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To accustom ourselves to listen with attention, is the first step to improvement.
Those who have made the least proficiency in music, must be aware how little capable we are, at first, of estimating the pitch or relative gradations of sounds—as being high or low, grave or acute; and how unintelligible the nicer distinctions are to an unpractised ear. As harmony is an inherent property of sound, the ear should be first called to the attention of simple sounds, though, in reality, all are composed of three, so nicely blended as to appear but as one; as the tone of St. Paul's bell, which we may imitate by putting down the three following
notes upon the piano-forte: e:
bination produces a rich and sweet sensation upon the ear, called a concord. After which, we may try the following combinations, by which we obtain all the sounds of the octave,
Love all good men. and which, placed in succession, form the notes of a peal of eight bells, or what is called the diatonic scale.*
* A dog, belonging to a change-ringer, used to accompany his master to the belfry of St. Martin's Church, in Leicester; and, upon commencing a peal of changes, he would lay himself quietly down, nor at
By pursuing a course of study in harmony, we soon acquire what is termed a musical ear, and ultimately find no difficulty in determining the finest gradations. From what has been said, it must be obvious, that the improvement of the ear depends solely upon the attention with which it is used and exerted, as has been shown in the instances of blind people. That there is a knack in listening, no one can doubt, as we frequently find persons, who sing and play out of tune, readily distinguish this defect in others, but have not the habit of detecting the same fault in themselves. The power we have of recollecting sounds, or calling up former impressions, is much greater in some persons than in others; but most persons have experienced, that when they have been delighted with a new air, without any effort of their own, how it will haunt them for days.
The faculties of the ear, then, are by no means fully developed. Every new author in musical composition offers some new stimulus to the auditory sense. The sober strains of the last age would be considered intolerably dull and stupid by the listening public of the present day.* Even the fine compositions of Mozart are beginning to be thought heavy when compared with the brilliant strains of Rossini. The true composer may be said to “live, move, and have his being' in the midst of sounds.
tempt to stir, till the bells began to ring round, which intimated the finishing of the peal, and which he always noticed. He would then get up, shake himself, and prepare to be off from an amusement for which he had less relish than his master.
To him they are the materials of his art. Not so with the painter: he loves stillness and repose, and rambles in search of quiet spots. Hogarth rather painted his own feelings in his picture of the enraged musician, than those of a composer.
It has been remarked, that poets become blind, and musicians deaf. Homer, Milton, and Delisle, with Gretry and Beethoven, † are instances. Then may we not suppose, that the decay of the organ arises from the internal action of the mind, calling up ideas of light and sound ?
To those who have never heard, what a blank the creation must appear !-all in motion, yet silent as death! The horrors of such a scene cannot be described ; and we may say with Hartley, when we compare the imperfections of those who have never heard with those who have never seen, that the ear is of much more importance to us than the eye.
* For many years the lugubrious strains of Corelli were the only instrumental pieces performed in our theatres, and they were described, at that time, as mirth-provoking music before the play.
† Beethoven.— This extraordinary genius was completely deaf for nearly the last ten years of his life, during which his compositions have partaken of the most incomprehensible wildness. His imagination seems to have fed upon the ruins of his sensitive organs. What must we say to his posthumous quartetts? Who dare, at the present day, avow himself equal to the task of unravelling the hidden mysteries they contain ?
NOISE AND SOUND.
There is a marked distinction between noise and musical sound. Noise is a confused mixture of sounds produced by the concussion of non-elastic bodies ; whereas musical sound is a pure harmonious effect emanating from a simple elastic body, as the tone of a bell. It is a curious fact, that musical sounds fly farther, and are heard at a greater distance, than those which are more loud and noisy. If we go on the outside of a town during a fair, at the distance of a mile, we hear the musical instruments; but the din of the multitude, which is overpowering in the place, can scarcely be heard, the noise dying upon the spot.
To those who are conversant with the power of musical instruments, the following observations will be fully understood. The violins made at Cremona about the year 1660 are superior in tone to any of a later date, age seeming to dispossess them of their noisy qualities, and leaving nothing but the pure tone. If a modern violin is played by the side of
one of these instruments, it will appear much the loudest of the two, but on receding one hundred paces, when compared with the Amati, it will be scarcely heard.*
Organs afford another proof of this observation ; for we often find those which are overpowering when near, fail to produce that solemn grandeur of note at a distance which is the test of their excellence. The voice of man is endowed with this purity of tone in a higher degree than any of the vocal animals, by which, in a state of nature, it enables him to communicate with his fellows at a distance very remote. Providence has bestowed
* When Barthelemon led the Opera, connoisseurs would go into the gallery to hear the effect of his Cremona violin, which at this distance predominated greatly above all the other instruments; though in the orchestra it was not perceptibly louder than any of the rest.
† Dr. Young states, on the authority of Derham, that the human voice was heard at Gibraltar, at the distance of ten miles. It is recorded in the history of Chester, that it was besieged by the Welsh in the reign of King John, during the time of its great fair, when the commandant assembled all the minstrels who had come to the place upon that occasion, and marched them, in the night, with their instruments playing, against the enemy, who, upon hearing so vast a sound, were filled with such terror and surprise, that they instantly fled. In memory of this fainous exploit, a meeting of minstrels is annually kept up to this day, with one of the Dutton family (their royal master) at their head, to whom certain privileges are granted. A similar stratagem was used by the French when they first crossed the Rhine. The general assembled all the bands of the adjacent regiments upon the bank opposite to the enemy's posts ; and as these bands were heard by the Austrians to march in different directions, they concluded that the whole French army was in full march upon them ; they retired from their position, and the French achieved the enterprise with a handful of men.