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itants of life. To be without music is not a conceivable idea. The fine arts are indispensable with Italians. They are more needed and more sought than those comforts, which in England are prized as the first requisites for living. The Italians, to borrow the idea of a witty acquaintance, can get on without the necessaries of life ; but the luxuries are absolutely indispensable.
This want of a general capacity to enjoy music or to appreciate it, in England, is, we believe, more than any adventitious difficulty, the reason why they have no national music. It is not enough, that the art should be cultivated by the wealthy; that the opera should be munificently supported, and that foreign performers should carry away fortunes from the kingdom. We would give more for the chance of a national music in a country where the laborers sing at their toil, or join in chorus as they return from the fields, than in that which devotes millions to the building of opera-houses, and the importation of performers.
The assertion, that England has no music, ought undoubtedly to be qualified. In saying this, we mean, in the first place, that there is no music which, from its peculiar character, we pronounce unhesitatingly to be English.
We are never at a loss to distinguish Scottish music, or German, or Italian ; but what are the characteristics of English music ? In this sense, we consider that it does not exist. Again ; there is no class of composers belonging to England, whose works form a distinct musical literature. Hall a dozen writers of equal merit with Arne would have created such a literature ; but they are not to be found. Handel we do not rank as an English composer; were he so, England might indeed boast of her national music. Yet we must acknowledge, that, by adopting Handel's music so completely, the English have done all in their power to make it national. It is remarked in a notice of the Chevalier Neukomm, in the “ Musical Magazine,” that he learned fully to appreciate Handel's music only in England. We could only wish that a few succeeding composers had showed, or would yet show, that the style of Handel belongs to England peculiarly.
The nearest approach the English have made to a national music is perhaps in the cathedral chants and anthems. Here we think a peculiar and distinctly-marked style may be discerned ; and in this class of compositions are to be found many honored names. A notice of the “ Boston Anthem Book,” which appeared in a late number of the “ Musical Magazine,” gives a highly respectable catalogue of English composers of church music. Some of them lived in the early days of music ; as Richard Fevrant, who flourished in the former portion of the reign of Elizabeth, and William Bird, who was born about the year 1543, and whose famous canon, Non nobis, Domine, has been ascribed to Palestrina, the father of modern melody.
In speaking of the national music of England, it seems only just to cite a remark of the Earl of Mount Edgecombe, which appears in the “ Musical Magazine.” He says;
“ There is another species of composition more peculiarly our own, and which I should call our only national music ; Í mean glees, which differ from any thing I ever heard, and in their style cannot be excelled. Their harmony is so full, rich, and melodious, when executed, as they long were, by the Messrs. Knyvett, and the other performers accustomed to sing them together, that they completely gratify the ear; and he must be indeed fastidious, or greatly prejudiced, who cannot receive pleasure from their performance. — If the leading voice permits itself to wander from the strict melody of the air, in order to show grace or agility, as is too frequently the case when singers accustomed to other styles are called in, the effect is injured instead of improved, as the great beauty of those compositions is derived from the complete union and equality of all the voices, none preponderating, and from the simplicity of their execution. They then produce the effect of full chords struck on a finely-toned organ.”
Our conclusions are, then, that the English as a nation are less gifted with a sense of art than many other nations, and that this deficiency, connected with various adverse circumstances to be traced in the history and condition of the country, accounts for the want of a national music. At the same time we are of opinion, that, but for these adverse circumstances, English music would have at this time been in existence.
We have gone into a somewhat prolix discussion of the subject, from the connexion it has with the prospects of the art in this country.
If England has little music of her own, still less has America. We are the heirs of England ; if she had possessed a musical literature, it would have been equally our own. If her traditionary songs had been handed down from the days of Boadicea and Caractacus, they would now be heard along the Rocky Mountains. The same external causes which have crushed the growth of music in England, prevent our having any. And certainly, as far as we are the descendants of English ancestors, it is reasonable to suppose, that we are wanting in the faculties for comprehending and enjoying art, just as much as our relatives.
We come, then, to the interesting question with which we commenced ; What are the prospects for the growth of a national music in America ? Some of the considerations which have already been presented will help us to give an answer to this question. It is obvious, that the kind of music which we have termed traditionary, the rude, but strongly-marked airs of a romantic state of life, or the outpouring of universal enthusiasm, will never be known in America, unless some great and unforeseen causes of excitement should arise. We have received nothing of this kind from England, and we shall bequeath nothing to our posterity ; unless a future age shall be polite enough to dignify the great national airs of Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia with the title of traditionary music. The art, if it is ever to exist among us, must be of spontaneous growth.
Neither are our institutions better fitted to foster the art than those of England. The influence of any church upon the fine arts is less felt here than in the mother country. There is no rich and powerful institution of any kind to take the arts under its patronage. As the same time, we do not enjoy the same opportunity in this country of hearing fine music as in England. The Italian opera, the cathedral choirs, the musical festivals, show the English what good music is, if they do not firmly transplant it in that country. In our plain republic these advantages cannot be enjoyed.
The habits of our countrymen seem, if possible, even less suitable to favor the developement of art, than those of the English. All classes are here devoted to business; all are engaged in some active occupation, of a plain, practical character. There is no wealthy class devoted to enjoyment, none to whom the care of the national taste seems peculiarly recommended.
The obstacles to the formation of a musical literature in America are indeed formidable. But we do not consider the case entirely hopeless. There are several considerations, which lead us to believe, that the art may at no very remote period be found to flourish among us.
In the first place, if climate and scenery have any effect upon national character, this effect must be felt in America. Are the senses quickened by a burning sun, and the passionate beauty of a tropical climate ? Ours is the land of the cypress and myrtle;
us of the cedar and vine, Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine." Are the faculties keenest in the region of perpetual sunshine and temperate mildness ? Such too is America. Do the glories of a northern climate impart a portion of their arctic splendor to the mind ? We are sheltered beneath the crystal shield of winter. All the varieties of climate and scenery which are found in Europe, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the Orkney Islands, are comprehended within the boundaries of these United States. Certainly, if climate could create music, our hills and valleys would be vocal with song
Now the effect of this vast variety of climate, though it can never call forth music, will be powerfully felt hereafter, should the art ever be made to flourish among us. American music, if it ever exists in the true sense of the word, must be as varied, as copious, and as comprehensive, as the character of a people growing up under such widely differing influences.
We, as a nation, are marked by some peculiarities, which may, in the end, prove favorable to the growth of music among us. One of these is, the democratic spirit of the country. It may seem a strange assertion, that an art, which has ever been reared and fostered by wealth and aristocracy, can find a genial soil in this republic. Music, it will be said, is peculiarly at war with the spirit of democracy. There is not a more absolute monarch on the earth than the leader of an orchestra. The moment his divine right is disputed, the empire falls to destruction. For musicians, in the practice of their art, there can be none but an absolute autocracy, a pure despotism. And besides this, music is an expensive art. It is supported by princes. It depends upon the civil list. The aristocratic opera, the wealthy church, are the soil in which it best flourishes.
To this we answer, that music, to become national, must be received by the people at large. The opera, which is open for the wealthiest classes alone, which has no influence beyond its own walls, or the saloons of the aristocracy, is a mere hot-house plant. It belongs in no way to the nation ; and seldom or never will national performers be found on its boards, or national airs be heard within its precincts. A national opera must be only foremost in a long train of musical performances. The music must be echoed not merely within the walls of other theatres and the dainty drawing-room, but in the cottage of the laborer, in the workshop of the artist, in the market-place, in the streets, in the forecastle. And, more than this, the opera must not attempt or expect to be the creator of national music. It may lead, correct, and improve the public taste, but it can never create it. On the contrary, the opera must be the result of a national music already existing, and rising to the higher walks of the art.
No opera, we are certain, is supported more richly than that of London. The first performers in the world appear on its boards, and their harvest is gold. Great artists, the Pastas, the Malibrans, the Grisis, the Lablaches, the Pagapinis, carry away fortunes from England ; and yet all this does nothing towards cultivating a national music there. There is more hope, far more hope, that a national music will
grow out of the rude but fervent hymns, with which the overflowing congregations of Wesleyan Methodists rend the heavens, than that it will ever be reared by the opera, or the costly concerts of the nobility.
In America, music must be in a considerable degree popular. That is, it must be addressed essentially to the people. There is no wealthy class, distinctly preserved, of sufficient numbers to support the opera. The attempt was made, where alone it could succeed, if anywhere, in New York ; and there it failed. A favorite singer may occasionally come upon the American boards, and be received with enthusiasm ; but experience has fully proved, that the Italian opera cannot be supported in this country. There is no church establishment which would undertake the task of forming a national music, or which for any length of time would support any musical system. Music in America must be surrendered to the people, must be domiciled among them, must grow up among them, or it cannot exist at all.
The ference from this is, not that we are never to hear