Philosophies of Music History

By Warren Dwight Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE "EVOLUTION" OF MUSIC

1. HISTORY WITHOUT GAPS

AN EARLY, if not the first, use of evolution as a biological term appears in Charles Bonnet Contemplation de la nature, in 1764. For this scholar the word was synonymous with development.1 Bonnet believed in Divine Creation and in the Chain of Being, in which each species is independent but fixed, each with its own potentialities, each possessing characteristics which merge by very slight or even imperceptible degrees into other species "above" and "below." But by 18oo the idea of continued progress was so widely accepted that it began to be applied to the science of biology. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, could then say, still keeping the Creation concept, that

"God created all things which exist, and these have been from the beginning in a perpetual state of improvement." Poetical Works, London, 1806, III, p. 191.

In the meantime the concept of gradual, orderly, progressive, continuous change was being introduced into other scientific fields.2

In 1859 Charles Darwin took the final step: in the Origin of Species, as already cited, new species are constantly displacing the old, as a result of natural selection. Thus, while denying the fixity of species, he also denies the doctrine of Special Creation. That denial was the occasion of great opposition from the theologians, but the application of the idea of continuous progress of the species was accepted by others with more assurance than by Darwin him

____________________
1
2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1769, Vol. I., p. 165. The term was also used by Bonnet to describe the force, or impulsion, which caused the yolk to develop into the embryo. Upon this evolution or impulsion, la liqueur fécondante acted as a stimulant. (p. 169).
2
Immanuel Kant, General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens, 1755; Laplace, Système du monde, 1796; James Hutton, A Theory of the Earth, 1795.

-261-

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