15 JUNE 1929, Page 26

The History of Music

SIR HENRY HADOW was the first editor of The Oxford History qf Music, which began to appear at the beginning of the present century. . We are now to have a second edition, which is the result of Professor Buck's revision. Two volumes of this have just appeared, the first an introduction, the second covering the Polyphonic Period.

• The introductory volume covers the ground of Greek Music, Hebrew Music, Notation, Instruments, Theoretical Writers, Plainsong, Folk-song, and the Social Aspects of Mediaeval Music. A team of eight learned people has worked over the sections of this ground with admirable harmony, and it may be said that the purpose of the volume has been well carried out. That purpose is to show the student that music, at any given time and in any given place, has always been modern, which is as much as to say that it has always been human. The history of music is one of the stories of mankind's struggle for self-expression. Each of the contributors to this volume (two of them, incidentally, are women) has preserved a con- sciousness of this fact in spite of the maze of dry-as-dust evidence which has been the basis of each essay.

Mr. Fox-Strangways, writing upon Folk-song, gives us an exemplary chapter, in which evidence is sifted swiftly and judgment is formed with reasonable reserve. He makes it quite clear that the advent of harmony has contaminated folk-song, and at the end urges us to respect the delicate sincerity of all folk expression, in the manner of one who pleads with trippers not to -deface the countryside with their litter. Professor Dent's chapter is a fascinating account of mediaeval music from the human point of view, during which he gives us some amusing evidence as to the manners of the mediaeval choirboy and how he was trained in the way he should go. The chapter on Greek and Mediaeval Instruments has been contributed by Miss Kathleen Schlesinger, who has devoted her life to this subject and can speak with the authority of one who has reproduced models of some of the ancient instruments.

Doubtless there are a few people who will object to the new form of the firstvolume, but such objections cannot be based on other than- sentimental grounds. The results of the work of scholars must always be modified and sometimes contra. dicted with the passing of time ; and when the scholar is working in the field of European music down to the great polyphonic writers, he must be wary of forming any very definite conclusions. To the work of the late Professor Wooldridge, those who propose to study any section of this vast subject will always be greatly indebted. But teachers and studentsalike have criticized his contribution to the Oxford History because he minimized the complexity of the develop. ment of music during this period and because he dealt with it in too general a fashion. The introductory volume serves as an expansion of his first three chapters as they originally stood, and the present editor has seen fit to curtail the first of these chapters and omit the next two. Furthermore, the original Chapter 6 (Measured Music and the Rhythmic Modes) has been rearranged, and the scholarship of Mr. J. B. Trend and the Rev. Dom Ansehn Hughes has been drawn upon to widen the scope of the accounts of the Spanish School and Palestrina respectively. (Volume 2).

Clearly, Professor Buck has been faced with great difficulties and has undertaken heavy responsibilities in bringing out this edition of a very important work. How successfully he has solved the problem cannot be fully appraised until the History has been in use for a time. Then we shall know how far it meets the exacting demands of research students. Mean- while we may derive confidence from the names of the new authors and from the high reputation of the editor himself.