The dictionaries in France do not include music among the Fine Arts. This is not merely a linguistic anomaly but the expression of an actual state of affairs which in point of fact might not exist tomorrow.
In the far distant past, in the early Middle Ages, Music was taught along with Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy.
In the 13th Century the earliest Universities gave it a place in the quadrivium, the higher division of the 'liberal Arts'.
Today we see that it has sunk to the level of an art of entertainment -- a superfluous luxury which an honest man can dispense with without incurring the stigma of stupidity -- or rather could do so until quite recently.
For great changes are taking place. The development of broadcasting and the recording industry (whose activities have increased tenfold since the introduction of the longplaying record), the European "Jeunesses Musicales" clubs, festivals and other influences which need not be enumerated here, are among the reasons why music of all kinds occupies an increasingly important place in our lives. And if for certain listeners its role is merely to supply a background of sound to which they need pay no particular attention, for others, on the contrary, whose numbers are increasing every day, music is becoming a necessity for the mind and heart. It is for the latter that this book is intended, more especially for those who, as instinctive musicians, believe that music for them must remain a closed book because they do not know its grammar (as if it were necessary to know how to paint in order to love Vermeer or Cézanne).
I have tried to guide them through an immense domain, and to do so I have had to set myself limits both as regards time and space.
I have not attempted to deal with controversial points which may be of great interest to the learned but which it would be out of place to discuss here, e.g. where, when, how did music originate? Which came first, rhythm or melody? To what extent was polyphony known to the Egypt of the Pharaohs and the Greeks of the classical period?. . .
Nor have I touched upon the exotic aspects of music in which I include the learned art of ancient China and India as well as the folk-lore of primitive peoples.
My primary concern is with western music starting at a point when it begins to show an uninterrupted continuity linking it with that which we hear today, that is to say from the time when the music of the Roman Church began to take a definite form.
I have been obliged here and there to employ a few technical terms which it was impossible to avoid, but I have endeavoured to give a clear explanation of those which lie outside the sphere of elementary knowledge.
Considerations of space leave little room for biographies or anecdotes.
However interesting the lives of some of the great musicians may be, there is plenty of information about the most famous of them available to those who seek it; what is of primary importance is to throw light upon their creative activities and on the part they have played in the development of their art. And that is the purpose of this book.