"I pant for the music which is divine; My heart in its thirst is a dying power. Pour forth the sound like enchanted wine; Loosen the notes in a silver shower. Like a herbless plain for the gentle rain, I gasp, I faint, till they wake again.
"Let me drink of the spirit of that sweet sound More, oh more! - I am thirsting yet! It loosens the serpent which care has bound Upon my heart, to stifle it; The dissolving strain, through every vein, Passes into my heart and brain." - Shelley.
"Orpheus with his lute made trees And the mountain tops that freeze Bow themselves when he did sing: To his music plants and flowers Ever sprung; as sun and showers There had made a lasting spring." - John Fletcher.
As far back as we are able to go in the history of man, music has been used in his religious life. Under its influence people have endured martyrdom, apparently without physical pain or suffering; and over and over again through its influence men have been able to accomplish many things that would otherwise have seemed impossible. Man has put into music his spiritual feelings, his highest thoughts, and his best sense perception; and then again he has perverted music so as to awaken all kinds of dormant passions, evil and cruel thoughts, and sense emotions. In the first instance, his music was of a creative order; in the second, it was destructive. When music is put to a legitimate end, it not only has a refining influence, but it becomes a constructive agent in life.
Music can be adapted to every plane of being; even the music which is, we might say, of an elemental order, need not necessarily produce other than a good influence upon those using it or listening to it. While it may be termed sense music and appeal to man through his senses, we must remember that all the senses are good, and that only through their perversion or being put to a use that they were really not intended for, does discord or evil come into existence. This elemental music has often the effect of stirring one's most vital activities on the physical plane, and there comes such an exuberance of life and vitality that it can only find expression through dancing or other rhythmic motions of the body. This activity, in turn, sets up, as it were, a habit of graceful movement, and easy carriage of the body, and is therefore to be looked upon as something that is really beneficial.
Dvorak has written some very wonderful gipsy music that conveys to the senses and to the mind something of the real gipsy temperament. The music is filled with freedom and action, it typifies gipsy life in a way that few other composers have been able to do. Liszt, too, in his Hungarian Rhapsodies and other compositions, brings out in a marked way gipsy characteristics. The effect of such music is to stir the circulation of one's blood in a physical way and the imagination in a mental way. While not of a high or uplifting order, it might be used with beneficial effects upon the sluggish minded and physically lazy people to stir them to greater thought and action, even if that thought and action be not of a very high order.
The elemental music is as necessary to the life of the physical plane as the higher spiritual music is necessary to the more developed states of being, and need not be prostituted to any vicious end or purpose. In fact, I believe that there is less evil motive in it, taken as a whole, than is to be found in some of the music that comes to us from composers who are capable of doing much better things, but who pervert their talents to selfish purposes and ends.
In a recent conversation I had with a friend upon the power of music, she said: "Yes, I am quite willing to grant the power, but it is a power that leads one away from the worship of God to the worship of Apollo." The greatest spiritual music of all times breathes with the Spirit of God, and is, in my opinion, of a higher order of inspiration than the spoken word can ever be. The greatest composers (those who were highly spiritual or religious) have really been inspired through coming in closest relationship with the great Cosmic Consciousness; and they drew from this Source and not from any mental conception of their own. In this capacity they were not only musicians but prophets to convey new messages of glad tidings to the hearts and minds of men. No, Apollo works through an entirely different order of music. The music of Apollo may enthrall the senses and bewitch the mind, but it can never uplift the soul of man. The mind, for a time, may respond to the joys and pleasures of earth, but the soul can only draw its highest inspiration from the Universal Spirit.
"Left so free mine ears That I might hear the music of the spheres, And all the angels singing out of heaven."
The best music must have real fundamental motives; must deal, too, with living ideals, in order to be of value; it must be used as a means of calling out all the latent powers and possibilities of man's inner life. The spirit of joy, hope, love, faith, and courage must be the underlying factors in music, so that the whole inner life of man may be awakened. Music, whether vocal or instrumental, can never be made to transfer from the mind of the musician to the listener's mind any of those qualities, but one may become the means of using music in such a way as to call out or to awaken in the lives of others these fundamental qualities of life. Therefore it is not so much what one is able to impart through music, as what one is able to call out in an ever-increasing way. All outer things are only a means to an end. The elemental man is potentially a Christ. No other man can give to him the Christ principle, but the action of other lives upon him may eventually become the means for the awakening of the divine knowledge within.
No one can as yet estimate the real value of music upon human life. Yet there should be an ever-growing appreciation of good music, and this in turn will cause composers not only to put the beauty of art into their music, but the beauty of nature, the beauty of soul. Richard Strauss' two operas "Salome" and "Electra" may both be wonderful as artistic productions, but they have nothing in them that satisfies the soul. Such music stands out in marked contrast to Wagner's "Lohengrin" or even "Tannhauser," for while these two operas, in some parts, do not fully satisfy, there is still so much in both that commends itself to one's higher nature that one gains rather than loses in listening to them, and one feels something of real inspiration in them that is lacking in the other two. But it is in "Parsifal" that Wagner is at his best, for a large part of the opera breathes of the highest and most spiritual thought of man's being. It is the story of the evolution of the soul in its progress from darkness to light, in its upward trend from ignorance to knowledge until in the fulness of time there comes the perfected life of the full measure of a man, wherein life is expressed through wisdom and love, and man becomes a law unto himself. As we ascend the scale of being, there comes with such development the love of nature, and this in turn expresses itself in what may be termed nature music. A little later there comes a still higher phase of nature music which appeals quite as much to the mind as it does to the sense. A beautiful illustration of this music is to be found in Wagner's "Evening Star" from "Tannhauser." Such music as this tends to bring about a restfulness and a higher mental harmony. Mendelssohn's beautiful "Spring Song" is another striking example of the higher nature music, but pre-eminent among compositions of this class are those of Schubert, a man who may be said to be nature's own musician. His music is filled with the rustling of leaves, the sound of running brooks, the perfume and the colour of flowers. It is the song of one who loved nature and who was close to nature's heart, and could interpret her in a way that few composers have ever been able to do. There is very much in Schubert's music to appeal to this higher nature side of man, to inspire him with the beauty and the wonder that is ever awaiting to be disclosed to the one who loves sunshine and shadow, moonlight and starlight, mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans, trees and plants, birds and flowers, and is quick to respond to the wondrous music that nature holds as a secret and will only disclose to the one who loves her.