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Music And Supermusic
by [?]

Is what is new better than what is old? Is what is old better than what is new? Schoenberg is new; is he therefor to be considered better than Beethoven? Stravinsky is new; is he therefor to be considered worse than Liszt?

Is an opera better than a song? Compare Pagliacci and Strauss’s Standchen. Is a string quartet better than a piece for the piano? But I grow weary…. Under the circumstances it would seem that if you have any strong opinions about music you are perfectly entitled to them, for the critics do not agree and you will find many of them basing their criticism on some of the various hypotheses I have advanced. H. T. Finck tells us that the sonata form is illogical, forgetting perhaps that once it served its purpose; Jean Marnold dubbed Armide an oeuvre batarde; John F. Runciman called Parsifal “decrepit stuff,” while Ernest Newman assures us that it is “marvellous”; Pierre Lalo and Philip Hale disagree on the subject of Debussy’s La Mer while W. J. Henderson and James Huneker wrangle over Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote.

The clue to the whole matter lies in a short phrase: Imitative work is always bad. Music that tries to be something that something else has been may be thrown aside as worthless. It will not endure although it may sometimes please the zanies and jackoclocks of a generation. The critic, therefor, who comes nearest to the heart of the matter, is he who, either through instinct or familiarity with the various phenomena of music, is able to judge of a work’s originality. There must be individuality in new music to make it worthy of our attention, and that, after all is all that matters. For the tiniest folk-song often persists in the hearts and minds of the people, often stirs the pulse of a musician, pursuing its tuneful way through two centuries, while a mighty thundering symphony of the same period may lie dead and rotting, food for the Niptus Hololencus and the Blatta Germanica. We still sing The Old Folks At Home and Le Cycle du Vin but we have laid aside Di Tanti Palpiti. Any piece of music possessing the certain magic power of individuality is of value, it matters not whether it be symphony or song, opera or dance. What most critics have forgotten is that in Music matter, form, and idea are one. In painting, in poetry the idea, the words, the form, may be separated; each may play its part, but in music there is no idea without form, no form without idea. That is what makes musical criticism difficult.

January 24, 1918.