Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/417

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401
SONG


of determining the intervening sounds. It has been generally assumed that the fall of a fourth is the interval earliest arrived at by the instinct of the Indo-European race—and that inter- vening sounds were added which resulted eventually in the three possible forms of the diatonic tetrachord, the earliest being that which is characteristic of the ancient Dorian mode or scale (the basis of the Greek musical system) in which two tetrachords, having the semitone between the lowest note and the next above it, are superimposed (see Bourgault Ducoudray, Introduction to 30 Chansons de Grece et d’Orient).

It must, however, be remembered that the popular instinct knows nothing about tetrachords or scales, which are abstractions, and only creates melodies, or at least successions of sounds, which are the outward expression of inward feelings. The Greek theorists therefore, in recording certain modes as being in use in their day, were in effect merely stating results arrived at by analysing popular melodies—and from the persistence with which the Greeks, and following them, most of the musical historians of Europe, have insisted upon a tetrachordal basis for the art of music it may be assumed that in these melodies a basis of four diatonic notes was a conspicuous feature.

It is a feature which marks a considerable number of folk- songs heard in Greece at the present day, and also of many folk- songs which are not Greek, the Breton, for example (see Bourgault Ducoudray, Chansons de Basse-Bretagne) . The interval of a fourth is nearly always prominent too in the music of savages. If it is natural to connect these facts with the drop of a fourth, characteristic of the speaking voice, it is dangerous to assume an exclusively “tetrachordal period” of primitive song, at any rate till it can be shown that melodies based on other principles did not exist side by side with those that are tetrachordal. From the rise of a fifth and the fall of a fourth, the octave, which results from combining these intervals, may well have become familiar at a very early epoch. Indeed a prolonged howl beginning on a high note and descending a full octave in semitones— or notes approximately resembling semitones—is recorded both of the Caribs and of the natives of Australia, so that familiarity with the octave need not presuppose an advanced stage of musical development.

To pass from the sphere of mere speculation nearer to the domain of history, it may be asserted with confidence that the oldest form of song or chant which can be established is found in certain recitation formulae. These, as is natural, will be found to be derived from the rise and fall of the voice in speech. It is therefore not surprising that O. Fleischer (Sammelbande der internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft, Jan.–Mar. 1902) is able to trace practically identical formulae in the traditional methods of reciting the Vedas, the Koran, the Jewish and Christian liturgies. The s ; mplest form consists of four notes (a diatonic tetrachord), a rec'ting note, preceded by two notes rising to it, and followed by a fall, or cadence, for the close, the voice rising above the reciting note in order to emphasize important words, or according to the nature of the sentence. An extended form is both natural and common.

EB1911 - Song 1.png

The influence of these and similar formulae[1] upon popular melodies can be illustrated by countless examples (for which the reader is referred to I.M.G.). As characteristic as any is the melody of the Christian hymn which begins

EB1911 - Song 2.png

and concludes

EB1911 - Song 3.png

Another is the Hungarian folk-song: Nem Szoktam.

EB1911 - Song 4.png

Many French songs have been collected in recent years, of which the following formula, or variations of it, form an essential feature:—

EB1911 - Song 5a.jpg

This corresponds closely with the third example given above. That the melodies in question are of great antiquity may be inferred from the fact that they are almost confined to the oldest class of folk-song, that which celebrates May Day and the beginning of spring. M. Tiersot (La Chanson populaire en France, Paris, 1889) plausibly finds in them a survival of a melodic fragment, which may have belonged to pagan hymns in honour of spring, basing his supposition upon the fact that the phrase in question occurs in the melody of the Easter hymn “O Filii et Filiae.” The medieval Church, acting on principles familiar in all ages, may well have helped to merge a pagan in a Christian festival by adopting, not merely old rites and observances, but the actual melody with which these had for ages been associated. A similar survival in French folk-song is that of the melody of the Tonus peregrinus, the chant used for the psalm “When Israel came out of Egypt” (mentioned in the 9th century by Aurelian Reome as being very old). Its appearance, like that of the Easter hymn, in songs, which on other grounds can be proved to be of great antiquity, points to the probability of its being of popular origin. It also bears equally strong marks of being derived from a recitation formula, as indeed its appropriation for chanting a psalm sufficiently indicates.

Endeavours to detach other primitive formulae from the popular melodies in which they are enshrined form a branch of folk-lore now being actively pursued. It may be hoped that “comparative melodology”—if the phrase may be coined—will do for this department of musical knowledge what the science of comparative philology has done for language. Oscar Fleischer (I.M.G. i. 1) has endeavoured to trace the history in Europe of the primitive phrases belonging to the melody of “Les Series”

(or Unus est Deus) as given by De Villemarque in Barzaz-Breiz

  1. The derivation of such formulae from more primitive incantations of magicians and medicine-men is a possible and plausible theory (see J. Combarieu, La Musique: ses lots et son evolution. Paris, 1907).