Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

PREFACE.

As the subject of programme music is almost always treated controversially, or at least with a parti pris, it may not be an unnecessary precaution to state that the present book is neither a defence nor an attack, but simply an historical account. I entered on my task as an impartial inquirer. The proof of my having kept true to my purpose may be found in the fact that the results of the inquiry modified to some extent my previous notions and judgments. If there was one matter to which I gave my attention more than to any other, it was the views of the composers themselves. And it was a great satisfaction to me to find that materials of this kind were much more plentiful, interesting, and instructive than I had expected. I am sure that the harvest here garnered will cause not a little surprise, and give not a little pleasure.

The primary difficulty in the discussion of programme music has always been the non-existence of a correct and adequate definition. As a rule the definitions are too narrow, often indeed dictated by prejudice and even hostility. They should embrace all possible kinds, degrees, and characters: the outward and the inward, the simple and the complex, the general and the particular, the lyrical, epic, dramatic, melodramatic, descriptive, symbolical, &c. They should embrace also music with the programme merely indicated by a title, and music the programme of which is unrevealed. The absence of programme and title does not prove the music to be absolute. This will explain my classing so

-iii-

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