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Music Theory: The Dramatisation Of Song

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The Dramatisation Of Song

by David James

All art is a compromise, in which the choice of what is to be foregone must be left somewhat to the discretion of nature. When the sculptor foregoes colour, when the painter foregoes relief, when the poet foregoes the music which soars beyond words and the musician that precise meaning which lies in words alone, he follows a kind of necessity in things, and the compromise seems to be ready-made for him. But there will always be those who are discontented with no matter what fixed limits, who dream, like Wagner, of a possible, or, like Mallarmé, of an impossible, fusion of the arts. These would invent for themselves a compromise which has not yet come into the world, a gain without loss, a re-adjustment in which the scales shall bear so much additional weight without trembling. But nature is not always obedient to this too autocratic command. [278]Take the art of the voice. In its essence, the art of the voice is the same in the nightingale and in Melba. The same note is produced in the same way; the expression given to that note, the syllable which that note renders, are quite different things. Song does not in itself require words in order to realise even the utmost of its capacities. The voice is an instrument like the violin, and no more in need of words for its expression than the violin. Perhaps the ideal of singing would be attained when a marvellous voice, which had absorbed into itself all that temperament and training had to give it, sang inarticulate music, like a violin which could play itself. There is nothing which such an instrument could not express, nothing which exists as pure music; and, in this way, we should have the art of the voice, with the least possible compromise.

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