Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/418

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402
SONG


No. 1 , in the musical appendix, as also of the opening phrase in the old Christian hymn, " Conditor alme siderum " (attributed to Bishop Ambrose):—

EB1911 - Song 6.png

The phrase here belongs to a melody in the Phrygian mode, but when it is used in major melodies its characteristic notes are those of the common chord, with a rise to the sixth at the point of climax, corresponding to the rise in the recitation formulae given above.

By what processes the notes of the common chord became universally established it is not possible to determine, but it may be said in a general way that the reference to a given tonic was felt in all ages to be a necessary condition even of the simplest melody, and that, as the melodic instinct grew, an almost equal necessity was found for a point of contrast, and that this point of contrast became with most nations of Aryan origin the fifth note above the tonic, at any rate in the more popular scales. Combarieu (La Musique, p. 121) observes that we owe the use of the octave, the fifth and the fourth to the South and East, but that the importance of the third in our modern musical system is due to the instinctive genius of the West and North, i.e. to England and Scandinavia (see also Hugo Riemann, Geschichte der Musiktheorie, Leipzig, 1898, and Wooldridge, Oxford History of Music, i. 161-162, where the well-known quotation from Giraldus Cambriensis, or Gerald Barry, of the 12th century, establishing the fact of part-singing in England, is given). If, as has been shown, the origin of many melodies can be traced to formulae originally used for chanting or reciting, it must not be forgotten that formulae thus derived assume very different characters under the influence of more decided rhythms than that of speech. To accompany bodily movements (which by a natural law become rhythmical when often repeated) with music, vocal or instrumental, is an almost universal human instinct, whether to alleviate the burden or the monotony of labour, as in rowing, sowing, spinning, hammering and a score of other pursuits, or to promote pleasure and excitement, as in the dance.

It is unsafe to infer, as some have done, from the custom, known in all ages, of dancing and singing at the same time, that song arose as a mere accessory to the dance. It is more probable that the dance has its origin in the mimetic actions, which are the natural accompaniment of rudimentary song. At the same time, no one will deny that races with ballads of their own early made use of them for the dance, and that, especially on the rhythmical side, melody owes to the dance an incalculable debt.[1]

It may be assumed then that upon some such basis as has been roughly indicated the different nations of the world have developed each their own musical phraseology, emanating from and answering to their several needs and temperaments and that the short melodic phrases, out of which folk-tunes are made, have their roots in a past as distant as that in which the elements of language were formed, and that the popular instinct which through countless ages has diversified those forms and arranged them into melodies, whose constructions are mostly susceptible to analysis, is the same instinct as that which has given to language its grammar and its syntax.

In proceeding now to the actual history of song in Europe, it must be remembered that it is inseparably connected with History of poetry. Melody till within comparatively recent Song la times continued to fulfil its original function of Europe. 1 enhancing the value and expressiveness of language. For poetry of the epic kind with the long lines common to early European peoples, some such forms of chanting as have been indicated must have sufficed. Melody, as we understand it, with compact form and balanced phrases, could only have existed if and when the same qualities appeared in popular poetry. This was probably the case long before the taste for long epic narratives began to disappear in favour of more concise forms of ballad and of lyric. The stanza form must have been generally familiar in the early middle ages from the Latin hymns of the Church, and these hymns themselves are likely to have been formed, in part at any rate, on models which were already known and popular.

We have definite information that in the early middle ages two sorts of popular poetry existed—the historical ballads (descen- dants of those alluded to by Tacitus in his Germania as characteristic of the Germans, and as constituting song** their only historical records), and popular songs of a character which caused them to be described as cantica nefaria by St Augustine; the council of Agde (506) forbade Christians to frequent assemblies where they were sung: St Cesaire, bishop of Aries, speaks of the chants diaboliques sung by country folk, both men and women; the Council of Chalons menaced the women, who seem to have been the chief offenders, with excom- munication and whipping; lastly Charlemagne, whose love for the better class of song is attested by the fact that he ordered a collection of them to be made for his own use, said of the other " canticum turpe et luxuriosum circa ecclesias agere omnino, quod et ubique vitandum est." Beyond the fact of their existence we know nothing of these songs of the early middle ages. Their influence on the popular mind was vigorously resisted, as we have seen, by the Church, and for many centuries efforts were made to supplant them by songs, the subjects of which were taken from the Gospel narratives and the lives of the saints, so that folk-song and church song strove together for popularity. Doubtless the church song borrowed musical elements from its rival: nor was the folk-song uninfluenced in its turn by the tradi- tional music of the Church. In considering this latter music, it is important to distinguish between the melodies adapted to the prose portions of the ritual without definite rhythm, and those of the hymns, where the metre of the Latin verses and their stanza form necessitated a corresponding rhythm and musical form. Rhythm in music, which has its origin and counterpart in the regular bodily movements involved in various departments of labour and in the dance, must, as has already been said, have always been an essential feature of popular melody, and it is reasonable to conclude from its absence in the plain-song, and indeed for many centuries in the compositions of musicians, which had the plain-song for their basis, that these hymns, which repre- sented the popular part of the Church services, were also repre- sentative of the popular tastes of the time. In all ages the Church has drawn largely from popular song for the melodies of its hymns. It is moreover in the highest degree improbable that the Church should have been able to evolve out of its inner consciousness, without pre-existing models, a melody—to take a single instance—like that of “Conditor alme siderum”—the survival of which in innumerable European folk-songs has already been alluded to.

Numerous additions to the store of plain-song melodies were made by the monastic composers of the middle ages- the most notable is that of the Dies Irae, of which the words are attributed to Thomas de Celano (d. 1250).

Reference should also be made to the music of the liturgical dramas or mysteries, popular in medieval times: The Lamentation

of Rachel, The Wise and Foolish Virgins and The Prophets of Christ, are given, both text and music, in Coussemaker's L'Harmonie au moyen dge. They reflect the severe style of the plain-song, and were probably intended for cultivated rather than popular audiences. The same is probably true of the secular songs quoted in the same work. These have a special interest as being the earliest specimens of song which have come down to us in Christian times. The best known is the "Complainte," on the death of Charlemagne (quoted in many histories), the dignified, if somewhat dreary, melody of which revolves mostly on the first three notes of a major scale, once rising to the fourth (thus recalling the old recitation formula). Rhythm is practically

  1. For the growth of the refrain from communal dancing and singing, see C. J. Sharp, English Folk-Songs, p. 93. Nor should the association of dancing with all primitive religious ceremonies be forgotten—see K. J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas (1907).