Philosophies of Music History

By Warren Dwight Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
THE "DEVELOPMENT" AND "PROGRESS" OF MUSIC

REFERENCE has already been made to the tendency, since the eighteenth century, to deal not with the history of musical arts, but of The Art of Music as some one thing or entity which has gradually developed its potentialities, thanks to the progress of knowledge.

Turning again to Parry very influential Evolution of the Art of Music, the quotations cited in Chapter 7 show his interest in the "unconscious and spontaneous," though embryonic music of "the primitive savage." Throughout this work constant reference is made to the "stages of development" through which the art has passed.

"At the very bottom of the process of development are those savage howls which have hardly any distinct notes in them at all. . . ." [126], 1st ed., p. 53.

Folk music represents a higher stage:

"The savage stage indicates a taste for design, but an incapacity for making the designs consistent and logical; in the lowest intelligent stage the capacity for disposing short contrasting figures in an orderly way is shown; in the highest phase of the pattern-type of folk-tune the instinct for knitting things closely together is shown to be very remarkable. . . . A higher phase still is that in which the skill in distributing the figures in symmetrical patterns is applied to the ends of emotional expression." [126], p. 82.

Medieval music was also very "primitive":

In the early middle ages . . . all the music employed was vocal or choral, and almost totally devoid of any rhythmic quality1 or anything

____________________
1
The confusion here is due to Parry's failure (a) to distinguish between rhythm and measure; (b) to recognize that vocal music can be adapted to the speech rhythms of prose (as in plainsong and recitative) or to the measured rhythms of

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