Walter Raymond Spalding
Walter Raymond Spalding (1865–1962) graduated from Harvard College with an AB in 1887; graduated from Harvard University with an AM in 1888. He taught music at Harvard from 1895–1932 and was Chair of the Music Department from 1906–1932. 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).
Quotes from Music: An Art and a Language
Music: An Art and a Language (Boston: The Arthur P. Schmidt Co., 1920).
Cambridge, Massachusetts (June 1919).
- [M]usic requires active coöperation by the hearer.
- Music is of such power and glory that we should be ready to devote to its study as much time as to a foreign language.
Preliminary Considerations (Ch. I)
- We realize, and with our inborn equipment can appreciate, the moving power of music; but to define, in the usual sense of the term definition, what music really is, will be forever impossible. The fact indeed that music—like love, electricity and other elemental forces—cannot be defined is its special glory. It is a peculiar, mysterious power; quite in a class by itself, although with certain aspects which it shares with the other arts.
- 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.
- [O]f all the arts, music makes the most direct appeal to the emotions and to those shadowy, but real portions of our being called the imagination and the soul. Emotion is as indispensible to music as love to religion.
- One of the peculiar characteristics of music is that it is both the most natural and least artificial of the arts, and as well the most complicated and subtle.
- [T]he rhythm of music, akin to the human heart-beat and to the ceaseless change and motion, which is the basic fact in all life, apeals at once to our own physical vitality.
- [T]he chief melody, often in the upper voice, seems to float on underlying waves of sound.
Polyphonic Music; Sebastian Bach (Ch. III)
- [T]he firmness of structure inherent in the canonic form is perfectly compatible with genuine freedom and poetry of inspiration.
The Musical Sentence (Ch. IV)
- 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.
- Next to rhythm, modulation is the most stimulating and enchanting element in music. No composition of any scope can be considered truly great unlesss it abounds in beautiful modulations. Certain composers, to be sure, have in this respect more genius than others—notably Schubert, Chopin, Wagner and Franck whose music seems to waft us along on a magic carpet of delight. But just as Unity depends upon a definite basic tonality, so Variety is gained by this very freedom of modulation. … By the perfect balance in his works of these two related elements a genius may be definitely recognized.
The Sonata-Form and its Founders, Emmanuel Bach and Haydn (Ch. IX)
- 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)
- 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)
- Finally, Beethoven's career coincided with momentous changes and upheavals in the social, political and artistic world. He is the embodiment of that spirit of individualism, of human freedom and self-respect which found its expression in the French Revolution, in our American War of Independence and in the entire alteration of social standards. Beethoven at all costs resolved to be himself. With him music ceases to be a mere "concourse of sweet sounds"; it must always bring some message to the brooding human soul, and be something more than a skilful example of abstract ingenuity. These personal tendencies of Beethoven were fostered by the spirit of the times, and his music became in turn a vital expression of revolt against existing conditions and of passionate aspiration towards something better.
The Romantic Composers. Schubert and Weber (Ch. XII)
- Schumann claimed that his object in writing music was to influence the imagination of the listeners that they could go on dreaming for themselves.
- 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)
- The best eulogy of Schumann is the recognition that many of the tendencies in modern music, which we now take for granted, date from him: the exaltation of freedom and fancy over the mere formal presentation, the union of broad culture with musical technique, and the recognition of music as the art closest in touch with the aspirations of humanity. He was an idealist with such perseverance and clearness of aim that his more characteristic work can never die.
- The Development, beginning in measure 132, is a striking example of how difficult it was—even for an exponent of freedom in musical expression like Schumann—to break loose from the shackles of arbitrary form.
- 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)
- 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)
The Modern French School—d'Indy and Debussy (Ch. XVIII)
- It may be granted that Debussy's melodic line is very fluid and elastic, like Wagner's "continuous melody," not definitely sectionalized by balanced phrases or set cadences. But it surely has its own right to existence—music being pre-eminently the art of freedom—and let us remember that Nature herself has melting outlines, shadowy vistas and subtle rhythms. Debussy, in fact, is the poet of the "indefinite" and the "suggestive" and his music has had great influence in freeing expression from scholastic bond.
- Chabrier (1841–1894) is noted for a bold exuberance and vividness of expression, for a sense of humor and for a power of orchestral color and brilliance which have not been duplicated. … Born in the South of France, the hot blood of that magic land seems to throb in his music.
- 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)
- 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
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.