistic and unsentimental view
of the society in which he lives and the terms on which he lives in it.
He must discharge the work he does for a livelihood as conscientiously
as he can, but meanwhile not forget to live also. He must not make
the tragic mistake, the unpardonable sin of the artist, described by
Thoreau: "To please our friends and relatives we turn out our silver
ore in cartloads, while we neglect to work our mines of gold known
only to ourselves, far up in the Sierras, where we pulled up a bush
in our mountain walk, and saw the glittering treasure. Let us return
thither. Let it be the price of our freedom to make that known." He
must cut down his material requirements to the minimum and honor his
own poverty. He must learn to find his satisfaction in the work itself,
and not expect recognition, which is bound to be late (even later in
America than elsewhere), and likely to be mistaken. Above all, he
must not pity himself or grow embittered, for in the possession of a
lifelong enthusiasm, an ideal that he can always work towards and will
never reach, he has the best gift that life has to offer.

                              FOOTNOTES:

[59] The New Republic, October 16, 1915.

[60] "Two Views of Ragtime." The Seven Arts, July, 1917.

[61] The time is really 4-8, though marked 2-4.

[62] The Times, London, February 8, 1913, quoted in Boston Symphony
Orchestra Program Books, vol. 32, p. 1186.

[63] See, for instance, Mr. Carl van Vechten's "Interpreters and
Interpretations."

[64] Quoted by Mr. Charles L. Buchanan in an admirably sane article on
"Rag Time and American Music" in The Opera Magazine, February, 1916.

[65] For example:

  "They got a fiddler there
  That always slickens his hair,
  An' folks he sure do pull some bow,"
from "The Memphis Blues," in which Mr. H. K. Moderwell assures us we
shall find "characteristic verse of a high order."

[66] The Nation, May 30, 1867.

[67] "The Great Society," by Graham Wallas.

[68] Quoted in "The Socialist Movement," by J. Ramsay MacDonald, p. 86.

[69] The Labor Party's Draft Report on Reconstruction: "The Aims of
Labour," by Arthur Henderson, Appendix, page 106.



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                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by =equal signs=.

A number of words in this book have both hyphenated and non-hyphenated
variants. For the words with both variants present the one more used
has been kept.

Obvious punctuation and other printing errors have been corrected.

The spellings for the names Scriabine and Strawinsky have been retained
as they appeared in the original book.





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