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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

   

 

THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC

Reflections of a Music Publisher

by ERNST ROTH

11. IS MUSIC STILL A GREAT ART?

I have tried to draw a picture of music today: of the intellectual, expressionless, unemotional serious music and the wild, ranting popular variety. Nobody would be so frivolous as to attribute the one to a mere whim and the other to reprehensible speculation. In both there is the same compulsion which has made the visual arts what they are today, and no disapproval can alter it. Even if a symphony in pure C major could be written today the public, indifferent to all types of new music, would reject it. I share the optimism of the young that our new music is the best music that can be produced in our time. There is no double-meaning or sarcasm in this statement. It is my honest belief

We are all more or less convinced that mankind in general is steadily becoming more and more efficient, if not necessarily better. Particularly since the Second World War efficiency has made great strides, and even in the Far East the age-old stagnation has been broken once and for all. The thinking man may be tormented by the suspicion that too much knowledge inhibits wisdom. But knowledge grows and accumulates inexorably, and never with greater fervour than in our time.

Not so the arts, which long ago grew up to maturity and ever since then have changed but not developed. It may be said that maturity in the arts is purely external-mastery of the means, better chisels to work the stone, better colours to paint with, a wider vocabulary and better syntax to express thoughts more clearly and in greater detail. Once all this is achieved there are no more worlds for the arts to conquer. Biology binds the present to the past, history strives to cancel the past. It would be idle to compare Henry Moore with Praxiteles, whose artistic experience is as unwelcome today as any artistic experience of our time will be to future generations. In extreme periods the arts behave as if they had no traditions at all.

Just as there is no process of development but only a process of change, so there is no steady rate of advance either. Our comforts have increased enormously in this twentieth century. Innumerable things, both large and small, in our daily life are better, in the true sense of the word, than they ever were before. But the brain which understands quantum mechanics is in no way better than the brain which conceived the Metaphysics. Both progress in our material life and change in the arts need inspiration; and inspiration, which is derived from a variety of circumstances, is not always the same, not always equally strong, not always aimed at the same objects or at the same manner of expression. And as the arts, more than any other human manifestation, are the work of pure inspiration, their quality and standards vary from age to age. I have hinted at one reason for rising or falling artistic standards: the balance between inspiration and skill. There are others, too.

In the other arts those fluctuations in standard are instantly recognizable. One has only to think of Elizabethan England and Philip's Spain, of France under Louis XIV, of German literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and compare them with other periods, to find that it is not the fortuitous appearance of one single genius which decides the level of an art. At certain times a collective flowering of talent and ingenuity produces a general climate wherein the arts thrive. At other times talent seems diffuse, so that even the best cannot scale the highest peaks. This is no regular or predictable rhythm. Beneath the surface of easy explanations, there are deep and unexplored causes which raise the fateful question: how and when does genius arise? Is it eternal and omnipresent, waiting for the propitious moment to summon it forth, or is it created by favourable circumstances and destroyed by adverse conditions?

The example of the other arts cannot easily be applied to music. I must again revert to the strange phenomenon that for thousands of years we know little more about it than that it did exist and enjoyed great respect and affection. But we do not know the works of antiquity, or if we think we know them we cannot appreciate them. What kind of music was taught in that music school which is so minutely depicted on an Attic phial of the fourth century BC? There can be no reasonable doubt that music, despite its divine origin and the reverence which credited it with supernatural powers, did not produce works which could compete in intention or achievement with the apparently immortal works of poetry and the visual arts.

European man already had a rich artistic heritage when music first began to emerge from that anonymity which is invariably a sure sign of imperfection. Not until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries did the first uncertain outlines of individual personalities become recognizable: the School of Notre Dame in Paris, Leoninus and Perotinus the Great. From then on there developed a craftsmanship which tends to make all music uniform.

In spite of the prestige which the music of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries has acquired in our historically minded time, it was a craft, the special craft of Lowlanders, not so very far removed from the special craft of making swords and daggers in Damascus or Toledo. This music, consisting of short, uniform, cleverly composed pieces, was a small art but a great skill. It is worth remembering that the famous Binchois and still more famous Dufay were contemporaries of Brunellesco and Donatello; and that Josquin lived at the same time as Leonardo and Raphael. This shows the difference in size and scope between the two arts. No historian can persuade us that any work of these greatest composers of their time compares with the cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore or Gattamelata's equestrian statue. Jacob Burckhardt has called the figures in Leonardo's 'Last Supper' the first-born sons of perfect art. Who could pay such a tribute to any of the music sung in Santa Maria delle Grazie while Leonardo was painting his mural next door? At that period-a time of widespread spiritual and artistic excitement-music was a favourite pastime, one of the sophisticated amenities of the day. Vasari recounts how Leonardo himself began to study music, and then took to the lute, to the accompaniment of which he could improvise beautiful songs; or how Giorgione enjoyed the pleasures of music, singing and playing so beautifully that men of substance invited him to take part in their music festivals. This is not the way of immortality.

Not until the middle of the sixteenth century was the first faint breath of change felt in the art of music. Was it Arcadelt's 'Ave Maria', which, three hundred years later, Liszt heard in Rome with such emotion? It is a simple piece, indeed one of the simplest of the time, which in its thirty-three bars (in modern notation) repeats five times a melodic phrase that has already something of the purely melodic invention of later times. Or was Palestrina the Beato Angelico of music, drawing the sweet face of a melody into the rigid folds of counterpoint? At the end of the century there began the greatest evolution in the history of music of which we have knowledge. We can read how, in the seventeenth century, all the old artificiality was abandoned piece by piece, how individuality superseded stereotyped convention, the soloist emerged from the chorus, and instrumental music freed itself from texts and words. This is no longer the music of craftsmen from the Lowlands. It becomes Italian, it begins in that same Florence where, two hundred and fifty years earlier, the brightest light of the Christian era had risen. This may be mere coincidence but one would hesitate to call it chance that it happened in Italy. For the spirit which created this new music was mysteriously akin to the spirit of Italian Renaissance.

This great spectacle of a newly blossoming art has such striking similarities with the development of the visual arts and poetry and learning that a comparison reveals what we may call the 'mechanics' of the rise and fall of a spiritual movement.

In the thirteenth century there is hardly any indication of a widespread genius for the visual arts in any of the Italian cities and provinces. The most accomplished works of Romanesque art, the Cathedral and Baptistry in Pisa, are probably the work of northern artists, Gulielmus of Innsbruck and Rainaldus Bonannus, artist-craftsmen of whom little more is known than their unItalian names. Gothic art, a century later, also came from the north too, mostly from France, but one of the few Italian artists, Arnolfo di Cambio, gave it its first Italian flavour. With him, for no discernible reason, native talent begins to stir. Cimabue is still in the shadows, but beneath the rigid surface of his great Madonna in the Uffizi Gallery there are the first stirrings of a new and mysterious life. She no longer gazes into space as her Byzantine or Gothic predecessors did, but looks at you as if she wanted to say something to you but could not find the words. Giotto stands on the very threshold of this new life: here a figure lifts an arm, there it turns its head; here is an expression of amazement, there a gesture of dismay. Did it happen because the old authors were being read again? Because the Commedia Divina was being passed from hand to hand? One would like to believe that the old tomes in the Laurenziana, with their now illegible marginal notes, which were once the treasured property of Cosimo the Elder, are the source of that flash of lightning which split the darkness of conventional thinking. Yet the change remains unexplained.

It remains as unexplained as the change in music nearly three hundred years later, when Monteverdi discovered the individual human soul and stepped out of the uniformity of mannered craftsmanship into nature and naturalness.

Conditions of life were not altogether favourable to either movement. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the visual arts-and poetry and learning-grew up in the midst of wars and revolutions, acts of violence and tyranny. General physical insecurity surrounded the greatest upsurge of the European creative mind. But nothing, not even the recurrent outbreaks of the Black Death, could halt it. The arts in general, and none more so than painting, sculpture and architecture, are often accused of paying lip service to money. Poverty, it is true, has no inclination for embellishing life with unnecessary things, and architecture in particular needs munificent customers. In fact there was money everywhere where the arts flourished.

Sometimes this connection between art and money is quite obvious: in Pisa, for instance, the arts kept strict pace with the political and economic fortunes of the republic, and the defeat of Meloria marks the end of Pisan art proper. In Venice this was not so. When the arts there reached their peak the glory of the city and the fortunes of its great merchants were on the wane. After all, there were other countries and other places where there were money and good living: Paris, Vienna, Madrid or Augsburg, but these stimulants did not awaken the arts. What became a truly popular movement in Italy remained the private parish of a few artists and patrons north of the Alps. Perhaps the same urge which kindled enthusiasm for the arts in Italy produced the religious reformation in the North. Money may therefore be the necessary catalyst which brings enthusiasm and the arts together. The otherwise faintly disreputable soldiers of fortune in Italy, the signori and condottieri, the merchants and bankers, were not only ruthless and rapacious but also intent on surrounding themselves with artists and poets and scholars, so that between wars and business they might discuss with them the latest trends in art and learning, have palaces and churches built in the latest style, cover the walls with murals and pictures and fill their halls and gardens with sculptures. Today, when such private enthusiasts have vanished and the public treasury is plagued with hundreds of more practical and more important demands, it all sounds like a fairy-tale. But it created an atmosphere which reached into even the humblest dwellings.

On the other hand the genius for music was awakened in the conditions which are traditionally held responsible for the decline of the visual arts in Italy: the loss of national independence, the Spanish occupation, the counter-reformation. Everything which is said to have killed the one brought the other to life. This alone must point to a fundamental difference between music and the other arts. Whatever this difference may be, music is more self-sufficient and less demanding than the visual arts. But there must have been something that encouraged it-something that fired musical ingenuity. For the first time it achieved equality with the other arts.

This did not happen overnight, just as the Renaissance in Italy did not develop in one single generation. Both rose from a hesitant beginning to become a veritable flood of enthusiasm and achievement. In the visual arts there were at first a few masters tilling virgin soil. From generation to generation their numbers grew until they became an army, dozens of men of genius and hundreds of men of great talent, scattering the immeasurable treasure of their works all over the Western world. So deep into the constitution of men does this unexpected gift spread that, in the visual arts, it passed from fathers to sons, brothers, nephews, to whole families such as the Vivarinis, Bellinis, Robbias, Lombardis, Pollaiuolos, Ghirlandaios and Lippis and many others. Musical talent does not seem to have been so hereditary, and cases are rarer. The Bach family are the outstanding example, but it also happened with the Couperins and Scarlattis and with the Johann Strauss family.

In the seventeenth century it is music which, like the visual arts in the fifteenth, attracted the men of genius and talent. At the end of that century Italy was overflowing with music and musical enterprise-overflowing in the true sense, because music now captured the imagination of all Europe. Musicians from the North came to Italy in large numbers to learn this new music, Heinrich Schutz and later Handel among them. Italian musicians were to be found at European courts from Paris to St Petersburg. In the eighteenth century there were as many great composers as there were painters in the sixteenth. Was this new outburst of talent in one particular art not some kind of miracle? What brought it about? What created the public enthusiasm which accompanied it. Again, there is nothing in the environment to explain it. This was not an exceptionally prosperous or contented time. One can search in vain for any special conditions of life in those days which could be said to have promoted the musical gift. There was no material inducement such as, two hundred years before, had led even minor talents to painting or sculpture. The composer in those days never rose to the importance and opulence of his Renaissance colleagues, and a genius like Vivaldi could lie in an unknown grave while Michelangelo's remains were treated like those of a saint or a king.

Since then life and art have changed beyond description, but the excitement of these two great movements can still be felt and their light glows on the horizon of our existence. Every year thousands of people make the pilgrimage to those places where the revelation of the arts took place. A large industry has developed out of this latter-day reverence. A whole vocabulary of unforgettable gestures, postures, faces and expressions has engraved itself upon the European mind and has withstood all the changes of time and taste. And likewise the music of that glorious time fills the concert-halls and opera-houses of the world. It lives with us and is as familiar to us as if it expressed our own feelings no less than those of its first listeners and performers. It still seems natural to us although, as in the visual arts at their greatest period, the precious moment of first achievement is lost for ever.

We know, by comparing Renaissance art with the art of preceding and following periods, which qualities the arts had to acquire in order to become as great as they were at their best in the first quarter of the sixteenth century and which qualities they had to lose in order to decline again.

Which then are the qualities that music had to assume in order to achieve equality with the other arts, in order to rise from small beginnings and become a 'great' art, creating works destined not only for the moment but for the future of mankind.

The first step, no doubt, was the abandonment of an overcomplicated technique and a concentration on the contents-a simplification of 'how' and intensification of 'what'. Although there is only an ephemeral similarity between music and language the simplification of musical expression seems to correspond to a process philologists believe they can observe with languages. Modern philology says that simplicity of grammar is a sign of perfection. The language of the Eskimos is called primitive because it is complicated, using, for instance, different forms of a verb to indicate whether a man is alone or in the company of others; whether he is standing on a hill or on a plain, while the English language, with an almost rudimentary grammar, is capable of expressing the most difficult thoughts or observations in the shortest and most precise manner. Similarly, music escaped from an involved grammar and so could become simple and beautiful. This is the problem Italian music set itself in the seventeenth century, when it shed its contrapuntal complications and increasingly surrendered to the sheer beauty of sound. It entered the eighteenth century in full possession of a new and original power: from the melos of former times it had distilled 'melody'.

This new-found melody is, I believe, the greatest invention of musical genius. It is a purely musical creation, in the real meaning of the word-that is to say, something which does not exist unless and until it is created. Melody is the purest thing in all music. Rhythm depends on the experience of the surrounding world. It is an exaggeration or regularization or, if you will, a sublimation of noise-patterns, or instinctive or observed movements, of language itself. The web of juxtaposed or imitating parts is an intellectual game, as Leibniz described it. Harmony is governed by the natural phenomenon of proportionate oscillations. But melody has no model, no example in the external world, not even in bird-song. It is the free creation of the human mind and does not need the crutches of a text or the erudition of a difficult technique. For the first time in its history melody introduced free and unfettered imagination into music, an imagination akin to that which created Dante's Paradise or Botticelli's 'Primavera'.

Nothing in Western music fills me with greater admiration than this. Its discovery did not merely affect music as the discovery of such technical aids as perspective or oil painting or the study of anatomy affected painting and sculpture; it was the discovery of a new world. In the light of the music of the last fifty years, this may sound almost childish. But the significance of melody in European music was immeasurable: it introduced the individual into music. And in all European art it has always been the individual, not the type, which is capable of greatness. This is one of the great dividing-lines between the European and the non-European minds which, if carefully followed through the history of public and private life, may explain the cultural, ethical, and political supremacy of European man. Longer than any other art music seemed to have been held down by the 'type', but melody eventually made the art grow in stature and importance and filled it with a new creative impulse and a new joy in itself.

In the north people watched with misgiving as all the learning disappeared from music. To many it seemed that it was losing its seriousness, that it was about to be debased by free and easy living. Even with Richard Wagner one can hear the echo of these old objections. But while Handel came back from Italy a different man, the works of the greatest composer of that crucial period, J. S. Bach, who never knew Italy and the Italian masters of his time, display the struggle between old and new music in a dramatic manner. There are his well-known exercises in pure beauty, where part-writing recedes into the background (though without being forsaken altogether), and other pieces-and they are the majority-where the old craftsmanship is developed to perfection, reducing inspiration to invention. Between those two extreme types there are many pieces, such as the organ fugue in G minor, where a fugal theme becomes a 'fugal melody'. Like many old musicians in our own time Bach, at the end of his life, turned away from all the new music. I have said before that his 'Art of Fugue' was the legacy of 'old' music. New music rejected it.

Hindemith once expressed his regret that there was no textbook on melody similar to those on harmony or counterpoint. But melodies are born and not made, there is no rule or recipe, they spring from that much maligned inspiration which can neither be taught nor learned. But listen to the unaccompanied cor anglais in the third act of Tristan, the 'sad tune'. It is so eloquent that it makes all explanation superfluous.

The listeners to that new Italian music soon felt the change. Greater and lesser princes and noblemen dispensed with their court poets and reduced their court painters to portraitists, for practical rather than artistic purposes, but they engaged court musicians. A steadily rising passion for music, fed by an ever-increasing stream of new works, spread all over Europe. As the visual arts had in the sixteenth century, so music in all its forms became the favourite art in the eighteenth.

This must have been a great encouragement for the further development of new music. Up to and including J. S. Bach and his Italian contemporaries every piece of music was monothematic and avoided all contrast. The rule was to elaborate the one subject, and when this was done the piece came to its natural conclusion. This kept the individual piece rather short and concise. But even the conservative Bach tried his hand at the combination of several, though not sharply contrasting, subjects in the same piece and his works grew more extensive, as for example the 188 bars of the organ prelude in E flat. Only when the subject or theme became a real melody did contrast find its proper place and justification. Italian composers then turned almost exclusively to opera, discovering and exploiting the capacity of new music to be 'characteristic'. They added many new shades and facets to melody proper, while in the North 'absolute' instrumental music grew and developed. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century a new balance between inspiration and craftsmanship was found-the right balance as we, with our knowledge of its results, are entitled to say. It was a precious, irretrievable moment.

Then, just as Michelangelo had come to the visual arts three centuries before, came Beethoven, the man of destiny. In his hands music acquired yet another unexpected quality which confirmed it as a 'great' art, capable of expressing great emotions and great ideas, however vague. This latest acquisition was monumentality: of thought, conception and size. Beethoven's music is amazingly expansive. The dimension of his works is no longer achieved by the uniform pattern of sequences which, in Baroque music, remain on the same level of expression. With Beethoven the length of a work is determined by an increase in expression, feeling or temperature. His 'Eroica' of I 804 is, compared with all preceding music, a real monstrosity, reminiscent of Michelangelo's athletic supermen. Such increase and intensification become the essential elements of Wagner's gigantic music dramas, of Mahler's gigantic symphonies, introducing the gigantic into music, a striking departure from its old 'miniature' world', small in scope and size. Even in Beethoven's Opus 7 of 1797 a phrase of ominous import raises a warning finger. This E flat minor phrase recurs in the music of the following century in innumerable variants, just as the gesture of the Eternal Judge in Michelangelo's 'Last Judgement' is repeated in painting and sculpture over and over again. With it, something dangerous crept into music, something which Haydn had already foreseen. Nothing shows the spirit of this new music more clearly than Beethoven's enormous fugues, where no breath of the old masters is felt.

It is a matter of taste rather than objective judgement where one believes that the summit of an epoch in the arts is to be found, in Raphael or Michelangelo, in Mozart or Beethoven. For me it is in the Magic Teyte, where inspiration and the 'science of composition' enter into an ideal communion, where melody is of the purest beauty and greatness not yet monumentality.

With Mozart and Beethoven music reached a state of perfection comparable to that of the visual arts in Raphael's Vatican frescoes and Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling. The contemporaries of either may not have been as aware of it as we are, and may have expected that the arts would for ever remain on that exalted level. But they did not and could not.

Jacob Burckhardt says, perhaps too severely, that after Raphael's death in I520 no other perfect work of art emerged. There were still great works to come, the terribilita of Michelangelo's 'Last Judgement' and others. But it is certain that by the middle of the sixteenth century the flower began to wither, that the former revelation became mere mannerism. All the groupings, gestures and postures, all the effects of light and shade, the facial expressions and the drapery, were exhausted. It is as if Michelangelo (and Beethoven after him) had led art into a cul-de-sac. Around him the once mighty flood began to slacken and general interest grew weary, as if in secret understanding with the spirit of decline. The once clear lines of the design began to be twisted out of shape, greatness became grandiloquence, inner feeling became outward decoration. Again, like a natural phenomenon, within fifty years of Michelangelo's death, the rich abundance of the previous hundred years had disappeared. There are still a few great names, but would one seriously place Guido Reni on the same level as Raphael or compare Bernini with Michelangelo? Italian genius vanished as mysteriously as it had come. The curtain falls, the great spectacle is over. The day is not far distant when the impoverished descendants of the patrons of the art will sell their treasures abroad to fill other palaces and future art galleries.

One would have thought that the talent so widely spread over the whole of Italy, from Como to Messina, and proved by thousands of major and minor works by hundreds of major and minor masters, was inherent, a phenomenon of biology that could never again be lost entirely. But, as Professor Collingwood so rightly observed, art is not inherent, but conditioned by all those facts and their inscrutable, cumulative effect which are understood under the collective name of 'history'. And never again have the arts risen in Italy to any comparable level. Respectable artists were to come, great virtuosos such as Tiepolo, but none of them had the attraction, the panache of their greater predecessors. It was to be the turn of the Dutch and the Flemish. More precisely than the Italian Renaissance this much shorter artistic upsurge coincided with political and economic prosperity and produced a bourgeois art of landscapes, genre pieces, still lives and portraits of municipal dignitaries centred around the Italian-trained virtuosity of Rubens and disturbed only by Rembrandt's daemonic personality. Concentrated as it was in a small strip of land, among a small number of people, it is not surprising that it vanished without trace.

All this is not without precedent. In their own time the Chinese, Indians and Arabs lost their intellectual and artistic powers. So the question remains unanswered: is genius always dormant, ready to emerge, or are there times when it does not exist at all? The present day is not the time for great artistic ventures, and no genius could force them upon us. We need roads and schools, factories and hospitals, machines and yet more machines. And even the avant-garde artist finds himself in the arriere-garde of modern life.

But most of the shoes the world is wearing, many of the cars the world is driving, new fashions in pullovers and cardigans, are all designed by Italians. Perhaps, in these materialistic times, one should look for minor manifestations to discover the faint glow of some imperishable gift awaiting another chance?

I have dwelt at some length on the visual arts at a crucial time in history, because here was a rise and decline which is most fully recorded and known to us in every detail. In the field of the arts the events were as momentous as the fall of the Roman, Spanish or, more recently, British Empires were in the political field. Even Vasari, when he published the second edition of his Vite in 1568, could not have believed that it was possible.

How does it all compare with events in music?

With his late works, with the Ninth, the Missa Solemnis, and the last string quartets, Beethoven passed the crest of the musical art. There is a certain snobbery which rates the works of his last years higher than those of his 'middle period', the 'Eroica', the Rasoumovsky quartets, the Violin Concerto. I certainly have no wish to decry the last works. There are movements in almost any of them which belong to the greatest achievements of music. But spiritual and technical difficulty are not necessarily signs of accomplishment. These works brought a new spirit into music, just as Michelangelo's Library in Florence introduced a new and destructive spirit into the arts And indeed, what happened to music during and after Beethoven's life was exaggeration, exaggeration of melody, expression and dimension which disturbed the classical balance. In Italy, with Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti, musical 'science' is reduced to a mere shadow, and unbridled melody becomes almost immorally beautiful in its best moments and trivial in its worst. North of the Alps, romanticism drove expression to extremes, depriving literature of subjects and inspiration which it could no longer satisfy in itself. With Wagner music became an inflated monster feeling itself to be and presenting itself as the crowning of all the arts, the Gesamtkunstwerk. All this is no longer the language of the Golden Age but, as Burckhardt said of Baroque art, a barbarous dialect. Brahms may have tried to stem the tide, but it was too late. The century after Mozart could do no more than squander its rich heritage.

But music led a high life. It outpaced all the other arts. The whole of Europe revelled in it and found its greatest sensations in it and in its colourful artists. Opera in particular became a major entertainment, better and bigger than anything literature or the visual arts had to offer. There was a general clamour for new and yet more new music which, in retrospect, far exceeded the supply of good works. Those were the days when the great virtuosos, the great singers and performers and eventually the great conductors achieved almost greater honours and commanded more respect than the composers themselves.

In the end it seemed to be too much. People grew tired of gross pleasure, of beauty and monumentality and uninhibited expression. What had made music a great art ended up, as Paul Dukas said, in Ravel's refinement and Stravinsky's boldness which, he thought, could not be surpassed. Wagner had dreamed of a 'music of the future'. At the end of the century there were wicked thoughts about a 'rejuvenation' of music. It was inevitable: music was no longer satisfied with itself After Tristan it could not continue in its old ways.

And it did not. Almost before our eyes music has foresworn everything that raised it from the old insignificance to the greatness of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when it was capable of great works and great designs. It first lost its equilibrium by breaking all the rules, then it swung back and barricaded itself behind a wall of still harder rules which restricted scope and size as they had done five centuries earlier. Melody was lost in the process, although Schoenberg insisted that his music was melodious and Alban Berg wrote that twelve-note music, 'like any other music', was based on melody, on the leading voice, on the theme. But leading voice and theme belong to another category than melody, which is as unmistakable as it is indefinable. With melody went contrast, and the new works contracted in size, as Webern most convincingly demonstrated.

The works of new music are once again short, like those of 'old' music. When a composer of the avant-garde tries to write a long piece, such as Stockhausen's 'Gruppen', it is only long for no obvious reason. It does not have the continuity which requires length; it could stop at any moment without seeming abrupt or could continue for much longer without necessity. But the desire for long works is rare in new music and new composers resolutely face the consequences of new techniques and a new spirit. This new spirit is, however, new only by comparison with the spirit of music as it has developed in the last two hundred years. And quite consistently this old new spirit brought with it the old objectivity. With Beethoven music had become a highly personal means of expression, with Tristan an obtrusive self-confession. But new music gives away nothing of its creator save his cleverness and his intellectual powers, just as it did before the Golden Age. 'Music should express nothing but itself,? said Stravinsky, and the 'old' masters would heartily agree with him. This does not prevent an innovator such as Boulez from explaining how, in his 'Improvisation No. 2 sur Mallarme', a lace curtain is represented by the coloraturas of the soprano and its reflexion in the window by the 'glassy' sound of celesta, vibraphone and harp, which is no more than a sophistication of Haydn's often ridiculed musical descriptions of rain and snow, of proud eagles in the sky and great whales in the sea.

One might feel some disappointment at this development. When Debussy showed how music could be written after and in spite of Wagner the world was justified in believing that a new era of great music, perhaps a new Golden Age, was about to begin. The obvious kinship between Debussy's music and the great upsurge of French painting and poetry seemed to disclose new rich sources for all the arts. Now, fifty years after Debussy's death, we have to admit that what we took for a promising dawn was a glorious sunset. Stravinsky, on the other hand, never promised more than a complete and ruthless change. So the historic mission devolved on Anton Webern, who, in the critical years, might have been overlooked altogether. But, as I have said before, the destinies of an art do not depend on one single genius. The whole edifice of music had to be brought down so that new music could build its own home. To this destruction all the composers since Beethoven in his last period have contributed, Richard Strauss as well as Stravinsky, Debussy as well as Schoenberg. It was the sustained effort of a century.

This, then, is the point at which new music has arrived: it is again a small art, an art of complicated structures for their own sake. The lofty purpose of the Golden Age has been lost. To calculate intervals or to have the probabilities of a given tone-row calculated by a computer or to improvise noises are not the subjects of a great art. And with almost mathematical exactitude the vast public turns away from its new music and assumes an attitude of complete indifference. It is frightening to see how very few works written in the last fifty years have become as familiar with music-lovers as the hundreds of works of the Golden Age from J. S. Bach to Beethoven.

How well the average music-lover of the nineteenth century knew 'his' music and how little he knows about 'his' music now! Even the greatest names of our time seem pale compared with the great names of a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago. 'The time of great masterpieces is over,' wrote the often-quoted Boulez, meaning both old and new masterworks which everybody who claims to have any knowledge of music should know intimately.

It is a striking-and strikingly contradictory-coincidence that in the midst of all the new and easy methods of listening a kind of music is being created which tells the listener so little about itself. It must be realized that music has never before found more favourable conditions: it enjoys a highly refined and effective system of protection which is widely held to be an encouragement of the art; it is preservable and transportable and, therefore, more easily accessible than ever before; and, last but not least, the Western world is very prosperous and music is an important item in the budgets of the individual and of the community. There is nothing in the visible circumstances of life that could justify a decline of the art. But music has declined, however harsh, however unbelievable it may sound.

If external conditions tend to make the composer comfortable, there must be internal causes which make him uncomfortable. Our age is commonly and perhaps somewhat summarily called the 'technological age', which hints at materialism too. There were in the known history of man certain periods which produced certain popular tendencies or propensities. At times people were given to religious meditation or fascinated by the arts, there were mass passions for charity or nationalism and all of them were more than the mere quirks of a leader. Now it is 'technology', the impact of the most adventurous discoveries and inventions man has ever made within the short space of less than two generations. Technology, which embraces every aspect of scientific research and application, is an irresistible attraction. It opens a new world with the expectation of large monetary rewards, it has every quality of attracting the best brains, the most fertile minds. But the whole demonology of the human race, religion, and the arts, has been left behind by this world of bold but closely calculated projects.

Narrative or descriptive literature flourishes to some extent, perhaps because the problem of existence in the midst of all this 'technology' is an inexhaustible topic for discussion, though discussion may not have advanced far enough to bring about such final results as are required to produce a lasting masterpiece. But poetry in the narrower sense has become very scarce. There seems to be as little inclination for writing it as there is for reading it. It may be too personal, too individual for an age which has robbed individuality of much of its former relevance. Everywhere (and nowhere more than in the arts) individuality seems to be withdrawing behind a shield of uniformity.

It is equally hard for the visual arts to make proper contact with the times. Enormous demands are being made on architecture. Whole towns are being built or rebuilt, with all the old requisites of private dwellings and public buildings, theatres, concert-halls and sports arenas. But the artistic use which architecture is making of these unique opportunities is astonishingly small. New architecture is striving to make buildings and designs 'functional', and this accounts for the uniformity, for the narrow orbit within which imagination can move. Where the function of a building is not practical, with churches for example, or theatres, this new architecture is, as I have said before, embarrassed, as embarrassed as painting and sculpture are today. It is not incompetence which throws a few blobs of colour onto a canvas or transforms a shapeless block of stone into a different but equally shapeless block, but perplexity. There is much to think about in this brave world of ours but little that is worth seeing. There is a fatal consistency in the endeavour of the visual arts to free themselves from the visible. But they are and remain chained to the world of shapes and colours, real or imaginary. This is their great problem, which prevents them from creating works of lasting merit, and explains their difficulty in communicating with a larger public.

And, other things being equal, this is the problem of new music, which cares so little for sound and so much for intellectual effort; for music is and remains an acoustic phenomenon. There are frequent congresses of composers and experts of new music which discuss the burning question of musical creation and communication in our time. Such a congress recently dealt with the theme: 'Does the composer need the public? Does the public need the composer?' More correctly formulated the question should have read: 'Do we need new music?' Then the answer could have been an unequivocal 'Yes', instead of the time-honoured hope that later generations may appreciate the present struggle and its achievement. If after half a century new music is still outside the main stream of musical life, the inescapable conclusion is that it has not created masterpieces which could compare with those of the Golden Age. There is no reason to believe, there is indeed no indication, that the new music of our time in its most outstanding manifestations is not masterly within the limitations imposed upon it by all the known and unknown conditions of our spiritual existence. But ours is a post-Periclean, post-Augustan age and while the best works of new music are undoubtedly the best that can be written today they are not the best ever.

It seems that at least some of the theorists are beginning to realize this inherent imperfection. They speak of the 'chaos of the material' confronting the composer today, meaning the chaos of sounds or noises, the raw material of music. They speak of an experimental stage, which every unbiased listener or student of new music will readily confirm. But experiment alone will not solve the problems which are now facing music. Something must have thrown into chaos what at the beginning of our century seemed a reliable order. Something must have rendered the experience of our fathers invalid and inapplicable and must have sent a new generation forward on its road to the unknown. This something, this malaise, must be overcome before chaos reverts to order and experiments become successful. This does not and cannot mean that we shall ever return to the old order. Mankind has never returned to the abandoned dwellings of the past. But we must accept that, with all the present-day experiments groping in the dark, the new order is nowhere in sight.

The public, as a supreme and incorruptible judge, senses this experiment with unerring instinct and will have no part of it. It cannot be expected to follow, to encourage or to like it. Nothing less than achievement will kindle its enthusiasm and secure its approval. Until it is presented with positive achievements, it will remain as indifferent as it is today.

It may be said that I am dismissing my readers with cold comfort But when I said before that our new music is neither the salvation nor the destruction of music I expressed my belief that one day mankind will regain its inner balance, which is the precondition of any self-assured art. It may be hard to be patient, so far as the arts are concerned, in an impatient, militant age. But patient we have to be. It would be disastrously wrong to discourage the experiment, the desire to come to terms with the times and with ourselves. If the urge to create were lost, however adverse the conditions, all art, old and new, would be lost with it. The true merit of experimental new music is not to be found in its results, which may be no more than documents of the struggle, but in its endeavour. For all hope for the future lies in the quest of today.

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