Music In The Evolution Of Civilization -- By: Matthew Nathanael Lundquist

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 080:317 (Jan 1923)
Article: Music In The Evolution Of Civilization
Author: Matthew Nathanael Lundquist

Music In The Evolution Of Civilization

Matthew N. Lundquist, Ph.D.

It claimed that music is the fourth necessity of life, and that the American people are rapidly approaching a full realization of this. This is a musical age. Such statements are undoubtedly true, although much of the music performed today in this country is very poor stuff, and many who attend concerts and musical entertainments do so simply to be up-to-date. During the most musical periods of time there are to be found many unmusical people, who are unable to take pleasure in musical art, because their ears are inaccessible to, and their imagination not fitted for, this kind of impression. For these people, however, the field of musical art need not be a marked off, and barred up territory; they may turn its riches to good account, if not directly for aesthetic gratification, then at least indirectly for theoretic education. Music may be considered not only as an art in itself, in relation to its own peculiar ideal and material, but also as an important factor in the evolution of civilization.

By way of introduction, before we take up the subject proper, let us refer to a name, which is of little or no importance in the field of musical composition, but is great in the field of literature of music, a name which ought to be mentioned in connection with that of Lessing, but is usually passed by with inequitable silence by the historians. Leading investigators of the 18th century have nothing to say about the dashing and original writings of Johann Mattheson, that strange fellow, precisian, charlatan, and great reformer, by his own time overestimated and despised, and by posterity forgotten. Yet Mattheson advanced theories long before the time of Winckelmann and Lessing, which have been incorrectly ascribed to the latter men. During the first half of the 18th century, at a time when the sturdy French classicalism ruled the world and the most absurd conceptions of the nature and object of music prevailed everywhere, Johann

Mattheson dared to talk about the political significance of music, urged a deeper study of the history of music, and referred those who desired to compose noble melodies to a serious study of the plastic art of classical antiquity. Lessing warned against the intermixture of foreign art-styles in painting, sculpture, etc., and Mattheson did the same thing with respect to music, and that much earlier and just as vigorously, if not as scientifically. Mattheson battled boldly against those sophistic musicians who endeavored to transfer the objects of poetry and painting over into music, who sought to interpret the content of Ovid’s Metaphors in instrumental symphonies, who endeavored to picture Saul’s madness by absurd harmonies an...

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