Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

Handel and Music              129

tongues. They look at us like seals, but cannot talk to us.
To the musician, therefore, what has been said above is
useless, if not worse; its object will have been attained if it
aids the uncreative reader to criticise what he hears with
more intelligence.


So far as I can see, this is the least stable of the arts.
From the earliest records we learn that there were musicians,
and people seem to have been just as fond of music as we are
ourselves, but, whereas we find the old sculpture, painting
(what there is of it) and literature to have been in all essen-
tials like our own, and not only this but whereas we find
them essentially the same in existing nations in Europe, Asia,
Africa and America, this is not so as regards music either
looking to antiquity or to the various existing nations. I
believe we should find old Greek and Roman music as hideous
as we do Persian and Japanese, or as Persians and Japanese
find our own.

I believe therefore that the charm of music rests on a
more unreasoning basis, and is more dependent on what we
are accustomed to, than the pleasure given by the other arts.
We now find all the ecclesiastical modes, except the Ionian
and the ^Eolian, unsatisfactory, indeed almost intolerable,
but I question whether, if we were as much in the habit of
using the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixo-Lydian modes
as we are of using the later ^olian mode (the minor scale),
we should not find these just as satisfactory. Is it not
possible that our indisputable preference for the Ionian
mode (the major scale) is simply the result of its being the
one to which we are most accustomed ? If another mode
were to become habitual, might not this scale or mode be-
come first a kind of supplementary moon-like mode (as the
JEolian now is) and finally might it not become intolerable
to us ? Happily it will last my time as it is.


Formerly all discords were prepared, and Monteverde's
innovation of taking the dominant seventh unprepared was
held to be cataclysmic, but in modern music almost any