Musical Design, A Help to Poetic Intention

Oliveria Prescott
1891 Proceedings of the Musical Association  
SOME weeks ago, a paper was read by Mr. Jacques on the " Composer's Intention," and it struck me, while listening, that a great deal might be said from the composer's point of view to show how his intention might be worked out in his composition. The point I particularly wish to bring out now is the way in which composers of the classical kind have employed musical design to support and to clear the poetic intention which they have had in their minds. Need_I explain poetic intention ? The
more » ... or subject of a whole opera or oratorio-the expressions of the different characters and scenes-the thoughts that hurry through the mind of each character. Again, if the work is purely lyrical-the poem that has to be reflected and enhanced, both in its main idea and all its sub-divisions by the music with which it is allied. If the music is purely instrumentalthe picture or sentiment which the composer may, if he likes, choose to quicken his own emotions, and thus to be the suggestion of his music. We hear it said sometimes that of course we want design in music which is absolute (i.e., without a purposed poetical meaning), because it has to stand aloneto stand on its own merits entirely; but, it is said, when there is a poetical meaning, that is the guide, and that will hold the music together without musical design; and musical design is only a hindrance to free poetic expression. Is this true? Is it true that musical design is only a hindrance and not a help to poetic intention in music ? I hope to show that it is not. Many people think that poetry, music, and every artistic work tumbles out of the head of the genius, without form and void, like Chaos itself. Therefore, those who wish to be
doi:10.1093/jrma/18.1.121 fatcat:vtdspinszvh5vmgsziu4ffbyi4