To these succeeded a strange mixture of the antique and barbarous Gusto, which has since been distinguished by the name of Gothic. Many things we must expect to meet with, which it would be hard to bear, if a compensation were not to be found in ho nest endeavours to do well, in virtuous af fections, and connections, and in harmless and reasonable amusements. Our church music is equally capable of improvements from the same sources of taste and knowledge. Thence it is, that different people, in proportion to the distance which separates them, differ from each other, not only in their exterior form and colour, but also in their customs and employments. Yet there remains something more to be done by our present professors:
An unparalleled favour indeed! Arms and the man I sing, who urg’d by stub born fate. A con tinued elevation of this kind, no author ever came up to. Two of Avison’s letters published in the Newcastle Journal —9 dealing with the concert series he oversaw, a catalogue of his compositions, and a detailed description of the organs in the two churches he served complete the volume. What then is the composer, who would aim at true musical expression, to per form? The x proud man’s contumely, and the spurns. For he hath not alledged any instance, or any kind of proof in support of his supposition.
The invention of the hydraulic organ is ascribed to Ctesibius, an Alexandrian, who flourished nineteen hundred years ago. Therefore, I would recommend to our vocal composers, some such method of setting to music the best English songs, and which, in like manner, will admit of various airs and duetts, with their reci tative, or musical narratives, properly in terspersed, to relieve and embellish the whole. To judge of our language in this re spect, you may compare an English heroic verse, with a supernumerary foot, to a Greek iambic.
Essay on Musical Expression | work by Avison |
But the accidental subjects are, on ac count of their variety, much more difficult to be ascertained: To understand the good father, you must know that he compares the soul mjsical animates the hu man body, and acts in every part of it, to the wind which fills the organ.
It may be worth considering, from whence this false taste hath had its rise. If, after looking over these papers, you should think that they may serve to rectify the judgements of such persons as this writer may probably have misled, I de sire you would send them to the press.
But I chuse to call it this age, without an epithet. Above all, to heighten this variety in the performance, it is essential to mark the change of stiles that avizon often be found in the same movement, and chiefly the sostenute and staccato, for in these are contained the greatest powers of expres sion on the violin. Spiri tus ille, qui de tormento aquae anhelat, per partes administratur, substantia solidus, opera divisus. By in the composer of the liberty of changing, or diversifying his subject, his piece, with frequent repetitions of the very same thought, would be extremely languid and tedious: To evince the truth of this, if it were necessary, I could point out instances to our critic, in the works of many emi nent composers; though not, perhaps, in the meagre productions of those Veterans, a list of whom he has given us in his re charlds, who, it seems, were such a set of desperados, in their way, that they sooner would have ” spurned against the image of a saint, than have taken two perfect chords mksical one kind together.
An Essay on Musical Expression
Nevertheless, these false relations are allowable in quick move ments, and may be found in the very best compositions: I shall here take occasion to observe, by way of information to my critic, that notwithstanding a piece of Music is com posed in four parts, yet it does not follow that every chord, or every accented part of the harmony, should, therefore, have four notes, or even three in many cases.
For this is the only means, by which, they can ever be dispossessed of that ferocity which they have contracted b.
For this reason, no person whatever should attempt this instrument in concertos not expressly made for it, but from the score; and then, if he has judgement and discretion sufficient, he may enforce an expression, and assist every part through out the whole chorus. Where Creech, though a good editor, gives us a very queer interpretation: A lesser number of instruments, near the same proportion, will also have a proper effect, and may answer the composer’s intention; but more would probably de stroy the just contrast, which should al ways be kept up between the chorus and solo: The organ and harpsichord, though alike in so many respects, that the same per former may equally shew his skill and execution on both; yet are their respec tive compositions and manner of per formance widely different: I am sorry for it, since it gives reason to think that he and his contemporaries had poor and narrow notions of this art: In Music, there are express laws relat ing to modulation, as well as to harmony; yet, if all composers indiscriminately were confined to these laws, we should soon see an end of all taste, spirit, and variety in their compositions: Plato also observes that practical Music, or the art of playing in tune, and in con cert, is a conjectural skill, grounded on long practice and habit, but not capable of certainty and infallibility: Num bers of these indeed have fallen, and de servedly, into oblivion; such, I mean, who had only the cold assistance of art, and were destitute of genius.
The fact the baron speaks of, seems to confirm what is here said on the power of Music: Nay, if we consider that variety which in all arts is necessary to keep alive attention, we may, perhaps, affirm with truth, that inequality makes a part of the character of excellence: Tertullian’s description of it, though in his uncouth language, deserves to be transcribed: Thus the gradual rising or fall ing of the notes in a long succession, is often used to denote ascent or descent; broken intervals, to denote an interrupted motion; a number of quick divisions, to describe swiftness or flying; sounds re sembling laughter, to describe laughter; with a number of other contrivances of a parallel kind, which it is needless here to mention.
An improvement of this kind might be still more easily set on foot, were there any history of the lives and works of the best composers; together with an account of their several schools, and the characteristic taste, and manner of each: But I would offer it to the consideration of the public, whether this is not a general and fundamental error.
Nu meri are airs or tunes; as in Ecl. charlss
Thus they strive, rather to surprize, than please the hearer: Kn Experience in Aesthetics. In this volume, Pierre Dubois has provided the complete published writings of Charles Avison: Imagine these creatures to be human creatures, and you will have no bad repre sentation of one of our politest assemblies at a musical performance.
SO much concerning the two branches of music, air and harmony: