Franklin Square Song Collection - online songbook

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In an essay of Herbert Spencer's, on the origin and functions of Music, he suggests what is now perhaps generally admitted, that, as speech is the natural ex­pression of thought, so music is the natural language of emotion. Certainly, if the words which we speak convey our ideas, the tones in which they are uttered convey our feelings in regard to them, and the various emotions of pain and pleasure, of discontent or satisfac­tion, of cordiality or aversion, of eager interest or utter indifference, are much more apparent in the emphasis, cadence and intonations of the voice than in the words themselves. All these may be called the music of speech, and just as words multiply in order to express
the new and delicate shades of thought that increasing civilization and culture bring forth, so the intonations of voice are even more and more delicately represent­ing the increasingly complex emotions of which we become capable. If, then, music is itself the very language of emotion, must not the habit of listening to good music, which is true to its character, have a double effect upon us, over and above the pleasure it creates—first, to develop within us and to intensify the very feelings which it is translating, and secondly, to enable us the better to convey to others the feelings which actuate us, even in the cadences and modula­tions of ordinary conversation? To share our thoughts
with others by the use of well-chosen words, is an art which is fully recognized and cultivated; but to share our emotions by any truthful and adequate expression of them, is an art which the future has yet to teach us. Indeed, the very effort is regarded by many with some­thinglike contempt, and he who succeeds best in hiding his feelings is most approved. If we are swayed by anger, impatience, jealousy, envy or hatred, the less we express ourselves the better. The sternest silence at such times is the surest method of subduing the rebel­lious moods. But to restrain and conceal feelings of love, kindness and good-will—to preserve an impassive
exterior, when the heart thrills with affection and glad­ness— this is to crush out sympathy, and to silence the best promptings of humanity. The language of the emotions, whatever it may be, deserves the most earnest and careful cultivation, for by means of it is developed that sympathy which is the great bond of human so­ciety. Upon it we are dependent, both for our direct happiness and our permanent well-being. This it is which leads men to deal justly and kindly with each other, which heightens every pleasure and softens every pain, which gives rise to all domestic and social hap­piness, and makes life's hardest passages endurable.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III