Philosophies of Music History

By Warren Dwight Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
REVOLUTIONISTS AND EVOLUTIONISTS

BETWEEN 1850 and 1900, there appeared as many histories of music in Germany alone as had appeared in all the years previous in all countries. But during this period there was still a comparative dearth of lexicons. Scholars, instead of devoting themselves to atomistic activities of this sort, preferred to formulate historical pictures that possessed the prime desideratum of the age, that of organic unity. The doctrines of Progress and Development were basic in nearly all these works.


I. A NEW INTEREST IN THE PRESENT AND FUTURE: PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PROGRESS

In 1848, two important documents appeared: the Communist Manifesto, by Marx and Engels, and Richard Wagner essay on "Art and Revolution," prelude to his Art of the Future. Marx and Engels pictured the separation and struggle of classes in a human society that had once been united, in primitive society, for the common good; Wagner, like John Brown, deplored the separation of arts that had once been united in one great art, the musical drama of ancient Greece:

"With the Greeks, perfected dramatic art was . . . in an intimate historical sense, the nation itself, conscious of itself, enjoying itself at public representations for a few hours of the noblest pleasures. . . .

"With the subsequent downfall of tragedy, art ceased to be an exU+00D pression of the public consciousness. Drama became separated into its component parts: rhetoric, sculpture, painting, music, etc., left the ranks in which they had marched in unanimity before; each to go its own way, each to find independent, but lonely, egoistic development. . . .

"Each of these single arts, nursed and cultivated luxuriously for the entertainment of the rich, has filled the world lavishly with its products; great minds have accomplished wonders; but . . . the perfect art-work,

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