Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Music as an Antidote to Anarchism”
City of publication: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 75
Issue number: 14
|“Music as an Antidote to Anarchism.” Friend 19 Oct. 1901 v75n14: p. 105.|
|anarchism (religious response); anarchism (dealing with).|
|Napoléon Bonaparte; William McKinley; William Shakespeare; Goldwin Smith.|
Music as an Antidote to Anarchism
Among the many medicines for anarchism which are of late suggested from many quarters (as if in a general “conspiracy of silence” about the Gospel being the one true remedy), music has occurred to some prescribers, whose memory has naturally turned to the following old verses:—
“That naught so stockish, hard, and full of rage,
“But music for the time doth change his nature;
“The man that hath no music in himself,
“Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
“Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
“The motions of his spirit are as dull as night,
“And his affections dark as Erebus.”
We would revive here a little of our former contention
that the field of operation of music is the nervous system, and so, emotional
rather than spiritual. “Every soldier,” says an investigator, “will testify
to the inspiring influence of music in war. This, scientifically considered,
means simply that sound-vibrations act directly upon the nerves;” similarly
“under the power of an eight-foot organ pipe many a man has mistaken the shaking
of his diaphram for the trembling of his soul.” What we have objected to is
the mistaking of emotions, whether grossly or artistically manufactured, for
the inspiration of the Holy One.
The purpose of these lines is to introduce an editorial found in last week’s Christian Advocate, a leading Methodist paper, and entitled, “More than music needed:”
A convention of choirmasters and music teachers in England received a prophecy from their president that anarchism would “die a sweet natural death.” His theory is:
The softening influence of music is so delightful that the time will come when the inability to sing from sol fa will be as extraordinary as the inability to read or write. When the spread of music has reached the required degree anarchism will cease.”
Goldwin Smith in a recent article, attaches some importance to this.
Vegetarians are claiming that their method will put an end to anarchism and assassination. Against this is the fact that some of the most bloodthirsty peoples of antiquity were vegetarians, that the assassin of President McKinley hated meat, and for five or six weeks before his deed, lived on four quarts of milk and a few cakes per day. He could not bear the sight of pork.
The effect of music is undoubtedly refining, but it seems to help everything it is applied to. In a war, music stimulates people on the wrong as much as it does those on the right side. Some troops of brigands have been famous musicians, and have entered towns disguised as peripatetic performers on various instruments. Atheistic societies have made considerable use of music in their meetings. Music was by no means suspended during the first French Revolution. Few countries have made such progress in music or hear it more frequently than Italy. The people all sing, but they would hardly be regarded as unproductive of anarchists or as of a placid temperament indisposed to resort to violence. History records music in connection with the most oppressive persecution of religionists, and on Easter the people of Spain pass from the splendid music of the churches and cathedrals direct to the bull fights, whose season, in harmony with ancient custom, opens on Easter day.
We are aware that Napoleon said: “Of all the liberal arts music has the greatest influence over the passions, and is that to which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement. A well-composed song strikes and soothes the mind, and produces a greater effect than a small work, which convinces our reason but does not warm our feelings, nor effect the slightest alteration in our habits.”
But Napoleon said this at St. Helena when he was in a reflective mood. All the music he ever heard failed to change his essential character.
Musically inclined races have never been specially free from excesses, nor notably moral.
Music is [used for] assistance to true religion. But the feelings which it excites are often mistaken for deeper moral changes.
The teaching of music to both sexes is refining, but to bring it forward as in itself sufficient to destroy or check those elements of human nature from which anarchism arises, or as the main thing to be relied upon to mitigate human excesses of thought, feeling, action or speech, or to change the nature, except “for the time,” as Shakespeare says, is but to propose another panacea which will disappoint. Only a union of all methods of reformation—instruction in religion, morals and refinement—the constant employment of them, and the regeneration of the human heart by the Holy Spirit can prevent those convulsions of human nature which astound the world by such sudden outbreaks, when a large majority of those who are thus astonished are more or less under the power of the same imperfect or distorted development.