instrumental accompaniment, need not be discussed here more than to point out that the strictly scientific point of view —which seeks to understand the folk-song in its native simplicity—should not be mixed up with that of the artist who aims at adding to the world's store of beautiful music.
It is to be deplored that the English composers of the 15th and 16th centuries did not follow the example of Dutch, German and French musicians, who utilized popular melodies as the foundation or canto fermo of their masses and motets (one example only is known, “O Westron Wynde”) and also arrange them in parts for music-loving circles (to a limited extent this appears to have been done in England, e.g. the Freemen's Songs in Deuteromela). But in England, as in other European countries, survivals of medieval melodies are still to be found among the peasantry in quantities which vary according to the degree in which modern music has penetrated to country districts. In Germany, for instance, where musical culture has been most widely spread, the medieval folk-song, according to Herr Bohme, is no longer heard; it is possible, however, that this statement may be contradicted or modified, if the same systematic search for the Germanic folk-song, which has been made recently in France, England and elsewhere, is undertaken before it is too late. Melodies formed by composers under the principles of modern harmonic music have largely usurped their place.
The folk-song is eventually killed by the products of the musical manufactories of the town. The peasantry provided with songs from outside is relieved from the necessity of providing for its own needs, or of cherishing with the love of earlier times its own traditional inheritance. It is true that for many centuries numbers of composed songs have found their way into the popular repertory and have there undergone in many instances transformations which serve as a complete disguise to their real origin: but in general a fine ear can detect these intruders. For even when they have suffered change or transformation in passing through a new environment the stamp of an individual or a period remains, whereas the folk-song of tradition is the work not of one age, but of many, not of the individual, but the collective mind. For songs made by uncultivated persons, and passed on to others without the aid of writing or of printing, soon lose in the course of oral transmission even such traces of individual authorship as they may once have possessed. Moreover the makers of folk-songs are concerned with nothing so little as the assertion of their own individuality. They know that it is the most familiar that is the most acceptable. Novelty has no charms for themselves or their audiences. Instinct as well as policy keep them to recognized types and formulae; and the innumerable variations which these undergo from age to age are probably far more frequently due to lapses of memory than to capacity for invention. Major tunes inadvertently sung in minor modes, or vice versa, or the accidental application of a tune to verses, for which it was not originally intended, give rise in many cases to practically new melodies. Though an author might be named, if it were possible to know the history of a folk-melody, for each change that it has assumed in the course of its history, it is clear that authorship of this kind is not what we mean when we name Dibdin as the author of “Tom Bowling.” The theory that the folk-song is but the degenerate offspring of a cultivated ancestry, that the peasantry have, in fact, taken their music from a superior class, and transformed it to suit their own tastes and idioms, has been and is still held apparently by many (see Closson, Chansons populaires beiges; and Combarieu, La Musique, p. 114). This is tanta- mount to the assumption that the presence among songs of the peasantry of beautiful melodies involves pre-existing musical civilization, and that the popular instinct is incapable, without cultivation, of creating melodies that are artistically beautiful. It would be difficult to support this assumption in the case of the German and Dutch medieval songs, to which reference has been made; the cases that could be cited, in which well-known airs of the town have passed to the country and suffered transformation, are insufficient data for establishing a general rule as to the origin of folk-songs. Indeed, the very fact of such transformation tends to prove the existence of a strictly popular music, into whose idiom the town music is transformed. To deny that uncultivated peasants can create melody is to forget that the languages even of savages have their grammar and syntax, as well as qualities that are rhythmical and musical, and that even among civilized people those same qualities existed long before they were analysed and tabulated by grammarians, and further developed by trained literary men. The case of melody is strictly analogous to that of languages. As every country has its own store of folk-songs in which national characteristics find expression through idioms which differentiate its songs from those of other countries, it would be arbitrary to select the songs of one country rather than those of another for separate discussion.
The history of the art-song has now to be considered, of
solo song, that is, with instrumental accompaniment as an
essential part. Songs for two or more voices with
or without accompaniment, though they properly
belong to the subject of this article, are passed over, The
Art-Song. for they but exhibit the tendencies manifested in solo song when applied to more complicated forms. Operatic songs and arias are likewise omitted (except in the early Italian period), as belonging to a branch of music which requires separate treatment (see Aria; Opera). Instrumental song arose during the 16th century, a time in which composers, released by the spirit of the Renaissance from the exclusive service of the Church, were already becoming active in secular directions. The madrigal was the favourite form of composition and was rapidly approaching its period of maturity: it was now to be superseded as the popular diversion of cultivated society by solo song. The habit had already sprung up of supplying voices that might be missing in a madrigal by instruments: if all the voices but one were absent, the effect of a solo with instrumental accompaniment was realized. A still nearer approach to solo song was made when singers, selecting one part of a madrigal for the voice, themselves played the rest on lute or chilarrone. In such performances the voice part was likely to receive most attention—even in madrigal-singing it was not unknown for the soprano to embroider her part with gruppetti and ornamental passages (see Kiesewetter’s Schicksale u. Beschaffenheit des Weitlichen Gesanges, p. 72, for an example of a simple part as embellished by the well-known Signora Vittoria Archilei)—and the accompaniment to undergo processes of simplification, thus preparing the way for melodies, simple or ornate, with unobtrusive accompaniments, and perhaps also contributing to the invention of that declamatory or recitative style, attributed to Cavalieri, Peri and Caccini, the founders of oratorio and opera. Such melodies are found in Caccini's famous Nuove Musiche, published in Venice in 1601 (“Feri Selvaggi” may serve as a beautiful, specimen of simple melody; “Cor mio” is typical of the ornate style, “Deh! dove son fuggite” of the declamatory: the last two are quoted in Kiesewetter, Geschichte und Beschaffenheit des Weitlichen Gesanges, p. 73). Caccini claimed in the preface to that work to be the first to invent songs” for a single voice to the accompaniment of a simple instrument." It is true that his friends in Rome (his native city), at whose houses these new compositions were performed, assured him that they had never heard the like before, and that his style exhibited possibilities for the expression of feeling, that were excluded, when the voice sang merely one part in a contrapuntal work. But, about thirty years before Caccini, lutenists in France had anticipated his innovations, and composed solo songs, with lute accompaniments,
in which is evidenced the struggle, not always successful,
- The error must be guarded against of supposing that melodies, heard to-day among the peasantry, which suggest medieval times, are necessarily medieval in origin. It has been already indicated that dorian, aeolian and mixolydian modes (to name those which are most prevalent) are natural modes, not church modes; they are still employed by folk-singers in many parts of Europe. A melody in the modern major scale is just as liable at the present day to submit to transformation into the mixolydian or some other mode, as melodies in other modes are liable to become major.