Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

It is not easy to determine why the term chromatic has been applied to a scale of music. Some persons imagine that it has been adopted because the Greeks were accustomed to distinguish the notes by different coloured characters; and others think that it may have been employed, because the scale is intermediate between the diatonic and enharmonic scales, as colours are between white and black. There are other writers who maintain, that the term chromatic was adopted because its semitones embellish and give a richness to the diatonic scale, as a variety of colour does to a painting. These remarks will almost render it unnecessary to state that a scale in which the semitones are inserted between the natural tones is a chromatic.

The enharmonic scale has intervals smaller than the semi

tones, such as quarter tones and commas. "It is formed," says Mr. Gwilt, "by uniting the ascending with the descending scale of the chromatic genus, by the use of an interval created between the sharpened note of the preceding and the flattened note of the succeeding one. These, though not exactly equal to half a semitone, are, from their approximation to that quantity, called dieses, or quarter tones."

As our remarks on the elements of music are entirely confined to the one object of removing the difficulty many young persons experience at the commencement of their studies, it will not be necessary to enlarge this part of our work further than may be required for the explanation of those characters by which time is represented. Musicians are accustomed to distinguish between the duration to be occupied in performing the notes of a bar, by considering time to be of two sorts, common and triple.

In common or double time, every bar has a measure equal in duration to either a minim or a semibreve ; in the former there will be two crotchets, or four quavers; and in the latter, four crotchets, or eight quavers. But what, we may be asked, is to be the duration of the minim or semibreve? The relative duration of the several kinds of notes is known, what is to be the standard of comparison? If the minim, or crotchet, or any other note, be taken as the standard, how is its duration to be determined?

The movements in common time are various, and at best are only relative; one is slow, another rather quicker, and a third very fast. The slowest is represented by a large C

placed immediately after the clef. The

intermediate time is represented by the same figure, but a vertical line is drawn through it thus

When

the quick time is to be employed, the curved part of the letter is reversed, and a vertical bar introduced, as in the allabreve, a name by which the middle time is often known: thus

Triple time is so called because when it is used the bars may be divided into three parts. It is represented by figures placed as a fraction after the clef; the denominator, or lower one, showing into how many notes the semibreve is divided, and the upper one how many such notes are contained in a

bar. Thus

shows that the upper figure repre

[blocks in formation]

sents three minims in a bar, for there are two minims in a

semibreve, and two is the denominator.

signifies three crotchets in the bar;

six

crotchets.

172

CHAPTER IX.

THE HISTORY OF MUSIC.

THE history of music, among the ancient nations, and even until some time after the Christian era, is so imperfect, that a very casual notice will be all that can be required by the reader. To investigate those laborious criticisms and curious theories which have taken the attention of some writers would be now an unprofitable task.

The art of combining sounds so as to produce an agreeable impression on the ear must have been studied at an early period in the history of man. The music of nature delighting the ear, would suggest to him the combination of sounds, and imitation, if no other principle were active, prompt the trial. This is the explanation given by Lucretius of the origin of music:

"Through all the woods they heard the charming noise

Of chirping birds, and tried to frame their voice

And imitate. Thus birds instructed man,

And taught them songs before their art began ;

And whilst soft evening gales blew o'er the plains,

And shook the sounding reeds, they taught the swains;
And thus the pipe was framed, and tuneful reed."

It may be fairly imagined, and has been stated by all writers, that vocal music preceded instrumental, but the introduction of a system and a method of notation cannot be

HISTORY OF MUSIC.

173

attributed to an early age. Long after the power and compass of the human voice had been discovered, and certain combinations of sounds which we call songs or tunes had been introduced, instruments must have been invented, rude at first in their construction, and imperfect, but by degrees improved until they were fit to accompany the singer. Wind instruments may be supposed to have preceded all others, but the sounds obtained from vibrating strings were not long unknown.

But

The power of music is not only acknowledged by all the ancient writers, but also greatly exaggerated. We acknowledge it has a strange influence over the feelings; but there are few of those persons who are intent on the civilization of the barbarous tribes in foreign countries who would consider the introduction of music effective for their purpose. according to Polybius,, the Arcadians, who inhabited a cold and inhospitable country, could be tamed by no other means, and the inhabitants of Cynetus, who neglected the study, were more cruel than any other Grecian tribe. This favourite theory, that music has an influence in softening the disposition and exciting a tenderness of feeling, was not proved in the case of Nero, who played on his flute when Rome was burning. On the other hand, it is not our intention to deny that music may have an influence on national character, and it is certain our recollections are intimately connected with favourite songs, of which there is a pleasing example in the fact that the Swiss mercenaries were forbidden to sing or play, under the penalty of death, the "Rans des Vaches," as it always produced a melancholy feeling among them.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »