A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789) - Vol. 1

A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789) - Vol. 1

A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789) - Vol. 1

A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789) - Vol. 1

Excerpt

The feeble beginnings of whatever afterwards becomes great or eminent, are interesting to mankind. To artists, therefore, and to real lovers of art, nothing relative to the object of their employment or pleasure is indifferent.

Sir Francis Bacon recommends histories of art upon the principle of utility, as well as amusement; and collecting into one view the progress of an art seems likely to enlarge the knowledge, and stimulate the emulation of artists, who may, by this means, be taken out of the beaten track of habit and common practice, to which their ideas are usually confined.

The love of lengthened tones and modulated sounds, different from those of speech, and regulated by a stated measure, seems a passion implanted in human nature throughout the globe; for we hear of no people, however wild and savage in other particulars, who have not music of some kind or other, with which we may suppose them to be greatly delighted, by their constant use of it upon occasions the most opposite: in the temple, and the theatre; at funerals, and at weddings; to give dignity and solemnity to festivals, and to excite mirth, chearfulness, and activity, in the frolicsome dance. Music, indeed, like vegetation, flourishes differently in different climates; and in proportion to the culture and encouragement it receives; yet, to love such music as our ears are accustomed to, is an instinct so generally subsisting in our nature, that it appears less wonderful it should have been in the highest estimation at all times, and in every place, than that it should hitherto never have had its progressive improvements and revolutions deduced through a regular history, by any English writer.

Indeed, though time has spared us a few ancient histories of empires, republics, and individuals, yet no models of a History, either of Music, or of any other art or science, are come down to us, out of the many that antiquity produced. Plutarch's Dialogue on Music approaches the nearest to history; but, though it abounds with particulars relative to the subject, it is so short and defective, that it rather excites than gratifies curiosity.

Some of the writings of Aristotle and Aristoxenus that are lost, though they were not express histories of music, would, nevertheless, had they been preserved, have satisfied our doubts concerning several parts of ancient music, which are now left to conjecture.

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