Music As A Language eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 62 pages of information about Music As A Language.

Side by side with this work it is advisable to get the class to extemporize chants, under the same restrictions as have been put on the melodies, i.e. they will begin by using only tonic and dominant chords, then adding the subdominant, and so on.  The double chant will give opportunities for more than one modulation being introduced at a time.  This work will prepare the way for figured basses, and more formal harmony.  The children will learn to avoid consecutive fifths and eighths because they gradually notice the ugliness of them, which seems a better plan than to learn to avoid them as a ‘rule’.

There is an interesting reference to methods of teaching harmony in the Board of Education Memorandum on Music, issued in 1914.

The writer says: 

’It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the current method of teaching harmony, whereby pupils are taught to resolve chords on paper by eye, quite regardless of the fact that 99 per cent. of them do not realize the sound of the chords they are writing, is musically valueless.

* * * * *

’In no other language than that of music would it be tolerated that the theoretical rules of grammar and syntax should be so completely separated from the actual literature from which they are derived, that the pupil should never have perceived that there was any relation whatever between them.

* * * * *

’Another very common result of the neglect of an aural basis for harmony teaching is that students who can pass a difficult examination, and write correctly by eye an advanced harmony exercise, are often quite unable to recognize that exercise played over to them on the piano, or even to write down the notes, apart from the time, of a hymn or a tune that they have known all their lives.’

The whole chapter in this memorandum is well worth reading.

The final stages in the teaching of extemporization will consist in: 

1.  Expressing a given idea in musical form, e.g. a march, or a gavotte.

2.  Extemporizing on a given theme.

Although these last stages may be thought to be beyond the power of the average child, experience has proved that it is not so, provided the previous work has been carefully graded, and that none of the early steps have been omitted or hurried over.



A wise musician has drawn attention to the fact that music has a more important educational function than any foreign language, being a common language for the expression of emotion, imaginative power, and rhythmic feeling.  He went on to say that, as a training, it is of use from the very earliest years, and for all classes of the community.

If we agree with this view—­and it is encouraging to note the increasing number of those who do so—­we must so organize the musical education of children that a time comes when they will be ready to ’express themselves’ in music in the same way in which they can express themselves in their native tongue.

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Music As A Language from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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