All sound is not music. Many sounds, like loud shouting, the roar of traffic in the streets, the barking of dogs, are simply noises. Mere noise, and discords (that is, the sounding of notes together which do not agree), produce no pleasing effects on the mind, but on the contrary are often irritating and disturbing.
It is only when the sounds are so combined that they please the ear, and have a soothing, inspiring or pleasantly exciting effect on the hearers, that they become music. Why certain combinations of sound please us, while others irritate and disgust us, we cannot tell; any more than we can explain why we call some things beautiful, and others ugly.
Music, then, we may say, consists of beautiful sounds. But as people’s ideas of what is beautiful differ very much, so there are many kinds of music,.some of which please some people and do not please others, — from the magnificent compositions of musicians of genius, to the vulgar popular songs and tunes of the common music-hall.
Only people of educated musical taste can appreciate the former, and they find no pleasure in the latter; while the common people are bored with what is called classical music, and find pleasure only in what musicians would call vulgar tunes. But this is not peculiar to music; it is the same with all arts.
For example, untrained eyes and minds cannot appreciate the great pictures of artists of genius, but prefer highly coloured daubs; and the crowd prefers trashy and sensational novels to classical literature.
Good music often has a wonderful effect upon the feelings of even ignorant people. One poet has said, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” The regimental bands put courage and enthusiasm for battle into the hearts of marching troops; the solemn and stately music of the organ fills the worshippers in church and cathedral with awe and reverence and the sense of the Divine presence.
Soft and sweet music soothes the wearied, the worried, and the sad; mothers send fretful children to sleep with gentle lullabies; an old song will bring tears to the eyes of the lonely exile; and grand music will fill strong men with great hopes and ambitions. In fact,”What passion cannot music raise and quell?”
Of course there are some unfortunate people who have no ear for music at all, and cannot tell one tune from another; and there are more who, while they can hear music, will never care for it. But these are exceptions; for music appeals more or less to most people.
But to appreciate really good music, requires the cultivation of the musical taste, just as it requires education to appreciate the best pictures and the best books.
The crowd likes the catchy and somewhat vulgar songs and the jazz bands of the music-halls, but is bored by classical music. But if they had been wisely taught in their schooldays to distinguish good music from bad, and to love the good, they would no more like vulgar music than a cultured man likes a trashy and badly written novel.
Fine music has such a refining effect, and appeals to and rouses such noble emotions, that the taste for it is well worth cultivating. Hence music ought to have a far more important place in education than it has today.