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A Passage from "MUSIC NOTES" A Book About Music
It is a problem to start the history of music from the very beginning because it is difficult to handle a subject of which we have only a very small knowledge. The substance of music is ethereal. Sound cannot be retained without a recording machine; therefore, a melody, which is not recorded and which is not written down on paper, disappears like a breeze.
We do not have adequate words for the description of music, and the Ancient World did not leave any documents with the exception of a few doubtful fragments. Moreover, our ear and our perception of music changes every century or more often. In two thousand years from today, our records will be had, yet the music of our day may not be understood. No matter how well the music is preserved, we hear it, but it does not touch us.
In the ancient history of music, we have two periods, the pre-historic and the historic. The pre-historic period has no written records, while in the historic we distinguish the three styles: pre-classic, classic, and romantic.
We start with the beginning of the historical period, about the seventh century in Ancient Greece. In analyzing the forces that were in effect to produce music, it is best to make a short review of two civilizations instrumental in the forming of our present one. They were Athens and Jerusalem.
Athens and the Greeks gave us the understanding and the ability of appreciation of material beauty. The Jews and Jerusalem gave us greater values; theirs was the spiritual evaluation. Two words include everything in the above statements. Jerusalem gave us Ethos. Athens gave us aesthetic values. The mixture of these two civilizations can be traced in the history of the last two thousand years in any part of human culture and, particularly, in art.
The essence of the classical antique world, Greek and Roman, was the cultivation of the aesthetic. The Ancient Greeks considered things beautiful, which were in harmony with nature and were without any defect. This included the human body. We still adhere to the measurements of Venus de Milo, which is regarded as a perfect specimen of physical beauty.
We are speaking of classical features now. This antique cult of the beautiful went so far as to despise, to condemn anything that did not agree with its physical standards. In Sparta, sick children were thrown down a steep rock. Although “In corpere sano mens sana” was a Roman motto, the Greek Spartans used the motto. Their conception of the world was materialistic, not spiritual.
The findings of the Greek philosophers of the inner significance of music are of great value to us in the present day. The Greeks know that music possesses a tremendous power of purifying our minds and characters. We have the word “katharsis” meaning purification. The Greeks believed that music must be a very substantial part of a general education. Music was a tool to produce a noble character; consequently, it was a compulsory subject in every school at that time. If we have music education in our schools today, we owe it to Plato and Aristotle.
Certain tonalities call forth emotions of the soul. Music has an ethical influence. Some of the Greek myths, namely those of Orphous and Appollo, reveal the Influence of music upon their lives. Apollo was not only the god of the sun but also the god of music and the perfect player of the lyre. Sappho, the famous poetess, was likewise a great musician.
Music was inseparable from religious and civil life in Greece. There was music at religious ceremonies, sporting games, plays, dances, and the recitation of poems and epics. At the very beginning of the music history of Greece, however, music was considered as a means of reciting, not an independent art, but a sister art and subordinate to poetry. Bards traveling all over the country accompanied their recitations on the lyre.
The Greeks insisted that music for illustrations of poetry must be in the range of the speaking voice. Later, when music developed as an independent art, this range was enlarged.
The sensuous element in music became prevalent during the last period of the Greeks, during the time of spiritual degeneration and political decline. In this period, the music became less pure and less spiritual, and there was more of the technical and virtuoso quality. We have the skilled players of lyre, flute, etc.
The Romans took over after the decline of Grecian civilization. Rome borrowed all her music from Greece.
Time reflects constantly
of the number one
in real time
Time reveals constantly
This is a test,
if this were reality,
I would already be
in the Divine Sea.
I am emerging.
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