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how are we to impart, musically, peculiar stress and emphasis to a word ? This may be effected in three different ways. 1st. By assigning to the emphatic words comparatively higher notes. 2dly. By throwing the emphatic syllable into the accented part of the bar (although this expedient applies as much and more to the metre of the text). And sály. By increased loudness (forte).
All these expedients are, as they should be, merely direct imitations of nature. By way of illustrating the first, and most essential and legitimate of these three resources, let us recur to the above line, " Darest thou thus upbraid a lover ?" It is susceptible of various modes of declamation, all equally proper, according to the sense which the speaker may intend to convey. Of this more presently. But suppose, for example, we wished to read it
Darest thou thus upbraid a lover? Here we readily perceive, that “thus” is intonated comparatively high. The line, in this sense, might therefore appropriately be melodized as follows
But if it were wished to throw the emphasis upon the first word, viz.
Darest thou thus, &c. ? the following musical phrase would suggest itself
Were the declamation this
Darest thou thus upbraid a lover?
Without multiplying examples, it is obvious that this single line is susceptible of as many distinct shades of signification as it has words. Upon each of the five words stress may be laid in the declamation, according to the implied meaning; and just so may each of the five words receive a high and emphatic note in five different melodies.
A similar train of reflection will suggest the propriety of setting the Music to sentences of interrogation in uscent ; because in asking questions we generally modulate the voice from grave to acute. The Italian, indeed, has no other mode of rendering a phrase interrogatory.
“ He has finished the work,” and “Has he finished the work ?" is expressed by the same words, “ Ha finito l'opera," with this difference, that in the question the voice ascends strongly.
Will you come to the bower?
Know'st thou the land ?
BEETHOVEN.. Since in a question the phrase terminates, as it were, in an unfinished, suspensive manner, it is, moreover, desirable, generally speaking, that the melody, independently of its ascending, should not conclude the question with a tonic cadence, which breathes too much repose.
The great use of piano and forte, crescendo, diminuendo, &c. in assisting verbal expression must be self-evident; the employment of these resources being, like those above-mentioned, absolutely borrowed from the ordinary rules of declamation, although, without any reference to those rules, certain alter of loud and subdued sounds tend of themselves to produce variety, and, like the due dispensation of light and shade in a painting, to throw, as it were, a chiaroscuro over the harmonic picture, so pleasing at all times, that in instrumental pieces, the composer not unfrequently puts down his f's and p's quite arbitrarily, merely to effect variety. You might often exchange the
p's for the f's, and vice versa, without much detriment.
Not so in vocal compositions. Here the forte is appropriately employed for spirited determined sentences and words of vigour ; the piano or the sottovoce for soft and mild expressions, the crescendo for cases of rhetorical climax, the calando, deminuendo, morendo, &c. för decreasing strength, expiring, accents of love, grief, &c. All this is so natural, that we deem it quite unnecessary to add quotations from classic works to illustrate what must be obvious to every one.
If the reader will open, at random, any opera of Mozart, he is sure to meet with ample instances of the judicious use of the piano and forte. In Cimarosa and Rossini, he will likewise find abundant elucidation.
Even of subdued murmurs and mutterings, numerous examples may be found. An apt instance occurs in Cimarosa's duet (Matrimonio Segreto) between the old man and the lover, when the latter offers a great sum to be permitted to marry the younger instead of the elder sister. The father pauses, reflects, and then mutters to himself, “Qui risparmio del bell' oro, e si salva anche il decoro*."--All piono upon one single note. A similar instance presents itself in the beautiful
* Here I save my gold and credit.
terzett, “Ah soccorso, son' ferito" (Don Giovanni) where Leporello in an under-tone, mutters out his comment and horror at the murder of the old Commendatore, just perpetrated by the nefarious libertine, his master.
Some of our readers will be surprised, when we state that the employment of the piano and forte, and of the different gradations of loudness within or beyond these, is, comparatively speaking, of modern invention. In the compositions of about a hundred years ago, we seek in vain for the marks p or f or for any other directions regarding the strength of the sounds. In fact, at that time every thing was played with equal force, or, at most, the little musical colouring, which then appeared desirable or practicable, was entirely left to the discretion of the performer. It would be difficult to conceive how such a simple and yet powerful means of producing effect, and aiding expression, should not have suggested itself at an earlier period, if the performance of mediocre players, or of amateurs of fifty years practice, did not occasionally afford practical proof of the possibility of such neglect. The celebrated Jomelli was the first who began to imagine and prescribe various tints of musical colouring, and to bring them into some sort of method. Since his time, however, this branch of executive Music has been so much enlarged and improved, that it is at this time scarcely possible to conceive any shade of expression, which does not form part of our musical terminology. There is still a certain vagueness in the usual directions as to the positive degree of force intended, many of the terms being absolutely relative; but we should not be surprised to see this uncertainty brought, in time, under mathematical controul, by the invention of a musical Phonometer, to indicate the precise strength of sound, in the same manner as the Metronome fixes the precise duration of musical time.
Upon the foregoing subject of musical emphasis we might fill many pages with a variety of curious and interesting remarks, were it not that our limits and immediate object compel us to content ourselves with touching slightly and briefly upon matters, which a professional treatise alone could be expected to expand and develope.
But before we conclude our remarks upon verbal expression, we would wish to add a few words concerning its abuse in Music. This abuse is often encountered in compositions adapted to " depictive" poetry, describing physical phenomena, peculiar sounds, motions, &c. such as thunder, lightning, the rolling of waves, the howlings of the wind, the babbling of brooks, rustling of leaves, the roaring of wild beasts, warbling of birds, the crawling of serpents, the galloping of steeds, &c. Of all these, and innumerable other natural appearances, composers have attempted direct imitations, the vouchers for which we could quote without difficulty.
The question, whether such imitations are the legitimate province of the composer, whether they are accordant with the principles of the beautiful, is a delicate and difficult one. If we consult our own feelings, we should candidly say, that some of these attempts at the musical picturesque have afforded us considerable pleasure, while others, and by far the greater part, appeared to us trifling conceits full of quaintness and littleness.
Among the favourable specimens we would place foremost, the
accompaniments expressive of the placid undulation of the sea, in the beautiful terzett, “Soave sia il vento" (Così fan tutte)--the beating of the oars preceding the first appearance of Selim, in Il Turco in Italia—a similar approach of the skiff, in La Donna del Lago_the approach of the Jew pedlar, in La Gazza Ladra—and some few other cases of the like description.
On the other hand, we derived no gratification from several imitations of the chirping of birds in some English songs, from the numerous and varied attempts at the picturesque of all sorts in Haydn's Creation, in which all manner of sounds and things are musically pencilled out, not excepting chaos and primitive darkness itself.
We are far from the presumption of forming from our individual likings and dislikes a standard of the Beautiful in this matter : our opinion, however, must necessarily be founded on these. This opinion we give candidly and unpretendingly, leaving it to others to judge whether it coincides with their own observations and feelings.
It seems to us, in the first place, that imitations of this kind ought to be used with a very sparing hand. If they present themselves once or twice in a whole opera, or in any evening's performance, it is quite enough. We consider them altogether as mechanical expedients, forming licences in the art. Hence, if they are imitations ever so apt, and in themselves unobjectionable, their frequent recurrence is likely to have a detrimental effect. They are, after all, but fanciful attempts at approximation, of doubtful comprehension, and calculated to divert the mind from the more direct and legitimate aims of the art. We conceive, in the next place, that the more insignificant the object of the imitation is, the more trifling the result will be, and the less ought it to be attempted. Little minds will generally be found to resort to the picturesque in Music more freely, and it is little minds that more particularly find entertainment in listening to it, because it is more tangible to a narrow intellect, than the nobler sublimities of the art. They are the same people that will value a picture, not for its composition, grouping, or the expression in the countenance, but on account of the charming fidelity in the imitation of the Brussels lace, the truth in the representation of a china basin, or a copper fish-kettle. A purely imitative piece of Music, therefore, would seem to stand in the same relation to a noble and classic composition, as a Dutch painting of grapes, carrots, and onions, to a Madonna and Child of Raphael.
It is on these grounds, probably, that musical imitations are less objectionable in humorous compositions. When we have a mind to be ludicrous, we do not stick at trifles. In this manner we have seen the musical picturesque successfully applied to imitate sneezing and other strange sounds; and the genius of the sublime Beethoven (quandoque dormitans) has with consummate art typified, not only the parabolic leaps of a frisky flea, but even the ultimate doom usually indicted on that offending race.
Time and Love.
And Love without a feather :
In wedlock came together.
Reversed his old opinions,
And Cupid with two pinions.
“I hope I'm not so stupid.
And, after marriage, Cupid.”
(You all may from History worm it)
John Lackland, and Peter the Hermit.
Are read, each so constantly varies
Seem given by the rule of contraries.
Mr. Burns in his grate has no fuel,
Mr. Coward was wing'd in a duel.
Mr. Coffin's uncommonly sprightly,
While driving fat Mrs. Golightly.
Mrs. Angels 's an absolute fury,
Tweak his nose in the lobby of Drury.
(A conduct well worthy of Nero)
Mr. Heaviside danced a Bolero.
Found nothing but sorrow await her:
That fondest of mates, Mr. Hayter.
Miss Sage is of madcaps the archest;
Old Ms. Younghusband's the starchest.