Page images

ways, nor indeed but rarely, occupy in their pronunciation the same relative time which they do in speaking; but the bare prolongation of some more then others will affect distinctness only in a small degree.

The principal faults in articulation are considered by Mr Hastings to be four, the omission of consonants, their substitution, such as v for f, z for s, their improper situation in syllables,' or in other words, an improper syllabication, and the want of separation between words.' To these he adds.feebleness in articulating the consonant sounds, and the improper disconnection of syllables, occasioned by taking breath in the midst of a word.' His illustrations of these defects are very plain and precise. We could add to this list of faults one or two others, analogous to these, often to be noticed in singing slurred notes. These are so prominent and common that we wonder at their omission by Mr H., for they must have been noticed by him, and the more especially, because his own singing is entirely free from them. One is the introduction of an aspirate, or the sound of w, and sometimes both, before the vowel sound, when passing from one note to another. The other is the change of the vowel sound, and the not dividing of it, if it be diphthongal, (as for instance in the long

i) and giving one sound to one note and the other to the next. This is perfectly easy in practice and adds greatly to the smoothness of the execution. The introduction of aspirates and the change of vowel sounds may be shown by a reference to one instance. The word joy ending the first line in the tune Portsmouth (Bridgewater collection) if written as often pronounced would be thus; jo, he, ho, he, hoy, or thus; jo, we, wo, we, whoy, it being noticed that in this illustration the o is to be sounded as in joy. This may at first seem incredible ; but who has not heard this and similar outrages in pronunciation, from many who think themselves good singers, and would be offended, were they to be accused of pronouncing viciously?

Alterations in the sounds of words, because they are disagreeable, must be made with great caution. The consonant sounds, which are peculiarly offensive in singing, such as s, ch soft, and their combinations with others, should be no more than plainly pronounced, while others of a smoother character, as I and will bear considerable prolongation. Of the vowel sounds, the slender a and e are the only unpleasant ones. A slight change of these, producing, instead of the former, one approaching to the Italian sound of the same letter, and instead of the latter, one very nearly allied to the sound of i in pin, may be admissible, if executed with great precision, for then the change will be unnoticed unless by a very nice ear. Any obvious alteration, however, cannot be made without offending every lover of accurate pronunciation. We must take the language as it is ; if it contains bad sounds, that may be our misfortune, but we cannot help it any more in singing than in speaking ; and even to make the slight changes mentioned above requires so discriminating an ear, and such flexible organs, that it may be better to authorize no alteration whatever, leaving those who are competent, to do it at their own risk.

The principles of music require that different parts of the same measure should receive a different stress of voice. Poetry also demands that certain syllables be accented, while others are not; but the degree of accent is not invariable. So far from this, the beauty and energy of poetry are instantly lost, when the stress of voice is made equal on each accented syllable. The accent of the music and that of the words to which it is set, are adapted to each other, and of course there is no difficulty in preserving that of both, and at the same time paying a due regard to the spirit of the words. It is rare that an unaccented syllable or unemphatic word occurs on the strong part of the measure, and vice versa ; but if a case occurs, the singer may in general avoid any very palpable violation of either, by arbitrating, as it were, between the contending parties ; observing in all cases however to preserve the entire meaning of the words.'

Excellence of tone, intonation, time, articulation, accent, and emphasis, necessary as they are to good singing, do not of themselves produce it. The body may be well formed, perfect and beautiful in its organization, and yet be destitute of life and animation.' Expression is the soul of music. All other good qualities form, as it were, the material habitation which is to contain this etherial substance, and exhibit its powers. On this subject Mr Hastings remarks as follows;

• If it be here demanded of us to give an adequate description of the nature of expression, we frankly acknowledge ourselves unequal to the task. Were we to mention boldness of tone in spirited narration, mildness of tone in invitation, were we to indicate the pathetic accent by a gradual swell and diminish, that of pride, boasting, or irony, by the sudden swell and abrupt termination of a tone-were we to allude to the loudness or softness, slowness or rapidity, vigor or delicacy of a movement; or could we tell in what cases the sounds of any movement should be sustained, according to their nominal value, or when they should be uttered in the style of Staccato, we should thus furnish the singer of sensibility, perhaps with some facilities for acquiring expression; but we should do no more towards describing the thing itself, than if we had said nothing respecting it. Nor can any written instructions be relied on as infallible guides to the artist; for every one will readily perceive that such qualities as we have above enumerated, must be perpetually varying, according to circumstances, and like the emotions they are required to excite, they may exist in degrees that are infinitely various and indescribable.'


46. To these just remarks we will barely add, that the foundation of expression in singing, as well as in reading or speaking, must be laid in a vivid apprehension of the sentiments to be expressed. Every shade of thought must be appreciated, as if it were the production of his own mind-every feeling adopted as his own. If he wishes his music to warm the hearts of his auditors, it must acquire its heat in his own.

The remarks of Mr H. on the graces, a proper selection of pieces with reference to the occasion and the union of vocal and instrumental music, are equally pertinent with those on expression. He then examines the various arguments for having the singing in religious worship conducted by the congregation at large, by a select choir alone, or by both united. The object of music, as a part of religious worship, is to excite a peculiarity and uniformity of feeling among the audience—to bring their minds into a fit tone for the ready apprehension and reception of the ideas presented in the discourse or psalm-to abstract the mind of the hearer from the thousand fantasies that sometimes intrude themselves and call off the attention to bring home from its wanderings, the mind unsettled and disturbed, and to prepare it, by its calming influence, to unite in the address to the throne of mercy. But of these important ends a large part of our assemblies seem to have not the least notion. They consider the singing rather as a sort of dropscene between the acts of worship, which has nothing to do with the general subject; but is presented barely for their amusement and relaxation till the other exercises can be re

sumed. The only way to correct these erroneous notions is to have music produce its legitimate effects, and to do this, we unhesitatingly say with Mr H. it must be confined principally at least to a choir. Granting that purity of tone, accuracy of intonation and pronunciation can prevail, where those who sing are scattered through a whole congregation—which, however, so long as the unlearned and self-conceited can unite their voices with the rest, secure in a great measure from detection, we believe impossible—there can be no expression. This requires a unity of feeling and action, which in such circumstances, is wholly unattainable. A band of singers require discipline as well as an army, or their efforts will not be united, and of course ineffectual.

But the importance of the topics treated in the first part of Mr H's. book, has led us to dwell on them much longer than we intended, and it is quite time to say something on the latter part, which treats of taste in the composition.

Some introductory remarks on the nature and origin of musical ideas, the course of study to be pursued by the young composer in respect to them, and the laws of association, which must ever have great influence on the style of composition, are succeeded by a more particular notice of some peculiar artifices in harmony, such as chords, fugue, and imitation. The relations between melody and harmony are then briefly noticed. The rest of the work, except the last chapter, which contains some critical remarks on a few popular pieces, is devoted to design. This subject is treated more in detail than any other in the book, and occupies nearly one half of it. This may seem disproportionate, and it is so in some degree ; though in treating this topic, the author has necessarily introduced many remarks pertaining to the foregoing ones, which naturally find a place here, and will be better apprehended from seeing their application, than if made under their respective heads.

There are two constituents of music, the powers of which are entirely independent of each other, though they are usually united, and ever must be, to produce the greatest effects. These are sounds, considered solely in reference to their quality; and system, or the disposition of sounds, in respect to time. Whether a single tone can produce any thing but simple pleasure or disgust in the mind or not, no one can deny that certain chords naturally induce feelings of a peculiar

New Series, No. 12. 52

character, which will not be excited by chords of a different kind. These feelings are of a very general character, however, nor are they produced instantaneously. The harmony of the Æolian harp, or a chord of an organ, must be prolonged for some time before it causes any emotion. For a while it is simply agreeable, but as it continues, a serenity like that produced by viewing a beautiful landscape by moon light, begins to steal over the soul, succeeded on the one hand by emotions slightly shaded, and becoming still deeper hid in gloom, and on the other by those of a lighter hue, till they become decidedly of a cheerful cast. The effects produced by sound alone seem to be confined within these limits, but to exhilarate the mind and bring its higher powers into action, the aid of rhythm is demanded. This must enter largely into the composition of festive and martial music, nor do we believe that without it those kinds of music can exist in any degree. Nor is rhythm dependent on sound for its power-it may produce its highest effects when the accompanying sound shall have no effect at all, or if any, that of disgust. It is not the guttural monotone of the war-song, but its movement, which breaks up the ice of apathy naturally existing in the breast of the Indian, and arouses his slumbering energies. It is not the obtuse sound of the spirit-stirring drum,' but its strongly marked rhythm, which gives elasticity to the step of the soldier, and produces that recklessness of danger with which he rushes upon the bayonets of his adversaries. Even where the powers of sounds and rhythm are united, it often happens that the latter predominates. It is the measure far more than the qualities of the sounds, which in festive music gives lightness to the heel of the dancer. Here lies the secret of the fascinating power of the music, that for so long a period prevailed in our country. The ear was ever titillated with the rippling of its movement, which, though of inferior quality, was readily felt and understood; while the feeble harmony which accompanied it, produced no other effect than to soften down in a small degree that of the rhythm, and thus partially to entitle the whole to the name of sacred music, when otherwise it would have been obviously festive or martial. The power of its rhythm was also heightened by its being employed in almost an equal degree in every part of the score. "When then foreign compositions, whose merit lay more especially in their chords, were sung in such a defective manner that the power of these

« PreviousContinue »