"From harmony, from heavenly harmony, This universal frame began: When nature underneath a heap Of jarring atoms lay, And could not heave her head, The tuneful voice was heard from high, 'Arise, ye more than dead!' Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry, In order to their stations leap, And Music's power obey. From harmony, from heavenly harmony, This universal frame began: From harmony to harmony Through all the compass of the notes it ran, The diapason closing full in Man." - Dryden.
"I held it truth, with him who sings To one clear harp in divers tones, That men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things."
Man, in a progressive state of growth, finds that he has constantly to let go of old things in order to lay hold of new. The old may have served for stepping-stones to reach higher things, but if he is to be in a constant state of progression, he must, in the nature of things, be engaged day by day in leaving behind him the stepping-stones which have served their end. Only in this way may he become truly related to life. Things are only good in their right place, time, and way. Real happiness comes always as the result of right adjustment between man's inner life and his outer environment, and each person makes such adjustment according to his degree of development.
It is not to be expected of anyone that he shall live beyond what he knows or can comprehend. A man on a purely physical plane of being may be, in a way, living more truly the knowledge he possesses than another who has developed far beyond him. To whom but a little has come but a little is required. Greater knowledge requires greater achievement. We are all held accountable by our ideals; that is, our highest ideals, when there is failure to live them, sit in judgment upon us. In fact, they constitute the one and greatest judge in life. We can often be at perfect peace in our own minds when others judge or condemn us; but no one can ever be at peace when he feels that he is violating his highest ideals. Right judgment, then, according to one's ideals, is the one thing necessary in life; but as we proceed in life with such adjustments, our ideals are ever enlarging, and the adjustment of to-day is not going to prove sufficient for the morrow.
There is a process of daily dying in order that we may daily enter into a new and larger life. Things useful only at one time in life, if still held to, would retard man rather than help him in his upward way. That which may be considered a virtue in the savage is not necessarily so in the highly civilised man. Character, goodness, and virtue will all cease to be good when they cease to be progressive. One height attained in life should only disclose new and greater heights to be attained. There is no ultimate. Eternal progress that leads man ever upward and onward is the order of life. The people who have reached a state of contentment with what they may have accomplished in life, have with it reached a state of stagnation where growth and development have ceased. There are always better ways of doing everything, and we enter into the new and larger life only through the constant effort we are putting forth to do everything in a better way than we have done in the past. The old has served its purpose, push forward to the new. Leave the shadows behind and press forward to the greater realities that lie before. Make life what it should be: joyous in its melody, perfect in its rhythm, and thoroughly adjusted in its harmony.
Each plane of being has its own music that can best be understood and assimilated by those living on that plane. One must become thoroughly attuned to the music of one's own development, before he will be able to enter into the real enjoyment of music of a higher order; but there should be the tendency or desire that continually makes for whatever is best in music. Music that, at one time, may have cheered or brightened the life of man, comes to a place where it has fulfilled its purpose. It may have been perhaps only of the most elemental kind, but having served its end, such music is no longer necessary to his life. For there comes to him the appreciation of a higher music and there can never be any retrograde movement or the giving up of this higher order for a return to the lower, without loss to the one taking such a course.
The question of adjustment enters into the listening to music. If the mind of the listener is in a high state of activity, he can never get the best from music, because music has more of emotion in it than of mentality. One must listen with the heart far more than with the mind. The mind may become engrossed with the form given to music, but after all is said, heart must speak to heart, and it is only in this relation that we may realise fully or truly appreciate the value and beauty of music. There is a state of mind that is to be regarded as neither mental concentration nor spiritual meditation, but which comes, as it were, between the two - we might call it contemplation - a state wherein the mind and body are both relaxed and one feels rather than thinks. It is in this condition that the greatest good is to be derived from music, whether it be vocal or instrumental.
In playing or singing, the performer should be using heart and mind. He may be said to be in a concentrated, positive condition, and thoroughly absorbed in what he is doing; while the listener must ever seek to be passive in order to benefit by the music. We might call it a state of passive receptivity. It is only in this way that he can have any real appreciation of the music to which he is listening.
Often in reading musical criticisms one wonders at the diversity of thought expressed by the different critics, some arguing for and some against, and frequently one is inclined to question the competency of the critics to pass judgment on the composition or its rendering. Musical critics who are possessed of a thorough technical knowledge of music often allow their minds to become so active in listening to music that they are unable to render a truly musical criticism, because they have paid so much attention to the form that they have missed the spirit of the music. Beauty of form is necessary, but it is by no means the greatest part of the music. I must emphasise right here that it is only by becoming passively contemplative that the listener becomes truly receptive and enters into the soul of the music.