Critical & Historical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about Critical & Historical Essays.

Nithart (plate 36), by whom a number of melodies or “tones” are given in Hagen’s book (page 845), has been dubbed the second “Till Eulenspiegel.”  He was a Bavarian, and lived about 1230, at the court of Frederick of Austria.  He was eminently the poet and singer of the peasants, with whom, after the manner of Eulenspiegel, he had many quarrels, one of which is evidently the subject of the picture.  His music, or melodies, and the verses which went with them, form the most complete authentic collection of mediaeval music known.  In considering the minnelieder of the Germans it is very interesting to compare them with the songs of the troubadours, and to note how in the latter the Arab influence has increased the number of curved lines, or arabesques, whereas the German songs may be likened to straight lines, a characteristic which we know is a peculiarity of their folk song.


    [Figure 41]
    [W:  L’Autrier par la matinee Entre sen bos et un Vergier
        Une pastore ai trounee chantant pour soi en voisier.]

  Example from NITHART

    [Figure 42]

In speaking of the straight lines of the melodies of the minnesingers and in comparing them with the tinge of orientalism to be found in those of the troubadours, it was said that music owes more to the latter than to the former, and this is true.  If we admit that the straight line of Grecian architecture is perfect, so must we also admit that mankind is imperfect.  We are living beings, and as such are swayed to a great extent by our emotions.  To the straight line of purity in art the tinge of orientalism, the curved line of emotion, brings the flush of life, and the result is something which we can feel as well as worship from afar.  Music is a language, and to mankind it serves as a medium for saying something which cannot be put into mere words.  Therefore, it must contain the human element of mere sensuousness in order to be intelligible.  This is why the music of the troubadours, although not so pure in style as that of the minnesingers, has been of the greatest value in the development of our art.  This orientalism, however, must not mask the straight line; it must be the means of lending more force, tenderness, or what not, to the figure.  It must be what the poem is to the picture, the perfume to the flower; it must help to illustrate the thing itself.  The moment we find this orientalism (and I am using the word in its broadest sense) covering, and thus distorting the straight line of pure music, then we have national music so-called, a music which derives its name and fame from the clothes it wears and not from that strange language of the soul, the “why” of which no man has ever discovered.



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Critical & Historical Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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