John R. Parker.

A musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... online

. (page 20 of 20)
Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 20 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


may be sought byibe purious ; meantime this fact taken
in connexion with me modern difficulty of procuring a sub-
sistence, will account for the pecuniary embarrassments of
so many of the harmonic tribe. The love of music, al-
though perhaps it be not, as some are reported to have
maintained, " a sign of predestination," is nevertheless an
indication that the soul is not torpid and insenible, and con-
sequently that it is at least capable of moral impressions :
on the contrary, a hatred of it, as it is clearly inconsistent
%\ith the right temperament of the spirit, is a strong symp-
tom of" hardness of heart," which may prove unconquera-
ble. Were all men so constituted, Shakespear's words
would soon be realized ; " treasons, stratagems, and
spoils" would become common as the sunbeams ; the
moral horizon would be dark, cold, comfortless ; and
the whole earth re-assume its pristine appearance, " with-
out form and void."

In the composition of a psalm tune, as irr that of every
thing else, the end proposed should be steadily kept in
view. Now the designed use, as has been repeatedly sur-
mised, is the affording to every individual an opportunity
of praising his maker. This is so plain that it can bear no
contradiction. The ostensible reason why the old music
was thrown into the back ground was, that it was so com-
plex that the common people could not join in it ; and the
introduction of hynms and such like songs was permitted,
* " for the comforting of such as delight in music," who be-
fore, through the difficult and involved style of Church Mu-
sic which was then in vogue, unless officially engaged, had
neither part nor lot in the matter. It follows then, that a
psalm tune should be easy to be comprehended by persons
wholly imacquainted with the science,care being adways had
that it degenerates not into meanness ; or in the words of
Queen Elizabeth, that it be " in the best melody and music
that may be conveniently devised." Now the best melo-
dy for such a purpose, is the most plain and simple, one
which may be- quickly learned, and not easily forgotten,



Digitized by



Google



248 THE ANTHEM.

fit to be the medium of the aspirations of a derout mind,
and serve as common carrier from earth to heaven. The
species of music best adapted to it is evidently p^ocn coun-
terpaifU. Of such alas ! notwithstanding the number with
which our music shops are deluged, how few are to be
found.

Itshould be recollected that a display of skill forms no
part of the object of a pisalm tune.^ AyJ; can be neither ex-
pected nor imagined that every one snould cultivate a tal-
ent for music, even if he possess it, that which is provided
expressly for the use of all should be free from every
avoidable difficulty. The compass of voice required should
be small, and all the intervals natural and easy of perform-
ance. Let us not be told of the impropriety of men and
women,boys and girls, singing all together'^the same melody.
It is an aficcted objection. No finer musical effect can
be conceived than that of a mixed multitude singing at the
unisons. Neither do the strictest laws of composition for-
bid it, nor the example of the greatest masters discounte-
nance it. What is greater than laws or masters, common
sense, prescribes it, and both reason and revelation yield
it their sanction.*

It is now the fashion to make adaptations from the
works of favorite and popular composers, and force them
into use as congregational melodies. Considered with ref-
erence to its original destination, the music may be' most
excellent, and yet utterly unfit for the service into which
it is thus unmercifully pressed.

It is not sufficient that the tune selected be of the same
metre as the psalm or hymn to be sung ; the spirit of the
music ought to correspond with that of the words ; and if
an adherence to this principle should even induce a change
of tune during the performance of a single psalm, provided
it be discreetly done, such a deviation from established us-
age could not be met by any plausible objection.

There are some tunes which require a repetition of
words, sometimes of a whole line, and sometimes of only a
few syllables. The employment of these generally leads
to the most arrant nonsense ; and when the repeats falls
upon the middle of a word, it often happens that it be-
comes converted into a most ridiculous meaning, so as to

* The composer should, however, be extremely careful of
loiirths, which, by the inversion, become fifth?.



Digitized by



Google



THE ANTHEM. 24^

Incite the risibility of persons otherwise serions and de^
vout. Such tun^ are on no accouqt de&irable^ and should
never be employed without a previous close and attentive
perusal of the psahn*

The next to be noticed is the p^ving-out. If the otject of
this be> what it is presumed cannot be denied, to apprize the
people of the nature of the tune about to be sung, it is plain
that it ought to be given out in such a manner as that it
may be clearly understood ; instead of which we often
witness it so managed as to requure the exercise of the lit-
Ifnost ingenuity to iliscover the melody, buried under turns
shakep, and would-be graces of all descriptions. Here the
^Id Comet fashion, though fast dropping into disuse, is to
be commended, as it has the decided advantage of giving
to melody a distinctness which cannot be misunden^od*

The regulation of the quantum of organ is a matter ot
great delicacy and no small difficulty ; but it depends upon
so many minute circiunstances, as for instance the com*
|»ass of the music, the length of the psalm, the existence or
strength of the choir, the number and humpr of^the peo*
pie, and even the time of the day, and sftate o^ the weath-
er, that to descend to particulars would extel^^his paper
teyond all reasonable boimds. .^^

Most of the old times are usually played by far, too slow,
and this has arisen from a change of fashion with regard to
musical notes. They ?a*a written in Minims^ a character to
which, two hundred years ago, a much shorter space of
vtime, than is at present, was allotted. Indeed, before i^e
invention of the crotchet and its subdivisions, the n^ntm, as
its name implies, was used to designate the shortei^ sound.
Its old time is preserved in cathedral music, where it is
performed almost as fast as the modern quaver. This is
BO doubjt the reason why these tunes have fallen into disre*
pute. They are usually said to be dull, heavy, see-saw,
humdrum things ; whereas on their first .oming up, the
very same tunes were by the then high church party ridi-
culed as Geneva jigs. Strange that what tempted our
forefathers to dance should incline their posterity to slee{^!
These times besides being restored to their original time,
may be rendered more lively by the a&dition of short and
appropriate interludes, which are as it were a running
commentary upon the words sung ; and the whole, so far
from being a tiresome and disagreeable exercise, may by
proper attention become both pleasing and delightful.

3?



Digitized by



Google



250 THE anthem:

There wHI be then no necessity for the eontinnance of
Aose barbarous and unholy thixigs which are now so fre-
quently polluting our devotions.

Music has lost the prominent place which it once occu<-
pied in divine worship. Mfly not an enthusiastic mind u>
nocently imagine that the violent spirit of the reformat
tion in sweeping away much rubbishy destroyed also much
^at was << pure and holy and of ^ood report ;^' and that in
its indisdiroinate zeal for the extirpation of tares it pluck-
ed up aom* wheat also ?

The increase of popery, and consequent restoration of
of its political ascendency, by some so much and so rea»
sonably deprecated, are principally to be apprehended
from its unaccountable connexion with correct taste in the
fine arts, especially in music. These have won more vic->
tones and made more proselytes than all the swords, and
pens which have ever been wielded in its defence, llieir
influence is all-captivating. How is danger to be obviated ?
By declaiming against the arts themselves as auxiliaries of
the areh-fiend ? No, certainly. As well attempt to ar«
rest the^pi4gress of an invading army by prohibiting the
use of fire-arms. Tlie way is plain. Only let protestant*
ism, instead of, as in some cases, proscribing the arts alto^
gether, in others barely tolerating them, form a finn and
indissoluble alliancp of the same description as that which
is employed with so much effect by th« advacse party, and
there will be nothing more to fear. Notwithstanding tiie
boasted tnarcb of mind, the million cannot reason; but thejr^
ctm fecL



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20

Online LibraryJohn R. ParkerA musical biograhy: or Sketches of the lives and writings of eminent musical ... → online text (page 20 of 20)