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Chapelmaster Kreisler
by [?]

Music is made up of two elements: the intellectual and the sensuous on the one hand, of that which is conceived by the mind and perceived by the mind (for our ears perceive only the separate constituent sounds of a tune, but not the tune itself); on the other hand, of that which is produced by the merely physical and appreciated by the merely physical, by the nerves of hearing, through which it may, but only indirectly, affect the mind. Now if, from an artistic point of view, we must protest against any degradation of the merely sensuous part, it is because such a degradation would involve a corresponding one in the intellectual part, because the physical basis must be intact and solid before we can build on it an intellectual structure, because the physical element through which mentality is perceived must be perfect in order that the mental manifestation be equally so; but the physical must always remain a mere basis, a mere vehicle for the mental. The enjoyment obtainable from the purely physical part may indeed be very great and very valuable, but it is a mere physical enjoyment; and the pleasure we derive from a fine voice, as distinguished from a fine piece or a fine interpretation, is as wholly unartistic as that which we receive from a ripe peach or a cool breeze: it is a purely sensuous pleasure, given us ready-made by nature, to give or to perceive which requires no mentality, in which there is no human intention, and consequently no art. Now, the effect of the cry or of the imitation, and that of certain other manifestations of sound, such as tone, pitch, volume, rhythm, major or minor intervals, which are cognate with, but independent of, the cry or the imitation–the effect of all this is an entirely sensuous one, an effect of unintelligent matter on the nerves, not of calculating intelligence on the mind, and it is to these physical effects, and not to the mentally elaborated form, that music owes its peculiar power of awaking or even of suggesting emotion.

That this is the case is shown by various circumstances. The ancients, who, as is now proved beyond dispute, possessed very little of the intellectual part of music, little of what we should deem its form, enjoyed its emotional effects to a far higher degree than could we in our present musical condition; the stories of Timotheus, Terpander, and other similar ones, being at least founded on fact, as is evident from the continual allusions of Greek writers to the moral or immoral effect of the art, and their violent denunciations of people whose only social crime was to have added a string to a lyre or a hole to a flute. We ourselves have constant opportunities of remarking the intense emotional effects due to mere pitch, tone, and rhythm; that is to say, to the merely physical qualities of number, nature, and repetition of musical vibrations. We have all been cheered by the trumpet and depressed by the hautboy; we have felt a wistful melancholy steal over us while listening to the drone of the bagpipe and the quaver of the flute of the pifferari at the shrine; we have felt our heart beat and our breath halt on catching the first notes of an organ as we lifted the entrance curtain of some great cathedral; we have known nothing more utterly harrowing than a hurdy-gurdy playing a cheerful tune, or a common accordion singing out a waltz or a polka. Nay, it is worthy of remark that the instruments capable of the greatest artistic development are just those which possess least this power over the nerves: the whole violin and harpsichord tribe, the human voice when sound and natural–saying least themselves, are capable of saying most for others; whereas the trumpet, the accordion, the harp, the zither, are condemned by their very expressiveness to a hopeless inferiority; they produce an effect spontaneously by their mere tone; the artist can produce on them but that effect, and can scarcely heighten even it. A musical critic of the beginning of this century, Giuseppe Carpani, wishing to defend Rossini from the accusation of being unemotional, boldly laid down the principle that it never is the composer who makes people cry, but the author of the words and the singer. As to the composer, he can only please, but not move.