Critical and Historical Essays: Lectures Delivered at Columbia University

By Edward MacDowell; W. J. Baltzell | Go to book overview

VII
THE MUSIC OF THE ROMANS -- THE EARLY CHURCH

THE art history of the world makes it clear to us that when the art of a country turns to over-elaboration of detail and mechanical dexterity, when there is a general tendency toward vividness of impression rather than poignancy and vitality of expression, then we have the invariable sign of that decadence which inevitably drifts into revolution of one kind or another. Lasus ( 500 B. C.), who, as previously mentioned, was a great flute and lyre player as well as poet, betrays this tendency, which reached its culmination under the Romans. Lasus was more of a virtuoso than a poet; he introduced into Greece a new and florid style of lyre and harp playing; and it was he who, disliking the guttural Dorian pronunciation of the letter S, wrote many of his choric poems without using this letter once in them. Pindar, his pupil, followed in his footsteps. In many of his odes we find intricate metrical devices; for instance, the first line of most of the odes is so arranged metrically that the same order of accents is maintained whether the line be read backward or forward, the short and long syllables falling into exactly the same places in either case. The line "Hercules, the patron deity of Thebes," may be taken as an

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