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Essays Before a Sonata by Charles Ives

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not easily measured, found only in the highest type of
sentimentalists, the type which does not perpetually discriminate
in favor of mankind. Emerson has much of this sentiment and
touches it when he sings of Nature as "the incarnation of a
thought," when he generously visualizes Thoreau, "standing at the
Walden shore invoking the vision of a thought as it drifts
heavenward into an incarnation of Nature." There is a Godlike
patience in Nature,-in her mists, her trees, her mountains--as if
she had a more abiding faith and a clearer vision than man of the
resurrection and immortality! There comes to memory an old
yellow-papered composition of school-boy days whose peroration
closed with "Poor Thoreau; he communed with nature for forty odd
years, and then died." "The forty odd years,"--we'll still grant
that part, but he is over a hundred now, and maybe, Mr. Lowell,
he is more lovable, kindlier, and more radiant with human
sympathy today, than, perchance, you were fifty years ago. It may
be that he is a far stronger, a far greater, an incalculably
greater force in the moral and spiritual fibre of his fellow-
countrymen throughout the world today than you dreamed of fifty
years ago. You, James Russell Lowells! You, Robert Louis
Stevensons! You, Mark Van Dorens! with your literary perception,
your power of illumination, your brilliancy of expression, yea,
and with your love of sincerity, you know your Thoreau, but not
my Thoreau--that reassuring and true friend, who stood by me one
"low" day, when the sun had gone down, long, long before sunset.
You may know something of the affection that heart yearned for
but knew it a duty not to grasp; you may know something of the
great human passions which stirred that soul--too deep for
animate expression--you may know all of this, all there is to
know about Thoreau, but you know him not, unless you love him!

And if there shall be a program for our music let it follow his
thought on an autumn day of Indian summer at Walden--a shadow of
a thought at first, colored by the mist and haze over the pond:

Low anchored cloud,
Fountain head and
Source of rivers...
Dew cloth, dream drapery--
Drifting meadow of the air....

but this is momentary; the beauty of the day moves him to a
certain restlessness--to aspirations more specific--an eagerness
for outward action, but through it all he is conscious that it is
not in keeping with the mood for this "Day." As the mists rise,
there comes a clearer thought more traditional than the first, a
meditation more calm. As he stands on the side of the pleasant
hill of pines and hickories in front of his cabin, he is still
disturbed by a restlessness and goes down the white-pebbled and
sandy eastern shore, but it seems not to lead him where the
thought suggests--he climbs the path along the "bolder northern"
and "western shore, with deep bays indented," and now along the
railroad track, "where the Aeolian harp plays." But his eagerness
throws him into the lithe, springy stride of the specie hunter--
the naturalist--he is still aware of a restlessness; with these
faster steps his rhythm is of shorter span--it is still not the
tempo of Nature, it does not bear the mood that the genius of the
day calls for, it is too specific, its nature is. too external,
the introspection too buoyant, and he knows now that he must let
Nature flow through him and slowly; he releases his more personal
desires to her broader rhythm, conscious that this blends more
and more with the harmony of her solitude; it tells him that his
search for freedom on that day, at least, lies in his submission
to her, for Nature is as relentless as she is benignant.

He remains in this mood and while outwardly still, he seems to
move with the slow, almost monotonous swaying beat of this
autumnal day. He is more contented with a "homely burden" and is
more assured of "the broad margin to his life; he sits in his
sunny doorway...rapt in revery...amidst goldenrod, sandcherry,
and sumac...in undisturbed solitude." At times the more definite
personal strivings for the ideal freedom, the former more active
speculations come over him, as if he would trace a certain
intensity even in his submission. "He grew in those seasons like
corn in the night and they were better than any works of the
hands. They were not time subtracted from his life but so much
over and above the usual allowance." "He realized what the
Orientals meant by contemplation and forsaking of works." "The
day advanced as if to light some work of his--it was morning and
lo! now it is evening and nothing memorable is accomplished..."
"The evening train has gone by," and "all the restless world with
it. The fishes in the pond no longer feel its rumbling and he is
more alone than ever..." His meditations are interrupted only by
the faint sound of the Concord bell--'tis prayer-meeting night in
the village--"a melody as it were, imported into the
wilderness..." "At a distance over the woods the sound acquires a
certain vibratory hum as if the pine needles in the horizon were
the strings of a harp which it swept...A vibration of the
universal lyre...Just as the intervening atmosphere makes a
distant ridge of earth interesting to the eyes by the azure tint
it imparts."...Part of the echo may be "the voice of the wood;
the same trivial words and notes sung by the wood nymph." It is
darker, the poet's flute is heard out over the pond and Walden
hears the swan song of that "Day" and faintly echoes...Is it a
transcendental tune of Concord? 'Tis an evening when the "whole
body is one sense,"...and before ending his day he looks out over
the clear, crystalline water of the pond and catches a glimpse of
the shadow--thought he saw in the morning's mist and haze--he
knows that by his final submission, he possesses the "Freedom of
the Night." He goes up the "pleasant hillside of pines,
hickories," and moonlight to his cabin, "with a strange liberty
in Nature, a part of herself."



The futility of attempting to trace the source or primal impulse
of an art-inspiration may be admitted without granting that human
qualities or attributes which go with personality cannot be
suggested, and that artistic intuitions which parallel them
cannot be reflected in music. Actually accomplishing the latter
is a problem, more or less arbitrary to an open mind, more or
less impossible to a prejudiced mind.

That which the composer intends to represent as "high vitality"
sounds like something quite different to different listeners.
That which I like to think suggests Thoreau's submission to
nature may, to another, seem something like Hawthorne's
"conception of the relentlessness of an evil conscience"--and to
the rest of our friends, but a series of unpleasant sounds. How
far can the composer be held accountable? Beyond a certain point
the responsibility is more or less undeterminable. The outside
characteristics--that is, the points furthest away from the
mergings--are obvious to mostly anyone. A child knows a "strain
of joy," from one of sorrow. Those a little older know the
dignified from the frivolous--the Spring Song from the season in
which the "melancholy days have come" (though is there not a
glorious hope in autumn!). But where is the definite expression
of late-spring against early-summer, of happiness against
optimism? A painter paints a sunset--can he paint the setting

In some century to come, when the school children will whistle
popular tunes in quarter-tones--when the diatonic scale will be
as obsolete as the pentatonic is now--perhaps then these
borderland experiences may be both easily expressed and readily
recognized. But maybe music was not intended to satisfy the
curious definiteness of man. Maybe it is better to hope that
music may always be a transcendental language in the most
extravagant sense. Possibly the power of literally distinguishing
these "shades of abstraction"--these attributes paralleled by
"artistic intuitions" (call them what you will)-is ever to be
denied man for the same reason that the beginning and end of a
circle are to be denied.


There may be an analogy--and on first sight it seems that there
must be--between both the state and power of artistic perceptions
and the law of perpetual change, that ever-flowing stream partly
biological, partly cosmic, ever going on in ourselves, in nature,
in all life. This may account for the difficulty of identifying
desired qualities with the perceptions of them in expression.
Many things are constantly coming into being, while others are
constantly going out--one part of the same thing is coming in
while another part is going out of existence. Perhaps this is why
the above conformity in art (a conformity which we seem naturally
to look for) appears at times so unrealizable, if not impossible.
It will be assumed, to make this theory clearer, that the "flow"
or "change" does not go on in the art-product itself. As a matter
of fact it probably does, to a certain extent--a picture, or a
song, may gain or lose in value beyond what the painter or
composer knew, by the progress and higher development in all art.
Keats may be only partially true when he says that "A work of
beauty is a joy forever"--a thing that is beautiful to ME, is a
joy to ME, as long as it remains beautiful to ME--and if it
remains so as long as I live, it is so forever, that is, forever
to ME. If he had put it this way, he would have been tiresome,
inartistic, but perhaps truer. So we will assume here that this
change only goes on in man and nature; and that this eternal
process in mankind is paralleled in some way during each
temporary, personal life.

A young man, two generations ago, found an identity with his
ideals, in Rossini; when an older man in Wagner. A young man, one
generation ago, found his in Wagner, but when older in Cesar
Franck or Brahms. Some may say that this change may not be
general, universal, or natural, and that it may be due to a
certain kind of education, or to a certain inherited or
contracted prejudice. We cannot deny or affirm this, absolutely,
nor will we try to even qualitatively--except to say that it will
be generally admitted that Rossini, today, does not appeal to
this generation, as he did to that of our fathers. As far as
prejudice or undue influence is concerned, and as an illustration
in point, the following may be cited to show that training may
have but little effect in this connection, at least not as much
as usually supposed--for we believe this experience to be, to a
certain extent, normal, or at least, not uncommon. A man
remembers, when he was a boy of about fifteen years, hearing his
music-teacher (and father) who had just returned from a
performance of Siegfried say with a look of anxious surprise that
"somehow or other he felt ashamed of enjoying the music as he
did," for beneath it all he was conscious of an undercurrent of
"make-believe"--the bravery was make-believe, the love was make-
believe, the passion, the virtue, all make-believe, as was the
dragon--P. T. Barnum would have been brave enough to have gone
out and captured a live one! But, that same boy at twenty-five
was listening to Wagner with enthusiasm, his reality was real
enough to inspire a devotion. The "Preis-Lied," for instance,
stirred him deeply. But when he became middle-aged--and long
before the Hohenzollern hog-marched into Belgium--this music had
become cloying, the melodies threadbare--a sense of something
commonplace--yes--of make-believe came. These feelings were
fought against for association's sake, and because of gratitude
for bygone pleasures--but the former beauty and nobility were not
there, and in their place stood irritating intervals of
descending fourths and fifths. Those once transcendent
progressions, luxuriant suggestions of Debussy chords of the 9th,
11th, etc., were becoming slimy. An unearned exultation--a
sentimentality deadening something within hides around in the
music. Wagner seems less and less to measure up to the substance
and reality of Cesar Franck, Brahms, d'Indy, or even Elgar (with
all his tiresomeness), the wholesomeness, manliness, humility,
and deep spiritual, possibly religious feeling of these men seem
missing and not made up for by his (Wagner's) manner and
eloquence, even if greater than theirs (which is very doubtful).

From the above we would try to prove that as this stream of
change flows towards the eventual ocean of mankind's perfection,
the art-works in which we identify our higher ideals come by this
process to be identified with the lower ideals of those who
embark after us when the stream has grown in depth. If we stop
with the above experience, our theory of the effect of man's
changing nature, as thus explaining artistic progress, is perhaps
sustained. Thus would we show that the perpetual flow of the life
stream is affected by and affects each individual riverbed of the
universal watersheds. Thus would we prove that the Wagner period
was normal, because we intuitively recognized whatever identity
we were looking for at a certain period in our life, and the fact
that it was so made the Franck period possible and then normal at
a later period in our life. Thus would we assume that this is as
it should be, and that it is not Wagner's content or substance or
his lack of virtue, that something in us has made us flow past
him and not he past us. But something blocks our theory!
Something makes our hypotheses seem purely speculative if not
useless. It is men like Bach and Beethoven.

Is it not a matter nowadays of common impression or general
opinion (for the law of averages plays strongly in any theory
relating to human attributes) that the world's attitude towards
the substance and quality and spirit of these two men, or other
men of like character, if there be such, has not been affected by
the flowing stream that has changed us? But if by the measure of
this public opinion, as well as it can be measured, Bach and
Beethoven are being flowed past--not as fast perhaps as Wagner
is, but if they are being passed at all from this deeper
viewpoint, then this "change" theory holds.

Here we shall have to assume, for we haven't proved it, that
artistic intuitions can sense in music a weakening of moral
strength and vitality, and that it is sensed in relation to
Wagner and not sensed in relation to Bach and Beethoven. If, in
this common opinion, there is a particle of change toward the
latter's art, our theory stands--mind you, this admits a change
in the manner, form, external expression, etc., but not in
substance. If there is no change here towards the substance of
these two men, our theory not only falls but its failure
superimposes or allows us to presume a fundamental duality in
music, and in all art for that matter.

Does the progress of intrinsic beauty or truth (we assume there
is such a thing) have its exposures as well as its discoveries?
Does the non-acceptance of the foregoing theory mean that
Wagner's substance and reality are lower and his manner higher;
that his beauty was not intrinsic; that he was more interested in
the repose of pride than in the truth of humility? It appears
that he chose the representative instead of the spirit itself,--
that he chose consciously or unconsciously, it matters not,--the
lower set of values in this dualism. These are severe accusations
to bring--especially when a man is a little down as Wagner is
today. But these convictions were present some time before he was
banished from the Metropolitan. Wagner seems to take Hugo's place
in Faguet's criticism of de Vigny that, "The staging to him
(Hugo) was the important thing--not the conception--that in de
Vigny, the artist was inferior to the poet"; finally that Hugo
and so Wagner have a certain pauvrete de fond. Thus would we
ungenerously make Wagner prove our sum! But it is a sum that
won't prove! The theory at its best does little more than suggest
something, which if it is true at all, is a platitude, viz.: that
progressive growth in all life makes it more and more possible
for men to separate, in an art-work, moral weakness from artistic


Human attributes are definite enough when it comes to their
description, but the expression of them, or the paralleling of
them in an art-process, has to be, as said above, more or less
arbitrary, but we believe that their expression can be less vague
if the basic distinction of this art-dualism is kept in mind. It
is morally certain that the higher part is founded, as Sturt
suggests, on something that has to do with those kinds of
unselfish human interests which we call knowledge and morality--
knowledge, not in the sense of erudition, but as a kind of
creation or creative truth. This allows us to assume that the
higher and more important value of this dualism is composed of
what may be called reality, quality, spirit, or substance against
the lower value of form, quantity, or manner. Of these terms
"substance" seems to us the most appropriate, cogent, and
comprehensive for the higher and "manner" for the under-value.
Substance in a human-art-quality suggests the body of a
conviction which has its birth in the spiritual consciousness,
whose youth is nourished in the moral consciousness, and whose
maturity as a result of all this growth is then represented in a
mental image. This is appreciated by the intuition, and somehow
translated into expression by "manner"--a process always less
important than it seems, or as suggested by the foregoing (in
fact we apologize for this attempted definition). So it seems
that "substance" is too indefinite to analyze, in more specific
terms. It is practically indescribable. Intuitions (artistic or
not?) will sense it--process, unknown. Perhaps it is an
unexplained consciousness of being nearer God, or being nearer
the devil--of approaching truth or approaching unreality--a
silent something felt in the truth-of-nature in Turner against
the truth-of-art in Botticelli, or in the fine thinking of Ruskin
against the fine soundings of Kipling, or in the wide expanse of
Titian against the narrow-expanse of Carpaccio, or in some such
distinction that Pope sees between what he calls Homer's
"invention" and Virgil's "judgment"--apparently an inspired
imagination against an artistic care, a sense of the difference,
perhaps, between Dr. Bushnell's Knowing God and knowing about
God. A more vivid explanation or illustration may be found in the
difference between Emerson and Poe. The former seems to be almost
wholly "substance" and the latter "manner." The measure in
artistic satisfaction of Poe's manner is equal to the measure of
spiritual satisfaction in Emerson's "substance." The total value
of each man is high, but Emerson's is higher than Poe's because
"substance" is higher than "manner"--because "substance" leans
towards optimism, and "manner" pessimism. We do not know that all
this is so, but we feel, or rather know by intuition that it is
so, in the same way we know intuitively that right is higher than
wrong, though we can't always tell why a thing is right or wrong,
or what is always the difference or the margin between right and

Beauty, in its common conception, has nothing to do with it
(substance), unless it be granted that its outward aspect, or the
expression between sensuous beauty and spiritual beauty can be
always and distinctly known, which it cannot, as the art of music
is still in its infancy. On reading this over, it seems only
decent that some kind of an apology be made for the beginning of
the preceding sentence. It cannot justly be said that anything
that has to do with art has nothing to do with beauty in any
degree,--that is, whether beauty is there or not, it has
something to do with it. A casual idea of it, a kind of a first
necessary-physical impression, was what we had in mind. Probably
nobody knows what actual beauty is--except those serious writers
of humorous essays in art magazines, who accurately, but kindly,
with club in hand, demonstrate for all time and men that beauty
is a quadratic monomial; that it _is_ absolute; that it is
relative; that it _is _not_ relative, that it _is _not_...The
word "beauty" is as easy to use as the word "degenerate." Both
come in handy when one does or does not agree with you. For our
part, something that Roussel-Despierres says comes nearer to what
we like to think beauty is..."an infinite source of good...the
love of the beautiful...a constant anxiety for moral beauty."
Even here we go around in a circle--a thing apparently
inevitable, if one tries to reduce art to philosophy. But
personally, we prefer to go around in a circle than around in a
parallelepipedon, for it seems cleaner and perhaps freer from
mathematics--or for the same reason we prefer Whittier to
Baudelaire--a poet to a genius, or a healthy to a rotten apple--
probably not so much because it is more nutritious, but because
we like its taste better; we like the beautiful and don't like
the ugly; therefore, what we like is beautiful, and what we don't
like is ugly--and hence we are glad the beautiful is not ugly,
for if it were we would like something we don't like. So having
unsettled what beauty is, let us go on.

At any rate, we are going to be arbitrary enough to claim, with
no definite qualification, that substance can be expressed in
music, and that it is the only valuable thing in it, and moreover
that in two separate pieces of music in which the notes are
almost identical, one can be of "substance" with little "manner,"
and the other can be of "manner" with little "substance."
Substance has something to do with character. Manner has nothing
to do with it. The "substance" of a tune comes from somewhere
near the soul, and the "manner" comes from--God knows where.


The lack of interest to preserve, or ability to perceive the
fundamental divisions of this duality accounts to a large extent,
we believe, for some or many various phenomena (pleasant or
unpleasant according to the personal attitude) of modern art, and
all art. It is evidenced in many ways--the sculptors' over-
insistence on the "mold," the outer rather than the inner subject
or content of his statue--over-enthusiasm for local color--over-
interest in the multiplicity of techniques, in the idiomatic, in
the effect as shown, by the appreciation of an audience rather
than in the effect on the ideals of the inner conscience of the
artist or the composer. This lack of perceiving is too often
shown by an over-interest in the material value of the effect.
The pose of self-absorption, which some men, in the advertising
business (and incidentally in the recital and composing business)
put into their photographs or the portraits of themselves, while
all dolled up in their purple-dressing-gowns, in their twofold
wealth of golden hair, in their cissy-like postures over the
piano keys--this pose of "manner" sometimes sounds out so loud
that the more their music is played, the less it is heard. For
does not Emerson tell them this when he says "What you are talks
so loud, that I cannot hear what you say"? The unescapable
impression that one sometimes gets by a glance at these public-
inflicted trade-marks, and without having heard or seen any of
their music, is that the one great underlying desire of these
appearing-artists, is to impress, perhaps startle and shock their
audiences and at any cost. This may have some such effect upon
some of the lady-part (male or female) of their listeners but
possibly the members of the men-part, who as boys liked hockey
better than birthday-parties, may feel like shocking a few of
these picture-sitters with something stronger than their own

The insistence upon manner in its relation to local color is
wider than a self-strain for effect. If local color is a natural
part, that is, a part of substance, the art-effort cannot help
but show its color--and it will be a true color, no matter how
colored; if it is a part, even a natural part of "manner," either
the color part is bound eventually to drive out the local part or
the local drive out all color. Here a process of cancellation or
destruction is going on--a kind of "compromise" which destroys by
deadlock; a compromise purchasing a selfish pleasure--a decadence
in which art becomes first dull, then dark, then dead, though
throughout this process it is outwardly very much alive,--
especially after it is dead. The same tendency may even be
noticed if there is over-insistence upon the national in art.
Substance tends to create affection; manner prejudice. The latter
tends to efface the distinction between the love of both a
country's virtue and vices, and the love of only the virtue. A
true love of country is likely to be so big that it will embrace
the virtue one sees in other countries and, in the same breath,
so to speak. A composer born in America, but who has not been
interested in the "cause of the Freedmen," may be so interested
in "negro melodies," that he writes a symphony over them. He is
conscious (perhaps only subconscious) that he wishes it to be
"American music." He tries to forget that the paternal negro came
from Africa. Is his music American or African? That is the great
question which keeps him awake! But the sadness of it is, that if
he had been born in Africa, his music might have been just as
American, for there is good authority that an African soul under
an X-ray looks identically like an American soul. There is a
futility in selecting a certain type to represent a "whole,"
unless the interest in the spirit of the type coincides with that
of the whole. In other words, if this composer isn't as deeply
interested in the "cause" as Wendell Phillips was, when he fought
his way through that anti-abolitionist crowd at Faneuil Hall, his
music is liable to be less American than he wishes. If a middle-
aged man, upon picking up the Scottish Chiefs, finds that his
boyhood enthusiasm for the prowess and noble deeds and character
of Sir Wm. Wallace and of Bruce is still present, let him put, or
try to put that glory into an overture, let him fill it chuck-
full of Scotch tunes, if he will. But after all is said and sung
he will find that his music is American to the core (assuming
that he is an American and wishes his music to be). It will be as
national in character as the heart of that Grand Army
Grandfather, who read those Cragmore Tales of a summer evening,
when that boy had brought the cows home without witching. Perhaps
the memories of the old soldier, to which this man still holds
tenderly, may be turned into a "strain" or a "sonata," and though
the music does not contain, or even suggest any of the old war-
songs, it will be as sincerely American as the subject, provided
his (the composer's) interest, spirit, and character sympathize
with, or intuitively coincide with that of the subject.

Again, if a man finds that the cadences of an Apache war-dance
come nearest to his soul, provided he has taken pains to know
enough other cadences--for eclecticism is part of his duty--
sorting potatoes means a better crop next year--let him
assimilate whatever he finds highest of the Indian ideal, so that
he can use it with the cadences, fervently, transcendentally,
inevitably, furiously, in his symphonies, in his operas, in his
whistlings on the way to work, so that he can paint his house
with them--make them a part of his prayer-book--this is all
possible and necessary, if he is confident that they have a part
in his spiritual consciousness. With this assurance his music
will have everything it should of sincerity, nobility, strength,
and beauty, no matter how it sounds; and if, with this, he is
true to none but the highest of American ideals (that is, the
ideals only that coincide with his spiritual consciousness) his
music will be true to itself and incidentally American, and it
will be so even after it is proved that all our Indians came from

The man "born down to Babbitt's Corners," may find a deep appeal
in the simple but acute "Gospel Hymns of the New England camp
meetin'," of a generation or so ago. He finds in them--some of
them--a vigor, a depth of feeling, a natural-soil rhythm, a
sincerity, emphatic but inartistic, which, in spite of a
vociferous sentimentality, carries him nearer the "Christ of the
people" than does the Te Deum of the greatest cathedral. These
tunes have, for him, a truer ring than many of those groove-made,
even-measured, monotonous, non-rhythmed, indoor-smelling, priest-
taught, academic, English or neo-English hymns (and anthems)--
well-written, well-harmonized things, well-voice-led, well-
counterpointed, well corrected, and well O.K.'d, by well
corrected Mus. Bac. R.F.O.G.'s-personified sounds, correct and
inevitable to sight and hearing--in a word, those proper forms of
stained-glass beauty, which our over-drilled mechanisms-boy-
choirs are limited to. But, if the Yankee can reflect the
fervency with which "his gospels" were sung--the fervency of
"Aunt Sarah," who scrubbed her life away, for her brother's ten
orphans, the fervency with which this woman, after a fourteen-
hour work day on the farm, would hitch up and drive five miles,
through the mud and rain to "prayer meetin'"--her one articulate
outlet for the fullness of her unselfish soul--if he can reflect
the fervency of such a spirit, he may find there a local color
that will do all the world good. If his music can but catch that
"spirit" by being a part with itself, it will come somewhere near
his ideal--and it will be American, too, perhaps nearer so than
that of the devotee of Indian or negro melody. In other words, if
local color, national color, any color, is a true pigment of the
universal color, it is a divine quality, it is a part of
substance in art--not of manner. The preceding illustrations are
but attempts to show that whatever excellence an artist sees in
life, a community, in a people, or in any valuable object or
experience, if sincerely and intuitively reflected in his work,
and so he himself, is, in a way, a reflected part of that
excellence. Whether he be accepted or rejected, whether his music
is always played, or never played--all this has nothing to do
with it--it is true or false by his own measure. If we may be
permitted to leave out two words, and add a few more, a sentence
of Hegel appears to sum up this idea, "The universal need for
expression in art lies in man's rational impulse to exalt the
inner...world (i.e., the highest ideals he sees in the inner life
of others) together with what he finds in his own life--into a
spiritual consciousness for himself." The artist does feel or
does not feel that a sympathy has been approved by an artistic
intuition and so reflected in his work. Whether he feels this
sympathy is true or not in the final analysis, is a thing
probably that no one but he (the artist) knows but the truer he
feels it, the more substance it has, or as Sturt puts it, "his
work is art, so long as he feels in doing it as true artists
feel, and so long as his object is akin to the objects that true
artists admire."

Dr. Griggs in an Essay on Debussy, [John C. Griggs, "Debussy"
Yale Review, 1914] asks if this composer's content is worthy the
manner. Perhaps so, perhaps not--Debussy himself, doubtless,
could not give a positive answer. He would better know how true
his feeling and sympathy was, and anyone else's personal opinion
can be of but little help here.

We might offer the suggestion that Debussy's content would have
been worthier his manner, if he had hoed corn or sold newspapers
for a living, for in this way he might have gained a deeper
vitality and truer theme to sing at night and of a Sunday. Or we
might say that what substance there is, is "too coherent"--it is
too clearly expressed in the first thirty seconds. There you have
the "whole fragment," a translucent syllogism, but then the
reality, the spirit, the substance stops and the "form," the
"perfume," the "manner," shimmer right along, as the soapsuds
glisten after one has finished washing. Or we might say that his
substance would have been worthier, if his adoration or
contemplation of Nature, which is often a part of it, and which
rises to great heights, as is felt for example, in La Mer, had
been more the quality of Thoreau's. Debussy's attitude toward
Nature seems to have a kind of sensual sensuousness underlying
it, while Thoreau's is a kind of spiritual sensuousness. It is
rare to find a farmer or peasant whose enthusiasm for the beauty
in Nature finds outward expression to compare with that of the
city-man who comes out for a Sunday in the country, but Thoreau
is that rare country-man and Debussy the city-man with his
weekend flights into country-aesthetics. We would be inclined to
say that Thoreau leaned towards substance and Debussy towards


There comes from Concord, an offer to every mind--the choice
between repose and truth, and God makes the offer. "Take which
you please...between these, as a pendulum, man oscillates. He in
whom the love of repose predominates will accept the first creed,
the first philosophy, the first political party he meets," most
likely his father's. He gets rest, commodity, and reputation.
Here is another aspect of art-duality, but it is more drastic
than ours, as it would eliminate one part or the other. A man may
aim as high as Beethoven or as high as Richard Strauss. In the
former case the shot may go far below the mark; in truth, it has
not been reached since that "thunder storm of 1828" and there is
little chance that it will be reached by anyone living today, but
that matters not, the shot will never rebound and destroy the
marksman. But, in the latter case, the shot may often hit the
mark, but as often rebound and harden, if not destroy, the
shooter's heart--even his soul. What matters it, men say, he will
then find rest, commodity, and reputation--what matters it--if he
find there but few perfect truths--what matters (men say)--he
will find there perfect media, those perfect instruments of
getting in the way of perfect truths.

This choice tells why Beethoven is always modern and Strauss
always mediaeval--try as he may to cover it up in new bottles. He
has chosen to capitalize a "talent"--he has chosen the complexity
of media, the shining hardness of externals, repose, against the
inner, invisible activity of truth. He has chosen the first
creed, the easy creed, the philosophy of his fathers, among whom
he found a half-idiot-genius (Nietzsche). His choice naturally
leads him to glorify and to magnify all kind of dull things--
stretched-out geigermusik--which in turn naturally leads him to
"windmills" and "human heads on silver platters." Magnifying the
dull into the colossal, produces a kind of "comfort"--the comfort
of a woman who takes more pleasure in the fit of fashionable
clothes than in a healthy body--the kind of comfort that has
brought so many "adventures of baby-carriages at county fairs"--
"the sensation of Teddy bears, smoking their first cigarette"--on
the program of symphony orchestras of one hundred performers,--
the lure of the media--the means--not the end--but the finish,--
thus the failure to perceive that thoughts and memories of
childhood are too tender, and some of them too sacred to be worn
lightly on the sleeve. Life is too short for these one hundred
men, to say nothing of the composer and the "dress-circle," to
spend an afternoon in this way. They are but like the rest of us,
and have only the expectancy of the mortality-table to survive--
perhaps only this "piece." We cannot but feel that a too great
desire for "repose" accounts for such phenomena. A MS. score is
brought to a concertmaster--he may be a violinist--he is kindly
disposed, he looks it over, and casually fastens on a passage
"that's bad for the fiddles, it doesn't hang just right, write it
like this, they will play it better." But that one phrase is the
germ of the whole thing. "Never mind, it will fit the hand better
this way--it will sound better." My God! what has sound got to do
with music! The waiter brings the only fresh egg he has, but the
man at breakfast sends it back because it doesn't fit his eggcup.
Why can't music go out in the same way it comes in to a man,
without having to crawl over a fence of sounds, thoraxes,
catguts, wire, wood, and brass? Consecutive-fifths are as
harmless as blue laws compared with the relentless tyranny of the
"media." The instrument!--there is the perennial difficulty--
there is music's limitations. Why must the scarecrow of the
keyboard--the tyrant in terms of the mechanism (be it Caruso or a
Jew's-harp) stare into every measure? Is it the composer's fault
that man has only ten fingers? Why can't a musical thought be
presented as it is born--perchance "a bastard of the slums," or a
"daughter of a bishop"--and if it happens to go better later on
a bass-drum (than upon a harp) get a good bass-drummer.
[Footnote: The first movement (Emerson) of the music, which is
the cause of all these words, was first thought of (we believe)
in terms of a large orchestra, the second (Hawthorne) in terms of
a piano or a dozen pianos, the third (Alcotts)--of an organ (or
piano with voice or violin), and the last (Thoreau), in terms of
strings, colored possibly with a flute or horn.] That music must
be heard, is not essential--what it sounds like may not be what
it is. Perhaps the day is coming when music--believers will learn
"that silence is a solvent...that gives us leave to be universal"
rather than personal.

Some fiddler was once honest or brave enough, or perhaps ignorant
enough, to say that Beethoven didn't know how to write for the
violin,--that, maybe, is one of the many reasons Beethoven is not
a Vieuxtemps. Another man says Beethoven's piano sonatas are not
pianistic--with a little effort, perhaps, Beethoven could have
become a Thalberg. His symphonies are perfect-truths and perfect
for the orchestra of l820--but Mahler could have made them--
possibly did make them--we will say, "more perfect," as far as
their media clothes are concerned, and Beethoven is today big
enough to rather like it. He is probably in the same amiable
state of mind that the Jesuit priest said, "God was in," when He
looked down on the camp ground and saw the priest sleeping with a
Congregational Chaplain. Or in the same state of mind you'll be
in when you look down and see the sexton keeping your tombstone
up to date. The truth of Joachim offsets the repose of Paganini
and Kubelik. The repose and reputation of a successful pianist--
(whatever that means) who plays Chopin so cleverly that he covers
up a sensuality, and in such a way that the purest-minded see
nothing but sensuous beauty in it, which, by the way, doesn't
disturb him as much as the size of his income-tax--the repose and
fame of this man is offset by the truth and obscurity of the
village organist who plays Lowell Mason and Bach with such
affection that he would give his life rather than lose them. The
truth and courage of this organist, who risks his job, to fight
the prejudice of the congregation, offset the repose and large
salary of a more celebrated choirmaster, who holds his job by
lowering his ideals, who is willing to let the organ smirk under
an insipid, easy-sounding barcarolle for the offertory, who is
willing to please the sentimental ears of the music committee
(and its wives)--who is more willing to observe these forms of
politeness than to stand up for a stronger and deeper music of
simple devotion, and for a service of a spiritual unity, the kind
of thing that Mr. Bossitt, who owns the biggest country place,
the biggest bank, and the biggest "House of God" in town (for is
it not the divine handiwork of his own-pocketbook)--the kind of
music that this man, his wife, and his party (of property right
in pews) can't stand because it isn't "pretty."

The doctrine of this "choice" may be extended to the distinction
between literal-enthusiasm and natural-enthusiasm (right or wrong
notes, good or bad tones against good or bad interpretation, good
or bad sentiment) or between observation and introspection, or to
the distinction between remembering and dreaming. Strauss
remembers, Beethoven dreams. We see this distinction also in
Goethe's confusion of the moral with the intellectual. There is
no such confusion in Beethoven--to him they are one. It is told,
and the story is so well known that we hesitate to repeat it
here, that both these men were standing in the street one day
when the Emperor drove by--Goethe, like the rest of the crowd,
bowed and uncovered--but Beethoven stood bolt upright, and
refused even to salute, saying: "Let him bow to us, for ours is a
nobler empire." Goethe's mind knew this was true, but his moral
courage was not instinctive.

This remembering faculty of "repose," throws the mind in
unguarded moments quite naturally towards "manner" and thus to
the many things the media can do. It brings on an itching to
over-use them--to be original (if anyone will tell what that is)
with nothing but numbers to be original with. We are told that a
conductor (of the orchestra) has written a symphony requiring an
orchestra of one hundred and fifty men. If his work perhaps had
one hundred and fifty valuable ideas, the one hundred and fifty
men might be justifiable--but as it probably contains not more
than a dozen, the composer may be unconsciously ashamed of them,
and glad to cover them up under a hundred and fifty men. A man
may become famous because he is able to eat nineteen dinners a
day, but posterity will decorate his stomach, not his brain.

Manner breeds a cussed-cleverness--only to be clever--a satellite
of super-industrialism, and perhaps to be witty in the bargain,
not the wit in mother-wit, but a kind of indoor, artificial,
mental arrangement of things quickly put together and which have
been learned and studied--it is of the material and stays there,
while humor is of the emotional and of the approaching spiritual.
Even Dukas, and perhaps other Gauls, in their critical heart of
hearts, may admit that "wit" in music, is as impossible as "wit"
at a funeral. The wit is evidence of its lack. Mark Twain could
be humorous at the death of his dearest friend, but in such a way
as to put a blessing into the heart of the bereaved. Humor in
music has the same possibilities. But its quantity has a serious
effect on its quality, "inverse ratio" is a good formula to adopt
here. Comedy has its part, but wit never. Strauss is at his best
in these lower rooms, but his comedy reminds us more of the
physical fun of Lever rather than "comedy in the Meredithian
sense" as Mason suggests. Meredith is a little too deep or too
subtle for Strauss--unless it be granted that cynicism is more a
part of comedy than a part of refined-insult. Let us also
remember that Mr. Disston, not Mr. Strauss, put the funny notes
in the bassoon. A symphony written only to amuse and entertain is
likely to amuse only the writer--and him not long after the check
is cashed.

"Genius is always ascetic and piety and love," thus Emerson
reinforces "God's offer of this choice" by a transcendental
definition. The moment a famous violinist refused "to appear"
until he had received his check,--at that moment, precisely
(assuming for argument's sake, that this was the first time that
materialism had the ascendancy in this man's soul) at that moment
he became but a man of "talent"--incidentally, a small man and a
small violinist, regardless of how perfectly he played,
regardless to what heights of emotion he stirred his audience,
regardless of the sublimity of his artistic and financial

d'Annunzio, it is told, becoming somewhat discouraged at the
result of some of his Fiume adventures said: "We are the only
Idealists left." This remark may have been made in a moment of
careless impulse, but if it is taken at its face value, the
moment it was made that moment his idealism started downhill. A
grasp at monopoly indicates that a sudden shift has taken place
from the heights where genius may be found, to the lower plains
of talent. The mind of a true idealist is great enough to know
that a monopoly of idealism or of wheat is a thing nature does
not support.

A newspaper music column prints an incident (so how can we assume
that it is not true?) of an American violinist who called on Max
Reger, to tell him how much he (the American) appreciated his
music. Reger gives him a hopeless look and cries: "What! a
musician and not speak German!" At that moment, by the clock,
regardless of how great a genius he may have been before that
sentence was uttered--at that moment he became but a man of
"talent." "For the man of talent affects to call his
transgressions of the laws of sense trivial and to count them
nothing considered with his devotion to his art." His art never
taught him prejudice or to wear only one eye. "His art is less
for every deduction from his holiness and less for every defect
of common sense." And this common sense has a great deal to do
with this distinguishing difference of Emerson's between genius
and talent, repose and truth, and between all evidences of
substance and manner in art. Manner breeds partialists. "Is
America a musical nation?"--if the man who is ever asking this
question would sit down and think something over he might find
less interest in asking it--he might possibly remember that all
nations are more musical than any nation, especially the nation
that pays the most--and pays the most eagerly, for anything,
after it has been professionally-rubber stamped. Music may be yet
unborn. Perhaps no music has ever been written or heard. Perhaps
the birth of art will take place at the moment, in which the last
man, who is willing to make a living out of art is gone and gone
forever. In the history of this youthful world the best product
that human-beings can boast of is probably, Beethoven--but,
maybe, even his art is as nothing in comparison with the future
product of some coal-miner's soul in the forty-first century. And
the same man who is ever asking about the most musical nation, is
ever discovering the most musical man of the most musical nation.
When particularly hysterical he shouts, "I have found him! Smith
Grabholz--the one great American poet,--at last, here is the
Moses the country has been waiting for"--(of course we all know
that the country has not been waiting for anybody--and we have
many Moses always with us). But the discoverer keeps right on
shouting "Here is the one true American poetry, I pronounce it
the work of a genius. I predict for him the most brilliant
career--for his is an art that...--for his is a soul that... for
his is a..." and Grabholz is ruined;--but ruined, not alone, by
this perennial discoverer of pearls in any oyster-shell that
treats him the best, but ruined by his own (Grabholz's) talent,--
for genius will never let itself be discovered by "a man." Then
the world may ask "Can the one true national "this" or "that" be
killed by its own discoverer?" "No," the country replies, "but
each discovery is proof of another impossibility." It is a sad
fact that the one true man and the one true art will never behave
as they should except in the mind of the partialist whom God has
forgotten. But this matters little to him (the man)--his business
is good--for it is easy to sell the future in terms of the past--
and there are always some who will buy anything. The individual
usually "gains" if he is willing to but lean on "manner." The
evidence of this is quite widespread, for if the discoverer
happens to be in any other line of business his sudden
discoveries would be just as important--to him. In fact, the
theory of substance and manner in art and its related dualisms,
"repose and truth, genius and talent," &c., may find illustration
in many, perhaps most, of the human activities. And when examined
it (the illustration) is quite likely to show how "manner" is
always discovering partisans. For example, enthusiastic
discoveries of the "paragon" are common in politics--an art to
some. These revelations, in this profession are made easy by the
pre-election discovering-leaders of the people. And the genius
who is discovered, forthwith starts his speeches of "talent"--
though they are hardly that--they are hardly more than a string
of subplatitudes, square-looking, well-rigged things that almost
everybody has seen, known, and heard since Rome or man fell.
Nevertheless these signs of perfect manner, these series of noble
sentiments that the "noble" never get off, are forcibly, clearly,
and persuasively handed out--eloquently, even beautifully
expressed, and with such personal charm, magnetism, and strength,
that their profound messages speed right through the minds and
hearts, without as much as spattering the walls, and land right
square in the middle of the listener's vanity. For all this is a
part of manner and its quality is of splendor--for manner is at
times a good bluff but substance a poor one and knows it. The
discovered one's usual and first great outburst is probably the
greatest truth that he ever utters. Fearlessly standing, he looks
straight into the eyes of the populace and with a strong ringing
voice (for strong voices and strong statesmanship are
inseparable) and with words far more eloquent than the following,
he sings "This honor is greater than I deserve but duty calls me-
-(what, not stated)... If elected, I shall be your servant"...
(for, it is told, that he believes in modesty,--that he has even
boasted that he is the most modest man in the country)... Thus he
has the right to shout, "First, last and forever I am for the
people. I am against all bosses. I have no sympathy for
politicians. I am for strict economy, liberal improvements and
justice! I am also for the--ten commandments" (his intuitive
political sagacity keeps him from mentioning any particular
one).--But a sublime height is always reached in his perorations.
Here we learn that he believes in honesty--(repeat "honesty");--
we are even allowed to infer that he is one of the very few who
know that there is such a thing; and we also learn that since he
was a little boy (barefoot) his motto has been "Do Right,"--he
swerves not from the right!--he believes in nothing but the
right; (to him--everything is right!--if it gets him elected);
but cheers invariably stop this great final truth (in brackets)
from rising to animate expression. Now all of these translucent
axioms are true (are not axioms always true?),--as far as manner
is concerned. In other words, the manner functions perfectly. But
where is the divine substance? This is not there--why should it
be--if it were he might not be there. "Substance" is not featured
in this discovery. For the truth of substance is sometimes
silence, sometimes ellipses,--and the latter if supplied might
turn some of the declarations above into perfect truths,--for
instance "first and last and forever I am for the people ('s
votes). I'm against all bosses (against me). I have no sympathy
for (rival) politicians," etc., etc. But these tedious attempts
at comedy should stop,--they're too serious,--besides the
illustration may be a little hard on a few, the minority (the
non-people) though not on the many, the majority (the people)!
But even an assumed parody may help to show what a power manner
is for reaction unless it is counterbalanced and then saturated
by the other part of the duality. Thus it appears that all there
is to this great discovery is that one good politician has
discovered another good politician. For manner has brought forth
its usual talent;--for manner cannot discover the genius who has
discarded platitudes--the genius who has devised a new and
surpassing order for mankind, simple and intricate enough,
abstract and definite enough, locally impractical and universally
practical enough, to wipe out the need for further discoveries of
"talent" and incidentally the discoverer's own fortune and
political "manner." Furthermore, he (this genius) never will be
discovered until the majority-spirit, the common-heart, the
human-oversoul, the source of all great values, converts all
talent into genius, all manner into substance--until the direct
expression of the mind and soul of the majority, the divine right
of all consciousness, social, moral, and spiritual, discloses the
one true art and thus finally discovers the one true leader--even
itself:--then no leaders, no politicians, no manner, will hold
sway--and no more speeches will be heard.

The intensity today, with which techniques and media are
organized and used, tends to throw the mind away from a "common
sense" and towards "manner" and thus to resultant weak and mental
states--for example, the Byronic fallacy--that one who is full of
turbid feeling about himself is qualified to be some sort of an
artist. In this relation "manner" also leads some to think that
emotional sympathy for self is as true a part of art as sympathy
for others; and a prejudice in favor of the good and bad of one
personality against the virtue of many personalities. It may be
that when a poet or a whistler becomes conscious that he is in
the easy path of any particular idiom,--that he is helplessly
prejudiced in favor of any particular means of expression,--that
his manner can be catalogued as modern or classic,--that he
favors a contrapuntal groove, a sound-coloring one, a sensuous
one, a successful one, or a melodious one (whatever that means),-
-that his interests lie in the French school or the German
school, or the school of Saturn,--that he is involved in this
particular "that" or that particular "this," or in any particular
brand of emotional complexes,--in a word, when he becomes
conscious that his style is "his personal own,"--that it has
monopolized a geographical part of the world's sensibilities,
then it may be that the value of his substance is not growing,--
that it even may have started on its way backwards,--it may be
that he is trading an inspiration for a bad habit and finally
that he is reaching fame, permanence, or some other under-value,
and that he is getting farther and farther from a perfect truth.
But, on the contrary side of the picture, it is not unreasonable
to imagine that if he (this poet, composer, and laborer) is open
to all the overvalues within his reach,--if he stands unprotected
from all the showers of the absolute which may beat upon him,--if
he is willing to use or learn to use, or at least if he is not
afraid of trying to use, whatever he can, of any and all lessons
of the infinite that humanity has received and thrown to man,--
that nature has exposed and sacrificed, that life and death have
translated--if he accepts all and sympathizes with all, is
influenced by all, whether consciously or sub-consciously,
drastically or humbly, audibly or inaudibly, whether it be all
the virtue of Satan or the only evil of Heaven--and all, even, at
one time, even in one chord,--then it may be that the value of
his substance, and its value to himself, to his art, to all art,
even to the Common Soul is growing and approaching nearer and
nearer to perfect truths--whatever they are and wherever they may

Again, a certain kind of manner-over-influence may be caused by a
group-disease germ. The over-influence by, the over-admiration
of, and the over-association with a particular artistic
personality or a particular type or group of personalities tends
to produce equally favorable and unfavorable symptoms, but the
unfavorable ones seem to be more contagious. Perhaps the impulse
remark of some famous man (whose name we forget) that he "loved
music but hated musicians," might be followed (with some good
results) at least part of the time. To see the sun rise, a man
has but to get up early, and he can always have Bach in his
pocket. We hear that Mr. Smith or Mr. Morgan, etc., et al. design
to establish a "course at Rome," to raise the standard of
American music, (or the standard of American composers--which is
it?) but possibly the more our composer accepts from his patrons
"et al." the less he will accept from himself. It may be possible
that a day in a "Kansas wheat field" will do more for him than
three years in Rome. It may be, that many men--perhaps some of
genius--(if you won't admit that all are geniuses) have been
started on the downward path of subsidy by trying to write a
thousand dollar prize poem or a ten thousand dollar prize opera.
How many masterpieces have been prevented from blossoming in this
way? A cocktail will make a man eat more, but will not give him a
healthy, normal appetite (if he had not that already). If a
bishop should offer a "prize living" to the curate who will love
God the hardest for fifteen days, whoever gets the prize would
love God the least. Such stimulants, it strikes us, tend to
industrialize art, rather than develop a spiritual sturdiness--a
sturdiness which Mr. Sedgwick says [footnote: H. D. Sedgwick. The
New American Type. Riverside Press. ] "shows itself in a close
union between spiritual life and the ordinary business of life,"
against spiritual feebleness which "shows itself in the
separation of the two." If one's spiritual sturdiness is
congenital and somewhat perfect he is not only conscious that
this separation has no part in his own soul, but he does not feel
its existence in others. He does not believe there is such a
thing. But perfection in this respect is rare. And for the most
of us, we believe, this sturdiness would be encouraged by
anything that will keep or help us keep a normal balance between
the spiritual life and the ordinary life. If for every thousand
dollar prize a potato field be substituted, so that these
candidates of "Clio" can dig a little in real life, perhaps dig
up a natural inspiration, arts--air might be a little clearer--a
little freer from certain traditional delusions, for instance,
that free thought and free love always go to the same cafe--that
atmosphere and diligence are synonymous. To quote Thoreau
incorrectly: "When half-Gods talk, the Gods walk!" Everyone
should have the opportunity of not being over-influenced.

Again, this over-influence by and over-insistence upon "manner"
may finally lead some to believe "that manner for manner's sake
is a basis of music." Someone is quoted as saying that "ragtime
is the true American music." Anyone will admit that it is one of
the many true, natural, and, nowadays, conventional means of
expression. It is an idiom, perhaps a "set or series of
colloquialisms," similar to those that have added through
centuries and through natural means, some beauty to all
languages. Every language is but the evolution of slang, and
possibly the broad "A" in Harvard may have come down from the
"butcher of Southwark." To examine ragtime rhythms and the
syncopations of Schumann or of Brahms seems to the writer to show
how much alike they are not. Ragtime, as we hear it, is, of
course, more (but not much more) than a natural dogma of shifted
accents, or a mixture of shifted and minus accents. It is
something like wearing a derby hat on the back of the head, a
shuffling lilt of a happy soul just let out of a Baptist Church
in old Alabama. Ragtime has its possibilities. But it does not
"represent the American nation" any more than some fine old
senators represent it. Perhaps we know it now as an ore before it
has been refined into a product. It may be one of nature's ways
of giving art raw material. Time will throw its vices away and
weld its virtues into the fabric of our music. It has its uses as
the cruet on the boarding-house table has, but to make a meal of
tomato ketchup and horse-radish, to plant a whole farm with
sunflowers, even to put a sunflower into every bouquet, would be
calling nature something worse than a politician. Mr. Daniel
Gregory Mason, whose wholesome influence, by the way, is doing as
much perhaps for music in America as American music is, amusingly
says: "If indeed the land of Lincoln and Emerson has degenerated
until nothing remains of it but a 'jerk and rattle,' then we, at
least, are free to repudiate this false patriotism of 'my Country
right or wrong,' to insist that better than bad music is no
music, and to let our beloved art subside finally under the
clangor of the subway gongs and automobile horns, dead, but not
dishonored." And so may we ask: Is it better to sing inadequately
of the "leaf on Walden floating," and die "dead but not
dishonored," or to sing adequately of the "cherry on the
cocktail," and live forever?


If anyone has been strong enough to escape these rocks--this
"Scylla and Charybdis,"--has survived these wrong choices, these
under-values with their prizes, Bohemias and heroes, is not such
a one in a better position, is he not abler and freer to "declare
himself and so to love his cause so singly that he will cleave to
it, and forsake all else? What is this cause for the American
composer but the utmost musical beauty that he, as an individual
man, with his own qualities and defects, is capable of
understanding and striving towards?--forsaking all else except
those types of musical beauty that come home to him," [footnote:
Contemporary Composers, D. G. Mason, Macmil1an Co., N. Y.] and
that his spiritual conscience intuitively approves.

"It matters not one jot, provided this course of personal loyalty
to a cause be steadfastly pursued, what the special
characteristics of the style of the music may be to which one
gives one's devotion." [footnote: Contemporary Composers, D. G.
Mason, Macmil1an Co., N. Y.] This, if over-translated, may be
made to mean, what we have been trying to say--that if your
interest, enthusiasm, and devotion on the side of substance and
truth, are of the stuff to make you so sincere that you sweat--to
hell with manner and repose! Mr. Mason is responsible for too
many young minds, in their planting season to talk like this, to
be as rough, or to go as far, but he would probably admit that,
broadly speaking--some such way, i.e., constantly recognizing
this ideal duality in art, though not the most profitable road
for art to travel, is almost its only way out to eventual freedom
and salvation. Sidney Lanier, in a letter to Bayard Taylor
writes: "I have so many fair dreams and hopes about music in
these days (1875). It is gospel whereof the people are in great
need. As Christ gathered up the Ten Commandments and redistilled
them into the clear liquid of the wondrous eleventh--love God
utterly and thy neighbor as thyself--so I think the time will
come when music rightly developed to its now little forseen
grandeur will be found to be a late revelation of all gospels in
one." Could the art of music, or the art of anything have a more
profound reason for being than this? A conception unlimited by
the narrow names of Christian, Pagan, Jew, or Angel! A vision
higher and deeper than art itself!


The humblest composer will not find true humility in aiming low--
he must never be timid or afraid of trying to express that which
he feels is far above his power to express, any more than he
should be afraid of breaking away, when necessary, from easy
first sounds, or afraid of admitting that those half truths that
come to him at rare intervals, are half true, for instance, that
all art galleries contain masterpieces, which are nothing more
than a history of art's beautiful mistakes. He should never fear
of being called a high-brow--but not the kind in Prof. Brander
Matthews' definition. John L. Sullivan was a "high-brow" in his
art. A high-brow can always whip a low-brow.

If he "truly seeks," he "will surely find" many things to sustain
him. He can go to a part of Alcott's philosophy--"that all
occupations of man's body and soul in their diversity come from
but one mind and soul!" If he feels that to subscribe to all of
the foregoing and then submit, though not as evidence, the work
of his own hands is presumptuous, let him remember that a man is
not always responsible for the wart on his face, or a girl for
the bloom on her cheek, and as they walk out of a Sunday for an
airing, people will see them--but they must have the air. He can
remember with Plotinus, "that in every human soul there is the
ray of the celestial beauty," and therefore every human outburst
may contain a partial ray. And he can believe that it is better
to go to the plate and strike out than to hold the bench down,
for by facing the pitcher, he may then know the umpire better,
and possibly see a new parabola. His presumption, if it be that,
may be but a kind of courage juvenal sings about, and no harm can
then be done either side. "Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator."


To divide by an arbitrary line something that cannot be divided
is a process that is disturbing to some. Perhaps our deductions
are not as inevitable as they are logical, which suggests that
they are not "logic." An arbitrary assumption is never fair to
all any of the time, or to anyone all the time. Many will resent
the abrupt separation that a theory of duality in music suggests
and say that these general subdivisions are too closely inter-
related to be labeled decisively--"this or that." There is
justice in this criticism, but our answer is that it is better to
be short on the long than long on the short. In such an abstruse
art as music it is easy for one to point to this as substance and
to that as manner. Some will hold and it is undeniable--in fact
quite obvious--that manner has a great deal to do with the beauty
of substance, and that to make a too arbitrary division, or
distinction between them, is to interfere, to some extent, with
an art's beauty and unity. There is a great deal of truth in this
too. But on the other hand, beauty in music is too often confused
with something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair. Many
sounds that we are used to, do not bother us, and for that
reason, we are inclined to call them beautiful. Frequently,--
possibly almost invariably,--analytical and impersonal tests will
show, we believe, that when a new or unfamiliar work is accepted
as beautiful on its first hearing, its fundamental quality is one
that tends to put the mind to sleep. A narcotic is not always
unnecessary, but it is seldom a basis of progress,--that is,
wholesome evolution in any creative experience. This kind of
progress has a great deal to do with beauty--at least in its
deeper emotional interests, if not in its moral values. (The
above is only a personal impression, but it is based on carefully
remembered instances, during a period of about fifteen or twenty
years.) Possibly the fondness for individual utterance may throw
out a skin-deep arrangement, which is readily accepted as
beautiful--formulae that weaken rather than toughen up the
musical-muscles. If the composer's sincere conception of his art
and of its functions and ideals, coincide to such an extent with
these groove-colored permutations of tried out progressions in
expediency, that he can arrange them over and over again to his
transcendent delight--has he or has he not been drugged with an
overdose of habit-forming sounds? And as a result do not the
muscles of his clientele become flabbier and flabbier until they
give way altogether and find refuge only in a seasoned opera
box--where they can see without thinking? And unity is too
generally conceived of, or too easily accepted as analogous to
form, and form (as analogous) to custom, and custom to habit, and
habit may be one of the parents of custom and form, and there are
all kinds of parents. Perhaps all unity in art, at its inception,
is half-natural and half-artificial but time insists, or at least
makes us, or inclines to make us feel that it is all natural. It
is easy for us to accept it as such. The "unity of dress" for a
man at a ball requires a collar, yet he could dance better
without it. Coherence, to a certain extent, must bear some
relation to the listener's subconscious perspective. For example,
a critic has to listen to a thousand concerts a year, in which
there is much repetition, not only of the same pieces, but the
same formal relations of tones, cadences, progressions, etc.
There is present a certain routine series of image-necessity-
stimulants, which he doesn't seem to need until they disappear.
Instead of listening to music, he listens around it. And from
this subconscious viewpoint, he inclines perhaps more to the
thinking about than thinking in music. If he could go into some
other line of business for a year or so perhaps his perspective
would be more naturally normal. The unity of a sonata movement
has long been associated with its form, and to a greater extent
than is necessary. A first theme, a development, a second in a
related key and its development, the free fantasia, the
recapitulation, and so on, and over again. Mr. Richter or Mr.
Parker may tell us that all this is natural, for it is based on
the classic-song form, but in spite of your teachers a vague
feeling sometimes creeps over you that the form-nature of the
song has been stretched out into deformity. Some claim for
Tchaikowsky that his clarity and coherence of design is
unparalleled (or some such word) in works for the orchestra. That
depends, it seems to us, on how far repetition is an essential
part of clarity and coherence. We know that butter comes from
cream--but how long must we watch the "churning arm!" If nature
is not enthusiastic about explanation, why should Tschaikowsky
be? Beethoven had to churn, to some extent, to make his message
carry. He had to pull the ear, hard and in the same place and
several times, for the 1790 ear was tougher than the 1890 one.
But the "great Russian weeper" might have spared us. To Emerson,
"unity and the over-soul, or the common-heart, are synonymous."
Unity is at least nearer to these than to solid geometry, though
geometry may be all unity.

But to whatever unpleasantness the holding to this theory of
duality brings us, we feel that there is a natural law underneath
it all, and like all laws of nature, a liberal interpretation is
the one nearest the truth. What part of these supplements are
opposites? What part of substance is manner? What part of this
duality is polarity? These questions though not immaterial may be
disregarded, if there be a sincere appreciation (intuition is
always sincere) of the "divine" spirit of the thing. Enthusiasm
for, and recognition of these higher over these lower values will
transform a destructive iconoclasm into creation, and a mere
devotion into consecration--a consecration which, like Amphion's
music, will raise the Walls of Thebes.


Assuming, and then granting, that art-activity can be transformed
or led towards an eventual consecration, by recognizing and using
in their true relation, as much as one can, these higher and
lower dual values--and that the doing so is a part, if not the
whole of our old problem of paralleling or approving in art the
highest attributes, moral and spiritual, one sees in life--if you
will grant all this, let us offer a practical suggestion--a thing
that one who has imposed the foregoing should try to do just out
of common decency, though it be but an attempt, perhaps, to make
his speculations less speculative, and to beat off metaphysics.

All, men-bards with a divine spark, and bards without, feel the
need at times of an inspiration from without, "the breath of
another soul to stir our inner flame," especially when we are in
pursuit of a part of that "utmost musical beauty," that we are
capable of understanding--when we are breathlessly running to
catch a glimpse of that unforeseen grandeur of Mr. Lanier's
dream. In this beauty and grandeur perhaps marionettes and their
souls have a part--though how great their part is, we hear, is
still undetermined; but it is morally certain that, at times, a
part with itself must be some of those greater contemplations
that have been caught in the "World's Soul," as it were, and
nourished for us there in the soil of its literature.

If an interest in, and a sympathy for, the thought-visions of men
like Charles Kingsley, Marcus Aurelius, Whit tier, Montaigne,
Paul of Tarsus, Robert Browning, Pythagoras, Channing, Milton,
Sophocles, Swedenborg, Thoreau, Francis of Assisi, Wordsworth,
Voltaire, Garrison, Plutarch, Ruskin, Ariosto, and all kindred
spirits and souls of great measure, from David down to Rupert
Brooke,--if a study of the thought of such men creates a
sympathy, even a love for them and their ideal-part, it is
certain that this, however inadequately expressed, is nearer to
what music was given man for, than a devotion to "Tristan's
sensual love of Isolde," to the "Tragic Murder of a Drunken
Duke," or to the sad thoughts of a bathtub when the water is
being let out. It matters little here whether a man who paints a
picture of a useless beautiful landscape imperfectly is a greater
genius than the man who paints a useful bad smell perfectly.

It is not intended in this suggestion that inspirations coming
from the higher planes should be limited to any particular
thought or work, as the mind receives it. The plan rather
embraces all that should go with an expression of the composite-
value. It is of the underlying spirit, the direct unrestricted
imprint of one soul on another, a portrait, not a photograph of
the personality--it is the ideal part that would be caught in
this canvas. It is a sympathy for "substance"--the over-value
together with a consciousness that there must be a lower value--
the "Demosthenic part of the Philippics"--the "Ciceronic part of
the Catiline," the sublimity, against the vileness of Rousseau's
Confessions. It is something akin to, but something more than
these predominant partial tones of Hawthorne--"the grand old
countenance of Homer; the decrepit form, but vivid face of Aesop;
the dark presence of Dante; the wild Ariosto; Rabelais' smile of
deep-wrought mirth; the profound, pathetic humor of Cervantes;
the all-glorious Shakespeare; Spenser, meet guest for allegoric
structure; the severe divinity of Milton; and Bunyan, molded of
humblest clay, but instinct with celestial fire."

There are communities now, partly vanished, but cherished and
sacred, scattered throughout this world of ours, in which freedom
of thought and soul, and even of body, have been fought for. And
we believe that there ever lives in that part of the over-soul,
native to them, the thoughts which these freedom-struggles have
inspired. America is not too young to have its divinities, and
its place legends. Many of those "Transcendent Thoughts" and
"Visions" which had their birth beneath our Concord elms--
messages that have brought salvation to many listening souls
throughout the world--are still growing, day by day, to greater
and greater beauty--are still showing clearer and clearer man's
way to God!

No true composer will take his substance from another finite
being--but there are times, when he feels that his self-
expression needs some liberation from at least a part of his own
soul. At such times, shall he not better turn to those greater
souls, rather than to the external, the immediate, and the
"Garish Day"?

The strains of one man may fall far below the course of those
Phaetons of Concord, or of the Aegean Sea, or of Westmorland--but
the greater the distance his music falls away, the more reason
that some greater man shall bring his nearer those higher



This edition of Charles Ives' "Essays Before a Sonata" was
originally published in 1920 by The Knickerbocker Press. It has
also been republished unabridged by Dover Publications, Inc., in a
1962 edition, ISBN 0-486-20320-4.

This electronic text was prepared by John Mamoun with help from
numerous other proofreaders, including those associated with
Charles Franks' Distributed Proofreaders website. This e-text is
public domain, freely copyable and distributable for any non-
commercial purpose, and may be included without royalty or
permission on a mass media storage product, such as a cd-rom, that
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