All About Music
       Wagner's music, more than any other, is the sign and symbol of the nineteenth century. The men to whom it was disclosed, and who first sought to refuse, and then accepted it, passionately, without reservations, found in it their truth. It came to their ears as the sound of their own voices. It was the common, the universal tongue. Not alone on Germany, not alone on Europe, but on every quarter of the globe that had developed coal-power civilization, the music of Wagner descended with the formative might of the perfect image. Men of every race and continent knew it to be of themselves as much as was their hereditary and racial music, and went out to it as to their own adventure. And wherever music reappeared, whether under the hand of the Japanese or the semi-African or the Yankee, it seemed to be growing from Wagner as the bright shoots of the fir sprout from the dark ones grown the previous year. A whole world, for a period, came to use his idiom. His dream was recognized during his very lifetime as an integral portion of the consciousness of the entire race.
       For Wagner's music is the century's paean of material triumph. It is its cry of pride in its possessions, its aspiration toward greater and ever greater objective power. Wagner's style is stiff and diapered and emblazoned with the sense of material increase. It is brave, superb, haughty with consciousness of the gigantic new body acquired by man. The tonal pomp and ceremony, the pride of the trumpets, the arrogant stride, the magnificent address, the broad, vehement, grandiloquent pronouncements, the sumptuous texture of his music seems forever proclaiming the victory of man over the energies of fire and sea and earth, the lordship of creation, the suddenly begotten railways and shipping and mines, the cataclysm of wealth and comfort. His work seems forever seeking to form images of grandeur and empire, flashing with Siegfried's sword, commanding the planet with Wotan's spear, upbuilding above the heads of men the castle of the gods. It dares measure itself with the terrestrial forces, exults in the fire, soughs through the forest with the thunderstorm, glitters and surges with the river, spans mountains with the rainbow bridge. It is full of the gestures of giants and heroes and gods, of the large proud movements of which men have ever dreamed in days of affluent power. Even "Tristan und Isolde," the high song of love, and "Parsifal," the mystery, spread richness and splendor about them, are set in an atmosphere of heavy gorgeous stuffs, amid objects of gold and silver, and thick clouding incense, while the protagonists, the lovers and saviors, seem to be celebrating a worldly triumph, and crowning themselves kings. And over the entire body of Wagner's music, there float, a massive diadem, the towers and parapets and banners of Nuremberg the imperial free city, monument of a victorious burgherdom, of civic virtue that on the ruins of feudalism constructed its own world, and demonstrated to all times its dignity and sobriety and industry, its solid worth.
       For life itself made the Wagnerian gesture. The vortex of steel and glass and gold, the black express-packets plowing the seven seas, the smoking trains piercing the bowels of the mountains and connecting cities vibrant with hordes of business men, the telegraph wires setting the world aquiver with their incessant reports, the whole sinister glittering faëry of gain and industry and dominion, seemed to tread and soar and sound and blare and swell with just such rhythm, such grandeur, such intoxication. Mountains that had been sealed thousands of years had split open again and let emerge a race of laboring, fuming giants. The dense primeval forests, the dragon-haunted German forests, were sprung up again, fresh and cool and unexplored, nurturing a mighty and fantastic animality. Wherever one gazed, the horned Siegfried, the man born of the earth, seemed near once more, ready to clear and rejuvenate the globe with his healthy instinct, to shatter the old false barriers and pierce upward to fulfilment and power. Mankind, waking from immemorial sleep, thought for the first time to perceive the sun in heaven, to greet the creating light. And where was this music more immanent than in the New World, in America, that essentialization of the entire age? By what environment was it more justly appreciated, Saxon though the accents of its recitative might be? Germany had borne Wagner because Germany had an uninterrupted flow of musical expression. But had the North American continent been able to produce musical art, it could have produced none more indigenous, more really autochthonous, than that of Richard Wagner. Whitman was right when he termed these scores "the music of the 'Leaves.'" For nowhere did the forest of the Niebelungen flourish more lushly, more darkly, than upon the American coasts and mountains and plains. From the towers and walls of New York there fell a breath, a grandiloquent language, a stridency and a glory, that were Wagner's indeed. His regal commanding blasts, his upsweeping marching violins, his pompous and majestic orchestra, existed in the American scene. The very masonry and river-spans, the bursting towns, the fury and expansiveness of existence shed his idiom, shadowed forth his proud processionals, his resonant gold, his tumultuous syncopations and blazing brass and cymbals and volcanically inundating melody; appeared to be struggling to achieve the thing that was his art. American life seemed to be calling for this music in order that its vastness, its madly affluent wealth and multiform power and transcontinental span, its loud, grandiose promise might attain something like eternal being. And just as in Wagner's music there sounds the age's cry of material triumph, so, too, there sounds in it its terrible cry of homesickness. The energy produced and hurled out over the globe was sucked back again with no less a force. The time that saw the victory of industrialism saw as well the revival or the attempted revival of medieval modes of feeling. Cardinal Newman was as typical a figure of nineteenth-century life as was Balzac. The men who had created the new world felt within themselves a passionate desire to escape out of the present into the past once more. They felt themselves victors and vanquished, powerful and yet bereft and forlorn. And Wagner's music expresses with equal veracity both tides. Just as his music is brave with a sense of outward power, so, too, it is sick with a sense of inner unfulfilment. There is no longing more consuming, no homesickness more terrible, no straining after the laving, immersing floods of unconsciousness more burning than that which utters itself through this music. There are passages, whole hours of his, that are like the straining of a man to return into the darkness of the mothering night out of which he came. There is music of Wagner that makes us feel as though he had been seeking to create great warm clouds, great scented cloths, wide curtains, as though he had come to his art to find something in which he could envelop himself completely, and blot out sun and moon and stars, and sink into oblivion. For such a healer Tristan, lying dying on the desolate, rockbound coast, cries through the immortal longing of the music. For such a divine messenger the wound of Amfortas gapes; for such a redeemer Kundry, driven through the world by scorching winds, yearns. His lovers come toward each other, seeking in each other the night, the descent into the fathomless dark. For them sex is the return, the complete forgetfulness. Through each of them there sounds the insistent cry:
"Frau Minne will
Es werde Nacht!"
          There is no tenderness, no awareness of each other, in these men and women. There is only the fierce, impersonal longing for utter consumption, the extinction of the flaming torch, complete merging in the Absolute, the weaving All. In each of them, desire for the void mounts into a gigantic, monstrous flower, into the shimmering thing that enchants King Mark's garden and the rippling stream and the distant horns while Isolde waits for Tristan, or into the devastating fever that chains the sick Tristan to his bed of pain. For all these beings, and behind them Wagner, and behind him his time, yearn for the past, the pre-natal, the original sleep, and find in such a return their great fulfilment. Siegmund finds in the traits of his beloved his own childhood. Siegfried awakes on the flame-engirdled hill a woman who watched over him before he was born, and waited unchanged for his ripening. It is with the kiss of Herzeleide that Kundry enmeshes Parsifal. Brunhilde struggles for the forgiving embrace of Wotan, sinks on the breast of the god in submission, reconciliation, immolation. And it is towards an engulfing consummation, some extinction that is both love and death and deeper than both, that the music of his operas aspires. The fire that licks the rock of the Walkyrie, the Rhine that rises in the finale of "Götterdämmerung" and inundates the scene and sweeps the world with its silent, laving tides, the gigantic blossom that opens its corolla in the Liebestod and buries the lovers in a rain of scent and petals, the tranquil ruby glow of the chalice that suffuses the close of "Parsifal," are the moments toward which the dramas themselves labor, and in which they attain their legitimate conclusion, completion and end. But not only his finales are full of that entrancement. His melodic line, the lyrical passages throughout his operas, seem to seek to attain it, if not conclusively, at least in preparation. Those silken excessively sweet periods, the moment of reconciliation and embrace of Wotan and Brunhilde, the "Ach, Isolde" passage in the third act of "Tristan," those innumerable lyrical flights with their beginnings and subsidings, their sudden advances and regressions, their passionate surges that finally and after all their exquisite hesitations mount and flare and unroll themselves in fullness—they, too, seem to be seeking to distill some of the same brew, the same magic drugging potion, to conjure up out of the orchestral depths some Venusberg, some Klingsor's garden full of subtle scent and soft delight and eternal forgetfulness.
          And with Wagner, the new period of music begins. He stands midway between the feudal and the modern worlds. In him, the old and classical period is accomplished. Indeed, so much of his music is sum, is termination, that there are times when it seems nothing else. There are times when his art appears entirely bowed over the past; the confluence of a dozen different tendencies alive during the last century and a half; the capping of the labor of a dozen great musicians; the fulfilment of the system regnant in Europe since the introduction of the principle of the equal temperament. For the last time, the old conceptions of tonality obtain in his music dramas. One feels throughout "Tristan und Isolde" the key of D-flat, throughout "Die Meistersinger" the key of C-major, throughout "Parsifal" the key of A-flat and its relative minor. Rhythms that had been used all through the classical period are worked by him into new patterns, and do service a last time. Motifs which had been utilized by others are taken by him and brought to something like an ultimate conclusion. The ending, the conclusion, the completion, are sensible throughout his art. Few musicians have had their power and method placed more directly in their hands, and benefited so hugely by the experiments of their immediate predecessors, have fallen heir to such immense musical legacies. Indeed, Wagner was never loath to acknowledge his indebtedness, and there are on record several instances when he paraphrased Walther's song to his masters, and signaled the composers who had aided him most in his development. To-day, the debt is very plain. At every turn, one sees him benefiting, and benefiting very beautifully, by the work of Beethoven. The structure of his great and characteristic works is based on the symphonic form. The development of the themes of "Tristan" and "Die Meistersinger" and "Parsifal" out of single kernels; the fine logical sequence, the expositions of the thematic material of "Parsifal" in the prelude and in Gurnamanz's narrative, and its subsequent reappearance and adventures and developments, are something like a summit of symphonic art as Beethoven made it to be understood. And his orchestra is scarcely more than the orchestra of Beethoven. He did not require the band of independent instrumental families demanded by Berlioz and realized by the modern men. He was content with the old, classical orchestra in which certain groups are strengthened and to which the harp, the English horn, the bass-tuba, the bass-clarinet have been added.
          And his conception of an "unending melody," an unbroken flow of music intended to give cohesion and homogeneity to his music-dramas, was a direct consequence of the efforts of Mozart and Weber to give unity to their operatic works. For although these composers retained the old convention of an opera composed of separate numbers, they nevertheless managed to unify their operas by creating a distinct style in each of them, and by securing an emotional development in the various arias and concerted numbers. The step from "Don Giovanni" and "Euryanthe" to "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" does not seem quite as long a one to-day as once it did. Indeed, there are moments when one wonders whether "Lohengrin" is really a step beyond "Euryanthe," and whether the increase of power and vividness and imagination has not been made at the expense of style. Moreover, in much of what is actually progress in Wagner the influence of Weber is clearly discernible. The sinister passages seem but developments of moments in "Der Freischütz"; the grand melodic style, the romantic orchestra with its sighing horns and chivalry and flourishes, seem to come directly out of "Euryanthe"; the orchestral scene-painting from the sunrise and other original effects in "Oberon."
             Even Meyerbeer taught Wagner something more than the use of certain instruments, the bass-clarinet, for instance. The old operatic speculator indubitably was responsible for Wagner's grand demands upon the scene-painter and the stage-carpenter. His pompous spectacles fired the younger man not only with "Rienzi." They indubitably gave him the courage to create an operatic art that celebrated the new gold and power and magnificence, and was Grand Opera indeed. If the works of the one were sham, and those of the other poetry, it was only that Wagner realized what the other sought vainly all his life to attain, and was prevented by the stock-broker within.
And Chopin's harmonic feeling as well as Berlioz's orchestral wizardry played a rôle in Wagner's artistic education. But for all his incalculable indebtednesses, Wagner is the great initiator, the compeller of the modern period. It is not only because he summarized the old. It is because he began with force a revolution. In expressing the man of the nineteenth century, he discarded the old major-minor system that had dominated Europe so long. That system was the outcome of a conception of the universe which set man apart from the remainder of nature, placed him in a category of his own, and pretended that he was both the center and the object of creation. For it called man the consonance and nature the dissonance. The octave and the fifth, the bases of the system, are of course, to be found only in the human voice. They are, roughly, the difference between the average male and the average female voice, and the difference between the average soprano and alto. It is upon those intervals that the C-major scale and its twenty-three dependents are based. But with the coming of a conception that no longer separated man from the rest of creation, and placed him in it as a small part of it, brother to the animals and plants, to everything that breathes, the old scale could no longer completely express him. The modulations of the noises of wind and water, the infinite gradations and complexes of sound to be heard on the planisphere, seemed to ask him to include them, to become conscious of them and reproduce them. He required other more subtle scales. And with Wagner the monarchy of the C-major scale is at an end. "Tristan und Isolde" and "Parsifal" are constructed upon a chromatic scale. The old one has had to lose its privilege, to resign itself to becoming simply one of a constantly growing many. If this step is not a colossal one, it is still of immense importance. The musical worthies who ran about wringing their hands after the first performance of each of Wagner's works, and lamented laws monstrously broken, and traditions shattered, were, for once, right. They gauged correctly from which direction the wind was blowing. They probably heard, faintly piping in the distance, the pentatonic scales of Moussorgsky and Debussy, the scales of Scriabine and Strawinsky and Ornstein, the barbarous, exotic and African scales of the future, the one hundred and thirteen scales of which Busoni speaks. And to-day there are no longer musical rules, forbidden harmonies, dissonances. Siegfried has broken them along with Wotan's spear. East and West are near to merging once again. No doubt, had there been no Wagner, the change would have arrived nevertheless. However, it would have arrived more slowly. For what he did accomplish was the rapid emptying of the old wine that still remained in the wineskin, the preparation of the receptacle for the new vintage. He forced the new to put in immediate appearance. The full impact of these reforms, the full might of Wagner, we of our generation doubtlessly never felt. They could have been felt only by the generation to whom Wagner first disclosed himself, the generation that attained maturity between 1850 and 1880. It was upon the men of those days that he did his full work of destruction and revival. It was in them he battered down walls. It was them he made to hear afresh, to stretch and grow in the effort to comprehend him. At the moment we encountered Wagner, his work was already something of a closed experience, something we were able to accept readily and with a certain ease because it had been accepted and assimilated by an entire world, and become part of the human organism. Its power was already slightly diminished. For instance, Wagner the musician was no longer able to make either Wagner the poet or Wagner the philosopher exist for us as they existed for the men of the earlier generation. Only Houston Stewart Chamberlain still persisted in trying to stand upon the burning deck whence all the rest had fled. For us, it was obvious that if Wagner's work throned mightily it was because of his music, and oftentimes in spite of his verse and his doctrine. For us, it was a commonplace that dramatic movement and the filling up of scenes by the introduction of characters who propose pointless riddles to one another and explain at length what their names are not, are incompatible; that poetry does not consist in disguising commonplace expressions in archaic and alliterative and extravagant dress; that Wotan displays no grasp of the essentials of Schopenhauer's philosophy when he insists on dubbing Brunhilde his Will.
             And yet, whatever the difference, most of Wagner's might was still in him when first we came to know his music. The spell in which he had bound the generation that preceded ours was still powerful. For us, too, there occurred the moments when Siegfried's cavernous forest depths first breathed on us, when for the first time "Die Meistersinger" flaunted above the heads of all the world the gonfalon of art, when for the first time we embarked upon the shoreless golden sea of "Tristan und Isolde." For us, too, the name of Richard Wagner rang and sounded above all other musical names. For us, too, he was a sort of sovereign lord of music. His work appeared the climax toward which music had aspired through centuries, and from which it must of necessity descend again. Other, and perhaps purer work than his, existed, we knew. But it seemed remote and less compelling, for all its perfection. New music would arrive, we surmised. Yet we found ourselves convinced that it would prove minor and unsatisfactory. For Wagner's music had for us an incandescence which no other possessed. It was the magnetic spot of music. Its colors blazed and glowed with a depth and ardor that seemed to set it apart from other music as in an enchanted circle. It unlocked us as did no other. We demanded just such orchestral movement, just such superb gestures, just such warm, immersing floods, and were fulfilled by them. That there would come a day when the magnetism which it exerted on us would pass from it, and be seen to have passed, seemed the remotest of possibilities.
For we accepted him with the world of our minority. For each individual there is a period, varying largely in extent, during which his existence is chiefly a process of imitation. In the sphere of expression, that submission to authority extends well over the entire period of gestation, well into the time of physical maturity. There are few men, few great artists, even, who do not, before attaining their proper idiom and gesture, adopt those of their teachers and predecessors. Shakespeare writes first in the style of Kyd and Marlowe, Beethoven in that of Haydn and Mozart; Leonardo at first imitates Verrocchio. And what the utilization of the manner of their predecessors is to the artist, that the single devotion to Wagner was to us. For he was not only in the atmosphere, not only immanent in the lives led about us. His figure was vivid before us. Scarcely another artistic personality was as largely upon us. There were pictures, on the walls of music-rooms, of gray-bearded, helmeted warriors holding mailed blonde women in their arms, of queens with golden ornaments on their arms leaning over parapets and agitating their scarves, of women throwing themselves into the sea upon which ghastly barks were dwindling, of oldish men and young girls conversing teasingly through a window by a lilac-bush, that were Wagner. There were books with stories of magical swans and hordes of gold and baleful curses, of phantasmal storm ships and hollow hills and swords lodged in tree-trunks awaiting their wielders, of races of gods and giants and grimy dwarfs, of guardian fires and potions of forgetfulness and prophetic dreams and voices, that were Wagner. There were adults who went to assist at these things of which one read, who departed in state and excitement of an evening to attend performances of "Die Walküre" and "Tristan und Isolde," and who spoke of these experiences in voices and manners different from those in which they spoke, say, of the theater or the concert. And there were magnificent and stately and passionate pieces that drew their way across the pianoforte, that seized upon one and made one insatiable for them. Long before we had actually entered the opera house and heard one of Wagner's works in its entirety, we belonged to him and knew his art our own. We were born Wagnerians.
But of late a great adventure has befallen us. What once seemed the remotest of possibilities has actually taken place. We who were born and grew under the sign of Wagner have witnessed the twilight of the god. He has receded from us. He has departed from us into the relative distance into which during his hour of omnipotence he banished all other composers.
          He has been displaced. A new music has come into being, and drawn near. Forms as solid and wondrous and compelling as his are about us. Little by little, during the last years, so gradually that it has been almost unbeknown to us, our relationship to him has been changing. Something within us has moved. Other musicians have been working their way in upon our attention. Other works have come to seem as vivid and deep of hue, as wondrous and compelling as his once did. Gradually the musical firmament has been reconstellating itself. For long, we were unaware of the change, thought ourselves still opposite Wagner, thought the rays of his genius still as direct upon us as ever they were. But of late so wide has the distance become that we have awakened sharply to the change. Of a sudden, we seem to ourselves like travelers who, having boarded by night a liner fast to her pier and fallen asleep amid familiar objects, beneath the well-known beacons and towers of the port, waken suddenly in broadest daylight scarcely aware the vessel has been gotten under way, and find the scene completely transformed, find themselves out on ocean and glimpse, dwindling behind them, the harbor and the city in which apparently but a moment since they had lain enclosed.
            It is the maturing of a generation that has produced the change. For each generation the works of art produced by its members have a distinct importance. Out of them, during their time, there sparks the creative impulse. For every generation is something of a unit.
"Chaque génération d'hommes
Germant du champs maternal en sa saison,
Garde en elle un secret commun, un certain noeud
dans la profonde contexture de son bois,"
           Claudel assures us through the mask of Tête d'Or. And the resemblances between works produced independently of each other within the space of a few years, generally so much greater than those that exist between any one work of one age and any of another, bears him out. The styles of Palestrina and Vittoria, which are obviously dissimilar, are nevertheless more alike than those of Palestrina and Bach, Vittoria and Haendel; just as those of Bach and Haendel, dissimilar as they are, have a greater similarity than that which exists between those of Bach and Mozart, of Haendel and Haydn. And so, for the men of a single period the work produced during their time is a powerful encouragement to self-realization, to the espousal of their destiny, to the fulfilment of their life. For the motion of one part of a machine stirs all the others. And there is a part of every man of a generation in the work done by the other members of it. The men who fashion the art of one's own time make one's proper experiment, start from one's own point of departure, dare to be themselves and oneself in the face of the gainsaying of the other epochs. They are so belittling, so condescending, so nay-saying and deterring, the other times and their masterpieces! They are so unsympathetic, so strange and grand and remote! They seem to say "Thus must it be; this is form; this is beauty; all else is superfluous." Who goes to them for help and understanding is like one who goes to men much older, men of different habits and sympathies, in order to explain himself, and finds himself disconcerted and diminished instead, glimpses a secret jealousy and resentment beneath the mask. But the adventure of encountering the artist of one's own time is that of finding the most marvelous of aids, corroboration. It is to meet one who has been living one's life, and thinking one's thoughts, and facing one's problems. It is to get reassurance, to accept oneself, to beget courage to express one's self in one's own manner.
               And we of our generation have finally found the music that is so creatively infecting for us. We have found the music of the post-Wagnerian epoch. It is our music. For we are the offspring of the generation that assimilated Wagner. We, too, are the reaction from Wagner. Through the discovery we have come to learn that music can give us sensations different than those given us by Wagner's. We have learned what it is to have music say to us, "It is thus, after all, that you feel." We have finally come to recognize that we require of music forms, proportions, accents different from Wagner's; orchestral movement, color, rhythms, not in his. We have learned that we want an altogether different stirring of the musical caldron. A song of Moussorgsky's or Ravel's, a few measures of "Pelléas" or "Le Sacre du printemps," a single fine moment in a sonata of Scriabine's, or a quartet or suite of Bloch's, give us a joy, an illumination, a satisfaction that little of the older music can equal. For our own moment of action is finally at hand.
So Wagner has retreated and joined the company of composers who express another day than our own. The sovereignty that was in him has passed to other men. We regard him at present as the men of his own time might have regarded Beethoven and Weber. Still, he will always remain the one of all the company of the masters closest to us. No doubt he is not the greatest of the artists who have made music. Colossal as were his forces, colossal as were the struggles he made for the assumption of his art, his musical powers were not always able to cope with the tasks he set himself. The unflagging inventive power of a Bach or a Haydn, the robustness of a Haendel or a Beethoven, the harmonious personality of a Mozart, were things he could not rival. He is even inferior, in the matter of style, to men like Weber and Debussy. There are many moments, one finds, when his scores show that there was nothing in his mind, and that he simply went through the routine of composition. Too often he permitted the system of leading-motifs to relieve him of the necessity of creating. Too often, he made of his art a purely mental game. His emotion, his creative genius were far more intermittent, his breath far less long than one once imagined. Some of the earlier works have commenced to fade rapidly, irretrievably. At present one wonders how it is possible that one once sat entranced through performances of "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhäuser." "Lohengrin" begins to seem a little brutal, strangely Prussian lieutenant with its militaristic trumpets, its abuse of the brass. One finds oneself choosing even among the acts of "Tristan und Isolde," finding the first far inferior to the poignant, magnificent third. Sometimes, one glimpses a little too long behind his work not the heroic agonist, but the man who loved to languish in mournful salons, attired in furred dressing gowns.
         Indeed, if Wagner seems great it is chiefly as one of the most delicate of musicians. It is the lightness of his brush stroke that makes us marvel at the third act of "Tristan," the first scene of the "Walküre." It is the delicacy of his fancy, the lilac fragrance pervading his inventions, that enchants us in the second act of "Die Meistersinger." Through the score of "Parsifal" there seem to pass angelic forms and wings dainty and fragile and silver-shod as those of Beardsley's "Morte d'Arthur."
       But the debt we owe him will always give him a vast importance in our eyes. The men of to-day, all of them, stand directly on his shoulders. It is doubtful whether any of us, the passive public, would be here to-day as we are, were it not for his music.

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