Walter Raymond Spalding

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Walter Raymond Spalding (18651962) graduated from Harvard College with an AB in 1887; graduated from Harvard University with an AM in 1888.  He taught music at Harvard from 18951932 and was Chair of the Music Department from 19061932.  He is the author of the books Music: An Art and a Language (1920) and Music at Harvard: Historical Review of Men and Events (1935).


Music: An Art and a Language (1920)[edit]

Music: An Art and a Language (Boston: The Arthur P. Schmidt Co., 1920).


Cambridge, Massachusetts (June 1919).

Preliminary Considerations (Ch. I)[edit]

  • It speaks to our feelings and imaginations, as it were by suggestion; reaching for this very reason depths of our being quite beyond the power of mere words.
    • On instrumental music, page 2.

Polyphonic Music; Sebastian Bach (Ch. III)[edit]

The Musical Sentence (Ch. IV)[edit]

  • Just as poetry and prose are a series of stanzas or sentence, so a musical composition is a succession of definitely organized portions of thought and emotion, in terms of rhythm and sound.  In the heart of a composition, to be sure, we often find a great freedom in the phraseology, comparible to blank verse or to a rhapsodic kind of prose.

The Sonata-Form and its Founders, Emmanuel Bach and Haydn (Ch. IX)[edit]

  • Beginning with Beethoven, however, composers began to exhibit great freedom in the application of Sonata-Form.

Mozart.  The Perfection of Classical Structure and Style (Ch. X)[edit]

  • The G minor Symphony is universally acknowledged to be the highest achievement of 18th century instrumental music and is also premonitory of that subjective spirit peculiar to the 19th century.  It will remain immortal so long as human beings are capable of being touched by sincere revelation of emotion combined with a perfection of utterance which seems fairly Divine.  This delicate treatment and this exquisite finish are two prominent characteristics of Mozart's style.  Truly the Symphony is the quintessence of Mozart in terms of sound and rhythm, and we need but to listen to his message and receive it with grateful appreciation.  ...  The first movement begins at once with a gracefully poised theme sung by the violins, a theme which may be likened in its outlines to the purity of a Greek statue.  The entrancing effect of this melody cannot be realized except on the orchestra, for it seems to float on the gently pulsating chords of the violas like a beautiful flower.

Beethoven, the Tone-Poet (Ch. XI)[edit]

The Romantic Composers.  Schubert and Weber (Ch. XII)[edit]

  • Another favorite means of arresting the attention was by modulation; not used in a constructive in different keys, but to furnish the ear with a purely sensuous delight, corresponding to that which the eye derives from the kaleidoscopic colors of a sunset.
  • In Schubert we do not look for the development of a complicated plot but give ourselves up unreservedly to the enjoyment of pure melodic line, couched in terms of sensuously delightful tone-color.  The transitional passage of the Recapitulation (measures 231–253) illustrates Schubert's fondness for modulation just for its own sake; we care not what the objective point of the music may be—enthralled, as we are, by the magical shifts of scene.

Schumann and Mendelssohn (Ch. XIII)[edit]

  • The Introductory chords dissolve the dream which the music has evoked, and we are back once more in the world of reality.
    • On the Coda of the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, page 187.

Chopin and Pianoforte Style (Ch. XIV)[edit]

  • Thus a very etherial, magical quality of tone is produced, especially in the upper ranges of the instrument.
    • On the una corda pedal, popularly known as the soft pedal, page 194.
  • In general, Chopin's style is homophonic—wondrous lyric melodies which seem to float on waves of richly colored sound.  But there is also much subtly used polyphony, i. e., delightful phrases in inner voices and imitative effects between the different parts.

Berlioz and Liszt.  Programme Music (Ch. XV)[edit]

The Modern French School—d'Indy and Debussy (Ch. XVIII)[edit]

National Schools—Russian, Bohemian and Scandinavian (Ch. XIX)[edit]

  • A glance at the score shows how sadly the pedagogue might go astray in judgment of the work, without a hearing of it, and furthermore, the imagination of the hearer must be in sympathy with the imagination of the composer, if he would know full enjoyment: for this symphonic poem provokes swooning thoughts, such as come to the partakers of leaves and flowers of hemp; there are the stupefying perfumes of charred frankincense and grated sandal-root.
    • Quoting Philip Hale on Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherezade (Op. 35), page 318.

The Varied Tendencies of Modern Music (Ch. XX)[edit]

  • The sensational style of Prometheus is augmented by the use of a color machine which flashes upon a screen hues supposed to supplement the various moods of the music.  How many of these experiments will be incorporated into the accepted idiom of music, time alone will tell; but they prove conclusively that modern music is thoroughly awake and is proving true to that spirit of freedom which is the breath of its being.

Quotes from Music at Harvard[edit]

Music at Harvard: Historical Review of Men and Events (New York: Coward-McCann, 1935).

  • The significant development of the Harvard Band is chiefly attributable to the artistic skill and enterprise of Leroy Anderson.  Anderson has a remarkable inborn sense of rhythm and magnetic authority as a conductor.  While in college he was a ranking student in the Department of Music and has no small skill as a composer, as may be seen from his exciting potpourri Wintergreen for President, including tunes by Gershwin and some of his own.

External links[edit]