Aristoxenus, an early Greek critic of prosody, distinguished the elements out of which rhythm is composed as: the spoken word, the time of music in song, and the bodily motion. And he defined rhythm so produced as an arrangement of the time periods. The art of the early Greek poets was devoted to a harmonious combination of language, instrument, and gesture, the whole three uniting to form perfect rhythm. Ages ago it was known that rhythm could be put into everything we do with the greatest advantage, so that no matter what work one may be engaged in, the rhythmic way of doing it is the easiest as well as the most graceful.
Pythagoras, who lived some six hundred and fifty years before Christ, and is considered one of the greatest of early mathematicians, believed that the universe was created by music. It is said he taught that not the ear, but mathematics, should be the guide in music. He was apparently one of the first Greeks to teach the music of the spheres, and had a scale in which the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn corresponded to the notes E, F, G, A, B, C, and D, of which the Sun formed the middle or the controlling note; thus we can see that the music of 2500 years ago was, in one sense, derived from the heavens, and that heavenly bodies were used as symbols of musical sounds. Unquestionably Greece laid the foundation of her civilisation in music, and the other Muses constituted different degrees of the one great fundamental note that ruled through all from first to last.
It is music that comes through man's ear in sound, and it is music that comes through man's eye in colour. Musical sound vibration and musical colour vibration underlie all nature, and give beauty to all life. Take music and colour out of the world and we have a dead world, a world without a soul. The nation that is devoid of the musical sense, so that it neither creates nor loves music, has lost its soul. And the individual who has not awakened to a love of music and colour has not yet found his soul. We feel music and colour far more than we see or hear them. The greatest beauty of sound or colour is a revelation to the soul of man rather than something derived through his sense nature. Greece was a great nation so long as she continued to use the divine principles of rhythm, melody, and harmony in everything she felt, thought, and did. From the time she began to lose these principles, there came a decline. But the spirit which once animated the Greek people did not die; it lives on, and will continue to live on until there shall come a civilisation even greater than that of the Greeks. As Jesus was a prophecy of what man must become, so Greece was a prophecy of what the whole world shall yet become.
When we write of the music of the past, let us remember that music is without beginning or ending, that it lives in the heart of the Infinite, that the demand can never exceed the supply. Moreover, the world can have the music it desires if it is willing to seek it. But the things that heart and mind desire are not brought into being without an effort on the part of those desiring them. We must bring of what we have to bear on that which we desire to have; for everything we receive, there must be something in the nature of an equivalent given. We can have what heart and mind desire, when we use heart and mind and bodily effort to get it. It was Plato who said: "The soul which has seen the most of truth shall come to the birth as a philosopher, or artist, or musician, or lover." It is through seeing the most of truth and expressing all that we are able to see that there comes the new birth, the new zeal, the new knowledge. Love music for the love of music; love beauty for the love of beauty, and music and beauty will become redoubled, as it were, in your life. If we are going to secure from life all that is highest and best, then we must bring to life all that is highest and best. We cannot barter the unlovely for the lovely, or the unwholesome for that which is wholesome, the discordant for the harmonious. No, it is like that attracts like. Give all the melody that is in your life to the world, and a still greater melody will flow back into it. Give to the world the best, and give only the best, then shall you receive the best.
With the decline of music in Greece, there was a long period when the progress of music seemed to have come to an end. The world came under the thraldom of the Roman Empire, and the Muses, save in the most external way, failed to prove of interest to the people. With the coming of materialism into any country, the death-knell of beauty is sounded. The Roman Empire was noted for its building of wonderful roads, and the carrying on of great wars; but it paid little attention to all that goes to make life truly great or beautiful. True it is that, under some of the emperors of Rome, art flourished more than it did under others. With the advent of Christianity as the national religion of the Roman Empire, it might be thought that the Christian Gospel of peace and goodwill would have brought with it something of the true music of life; but there is little evidence that the change from Roman barbarism to Christian civilisation wrought any marked change in the art of the day. Undoubtedly all the persecutions and the curtailments of the religious rights of the early Christians had much to do with keeping them from expressing themselves through music. There were doubtless many other reasons besides this. The majority of them were made up of the poorer classes and it is doubtful whether, even under ordinary circumstances, they would have been able to have expressed themselves through music. It was during the fourth century A.D. that Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, made the first real effort to produce Church music, and he seems to have met with considerable success; later, Pope Gregory the Great carried on still further the work begun by Ambrose. But comparatively little of what might be called good music was produced until the middle or end of the fourteenth century. From that time on the growth of music is a continuous one, and Italy takes a very prominent part; not only did she lay a new foundation of musical art, but she has continued on through the centuries without any break in her career, so that I think it may truthfully be said that the knowledge and love of music possessed by the Italians has not been exceeded by the people of any other nation in modern times.