Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/39

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ACUTENESS.
27
ADAM.

flattened, and a blunt needle would, under the microscope, undoubtedly show a flat surface at its end.

There are however two other words still more generally used. These are 'high' and 'low'; the former denoting greater, the latter less, rapidity of vibration. The application of these is the most puzzling of all, as there is no imaginable connection between any number of vibrations per second, and any degree of elevation above the earth's surface. It is very customary to use the figure of elevation to express an idea of magnitude or superiority, as high prices, high pressure, elevation of character, and so on; and if the vibration-numbers corresponding to any note had been a matter of general knowledge in early ages, we might have assumed that the terms had been chosen on this principle. But the vibration-numbers are quite a modern discovery, not even yet generally believed in by practical men: and unfortunately such relations of sound as do address themselves to the eye point entirely the other way; for, as already stated, the grave sounds convey most strongly the idea of magnitude, and therefore by analogy these ought to have been called high rather than low.

The ancients appear to have imagined that the acute sounds of the voice were produced from the higher parts of the throat, and the grave ones from lower parts.[1] And this has been supposed by some writers to have been the origin of the terms; but the idea is incorrect and far-fetched, and can hardly be considered a justification.

As soon as anything approaching the form of musical notation by the position of marks or points came into use, the terms high and low were naturally seized upon to guide such positions. Thus our musical notation has come into being, and thus the connection between high notes and quick vibrations has become so firmly implanted in our minds, that it is exceedingly difficult to bring ourselves to the appreciation of the truth that the connexion is only imaginary, and has no foundation in the natural fitness of things.

[ W. P. ]

ADAGIETTO (Ital., diminutive of Adagio). (1) a short adagio (e.g. Raff's Suite in C). (2) As a time indication, somewhat less slow than adagio.

ADAGIO (Ital. ad agio, 'at ease,' 'leisurely'). (1) A time indication. It is unfortunate that great differences of opinion prevail among musicians as to the comparative speed of the terms used to denote slow time. According to the older authorities adagio was the slowest of all time, then came grave, and then largo. This is the order given by Clementi. In some more modern works however, largo is the slowest, grave being second and adagio third; while others again give the order thus—grave, adagio, largo. It is therefore impossible to give any absolute rule on the subject; it will be sufficient to define adagio in general terms as 'very slow.' The exact pace at which any particular piece of music thus designated is to be taken will either be indicated by the metronome, or, if this has not been done, can be for the most part determined with sufficient accuracy from the character of the music itself. (2) The word is used as the name of a piece of music, either an independent piece (as in the case of Mozart's Adagio in B minor for piano, or Schubert's posthumous Adagio in E), or as one of the movements of a symphony, quartett, sonata, etc. When thus employed, the word not only shows that the music is in very slow time, but also indicates its general character. This is mostly of a soft, tender, elegiac tone, as distinguished from the largo, in which (as the name implies) there is more breadth and dignity. The adagio also is generally of a more florid character, and contains more embellishments and figurated passages than the largo. The distinction between the two will be clearly seen by comparing the adagios in Beethoven's sonatas, op. 2, Nos. 1, 3, and op. 13, with his largos in the sonatas op. 2, No. 2 and op. 7. (3) It was formerly used as a general term for a slow movement—'No modern has been heard to play an Adagio with greater taste and feeling than Abel.' Thus in the autograph of Haydn's Symphony in D (Salomon, No. 6 ), at the end of the first movement, we find 'Segue Adagio,' though the next movement is an Andante.

[ E. P. ]

ADAM, Adolphe Charles, born in Paris July 24, 1803, was the son of Louis Adam, a well-known musician and pianoforte-player at the Conservatoire. Although thus intimately connected with the art of music he strenuously resisted the early and strong desire of his son to follow the same calling. Adolphe was sent to an ordinary day-school and was refused all musical instruction, which he himself tried to supply by private studies, carried on in secret and without guidance or encouragement. This struggle between father and son lasted for a long time. At last the quiet persistence of the young man overcame the prejudices of paternal obstinacy. In his sixteenth year he was allowed to enter the Conservatoire, but only as an amateur, and on condition of his promising solemnly never to write for the stage, an engagement naturally disregarded by him at a later period. His first master was Benoist, and his instrument the organ, a choice truly surprising in the future composer of 'La jolie fille de Gand' and 'Le Postilion de Longjumeau.' His relations however to the 'queen of instruments' were by no means of an elevated or even lasting kind. Unabashed by the great traditions of Frescobaldi, Bach, or Handel, he began to thrum little tunes of his own on the organ, which however he soon abandoned for its miniature counterpart the harmonium. Adam's first success indeed was due to his clever improvisations on that instrument in fashionable drawing-rooms. It was perhaps owing to his want of early training that even at a more advanced period he was unable to read music at sight. The way in which he at last acquired the sense of intuitive hearing, so indispensable for

  1. See passage from Aristides Quintillanus, quoted in Smith's Harmonics, p.2.