Page images
PDF
EPUB

by Dr. Rush, in his “Philosophy of the Human Voice," the an This difference to which we reser must have been often obseri by all. No one probably can have heard the two, in their perfecti without admiring the impassioned music of the voice, over that the instrument. The music of the latter, although it may poss all that correctness of intonation, of loud and soft, of staccato a sostenuto, etc. etc., which may characterize that of the forme yet when compared with that, is found to be greatly deficient a something which imparts expression and life. This differen may not improperly be compared to that which is seen betwe the statue and the living man. The one has all the exter forms and features of the other; but life and soul are wanting.

What this something is, of which we speak, has never yet bei shown, or at least, it is to be found in no books which have con within our reach; unless we except the work before referred t “Dr. Rush's Philosophy of the Human Voice.” In this incon parable production, the author has not only clearly defined and i lustrated all the various inflections of the speaking voice, but b has also stated some facts respecting the movements of the voio in singing, which are worthy of great attention. He remarks that in singing, the voice passes through certain concrete rise and falls, similar to those through which it passes in speaking Their order, however, in reference to the note sung in the one case, and spoken in the other, is directly one the reverse of the other. In speaking, this concrete rise, called “the vanishing movement,” occurs after the note or “ radical” is heard ; whereas in singing the concrete rise, the arsisoccurs before the note sung. The interval through which the voice passes in this latter case, varies from that of a semi-tone, and perhaps an interval even smaller than this, to that of an octave, and of the ninth even.

[blocks in formation]

In this example, the large notes represent the notes to be sung, and the small notes with their connecting lines the arsis; which in both examples, the voice touches lightly, and rises rapidly from them into the note.

This, however, is advancing but one step in this science, although it may be an important one. In speaking, Dr. Rush has shown most clearly, that the ever-varying shades of expression depend upon the “vanishing movement of the voice, after leaving the “radical” sound, or else upon the waves of the voice, which are combinations only of the rising and falling vanishes. By pursuing this analytic method of investigation, in relation to the

movements of the voice, that author has been able to decide with absolute certainty, that in common historic narration, for instance, the “vanishing movement” is, in every syllable, through the interval of a tone. In like manner he has decided with equal certainty respecting the “vanishing movement” used in the sublime and pathetic.

Now, having come to a knowledge of the fact, as exhibited above that the voice in singing passes though a concrete rise, similar to that in speaking; might it not be inferred that, as in speaking, so too in singing, the delicate shades of expression are produced by the use of the arsis of the various degrees of interval ? That rules might be given for the use of the arsis in singing, smilar to those of the vanish in speaking, we think cannot be doubted, after the full effect of the arsis shall have been known. We will attempt to show this effect, therefore, by resorting to examples.

The first which we shall adduce is a solo from “ Handel's Messah," " Why do the nations so furiously rage?” The character of this solo, it will be seen by adverting to the Messiah, is very marked and striking, consequently it must require a peculiar movement of the voice, fully to express the sentiment. Now a variety of expression in the same music, it is obvious, can be produced in no other way than by various uses of the arsis, though this fact may not be known to singers when they attempt to vary the expression in any given instances. That this is really so, however, can be demonstrated by the use of an instrument, when variety of expression is aimed at, in the same melody. The instrument it is true may vary its tone from loud to soft, and its movement from fast to slow, and the contrary; but no variety of expression, of any importance, is produced by these changes. Now let the voice take the same melody, and introduce the different varieties of the arsis, (which it is obvious the instrument cannot do,) and the variety of expression will at once be striking. Let these same trials be made with the solo before us, and if we have not erred in our experiments on this point, it will be found, that the use of the arsis, extending on the principal notes through the interval of an octave, will alone produce the right expression of the subject of this solo. Let the like experiment be made also upon the solo “Com

se my people,” which is the opening of “ The Messiah." In this case we think it will be found that the arsis of an interval not greater than a fifth on the principal notes is required. If , then, the subjects of these two solos are compared, it will be perceived that in their character they are entirely different. In the former, the mind seems to be in a state of exulting triumph ; while in the latter it is in a state of great serenity and composure, looking forward to the time when all its trials and sorrows sha forever be at an end. Consequently in the expression of thi latter subject, there should be nothing in the inflections of th voice, in the least calculated to ruffle or to agitate the feeling or to destroy the serenity of the mind. The arsis of some interva therefore, less than that of an octave, must be used; for it will b found, if we mistake not, that the arsis of this interval can be use only in a highly excited state of the mind; and that the arsis the fourth and Gfth is adapted to a state of mind far more quit and calm.

We now proceed to the minor mode. In this we shall find, be sides the relative situation of the semi-tones, which is differer from that of the major mode, as was seen above, and which const tutes one of the principal peculiarities of this mode, that the arsis als passing through certain intervals different from those of the majo mode, forms another peculiarity.

In both modes there may be made, at least, two general classe of tunes, which differ from each other in their expression. W have referred above to an example of each of these classes tunes in the major mode; we will now point out some of the pecu liarities of these classes in the minor mode.

The first class consists of such tunes as are not deeply pathetic but which are, nevertheless, strictly minor in their mode, an which require the arsis of the minor third, the fourth and the fifth, the principal notes. In this class it will be perceived, that th arsis differs from that of the second mentioned class in the majo mode, only in the use of the minor third, instead of the major third i that class. The other, and the only class of tunes in the minor mod to which we will now refer, require an arsis which never exceeds minor third; and on those notes which give character to the tune the arsis is that of a semi-tone, and in some instances it is perhap even less than this. The effect of this small arsis when skillfull used, is inexpressibly fine. Of this any one may satisfy himsel who has perfect command of these small intervals of sound, by singing soine deeply pathetic air. In the first place, let him sin it, using no arsis at all; next let him use the arsis of the octare and finally let him sing it with the arsis of the minor third, or o the semi-tone on all the principal notes, and the difference be tween the three will be sufficiently manifest.

In conclusion, we will advert to some of the reasons why sacred music should receive more particular attention in ou colleges and theological schools. Our design is not, indeed to urge the importance of this science, at the expense of any other nor do we mean, that it should be taught to the whole body of the students, like the other sciences. But we feel, that sacred music has not hitherto received that attention, which its impor

0

unce in the christian community demands. Were the relation ubich this sustains towards the church, the same as that sustained by painting and drawing, or, indeed, any of the fine arts, we should not regard' its cultivation of so much practical inportance as we now do. But when we consider, that this is a science with which all christendom is concerned, a science which is, 10 a certain extent, connected with the vital piety and spiritual growth of all christians, more or less, we cannot but think it deserving of a far more particular attention, by those who are to preside over and direct the religious affairs of the church, than it has ever yet received. In this view of the subject, it would seem strange, iodeed, that a science, whose importance is so universally admitted in words, should be held, in fact, in so low estimation by the christian community, as is the science of sacred music. All profess a high attachment to it. But where is the evidence of the sincerity of this attachment? Can they point to our alleges, and there show the professors of this science, as they can do with respect to the other sciences ? Not even a single professor or teacher can be named, in any of our colleges, whose duty it is to impart instruction of any kind in this science. How is this fact to be accounted for? especially, when we find upon the catalogues of these institutions the names of those who impart instruction in almost every art and science that can be mentioned. But sacred music, with which not only private individuals, but the shole christian world, is confessedly and practically interested, has not a single man devoted to its improvement. We leave this fact, therefore, to be accounted for by those who hold the power of reformation in their own hands; we mean the fathers and ministers of the church.

The grounds upon which we would urge a particular attention to this science, in our colleges and theological schools, are the fol

lowing:

a large.

1. The practical importance which it sustains to the community The sciences of the mathematics, of chimistry, etc., have each their appropriate professor, and in this we all rejoice. A few şears since, and even chimistry could not claim a single professor in this country. Now she has many, and able ones. But can it be said that the spiritual, the eternal interests of the community, are more vitally concerned with the science of chimistry tban with the science of sacred music? Can it be said, that this is less essential to the prosperity of the church than that science is ? Why then shall not 'the science of sacred music take ils rank among its kindred sciences, and receive that degree of attention which its relative importance demands ?

We are aware, that the objection may arise, against its! ing made a subject of particular attention in our colleges, that time of the student is already occupied with the studies of i present course, so that it would be impossible to crowd t science into the short term of four years, without encroach too much upon some of the other studies. We know, that the til of the student is, or may be, fully and profitably occupied with studies of the present course. But that it is so occupied, tha portion of each week, or day, if you please, might not be prof ably spent in the study of this science, we do not believe, or t his other studies would receive detriment by such a procedure. I powers, under the present plan, may, indeed, be taxed to t utmost. But may it not be, that a certain degree of attention the various branches of sacred music, would, instead of proving hinderance to his other studies, be of real benefit to them? W have heard it remarked, by those who have had experience gymnasia and other preparatory schools, and particularly schools of young misses, that those of their scholars who hav taken lessons regularly in music, have excelled in the other branch es of their study. This remark accords with our own experience also, on this point.

We know, indeed, that it has been said, (and not without som just ground for the remark,) that if a student in college is distin guished as a musician, it is generally his only distinction. B there have been, and still are, exceptions to this remark. Th names of Dwight, Fisher, and others who might be mentioned are sufficient to establish the truth of our assertion. With ri spect to those of whom this maxim is true, we think adequat reasons may be given to account for such failure in their literar and scientific course. One of these is, that most of those whom the remark is true, turned their attention to the practi of singing and playing only, and not to the study of music as science. This habit is, of itself, calculated to induce a kind mental dissipation, and consequently a dislike for severe and clo application to study. But had the same persons been directed the study of the science of music, as well as to its practice, v doubt not that very different results would have been witnessed.

Again. The beneficial effects of singing upon the voice, another reason why music should receive more particular a tention in our colleges and theological schools.

It is often remarked, by teachers of elocution, that music ai elocution are sister arts; and that the cultivation of the o tends to improve the other. The direct and immediate effect pr duced upon the voice, by singing, is that of enriching and strengt ening its tone, as well as of increasing its compass. The first ti of these effects are secured more commonly by exercising t

« PreviousContinue »