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

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE.

He who for the first time views the route over which we have travelled, cannot but be bewildered by the sight of the weltering chaos that presents itself to him. With continued attention, however, the observer discovers running through the whole of this apparently hopeless confusion of movement in all directions and of all kinds, one constant tendency, the twofold development of the art--the purely technical development for virtuosity's sake, which has its origin in the joy of display and the pride of conquering difficulties, and the development for expression's sake, which has its origin in the craving to give vent to what moves heart and mind. Whether the cultivation of imitation of outward things belongs to the former or the latter branch of the tendency, or partly to the one and partly to the other, depends on the nature and object of the imitation, on whether it is mechanical or emotional, the outcome of pride or affection.

In view of the contrary historical and psychological facts, it is impossible not to characterize as absurd the assertion that music is a purely formalistic, nonexpressional art. Even the rudimental music of savages testifies to expressional as well as æsthetical aims, and on scanning the records of the antique and medieval civilizations we find them abounding in expositions and eulogies of the emotional and ethical powers of the art. This, however, lies outside the four centuries dealt with in these pages. What I have reported of Josquin Deprès, Lasso, Palestrina, Marenzio, Thomas Morley and others, must have convinced the reader that in the 16th century

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