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verging to a discovery and adoption of fixed and universal laws of the science, independent alike of national peculiarity and artistical caprice.
Looking comparatively but a few years back, we find certain distinctive systems of musical composition invariably pursued by the Italian, German, and French composers. In the Italian school, music relied foreffect on the most obvious modulations, the simplest progressions, and harmonic arrangement. The French aspired to revolutionize the science, and employ the powers of music in the excitation of lofty and sublime emotions. The resources of art were made subservient to declamatory passion. What seemed mere pastime to the Italians and French, the Germans made matter of serious and laborious investigation. Hence resulted those profound revelations of harmony, which the master spirits of that country introduced with such extraordinary effect into their romantic as well as their classical productions. The present reigning style of musical composition in these countries partakes largely of the characteristics of the three great schools blended together. The Germans are rising from the depth of an ideal science, and turning from the pursuit of an erratic illumination, incline to adopt the classic regularity and high polish of the Italians, and combine intellectual melody with rich and masterly instrumentation. The Italians, whilst they have preserved their fine fluency of expressive melody, avail themselves so freely of the results of German research, that their music is daily assuming more and more of a scientific and elaborate character. The French adhere no longer to their stilted ideas of unities and declamation. Their composers have found an easy access to the lively national sensibility, by uniting the graces of melody and harmony, and retaining only a spice of their old predilection for noisy and ostentatious brilliancy. Everything denotes an amalgamation of national characteristics, and the formation of a standard of excellence amongst the three European nations where music has been fostered into its present flourishing condition. In this we perceive a tardy, as yet, an imperfect recognition by each of certain peculiar merit in the other, and a consciousness of deficiency, uncertainty, and error in whatever of system may be possessed in common by all three. The vanishing distinction and growing approximation of these national schools
are not confined to characteristic peculiarities of style and genius, but extend in almost an equal degree to the details and methods of harmonisation. They are evidently converging to a common centre, and are cach in the efforts of its individual masters, in search of fixed and natural principles of music, which may afford them a common basis of composition. At this juncture, the Geneuphonic system of Virués y Spinola is introduced seasonably, and therefore with the certainty of undergoing an adequate and impartial iuvestigation.
The perplexities, contradictions, mysteries, and profound ab. surdities which embarrass the student in his efforts to arrive at some distinct perception of musical truth, and laws of composition deduced from ascertained principles, through the mass of volumes which profess to teach the science of counterpoint and thorough bass, are well known for the difficulties which they represent, although they are regarded by most of the uninitiated as sublime abstractions, to be comprehended only by intellect and genius approaching to the divine. We call the attention of the reader to a few samples out of thousands of the temper in which musical science as it now stands is treated by the ablest theorists of modern times.
Bacon, in his History of Music, observes, “ That the theory is reduced to certain mystical subtleties, of which the application and truth have nothing either constant or certain." De Momigny, in the Preface to his Dictionary of Music of the Methodical Encyclopædia, exclaims, “What is tiresone is the continual battles I am obliged to fight against so many doctrines opposed to the truth which this science contains, and where the erroneous ideas of Rameau, D'Alembert, of the Abbé Feytou, and of many others are collected, and in which are gathered, in spite of judgment and experience, all that is known as being false. I pity those who have stupidity enough to stuff their minds with this nonsense; they are far less advanced than those who never opened a book of theory.”
But Engelbach, in the preface to his English Translation of F. Schneider's Elements of Musical Harmony and Composition, details at greater length the difficulties which the luckless student has to encounter:-"A want of simple and luminous principles bas for ages impeded the progress and diffusion of musical science. Concealed and overwhelmed as it lay, and still
remains in a great degree, under loads of scholastic rubbish, the heap has been stirred and raked up by the thousands of plodding votaries, most of whom have carried away the rubbish triumphantly; thinking that with a smattering of a few illunderstood Gothic technicalities, they had brought off the very substance and essence of the art. Delighted with the delusive treasure, they thought that the mystery of harmony consisted of a multitude of arbitrary and gratuitous rules, in the knowledge of a great variety of hard names of chords, and in the capability of designating these by a motley cornbination of figures heaped up above each other, without system and without reference to the true principles of the harmonic science.
The renowned Albrechtsberger, in his Introduction to his Treatise on Harmony and Counterpoint, observed that his only aim in undertaking that work, was to endeavour to fill up the numerous vacancies, and to put an end to the numerous contradictions which were to be met with in all the theoretical works on the harmonical science which had come to his knowlege. But the endeavours of this great theorist were as fruitless and unsuccessful as those of his predecessors and contemporaries. We do not underrate the efforts or depreciate the authority of Albrechtsberger, but we must not fall into the error of believing that he succeeded in any great degree in the task that he had undertaken. He did not render his interesting subject less abstruse than he had himself found it; he did not correct any of those errors which were adopted by previous writers, and which unfortunately time had consecrated. Gottfried Weber, in his “ Theory of Musical Composition, treated with a view to a naturally Consecutive Arrangement of Facts,” in deploring such a state of the science, candidly avows that his own efforts were inadequate to supply the lamentable deficiencies which had so long existed, and almost despairs of ever arriving at a fundamental principle, or principles, upon which to ground a precise and luminous theory. He says, “My work is by no means, as many may suppose, intended to be a system in the philosophico-scientific sense of that term,by no means a combination of truths, all derived in the manner of logical sequence from one grand fundamental principle. On the contrary, it is one of the most radical features of my view, that the musical art is not susceptible of such a systematic establishment, or at least it has thus far failed of proving itself to be 50. The little truth which we have as yet discovered in the realm of musical composition consists merely in a number of experiments and observations upon the good or bad effect of this or that combination of tones. But an attempt to derive these facts of experience, in a logically consecutive manner, from any one leading principle, and to reduce them to the form of a philosophical science, to a system, has always thus far, as I have already had but too frequent occasion to remark in the course of this treatise, been destined only to a signal defeat."
We find that the despair of Weber, to ascertain, by his own research, any fixed and fundamental law or natural truth in music, led him to a dogmatic denial that such truth could be discovered, or even had existence. The most ancient, as well as the most modern, writers on the art, betray but more vaguely and with less candour a consciousness of their own inability to elicit the natural truth, to eliminate a constant, unquestionable law, or to extract from all the existing examples even one rule of endurable, nay, even of general, application. Every student, every professor, knows too well and at too much cost, the impossibility of arriving at any clear or consistent view of principles in melody, or scientific method in harmonization from all the elementary treatises in use, let him compare with what labour and patience he may their obscurities and contradictions, and the ill-disguised perplexities of the authors. But in this work of Virués are the fundamental laws and natural truths of music produced, confirmed, and illustrated, made easy of comprehension and observance. If they cannot be accepted with faith, let them, at least, be examined with impartiality. The fact will soon appear, and plainly, that they have been intuitively felt and practically observed, although but obscurely recognized by every composer who has attained the dignity of master. It will be found that the means are at length presented of inventing melody and constructing harmony, with certainty and with confidence in the truths of the principles and the accuracy of the laws upon which henceforth the student may proceed, either to criticize or to compose.
In fact, the science of music has not sufficiently been considered in a philosophical point of view in modern times. Too much musty lore, too many conventional phrases and terms, and too much bigotry, have impeded the march of reason in this beautiful science. To remove these encumbrances was a task
that required in no ordinary degree sagacity and clear-sightedness, not only to detect fallacy, but to create afresh a new foundation whereon to ground a new system, more simple in its forms, and shorter and clearer in its demonstrations. No ultimate advantage can be derived from a new system unless it possess these qualifications. It will be evident that any attempt made towards gaining this end is deserving of great consideration and respect, even had such a task been undertaken by an ordinary individual. But, happily for the interests of the musical science, a poet, a philosopher, a statesman, and a distinguished military commander, considered that such an enterprise was worthy of his great powers. He had in his youth studied all the known works on harmony without finding a single satisfactory theory, and, reflecting on the deficiency, he formed the idea of closely examining natural truths, and considered whether mathematics could or could not be brought to assist him in his investigations. The account De Virués y Spinola gives of his own labours is instructive and entertaining., and will be found in the introduction to the volume.
The result of these labours is the GENEUPHONIC GRAMMAR, in which is reduced to one natural principle all the laws in music, and a system raised up, so well digested, that it admits of no contradictions, exceptions, or licences.
By order of the King of Spain, the manuscript of the Geneuphony was examined by a commission of several celebrated composers. The award of the commission was, “ That the new system is the first work that has truly revealed the secrets of nature as to what constitutes, produces, and regulates harmony; the first work in which the law of euphony is made evident and rationally explained, and in which the separation and difference between dissonance and cacophony is clearly marked and rendered naturally obvious and susceptible to all.” The purport of this award, the universality of the principle, was demonstrated in an assembly of fifty-four composers, professors, and enlightened dilettanti. Rossini so approved of the award, that he composed extempore in the Conservatory at Madrid, in the presence of both masters and pupils, a canon in four parts as an example of the rules found in this volume. The Grammar became the class-book in the Conservatory at Madrid, and has since obtained the approbation of several distinguished theorists and professors, among whom Fetis, Halevy, Zimmerman, Boildieu, Berton,