Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/684
teristic qualities of the piece which it concludes. But with composers of the preharmonic period it was clearly a rule; and its origin depended on the same feeling as that which caused them to put the fourth in the category of the discords; for like the fourth, the minor third does not exist as a part of the compound tone of the lower note, and its quality is veiled and undefined; and it was not till a totally new way of looking at music came into force that it could stand on its own basis as final; for among other considerations, the very vagueness of tonality which characterised the old polyphonic school necessitated absolute freedom from anything approaching to ambiguity or vagueness in the concluding combination of sounds. In modern music the passage preceding the final cadence is likely to be all so consistently and clearly in one key, that the conclusion could hardly suffer in definition by the use of the veiled third; but if the following beautiful passage from the conclusion of Josquin's 'Deploration de Jehan Okenheim' be attempted with a minor third instead of his major third for the conclusion, the truth of these views will be more strongly felt than after any possible argument:—
In this case it is quite clear that a minor third would not seem like any conclusion at all; even the bare fifth would be better, since at least the harmonic major third of the three A's would sound unembarassed by a contiguous semitone, for each of the A's in the chord would have a tolerably strong harmonic C♯, with which the presence of a C♮ would conflict. But the major third has in this place a remarkable finality, without which the preceding progressions, so entirely alien to modern theories of tonality, would be incomplete, and, as it were, wanting a boundary line to define them.
This vagueness of tonality, as it is called, which is so happily exemplified in the above example, especially in the 'Amen,' is one of the strongest points of external difference between the mediæval and modern musical systems. The vagueness is to a great extent owing to the construction of the ecclesiastical scales, which gives rise to such peculiarities as the use of a common chord on the minor seventh of the key, as in the following example from Bird's Anthem, 'Bow thine ear,' where at * there is a common chord on E♭ in a passage which in other respects is all in the key of F major.
But the actual and vital difference between the two systems lay in the fact that the old musicians regarded music as it were horizontally, whereas the moderns regard it perpendicularly. The former looked upon it and taught it in the sense of combined voice parts, the harmonic result of which was more or less a matter of indifference; but the latter regard the series of harmonies as primary, and base whole movements upon their interdependent connection, obtaining unity chiefly by the distribution of the keys which throws those harmonies into groups. In the entire absence of any idea of such principles of construction, the mediævalists had to seek elsewhere their bond of connection, and found it in Canonic imitation, or Fugue, though it must be remembered that their idea of Fugue was not of the elaborate nature denoted by the term at the present day. As an example of this Canonic form, the famous secular song, 'Sumer is icumen in,' will serve very well; and as it is printed in score in both Burney's and Hawkins's Histories, it will be unnecessary to dwell upon it here, since its harmonic construction does not demand special notice. In all such devices of Canon and Fugue the great early masters were proficients, but the greatest of them were not merely proficient in such technicalities, but were feeling forward towards things which were of greater importance, namely, pure harmonic effects. This is noticeable even as early as Josquin, but by Palestrina's time it becomes clear and indubitable. On the one hand, the use of note against note counterpoint, which so frequently occurs in Palestrina's works, brings forward prominently the qualities of chords; and on the other, even in his polyphony it is not uncommon to meet with passages which are as clearly founded on a simple succession of chords as anything in modern music could be. Thus the following example from the motet, 'Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus'—