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MONTHLY BELLE ASSEMBLÉE.
A SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF MUSIC, FROM THE
BY A MUSICAL GRADUAT E.
or profane history has traced the events of former [The following outline of the history of the Music
times, music has appeared, like the dove of of the Ancients has been extracted from the under
promise to the ark, to soothe the days of man; mentioned works, so far as possible in the words
and by its genial influence to quell the stormy of the respective authors :-The Histories of Music / passions of his heart, and soften and humanize of Dr. Burney, Sir John Hawkins, Nathan. | his nature. The most ancient mention of music, Hogarth, and Stafford, and the papers upon
or musical instruments, is in the Bible, where, Greck and Roman Music in Dr. Sunith's Dictionary we are told, when the sacred writer is enumerof Antiquities. The Compiler has thought it bet ating the posterity of Cain, that “Jubal was the ter to make this general acknowledgment of his father of all such as handle the harp and the authorities than to interrupt his sketch by too | organ” (Gen. iv. 21); and well may we imagine frequent a reference to the originals, and the use that when he of inverted commas. ]
“struck the corded shell, There is, perhaps, scarcely any subject in the
His list’ning brethren closed around, whole range of literature, which has called forth And wond'ring, on their faces fell, a larger amount of curious and erudite research
To worship the celestial sound : than the history of music. And yet, notwith- Less than a god they thought there scarce could dwell standing the labours of learned men, hardly a
Within the hollow of that shell, single fact can be gathered from the volumes That spoke so sweetly and so well.” upon volumes which have been written upon the
Dryden's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day. subject, which can be of any practical use to musicians of the present day, or to those | The invention of instruments at this early age amateurs who cultivate the art merely from a of the world, implies the previous existence of love of it, as it at present exists. These works. vocal music; for instruments have always been however, contain a great deal of information devised for the purpose of imitating the melorespecting the customs and manners of the
dious accents of the human voice : the earliest ancients; for ancient music was so intimately music, therefore, as nature and reason point out, connected with poetry, mythology, government,
| must have been entirely vocal. What was the manners, and science in general, that it is almost nature of the instruments invented by Jubal impossible to separate it wholly from them; and can only be matter of conjecture; for the words to attempt to do so (says Dr. Burney)," seemed “harp and organ," used in our translation of to me like taking a single figure out of a group the Scriptures, are not to be held as meaning the in an historical picture." Any deviation, there
instruments now known by these names. The fore, which may be made from the main topic of translators of the Bible into modern languages, this discourse must be understood to have arisen knowing nothing of their real forms and profrom the difficulty of isolating the history of perties, appear to have given them the names of music from the general history of times and such as were of the most common use in their manners with which it is interwoven.
own countries. The Septuagint, instead of The history of the world itself is scarcely “harp and organ," has “ psaltery and cithara," more ancient than the history of music. From and the French translation of the passage, the remotest period at which the pen of sacred “violin and organ,” though there is no reason
to suppose that any instrument at all resembling, ideas of sound, as time, and the accumulated the violin was known prior to the middle ages. observation of succeeding ages, could not fail to
Though no other authentic record exists of improve into a system. Ancient authors supthe state of music in the antediluvian period of pose that mankind took their first notions of the world besides that given by Moses, we can- music from the singing of birds, and that the not err in supposing that some progress was origin of wind-instruments might be traced to made in the art in the 1,600 years which elapsed the wind whistling through reeds." The followbetween the Creation and the Deluge; and ing translation of a passage from “ Lucretius,” though the Flood swept away all its glory and quoted by Sir J. Hawkins, expresses the opinions grandeur, it is very improbable that Noah and alluded to, and seems too important to be his family were ignorant of the arts and sciences omitted :taught before that event; and, accordingly, we
“ Through all the woods they heard the charming find that tradition carries back the invention of
noise many arts to the period when that patriarch Of chirping birds, and tried to frame their voice, lived upon the earth; and it has been supposed And imitate. Thus birds instructed man, that we see in him the original of more than one And taught them songs before their art began; of the deities of Egypt and of Greece.
And whilst soft evening cales blew o'er the plains, It seems to have been a very common practice And shook the sounding reeds, they taught the with antiquity to attribute to the gods all the
swains; discoveries and inventions to which there were ! And thus the pipe was form’d, and tuneful reed." no lawful claimants among mortals. And though The different tones of sounding strings must we may now venture to doubt the marvellous have been observed very early, and thus have facts which have been so seriously related by the given birth to stringed instruments ; whilst most respectable historians of Greece and Rome, instruments of percussion, such as tabors and yet we must allow that the giving the invention drums, probably originated from the sonorous of music and musical instruments to the gods, ringing of hollow bodies when struck. As in proves them to have been of the most remote the first conception these instruments were antiquity, and held in the highest estimation by clumsy and imperfect, so the first attempts to such as bestowed upon them so honourable an elicit music from them must have been rude origin. But, in speaking of the invention of and artless in the highest degree, and such as music, it must be understood that the art or would afford little pleasure to the musician of practice alone is implied. It is an absurdity to the present day. In their early efforts, we can consider harmony as the invention of man. easily fancy the inventors themselves amazed at "Nature,” says Dr. Burney, “ seems to have the effect produced, and starting with surprise furnished human industry with the first princi- or fright, ples of every science; for what is Geometry but the study and imitation of those proportions by
“ E'en at the sound themselves had made." which the world is governed ? Astronomy, but ré- Rough and discordant, however, to modern flecting upon and calculating the motion, dis- ears, as the music of the ancient world must tances, and magnitude of those visible but have been, its existence and influence are to be wonderful objects which nature has placed in traced in the records of every people, from the our view? Theology, but contemplating the earliest ages, and are perceptible, at the present works of the Creator, adoring Him in His time, in every quarter of the globe ; and, though attributes, and meditating on the revelations of we must receive, in a merely allegorical sense, His will? Medicine, but the discovery and use of the miraculous stories of music which abound what inferior beings instinctively find in every in classical authors, we are constrained to admit wood and field through which they range, when that the simple existence of such fables as that the animal economy is disordered by accident or of Amphion building cities by his harmony intemperance? Assisted, however, by the princi- alone, and Orpheus suspending the course of ples of natural harmony, we cannot suppose rivers, and causing the most rugged rocks to that the art or practice was invented by any one follow him, is an incontestible proof of the man; for music, equally with every other science, enormous influence of the art over the feelings must have had its infancy, childhood, and and passions of men; assisted, as it invariably youth, previous to the attainment of maturity. was in those early times, by the sister art of The first house was doubtless a cavern, or a | Poetry. hollow tree; and the first picture, a shadow. | In tracing the antiquity of music, we necesEven temples at first were so small that the gods sarily revert to the annals of Egypt. From the could hardly stand upright in them! yet it has testimony of the most ancient and respectable hisbeen thought necessary, in histories of architec- torians, it appears that every art and science ture and painting, to celebrate the inventors of originally emanated from this fertile source of those arts. Thus in music. The voices of knowledge and civilization. But, independently animals, the whistling of the winds, the fall of of this evidence, the stupendous and splendid waters, the concussion of bodies of various remains of grandeur and refinement to be found kinds, and especially the melody of birds, as in Egypt, such as no other country possesses, they all contain the essential rudiments of bar- furnish the most indisputable proofs of the exmony, may easily be supposed to have furnished tremely high antiquity of its religion, governthe minds of intelligent creatures with such | ment, arts, and civil policy.
A Sketch of the History of Music, from the Earliest Times.
To the music of the Egyptians, therefore, we, all the most ancient female divinities of paganwill first direct our attention.
ism; as the sun, under that of Osiris, does the This wonderful people appear to have been male. formed into a powerful kingdom, at a reriod! Tradition is said to point at Ham, or one of when the ancestors of the Jews were confined | his sons, as the first who led a colony into to the single family of Jacob. Even then they | Egypt; and some writers suppose that Noah appear, from the Book of Genesis, to have been reigned there, identifying that patriarch with far advanced in civilization; possessed, of course, | Osiris, to whose secretary Mercury, or Hermes, of music, as well as those arts which belong surnamed “ thrice illustrious," the invention of more exclusively to polished life. The inven- | the lyre is ascribed. tion of geometry was assigned to them; and, of the several ancient writers who have menthat architecture was known, in a grand ard tioned this circumstance, the account given by magnificent style, much earlier than in other Apollodorus is considered the most intelligible parts of the world, is certain, from the wonder- and probable. “ The Nile," says this writer, ful remains of it still subsisting in the pyra-“ after having overflowed the whole country of mids, of which the antiquity was so remote, in Egypt, when it returned within its natural the days of Herodotus, the oldest historian of bounds, left on the shore a great number of Greece, [B.C. 485.) that he could neither dis- | dead animals of various kinds, and ainongst the cover the time of their construction, nor procure rest a tortoise, the flesh of which being dried an explanation of the bieroglyphics they con and wasted by the sun, nothing was left within tained, though he travelled through that country the shell but nerves and cartilages, and these expressly in search of historical information. being braced and contracted by desiccation,
Dr. Burney, with his customary research, has were rendered sonorous. Mercury, in walking extracted from several ancient writers what may along the banks of the Nile, happening to strike be deemed to be the substance of all they have his foot against the shell of this tortoise, was so recorded concerning music. Three of these, I pleased with the sound it produced, that it sugPythagoras, Herodotus, and Plato, travelled | gested to him the first idea of a lyre, which he into Egypt with a view of getting acquainted afterwards constructed in the form of a tortoise, with the arts and sciences that flourished there; and strung it with the dried sinews of dead and as the latter was particularly attached to animals.”". music, it is natural to suppose that his inquiries Such is the most credible account of the would be judicious, and his account of it accu- origin of the lyre; and although, judging from rate. The following is a portion of the quota-analogy, it might be supposed that the invention tion, given by Burney, from the Dialogues of of the flute or pipe would precede that of the Plato :" The plan which we have been laying lyre, yet it is by no means improbable that the down,” says that philosopher, “ for the educa- | invention of the lyre may be attributed to some tion of youth, was known long ago to the such adventitious cause as Mercury stumbling Egyptians, viz. that nothing but beautiful forms, on a dried tortoise-shell. and fine music, should be permitted to enter Athenæus, a learned writer of the third ceninto the assemblies of young people. * * * tury, ascribes the invention of the flute to Other things practised among them may, per- Osiris himself; and Kircher supposes that the haps, be blameable; but what they ordained | Egyptians very early formed flutes and pipes about music is right; and it deserves consi- from the rushes which grew upon the shores of deration, that they were able to make laws about the Nile. The instrument thus formed would things of this kind, firmly establishing such me- be the monaulos, or single pipe, which was unlody as was fitted to rectify the perverseness of doubtedly originally a reed; but they had also nature. This must have been the work of the the photinx, or crooked flute, an instrument Deity, or of some divine man; as, in fact, they shaped like a bull's horn; the idea of which, say in Egypt, that the music which has been so Dr. Burney imagines, was “not only suggested long preserved, was composed by Isis, and the by the horns of dead animals, but that the poetry likewise."
| horns themselves were long used as musical An extract from Herodotus, after describing instruments.” the manner in which the tabor and pipe were ! The other Egyptian instruments were the used at the festivals of Diana, tells us, " that in trigonum, or triangular harp, said to be of the processions of Osiris, or Bacchus, the Egyp- | Phrygian invention ; the psaltery; and the tian women carry the images, singing the praises sistrum, which served instead of a trumpet in of the god, preceded by a flute."
war. The worship of the sun, moon, and stars, There is little agreement among ancient seems to have been the beginning of idolatry writers, either with respect to the form of the everywhere, as well as in Egypt, and to have original harp, or lyre of Hermes, or the number laid the foundation of those systems of poly- of its strings, some giving it only three; an theism which prevailed in that country, and in acute, a mean, and a grave sound, correspondGreece.
| ing to summer, spring, and winter, the three The Isis and Osiris of Egyptian mythology seasons recognized by the Egyptians. may be proved to have been the originals of Hermes is said not only to have been the innearly every other deity of antiquity. For the ventor of the lyre, but also of a system of music moon, or Luna, under the name of Isis, means | adapted to it; and amongst the titles of no less
than forty-two different works ascribed to him, his neck and arms are also bare; his loose wide by his countrymen, (a startling number, even sleeves are gathered above the elbows; his head in the present day,) was one on the “nature is close shaved; he seems a corpulent man, and and properties of sounds, and the use of the about fifty years of age, in colour rather of the lyre."
darkest for an Egyptian. To guess by the deWhat kind of effect was produced from these tail of the figure, the painter should have had instruments we can only conjecture; most likely about the same degree of merit with a good sounds horribly discordant to cultivated ears, sign-painter in Europe ; yet he has represented accustomed to modern refinements; but, though the action of the musician in a manner never to we know so little about them, and still less of be mistaken. His left hand seems employed in the music performed on them, we are assured the upper part of the instrument among the by credible history, that the art was held in the notes in allo, as if in an arpeggio ; while, stoophighest repute by the Egyptian people that ing forwards, he seems with his right hand to both its theory and practice were extensively be beginning with the lowest string, and prodiffused amongst them-and that music was re- mising to ascend with the most rapid execution ; garded as the gift of inspiration, and was appro- this action, so obviously rendered by an indifpriated to the service, and dedicated to the ho ferent artist, shows that it was a common one in nour of those fabulous deities, by whose kind his time, or in other words, that great hands ness it was supposed to have been imparted to were then frequent, and consequently, that music man.
was well understood, and diligently followed.” Some pieces of Egyptian antiquity, having re Mr. Bruce then goes on, at greater length than ference to our subject, still exist, both at Rome, we are able to cite, to describe the construction and at Thebes, in Upper Egypt; from which it of the instrument, and accompanies his descripmay be inferred, that the music of that country tion with a figure of the harp. According to must have been, like other arts, in a great mea- his representation, it closely resembles the harp sure lost, before it began to be cultivated by the of the present day, and is as elegant in form Greeks.
and rich in ornament as those which are seen One of these is an Egyptian pillar, brought to in our drawing-rooms. Taken in proportion Rome by Augustus, and still to be seen there, with the size of the performer, it must have in the Campus Martius. On this pillar, which been about six feet and a half in height, with is supposed by the most learned antiquaries to thirteen strings ; which must not only from its have been erected by Sesostris, nearly 400 years size have afforded powerful tones, but a scale of before the Trojan war, [B. c. 1585], there is a considerable extent. Mr. Bruce concludes his representation of a musical instrument of two letter with the following observations:-“ This strings, and having a neck somewhat resembling harp overturns all the accounts of the earliest the modern lute. Now the contrivance of giving state of ancient music and instruments in to stringed instruments a neck, or finger-board, Egypt, and is altogether, in its form, ornaby which one string may be made to produce a ments, and compass, an incontestible proof, series of notes by the pressure of the different stronger than a thousand Greek quotations, fingers, was totally unknown to the Greeks; that geometry, drawing, mechanics, and music, and this method of increasing the powers of were at the greatest perfection when the harp stringed instruments was one of the circum- was made, and that what we think in Egypt stances which contributed most essentially to was the invention of arts, was only the beginthe advancement of modern music. The posses- ning of the era of their restoration.” sion by the Egyptians of this most important. However great was the splendour of the expedient, and its being unknown to the Greeks, Egyptian monarchy, and the perfection of their would lead to the inference, that, as the Egyp- arts and sciences, in ages of which nothing is tians had an instrument so much more perfect known, it appears that this splendour had dethan any of those known to the Greeks, they cayed, and those arts and sciences had been possessed a kind of music corresponding to the lost, before any Grecian author whose writings superior powers of this instrument.
are extant had acquired any personal knowledge Another piece of Egyptian antiquity was dis- of that country. It is highly probable that at covered by Mr. Bruce, and is minutely described one period Egypt contained records, extending by him in a letter to Dr. Burney. It is a draw-up to its earliest existence; but these were ing of a musical instrument, in an ancient se- destroyed by the Persians, under Cambyses, pulchre adjoining to the ruins of Thebes. After who, about 525 B.C., subdued Egypt, overdescribing the sepulchre, and its indications of throwing the temples in which the records were a very remote antiquity, Mr. Bruce gives an ac- deposited, and slaying the priests. Amidst the count of the picture in the following remarkable general wreck of their learning and magnificence, terins :-“ At the end of the passage on the both their music and musical instruments were left-hand, is the picture of a man playing upon lost; until, under the Ptolemies, music, together the harp, painted in fresco, and quite entire. He with the other arts of Greece, were brought is clad in a flowing habit, such as the women into Egypt, and encouraged at the court of still wear in Abyssinia, and the men in Nubia. Alexandria, more than at any other place in the This seems to be white linen or muslin, with known world, till the captivity and death of narrow stripes of red. It reaches down to his Cleopatra ; an event which terminated both the ancles; his feet are without sandals, and bare ; | empire and history of the Egyptians.
A Sketch of the History of Music, from the Earliest Times.
A very few words will suffice to conclude, that I might have sent thee away with mirth and this part of our subject; for, from that period, with songs, with tabret and with harp ?" the cultivation of music was neglected, and Laban was a Syrian; so that the tabret and finally prohibited by the government. “The harp should be ranked among Assyrian instrusound of instruments,” says an old writer," was ments. not heard in their temples, but their sacrifices After this time the Sacred Text furnishes no were made in silence"-a state of things quite musical incident till 1491 B.C., when we have consonant with a state of slavery; for though the first song, or psalın of triumph to the not, like the Jews, in a strange land, yet, like Supreme Being, upon record; composed by them, they had “hung their harps upon the Moses, after the passage of the Red Sea (Exodus willows.”
xv. 1). “Then sang Moses and the children of In later times, the music of Egypt has been Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saythe music of its various masters; and at pre- | ing—'I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath sent it appears to partake of the properties of triuinphed gloriously : the horse and his rider that of Turkey and Arabia.
| hath he thrown into the sea.'”
Moses is seconded, on this occasion, by As the early history of the ancient Hebrews, Miriam, the Prophetess, who took a timbrel in from its high antiquity, can receive no illustration her hand; "and all the women went out after from contemporary historians, or from human her, with timbrels and with dances.” And testimony, but few materials of importance can Miriam answered them—“Sing ye to the Lord !" be acquired relating to their music, except what &c. Here is an early instance of women being the Bible itself contains. It will, therefore, be permitted to bear a part in the performance of our business to exainine, in chronological order, religious rites, as well as of vocal music being sore few of the numerous passages, contained accompanied by instruments and by dancing. in the Old Testament, which relate to the pro- The trumpet of the Jubilee is likewise orgress of music, and which have been collected dered to be sounded so soon after the flight and arranged by the industry of more than one from Egypt that it is likely to have been an musical historian.
Egyptian instrument. (Leviticus xxv. 9). That the Hebrews were a very musical people St. Stephen, in his defence, says, “ that Moses, appears from every part of the Old Testament; having been educated by Pharaoh's daughter as and all that has been hitherto collected from her own son, was learned in all the wisdom of other sources, relative to their music, shews that the Egyptians." And Clemens Alexandrinus it was in general use amongst them, from the (quoted by Dr. Burney) particularizes his actime of their quitting Egypt, till they ceased to quirements by affirming that he was instructed be a nation; but what kind of music it was, in his maturer age by the Egyptians in all liberal with which they were so much delighted, no sciences, as Arithmetic, Geometry, Rythm, Harmeans are now left to determine ; for the Jews | mony, but, above all, Medicine and Music. had no characters peculiar to music, and the Nations, in their infancy, have but little leisure melodies used in their religious ceremonies have for cultivating music, otherwise than as it is conat all times been entirely traditional, with the nected with religious rites and military concerns. exception of the chanting of the Bible, for Accordingly, we find no other musical instruwhich they have had characters about 1,300 ments mentioned, during the administration of years.
the great Hebrew legislator, than trumpets, exThe construction and use of musical instru- cept the timbrel used by Miriam. ments have a very early place among the in-| No further mention is made of music, till the ventions attributed to the first inhabitants of song of Deborah and Barak, which appears to the globe, by Moses. In the passage before have been sung in dialogue, unaccompanied by quoted we are distinctly told that Jubal, the instruments. sixth descendant from Cain, was “the father of About 50 years after this period, and 1161 all such as handle the harp and organ;" and B.C., the unfortunate daughter of Jephtha, upon this at once established the fact that there were hearing of her father's victory over the Amnother musicians as well as musical instrument-monites, went out to meet him with timbrels and makers, or he could not have been styled the with dances. father of all who handle the harp and organ. From this time till Saul was chosen king, That at the Deluge some arts were lost, and 1095 B.C., the Bible is wholly silent in regard others reduced to a state of second infancy, is to every species of music, with the exception of probable; yet it is equally possible that a science the trumpet in military expeditions. But here so pleasing and useful as inusic was not wholly an incident occurs which merits particular atneglected by Noah's family. No mention, how-tention. It is evident from many passages in ever, is made in the Scriptures of the practice of Scripture, that music was as nearly allied to music, till more than 600 years after the Flood. prophecy as to poetry. Samuel, after secretly But about 1739 B.C., according to the Hebrew anointing Saul king, and instructing him in chronology, both vocal and instrumental music the measures he is to pursue for establishing are familiarly spoken of, as things in common himself on the throne, proceeds, “ And it shall use (Gen. xxxi. 27). Laban, addressing Jacob, come to pass, when thou art come to the city says-“Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, (Bethel), that thou shalt meet a company of and steal away from me? and didst not tell me, prophets coming down from the high place,