"Nine sisters, beautiful in form and face, Came from their convent on the shining heights Of Pierus, the mountain of delights, To dwell among the people at its base. Then seemed the world to change. All time and space, Splendor of cloudless days and starry nights, And men and manners, and all sounds and sights, Had a new meaning, a diviner grace. Proud were these sisters, but were not too proud To teach in schools of little country towns Science and song, and all the arts that please; So that while housewives span, and farmers ploughed, Their comely daughters, clad in homespun gowns, Learned the sweet songs of the Pierides."
Every country has its own music which has ever kept pace with its greatest human development. I might put that in a stronger way by saying that the music sets the pace, that it was, and is, the real leader of civilisation, and that the growth of a nation can best be determined by its music. While the music of the present time seems to be very largely the product of the last few hundred years, without question its real beginning had its root in a remote past, for music is the very oldest of all the arts. It may be said of music that it is the very foundation on which all the other arts are builded. We might go still farther and say that music is the soul of all art; that music, in its highest and best sense, comes closer to the divine in man than does anything else in life; that in its last analysis, it is a revelation of God to man. Music is, as it were, the link between divinity and humanity. The truly great composer is the most divinely inspired of all the world's prophets, and through his music he reaches far greater audiences and preaches far more wonderful sermons than the most eloquent preachers on earth have ever done.
Recent discoveries made in Egypt go to show that the ancient Egyptians possessed a wonderful knowledge of music. It is believed that they had more kinds of musical instruments in their orchestras than we possess at the present time; and it is said also that they had instruments to give a full and complete expression to the sounds of nature; such as the warring of the elements, the flowing of the brooks, the soughing of the wind, and various other nature sounds; while in our orchestras we have instruments which can, to a degree, be made to produce such effects, yet they were not expressly designed for that purpose, as many of the instruments of Egypt apparently were. There are some writers who go back to the legendary continent of Atlantis, and write of the music that antedated even that of Egypt; but such writing, at best, is only speculative, since there is no authentic evidence concerning it. But of the music of the ancient civilisation of Egypt there is an ever-unfolding evidence showing the wonderful progress that music had made in that country practically before the dawn of the greater part of the world's civilisation. Maspero and other great Egyptologists have shown beyond all question that in an ancient past, a civilisation existed in Egypt that was one of the most wonderful the world has ever known. And largely through Egyptian influence there followed another great civilisation, greater than any that has appeared on the face of the earth since that time, namely, the civilisation of ancient Greece. Greece, in her use of music, followed along lines similar to those of Egypt. Many of her musical instruments were like those of Egypt, and historically there can be very little question that the Grecians drew much of their fundamental musical knowledge from Egypt.
The ancient Greeks were without doubt one of the most highly developed and civilised nations that have ever inhabited the earth. They were great in every department of human endeavour. Great in literature and art, great in commerce and war, great in everything that pertained to mental or physical development. Practically all the civilised nations of the earth since their time have been influenced in a marked way by ancient Greek thought and art. Many things that have come to us in the present as new, research would show to be only a revival of the Greek thought of bygone ages; for ancient Greece has furnished the intellectual, ethical, and artistic fundamental basis of all that is best in the civilised thought of the present. Just as, in another way, the Jewish civilisation has transmitted to us its religious thought and feeling. Undoubtedly Greece influenced the other nations in a musical way, although we have no written music of that early time. Still, all through Greek literature, we find not only reference to the purposes for which music was used, but also a full knowledge of the wonderful power that could be exercised through its use. Greek tradition makes Orpheus their greatest representative of both vocal and instrumental music. We are told that this almost god possessed the power to draw the rocks and trees from their places, and even to arrest the rivers in their courses by the influence of his wonderful voice and lyre. The Greeks looked upon him as one of the greatest pioneers of civilisation. Pindar writes of him as the "Father of Song." We are told, too, that Orpheus was closely associated with the mystical, ceremonial side of religion. He was said also to have taught mankind the use of medicine; and when we read of the many cures effected by the Greeks through the use of music, we may well understand that he gave to music a prominent part in the healing of the sick. One of the legends told is that Orpheus and Amphion drew the wild beasts after them, made the trees and stones dance to the time of their harps, and brought them together in such a manner as to form a regular wall and enclose a great city. An English writer who lived somewhat over a hundred years ago wrote: "Stripped of the fable, this story, according to general interpretation, signifies that they subdued the savage disposition of a barbarous people who lived in caves, woods, and deserts, and by representing to them in their songs, the advantages of society, persuaded them to build cities and form a community." If this be true, we see the foundation of a real community of interests is to be established through the use of music.