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A general history of the science and practice of music online

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with minds actuated by ambition and the lust of
empire, was necessarily overwhelmed, is not solving
the difficulty ; for though barbarism might check, as
it did, the growth of this as well as other arts, the
utter extirpation of it seems to have been as much
then, as it is now, impossible. That conquest did
not produce the same effect on the other arts is
certam; the architecture, the sculpture, and the
poetry of ancient Greece and Rome, 'though they
withdrew for a time, were yet not lost, but after
a retirement of some centuries appeared again. But
what became of their music is still a questiou : the

Pyramids, the Pantheon, the Hercules of Glycon>
the Grecian Venus, the writings of Homer, of Plato,
of Aristotle, and other ancients, are still in being ;
but who ever saw, or where are deposited, the com-
positions of Terpander, Timotheus, or Phrynis?
Did the music of these, and many other men whom
we read of, consist of mere Energy, in the extempo-
rary prolation, of solitary or accordant sounds ; or
had they, in those very early ages, any method of
notation, whereby their ideas of sound, like those of
other sensible objects, were rendered capable of com-
munication? It is hard to conceive that they had
not, when we reflect on the very great antiquity of
the invention of letters ; and yet before the time of
Alypius, who lived a. o. 116, there are no remain-
ing evidences of any such thing.

The writers in that famous controversy set on foot
by Sir William Temple, towards the close of the
last century, about the comparative excellence of the
ancient and modem learning, at least those who sided
with the ancients, seem not to have been aware of the
difficulty they had to encounter, when they under-
took, as some of them did, to maintain the superiority
of the ancient over the modem music, a difficulty
arising not more from the supposed weight on the
other ^de of the argument, than from the want of
sufficient Data on their own. In the comparison of
ancient with modem music, it was reasonable to ex-
pect that the advocates for the former should at least
have been able to define it ; but Sir William Temple,
who contends for its superiority, makes no scruple to
confess his utter incapacity to judge about it: 'What/
says he, * are become of the charms of music, by which

* men and beasts, fishes, fowls, and serpents were so
♦frequently enchanted, and their very natures changed;

< by which the passions of men are raised to the greatest

* height and violence ; and then so suddenly appeased,

* so as they might be justly said to be tumed into

* lions or lambs, into wolves or into harts, by the

* powers and charms of this admirable art? *Tis

< agreed of all the learned that the science of music,

* so admired by the ancients, is wholly lost in the

* world, and that what we have now is made up of

* certain notes that fell into the fancy or observation

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Book L

of a foOT friar in chanting his mattine : so as those
•two divine excellences of music and poetry are
'grown in a manner to be little more but the one
\fiddlingt and the other rhyming, and are indeed
* very worthy the ignorance of the friar, and the
' barbarousness of the Goths that introduced them
' among us.**

Whatever are the powers and charms of this
admirable art, there needs no further proof than
the passage above-cited, that the author of it was
not very susceptible of them ; for either the learned
of these later times are strangely mistaken, or those
certain notes, which he speaks so contemptuously of,
have, under the management of skilful artists, pro-
duced effects not much less wonderful than those
attributed to the ancient music And it is not to be
imagined but that Sir William Temple, in the course
of a life spent among foreigners of the first rank, and
at a time when Europe abounded with excellent mas*
ters, must have heard such music, as, had he had any
ear to appeal to, would have convinced him that the art
had still its charms, and those very potent ones too.

But, not to follow the example of an author, whose
zeal for a favorite h3rpothesis had led him to write on
a subject he did not understand, we will proceed to
trace the various progress of this art : its progress, it
is said, for the many accounts of the time of the in*
vention, as well as of the inventors of music, leave
us in great uncertainty as to its rise. The authority
of poets is not very respectable in matters of history ;
and there is hardly any other for those common
opinions that we owe the invention of music to
Orpheus, to Amphion, Linus, and many others ; un*
less we except that venerable doctor and schoolman,
Thomas Aquinas, who asserts, that not music alone,
but every other science, was understood, and that by
immediate revelation from above, by the first of the
human race. However, it may not be amiss to men*
tion the general opinions as to the invention of music,
with this remark, that no greater deference is due to
many of them than is paid to other fables of the
ancient poets and mythologists.

There can be no doubt but that vocal music is
ttiore ancient than instrumental, since mankind were
endowed with voices before the invention of instru*
ments ; but the great question is, at what time they
began to frame a system, and this naturally leads to
an inquiry into the time of the invention of instru-
ments ; for if we consider the evanescence of sound
uttered by Ae human voice, the notion of a system
w^ithout, is at this day not very intelligible.

But previous to any such inquiry, we may very
reasonably be allowed the liberty of conjecture, in
which if we indulge ourselves, we cannot suppose
but that an art so suited to our natures, and adapted
to our organs, as music is. must be nearly as ancient
as those of Agriculture, Navigation, and numberless
other inventions, which the necessities of mankind
suggested, and impelled them to pursue : the desire of
the conveniences, the comforts, the pleasures of life,
is a principle little less active than that which leads

■ £»My on Ancient and modern learning.

US to provide for its wants ; and perhaps it might be
even before they had learned to ' go down to the sea
in ships* that men began to 'handle the harp and
organ,' which it cannot be supposed they could do to
any other delightful purpose, without some knowledge
of those harmonical relations and coincidences of
sound, which are the essence of the art Such a
knowledge as this we may easily conceive was soon
attained by even the earliest inhabitants of the earth.
The voices of animals, the whistling of the winds,
the fall of waters, the concussion of bodies of various
kinds, not to mention the melody of birds, as they
all contain in them the rudiments of harmony, may
easily be supposed to have furnished the minds of
intelligent creatures with such ideas of sound, as
time, and the accumulated observation of succeeding
ages, could not fail to improve into a system.f

f Lueretfus auppoug that mankind took their iirtt notions of mutie
from the singing of birds : —

At llqaldas avinm Tooes imitarler ore
Ante fuit multb. ouaro Isevia carmina eanta
Concelebrare homines possent, aurelsque jntare. Ln. V.

And the same poet has in some sort ascertained the origin of wind in-
struments m the fbllowing elegant verses : —

£t lephyri cava per calaroorum siblla primnm

Agresteis docuere cavas inflare clcutas,

Inde minutatim dulceis didicere querelas.

Tibia quas fUndit digitls pulsata canentum. Ibid.

Thro* all the woods the7 heard the charming noise
Of chlriping birds, and try'd to ftame their Toice
And imitate. Thus birds instructed man,
And taiu^ht them songs before their art bc^an ;
And whilst soft evening gales blew o'er the plains,
And shook the soundii:^ reeds, they taught the swains,
And thus the pipe was iram'd and tunefni reed. Ckxbch.

Part of the natural song of t))e blackbird c<msists of true diatdnic in-
tervals, and Is thus to be expressed in musical notes :—

Cu - eu,

And Kircher, Musurg. lib. I. cap. xITm bas given the songs of other
birds, which with great ingenuity and industry he had investigated, as
namely that of the nightin^e, the quail, the parrot, the cock and hen,
in the common characters of musical noUtion. Though that which he
givea of the common dunghill cock seems to he etronaousi and is thus to
Qe ezprosed : —

And it mav be observed that between the dungbOl and bantam eoek
tnere is a difRsrence, for the latter intonates the following sounds, which
constitute the interval of a true fifth .—

The song of the hen at the time of her laying, is thus described by him :—

and clearly appears to be an intonation of a major sixth.

The same author asserts that other animals, and even (^i^adrupeds,
articulate diflerent sounds that have a musical ratio to each other, as an
instance whereof he mentions an animal produced in America called the
PigriUft, or Sloth, of which he gives the following curious acconnt : —

'Before I ppeak of his voioe I will give a description of this whole

* animal, which this very year I received firom the mouth of fkther

* Johannes Torus, procurator of the province of the new kingdom in

* Amerioa, who had some of these animals in his possession, and m^de

* several trials of their natures and properties. The figure of this animal
*is uncommon, they call it Pigritia, on account of the slowness of its

* motions, Tt is of the size of a cat, has an ugly countenance, and dawa

* projecting in the likeness of fingers ; it has hair on the back part of its
' nead, which covers Its neck ; it brushes the very ground with its fiit

* belly. It never rises upon its feet, but moves forward so slowly, that

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Chap. I.



A reason has already been given to show that the
notion of a musical system does necessarily pre-
suppose musical instruments ; it therefore becomes
necessary to trace the invention of such instruments
as are distinguished by the simplicity of their con-
struction, and whose forms and properties at this
distance of time are most easily to be conceived of,
and these clearly seem to be reduced to two, the lyre
and the pipe.

The lyre, the most considerable of the two, and the
prototype of the Jidicinal or stringed species, is said
to have been invented about the year of the world
2000, by Mercury, who finding on the bank of the
river Nile a shell -fish of the tortoise kind, which an
inundation of that river had deposited there, and ob-
serving that the flesh was already consumed, he took
up the back shell, and hollowing it, applied strings to
it ;* though concerning the number of strings there
is great controversy, some asserting it to be only
three, and that the sounds of the two remote were
acute and grave, and that of the intermediate one
a mean between those two extremes : that Mercury
resembled those three chords to as many seasons of
the year, which were all that the Greeks reckoned,
namely. Summer, Winter, and Spring, assigning the
acute to the first, the grave to Uie second, and the
mean to the third.

Others assert that the lyre had four strings ; that
the interval between the first and fourth was an
octave ; that the second was a fourth f from the first,

* it scarce in a continued tpace advance! aboye the cast of a dart In even
' fifteen days. No one knows what meat it feeds on, nor are they seen to
*eat ; they fat the most part keep on the tops of trees, and are two days

* ascending and as many m descending. Moreover, nature seems to have

* f^imiahed them with two kinds of arms or weapons against other beasts
' and animals their enemies. First their feet, in which they have such

* strength, that whatsoever animal they lay hold on they keep it so fast,

* that it is never after able to ftee itself f^m their nails, but it is com-
' pelled to die through hunger : and the other is, that this beast so greatly

* aflfecis the men that are coming towards it by its countenance, that in
' pure compassion they refrain from molesting it, and easily persuade

* themselves not to be solicitous about that which nature has subjected to

* so defenceless and miserable a sute of body. The above-mentioned
•father, in order to make a trial of this, procured one of these animals to
« be brought to the college of our society at Carthagena of the new king-
« dom, and threw a long pole under its feet, whioh he immediately grasped

* so tenaciously, that it would by no means let it go ; the animal thus

* bound by a voluntary suspension, was placed between two beams, where

* he stuck thus suspended for forty days together, without either meat,
< drink, or sleep, having his eyes oontinually fixed on those that looked
« on him, whom he aflbcted so with his sorrowful aspect, that there was

* scarce any one that was not tonehed with pity for him. Being at length

* freed f^om this long suspension, a dog was thrown to him, which he
•hnmedii^y seised with his feet, and forcibly detained for the space of

* four days, at the end whereof the miserable creature expired, being

* famished through hunger* This I had ttom the mouth of the above

They add. moreover, (to return to the purpose) that this beast makes no
noise or cry but in the night, and that with a voice interrupted only by
the duration of a s^h or semi pause. It perfectly intonates, as learners
do. the first elements of music, «l, r«, mi^fa, sol, la. la, »ol,fa^ mi, rr, v^
Ascending and descending through the common intervals of the six
degrees, insomuch that the Spaniards, when they first took possession of
these coasts, and perceived such a kind of vociferation in the night,
thought they heard men accustomed to the rules of music. It is called
by the inhabitants i7cr«<, for no other reason than that it repeats through
every degree of the interval of a sixth the sound Aa, ka, Aa, Aa, ha,

ff^ ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
• Nicoraachi Harmonices Manualis, lib. IT. ex vers. Meibom. p. 29.
t In this and in all other instances, where the measures of intervals
are assigned, it is to be observed that they include the two extreme terms,
in which respect the phrases of music and physic agree ; to this purpose
a very whimsical but ingenious and learned writer on music and many
other subjects, in the last century, namely Charles Butler, thus speaks :

* As physleiiois say a tertian ague, which yet oometh but every second
•day, and a quartan, whose access is every thiid day, (because they eruni

and the fourth the same distance from the third, and
that from the second to the third was a tone.j:

Another class of writers contend that the lyre of
Mercury had seven strings : Nicomachus, a follower
of Pythagoras, and the chief of them, gives the
following account of the matter : ' The lyre made
'of the shell was invented by Mercury, and the
'knowledge of it, as it was constructed by him of

* seven strings was transmitted to Orpheus ; Orpheus
'taught the use of it to Thamyris and Linus, the
Matter of whom taught it to Hercules, who com-

* municated it to Amphion the Theban, who built the

* seven gates of Thebes to the seven strings of the
'lyre.* The same author proceeds to relate 'that
' Orpheus was afterward killed by the Thracian
' women, and that they are reported to have cast his
' lyre into the sea, which was afterwards thrown up
' at Antissa, a city of Lesbos : that certain fishers
' finding it, they brought it to Terpander, who carried

* it to Egypt, exquisitely improved, and shewing it
'to the Egyptian priests, assumed to himself the

* honour of its invention.*§

And with respect to the form of the ancient lyre,
as little agreement is to be found among authors as
about the number of strings ; the best evidences con-
cerning it are the representations of that instrument
in the hands of ancient statues of Apollo, Orpheus,
and others, on bass reliefs, antique marbles, medals
and gems ; || but of these it must be confessed that
they do not all favour the supposition that it was origi-
nally formed of a tortoise shell ; though on the other
hand it may be said, that as none of those monuments
can pretend to so high an antiquity as the times to
which we assign the invention of the lyre, they are
to be considered as exhibitions of that instrument in
a state of improvement, and therefore are no evidence
of its original form. Galilei mentions a statue of
Orpheus in the Palazro de Medici, made by the
Cavalier Bandinelli, in the left hand whereof is a lyre
of this figure.^ (No. !•) He also cites a passage from
Philostratus, importing that the lyre was made of the
horns of a goat, from which Hyginius undertook thus
to delineate it. (No. 2.)



' the first fit-day for one) so do musicians call a third, a fburth, and a fifth

* (which yet are but two. three, and four notes from the ground) because

* they account the ground itself for one.' Principles of Music, by Charles
Butler, quarto, London 1636, pag. 52, in not,

t Boetms de Musica, lib. I. pag. 20.

Instrumentls Harmonieis, lib. I.

} Nicom. lib. II. pag. 29.

i Mersennus de Instrun
Galilei Dlalogo della Musica Antica e Modema, y%%. ~125
Kircher Mu»urgia universalis, lib. II. cap. vL % iii.

f GaUlel, 129.

;. r. Vincentio

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Book L

Mersennns says that by means of his friends Nand^
and Gafiarel, he had obtained from Rome, and other
parts of Italy, drawings of sundry ancient instruments
from coins and marbles ; among many which he has
given, are these of the lyre ; the first is apparently
a part of a tortoise shell, the other is part of the heaa
with the horns of a bull.

The above-cited authors mention also a PleetruMy
of about a span in length, made of the lower joint of
a goat*s leg ; the use whereof was to touch the strings
of the lyre, as appeared to Galilei by several ancient
bass-reliefs and other sculptures discovered at Rome
in his time.

Kircher has prefixed as a frontispiece to the second
tome of the Musurgia, a representation of a statue in
the Matthei garden near Rome, of Apollo standing
on a circular pedestal, whereon are carved in basso
relievo a great variety of ancient musical instruments.
But the most perfect representation of the lyre is
the instrument in the hand of the above statue, which
is of the form in which the lyre is most usually de^
lineated. Vide Musurg. torn. I. pag. 536. *

The pipe, the original and most simple of wind
instruments, is said to have been formed of the
shank-bone of a crane, and the invention thereof is
ascribed to Apollo, Pan, Orpheus, Linus, and many
others. Marsyas, or as others say, Silenus, was the

* Isaac Vom1u8, a bigotted admirer of the ancients, de Poemat. cant,
at virib. Rythnu pag. 97, contends that hardly any of these remaining
monuments of antiquity are in such a state as to warrant any opinion
touching the for^i of the andent lyre. He speaks indeed of two sUtues
of Apollo in the garden of his Britannic nu^esty at London, in the year
1678, (probably the Friry Garden behhid the then palace of Whitehall)
each holding a lyre ; and as neither of these instruments was then in the
least mutilated, he considers them as true and perfect representations of
the ancient cythfira or lyre, in two forms, and has thup delineftted and
described them :—

A The bridge over which the chords are stretched.
B The choijotopum, from which the chords proceed.
C C The erhei, made of brass, and affixed to the bridge to enoreas^ t|ie
D The bridge as in the former figure.

first that joined pipes of different lengths together
with wax ; but Virgil says,

Panprimoa calamos cera conjwngere plures
forming thereby an instrument, to which Isidore,
bishop of Seville, gives the name of Fandorium, and
others that of Syringa and which is frequently repre-
sented in collections of antiquities.^:

As to the instruments of the pulsatile kind, such
as are the Drum, and many othere, they can hardly
be ranked in the number of musical instruments ;
inasmuch ag the sounds they produce are not re-
ducible to any system, though the measure and
duration or succession of those sounds is ; which is
no more than may be said of many sounds, which yet
are not deemed musical.

Such are the accounts that are left us of the in-
vention of the instruments above-mentioned, which
it is necessary to make the basis of an enquiry into
the origin of a system, rather than the Harp, the
Organ, and many others mentioned in sacred writ,
whose invention was earlier than the times above
referred to, becapse their respective forms are known
even at this time of day to a tolerable degree of pre-
cision : a lyre consisting of strings extended over the
concave of a shell, or a pipe with a few equidistant
perforations in it, are instruments we can easily con-
ceive of; and indeed the many remaining monuments
of antiquity leave us in very little doubt about them ;
but there is no medium through which we can deduce
the figure or construction of any of the instruments
mentioned either in the Fentateuch, or the less
ancient partd of sacred history ; and doubtless the
translators of those passages of the Old Testament,
where the names of musical instruments occur,
after due deliberation on the contei^t, found them-
selves reduced to the necessity of rendering those
))ames by such terms as would go the nearest
to excite a correspondent idea in their readers:
so that they would be grossly mistaken who should
imagine that the organ, handled by those of whom
Jubal is said to have been the father,§ any way re-
sembled the instrument now known fMnong us by
that name.

Those accounts which give the invention of the lyre
to Mercury, agree also in ascribing to him a system
iMiapted to it ; though with respect to the nature of that
system, as also to the number of strings of which the
lyre consisted, there is a great diversity of opinions ;
and indeed the settling the first of these questions
would go near to determine the other. Boetius in«
dines to the opinion that the lyre of Mercury had
only four strings ; and adds, that the first and the
fourth made a diapason ; that the middle distance
was a tone, and the extremes a diapente.||

Zarlino, following Boetius, adopts his notion of
a tetrachord, and is more particular in the explana?
tion of it;^ his words are as follows : — 'From the first
^ string to the second was a diatessaron or a fourth j

t Eclog II. ver. S2.

} Vide Mersen. de Instrum. Harmon, lib. II. pag. 73.

I Genesis, chap. iv. Ter. 21.

D^ Do Musica, lib. I. cap. 20. Bontempi, 48.

I Istitutioni Harmoniche, pag. 72.

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Chap. IL


' from tbe second to ihe third was a tone ; and from
* the third to the fourth was a diatessaron ; so that the
' first with the second, and the third with the fourth,
'contained a diatessaron; the first with the third,
' and the second with the fourth, a diapente or fifth.*
Admitting all which, it is clear that the first and
fourth strings must have constituted a diapason.

6 Trite 1

8 Lychanos

9 Parhypate Meson

Pi 12 Parhypate Hypaton

It is to be observed that the above diagram is used
by Boetius, and is adopted by Zarlino, Kircher, and
many other writers;* but that though the appli-
cation of the letters C Q P C in one edition of
Boetius, is plainly intended to shew that the strings
immediately below them were supposed to corres-
pond with those notes in our system, yet the authors
who follow Boetius have not ventured to make use
of them ; and indeed there is great reason to reject
them ; for in the earlier editions of Boetius de Musica,
the diagram above given is without letters. It seems
as if Glareanus, who assisted in the publication of the
Basil edition of that author, in 1570, thought he
should make the system more intelligible by the
addition of those letters ; but there is no ground to
suppose that the Mercurian lyre, admitting it to con-
sist of four strings, was so constructed.

Bontempi, an author of great credit, relying on
Nicomachus, suspects the relation of Boetius, as to
the number of the strings of the Mercurian lyre ; and
farther doubts whether the system of a diapason, as
it is above made out, did really belong to it or not ;
and indeed his suspicions seem to be well grounded ;
for, speaking of this system, he says that none of the
Greek writers say anything about it, and that the

Online LibraryJohn HawkinsA general history of the science and practice of music → online text (page 12 of 123)