Influence of Art on Music

All of the fine arts, with the exception of Music had, by the year 1100, reached a fairly high stage of development clue, no doubt, to the fact that they are to a great extent composed of concrete materials. Music, owing to its lack of the concrete and the inability of men literally to place their hands upon its material, had lagged behind, so that in 1100 we find only a small amount of material, and that in a most chaotic condition. This material was, however, sufficient to produce definite musical forms if united into a homogeneous whole; such a state, however, could be produced only as the result of some great influence which would galvanize the component parts into action. Fortunately, there was just such an influence, one which had passed through an evolution similar to that needed in music, though because of its more concrete form and its necessity to man, this evolution had occurred at a proportionately earlier date. This influence was an art form, a phase of architecture known as the Gothic. Gothic architecture was a form built up by the unifying of the principal styles of architecture into one uniform whole, and composed of a multiplicity of details, but of such evident relation to each other as to make a distinct art form. This form was first used in Paris about the year 1000 A. D. Music was, approximately, in the same condition as Architecture before the birth of the Gothic principle, and needed a stimulus, a comrade art undergoing much the same evolution, to start it on its path of poly phonic development. In the year 1100 musical chaos became united into one uniform art by means of Measured Music or Proportion, thus allowing the systematizing of the mass of then existing material, and the construction of definite art forms. Since Architecture had undergone just such a change one century before, it is more than probable that the effect of this change was the starting of a similar one in Music, though the result was not to show until one hundred years after its occurrence in the kindred art.

Paris the Centre of Europe.

It was natural that these two great changes should take place in Paris, at that time the centre of wealth and learning for all Europe. Paris, in addition to its many other advantages, had long possessed a great university which had produced many scholars and theologians. The influence of the Church in all art was then paramount, for all art was employed in the service of the Church; Architecture gave to the Church its Gothic cathedrals; Painting and Frescoing its marvelous interior decorations; while Music made possible the richer forms of the service or liturgy. In that sense the Church, in its centre of theological study, would undoubtedly react on the practice of music and produce more beautiful forms for the service. In this period it is worthy of note that all the famous musicians, as before, were monks, or men employed in the Church, and the reason for this condition is plain: there was no art of music outside of the Church.

Measured Music.

Just as the use of many voices produced singing in parts, so did it produce Measured Music. To make it possible to use more than two parts at the same time it was necessary to have some definite agreement as to the value of the notes, in order to have certain uniform times for beginning, ending and performing the different portions of a composition agreeably; and so Measured Music was born. It may be said here that the different metrical divisions were not shown by means of bar lines as we now use them, but by different groupings of the notes, the time value of each depending on its relative position to the others. Perhaps of all forms produced by this system, the Organum Purum was the earliest and most peculiar. It consisted of a Cantus Firmus set to words, and metrical in form ; a second voice freely extemporized a higher part, evidently the only rule being that the two finish together. At a late date, strict Discant sometimes alternated with the old Organum, making it much less free in character.

The Important Forms.

In reality, the important forms produced were entirely in strict metrical divisions. Of these, the most important were the so-called strict Organum, the Conductus, the Roundel and the Motet. Of the strict Organum very little is known, excepting that it was a strictly metrical form, differing, in that sense only, from the Organuin Ptrrum ; it had also words for all parts and not only for the Cantus Firmus, as had the older forms. The Conductus, from the Latin conducere, to conduct, was important, and was a secular form having as its basis a popular melody or a newly invented one, secular words and much freer intervals than church compositions. Each part was expected to be melodious; and it varied from two to four in the number of voices used. It was sung during a march, a funeral cortege or procession.

The Roundel, from an historical view-point, was the most important form,, for in it. much use was made of Imitation. It can best be explained in the words of Walter Odington, a theorist of the time: “Let a melody, with or without a text, in one of the regular modes of rhythm, and as beautiful as possible, be devised, and let each voice sing this in turn. And at the same time let other melodies be devised to accompany it in the second and (if there be three voices) in the third voice; let them proceed in consonances, and so that when one voice ascends another descends, and let the third not follow too closely the movement of either of the others, except perhaps for the sake of greater beauty. And let all of these melodies be sung by each voice in turn.” While the use of Imitation is important in that it recognizes the repetition of a set phrase as an aid to Unity, its importance is detracted from, at least at this period, because it was not used in any of the other forms then in vogue.

An art form must submit to the laws of the human mind, which demand that a work of art shall show three principles: Unity, Variety or Contrast and Proportion or Symmetry. The problem set before the old composers was to produce musical works which should exhibit obedience to the canons of art as determined in the sister arts which had already reached great perfection. Unity in a musical work means that it is a development of one central thought, in elaborate works, of several leading ideas. The germ of a musical composition is in the Theme. The composer’s problem is to elaborate a piece of some length from this Theme, in that way to secure Unity of idea. If he were limited to writing in one part, he would be compelled to repeat the Theme a number of times, either on the same or on a different degree. When he must write for three or more voices the problem becomes more complicated. Let us imagine a composer of the 12th century at his work. He has a theme to use, like the one in the example at the end of the preceding paragraph, which he is to use in three parts. From the composers of the preceding centuries he received the principle of transposing the theme a fourth or fifth or octave higher or lower, thus singing the same melody simultaneously at different pitches; but this he rejects as crude; he has passed that stage and wishes to use a newer, more advanced method. Obviously his recourse will be to let each of the other two voices sing the opening theme successively at the same pitch. To stop with. this change would result only in three successive repetitions of the opening theme; so he makes the second and third voices sing the phrases used by the first voice after the first theme has been given, which serve as an accompaniment to the second and third entries of the first theme; thus all the voices sing the various phrases, at different times and in different successions, as shown by the numbering of the phrases. In later times the principal phrases were sung successively and transposed at the same time. This principle of Imitation is the very foundation of the later complicated polyphonic system.

The Motet.

In the form of the Motet we note many peculiarities. Each voice had different words, though the Tenor, or foundation of the composition used but one single word throughout; also, the Tenor was composed of a certain metrical and melodic figure closely adhered to and built up out of some popular song. The words and the form were sacred in that they were used in worship.

The Men of the Time.

There are many men who wrote in these forms but it is only necessary to examine those of importance. Franeo of Cologne 0150-1220), (dates disputed), an organist, was probably the pioneer in the adoption of Measured Music. He first advocated the use of triple meter and classified the dissonances of major and minor thirds and sixths. He used his influence against the use of consecutive fourths and fifths, and for the use of contrary motion.

Leonin (about 1140) and Perotin (his pupil) were organists at Notre Dame in Paris. The former was noteworthy in the reform of notation, while the latter is known principally for his use of crude Imitation, and a tendency not to use consecutive fourths and fifths, though he never entirely succeeded in eradicating them. Franeo of Paris (I150- ), often confused with his namesake of Cologne, was a theoretician, improved notation, and wrote a treatise on Mensural Music. Jean de Garlande (1170-125-) not only wrote a very valuable treatise on Mensural Music, but was also a composer of note; his writings contained specimens of Double Counterpoint, though probably used without the intention of producing them. Jerome de Moravie (1260) wrote a scholarly treatise on Discant, and such was his ability that he illustrated it with his own compositions, making it one of the most valuable reference works in existence. It is worthy of mention that all of these men were churchmen in the sense that their work was all done in, or with the, approval of, the Church, and was therefore influenced by the peculiar beliefs and customs then obtaining in that institution. This point must ever be kept in mind, for any prolonged contact with Folk music must have changed the entire development of the art; therefore we must regard the Church as the dominant influence of early music.

The work of this period can hardly be overestimated. First we see the influence of the Gothic in architecture, producing a corresponding unity in music; a unity which was concomitant with Measured or Mensural Music. We next see the attempt to combine metrical with unmetrical forms in the Organum Purum, and the final result in the strict form of Organum. Then we note the freedom shown in the Conductus, Roundel and Motet, as well as freedom in the use of more pleasing intervals, with the tendency to eradicate consecutive fourths and fifths; the use of contrary motion instead of parallel, and the consequent melodic freedom of the voices, and finally the use of Imitation, though perhaps unintentionally, except in the Roundel. This period then marks the acquisition not only of new intervals, new forms, new styles of melodic writing, imitation, measured music and simple counterpoint of note against note, but also forms the foundation for a rapid development by bequeathing to the Gallo-Belgic School a wealth of material, bound up with rules and only half suspected as to its value, it is true, but broad and firm enough to sustain a mighty structure of true Polyphonic Music.