S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Music, among those who were styled the chosen people, was a religious art. The songs of Sion, which we have reason to believe were in high repute among the courts of the Eastern monarchs, were nothing else but psalms and pieces of poetry that adored or celebrated the Supreme Being. The greatest conqueror in this holy nation, after the manner of the old Grecian lyrics, did not only compose the words of his divine odes, but generally set them to music himself: after which, his works, though they were consecrated to the tabernacle, became the national entertainment as well as the devotion of his people.
Tunes and airs have in themselves some affinity with the affections; as, merry tunes, doleful tunes, solemn tunes, tunes inclining mens minds to pity, warlike tunes; so as it is no marvel if they alter the spirits, considering that tunes have a predisposition to the motion of the spirits.
That which I have found the best recreation both to my mind and body, whensoever either of them stands in need of it, is music, which exercises at once both body and soul; especially when I play myself; for then, methinks, the same motion that my hand makes upon the instrument, the instrument makes upon my heart. It calls in my spirits, composes my thoughts, delights my ear, recreates my mind, and so not only fits me for after business, but fills my heart at the present with pure and useful thoughts; so that when the music sounds the sweetliest in my ears, truth commonly flows the clearest into my mind. And hence it is that I find my soul is become more harmonious by being accustomed so much to harmony, and so averse to all manners of discord that the least jarring sounds, either in notes or words, seem very harsh and unpleasant to me.
The meaning of song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect music has on us? A kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech, which leads us to the edge of the infinite, and lets us for moments gaze into that!
How sweetly doth this music sound in this dead season! In the daytime it would not, it could not, so much affect the ear. All harmonious sounds are advanced by a silent darkness: thus it is with the glad tidings of salvation: the gospel never sounds so sweet as in the night of preservation, or of our own private affliction; it is ever the same, the difference is in our disposition to receive it. O God, whose praise it is to give songs in the night, make my prosperity conscionable, and my crosses cheerful.
Again, in music, the Don Giovanni of Mozart, which is the admiration even of the direst pedant producible from the ranks of musical connoisseurs, is also the irresistible popular attraction which is always sure to fill the pit and gallery at the opera.
Above all, those insufferable concertos, and pieces of music, as they are called, do plague and embitter my apprehension.Words are something; but to be exposed to an endless battery of mere sounds; to be long a dying; to lie stretched upon a rack of roses; to keep up languor by unintermitted effort; to pile honey upon sugar, and sugar upon honey, to an interminable tedious sweetness; to fill up sound with feeling, and strain ideas to keep pace with it; to gaze on empty frames, and be forced to make the pictures for yourself; to read a book all stops, and be obliged to supply the verbal matter; to invent extempore tragedies to answer to the vague gestures of an inexplicable rambling mime,these are faint shadows of what I have undergone from a series of the ablest-executed pieces of this empty instrumental music.
Of all the liberal arts, music has the greatest influence over the passions, and is that to which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement. A well-composed song strikes and softens the mind, and produces a greater effect than a moral work, which convinces our reason, but does not warm our feelings, nor effect the slightest alteration in our habits.
It was customary, on some occasions, to dance round the altars whilst they sang the sacred hymns, which consisted of three stanzas or parts: the first of which, called strophe, was sung in turning from east to west; the other, named antistrophe, in returning from west to east; then they stood before the altar, and sung the epode, which was the last part of the song.