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MUSIC AS A BRANCH OF EDUCATION.
"Mòst persons say, that the only purpose of músic is to amuse; but this is a profáne, an unhòly language. To look on music as mere amusement' cànnot be justified. Music which has no other aim, must be considered neither of value, nor worthy of rèverence." Thús spake Plato; and his opinion is shared by those who are striving to spread music among the people in the prèsent day.
The physical organs and aptitudes of ear and vòice' required for vocal músic' are still very gènerally regarded' as peculiar endowments, rare gifts, possessed only by a few; whereas, in truth, they are the very same as those used for speaking and hearing, the common inhéritance of mankind. Every child, not born deaf or dumb, is born with those organs! which may be taught to sing as well as to speak. It is by the teaching of exámple' that the child attains the power of speech; but the same opportunities are seldom gíven' to develop the faculty of sòng. When this teaching has been neglected till advanced áge, the vocal organs become less fléxible' and less obedient to the will, and the art of singing! increasingly difficult to commence. But even in thèse cases, patience, effort of mind, and a good méthod, will awaken to creditable úse! the neglected faculty. There is, doubtless, a great difference in the physical constitution of indivíduals, which gives to sòme a much greater nervous susceptibility and consequent delicacy of ear and voice than others; but àll mankind are endowed by the Creator with that glorious faculty of sóng, which He has made it our duty to improve for his praise. There is therefore no
deficiency of natural voice or éar to account for the common neglect of music: nor is there among the people any general unwillingness to learn músic, which is beautiful and attractive to all; nor can any difficulty in the nature of music itself be pleaded, for, considered as an árt, it is certainly more easy than reading, writing, or drawing; and as a scíence, it is most simple in its clements, however rich and varied in its combinations.
The music, for which wé contend, is linked with pòetry, and employed to carry to the heart' some cheerful sèntiment, some lofty thought, or some ennobling emotion. The importance, to education, of music thús understood, cannot well be overrated. It occupies ground, in some degree peculiar to itself-ground! which it is very important to occupy rightly in these times. Some advantages it brings to physical, and mány, when rightly stúdied, to intellectual education; but it displays its chief power!, on the field of æsthètics, mórals, and religion.
In aesthetic education, it unites with the art of drawing and the study of the finest models of líterature, to develop the love of whatsoever is òrderly, suitable, harmónious, beaútiful, and sublime. This is a branch of education' which the defenders of trúth cannot, in these days, well afford to neglect.
In móral education, it joins with poetry to win the attention of youth, by the innocent beguilement of their united charms, to truths and dúties too often not otherwise attractive. By the same means it delays the attention on these truths, and, moreover, secúres for them the irresistible pówer' which belongs to constant reiteràtion. It possesses also that mighty sympathetic ínfluence, which the simple expression of feelings carries with it to the heart of a child, whose interest has been gained. We beguile him to utter, in the voice of a pleasant sóng, the language of some good emotion or some noble sentiment, and, almost insensibly, he is won to join in the feelings he finds it so pleasant to exprèss. This is a power which is felt by us all, and which is greater than many arguments. That which the teacher's moral lesson has explained and enforced, the moral song
shall impress on the memory and endéar to the heart. In a similar manner' do mùsic and poetry contribute their áid' in directly religious education. They impress more deeply truths already taùght; they give a language to the faith, and hope, and lòve, and joy of youthful piety; they elevate the mind, and help to raise the heart to God. None but the heartless or the unwise can doubt the power for good or évil' which music and poetry are constantly exerting on education, or fail to see the importance of earnest study and watchful care, that this power may be well applied.
In physical education singing, as well as the useful practice of reading aloud, promotes a healthy action of the lúngs and of the muscles of the chest,-most important in a country where consumption lurks for its prèy. Music is well known' to possess a direct, though unexplained, influence on the human nerves. It soothes the weary or the excited frame. It promotes the health by recreating the mind. And not the least of its educating advantages is, that it oftentimes preoccupies and redeèms hours of leisure, which might otherwise have become hours of ídleness or sìn. How good for body and mind is the song round the cottage hearth, when the hours of labour are òver! God has made our cheapest pleasures to be our best and pùrest.
In intellectual education, músic! bears no unworthy part. It cultivates the habit of attention and the powers of percéption and imitation, and it will teach, by example, how to observe in musical phenomena, and how to reason upon them. Every subject should be só taught as to improve the pupil's thinking powers, and music gives better scope than is usually supposed' for such an èxercise.
The habit of committing poetry to memory, which must always accompany the extended and varied use of vocal músic, has a direct tendency to promote a correct knówledge and a fit application of words-most important helps! to intellectual education. One who was both a poet and a philosopher' defined póctry'to be, "the best thoughts' in the fittest words." It may be easily noticed' that nearly all children speak well who have been in the constant habit of
repeating poetry with any degree of propriety. The same practice, when properly directed, helps to refine the imaginátion, and to tráin it to ùseful purposes. That noble pówer has its humbler offices in common lífe, which are of the utmost value. When rightly cúltivated, it teaches us to associate good thoughts and kindly feelings' with the ordinary incidents of every-day life. It makes "the best of every thing." It has been said to "oil the wheels of life's cháriot on this jolty road." It gladdens, by associations of contentment and love, even the poor man's board with truest festive joy. It adorns his cottage hóme' with hues of peace and happiness. It makes "the dear familiar fáce "I grow more beautiful with àge. It throws on áll things the glow of a cheerful affectionate mind. What teacher will not find even his own mind elevated and refined' while he traces, with his children, the imagery, brightening with every word, of these beautiful línes,
Triumphal arch that fill'st the sky,
[REV. DR. WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING, a celebrated Unitarian Minister, was born in Rhode Island, U.S., in 1780, and died in 1842. Educated at Harvard College, he abandoned the profession of medicine and prepared himself for the Unitarian ministry. His eloquence rendered him one of the most conspicuous men in America. His discourses are beautiful specimens of pulpit eloquence, but they savour more of the oratorical moralist, than the Christian preacher.]
POETRY' is one of the great ínstruments of the refinement and exaltation of society. It lifts the mind" above ordinary life, gives it a respite from depressing cares, and awakens the consciousness of its affinity' with what is púre and nòble. In its legitimate and highest efforts! it has the same tendency and aím with Christianity; that is, to spiritualize our nature. Poetry has a natural allíance' with our best affèctions. It delights in the beauty and sublimity of the outward creátion
and of the soul. It indeed portrays with terrible energyl the excesses of the pássions; but they are pássions which show a mighty nature, which are full of power, which command awe, and excite a déep though shuddering sympathy. Its great tendency and púrpose! is, to carry the mind' beyond and above the beaten, dùsty, weary wálks of ordinary life; to lift it into a purer élement; and to breathe into it more profound and generous emotion. It reveals to us' the loveliness of nature, brings back the freshness of youthful feèling, revives the rélish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched' the enthusiasm which warmed the spring-time of our bèing, refines youthful love, strengthens our interest in human nature by vivid delineations of its ténderest and loftiest feelings, knits us by new ties with universal béing, and, through the brightness of its prophetic vísions, helps fáith' to lay hold on the future life.
The présent life' is not whòlly prosaic, precise, tàme, and finite. To the gífted eye, it aboúnds in the poètic. The affections which spread beyond ourselves, and stretch far into futurity; the workings of mighty pássions, which seem to arm the soull with almost superhuman energy; the innocent and irrepressible joy of ìnfaney; the bloòm, and buoýancy, and dazzling hopes of youth; the throbbings of the heart, when it first wakes to love, and dreams of a happiness too vast for earth; wóman' with her beaúty, and gráce, and gèntleness, and fulness of feeling, and depth of affection, and her blushes of pùrity, and the tones and looks which only a mòther's heart can inspire;-thése' are áll poètical. It is not true that the poet paints a life which does not exíst; he only extracts and concéntrates, as it were, life's ethereal èssence, arrèsts and condénses its volatile fràgrance, brings together its scattered beaúties, and prolongs its more refined but evanescent jòys; and in thís he does wèll; for it is good to feel' that life is not wholly usurped by cares for subsistence and physical gratificátion, but admits, in measures which may be indefinitely enlarged, sentiments and delights! worthy of a higher being. This power of poetry to refine our views of life and happiness, is more and more needed!