Below is a quote by Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814). Burney, an Englishman, was a music historian and critic, who travelled to France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands to hear the latest compositions – instrumental and vocal. From his book, A General History of Music, Burney provides us his view of music:
Music is an innocent luxury, unnecessary, indeed, to our existence, but a great improvement and gratification of the sense of hearing.
With respect to excellence of Style and Composition, it may perhaps be said that to practised ears the most pleasing Music is such as has he merit of novelty, added to refinement, and ingenious contrivance; and to the ignorant, such as is most familiar and common.
As Music may be defined as the art of pleasing by the succession and combination of agreeable sounds, every hearer has a right to give way to his feelings, and be pleased or dissatisfied without knowledge, experience. or the fiat of critics; but then he has certainly no right to insist on others being pleased or dissatisfied in the same degree. I can very readily forgive the man who admires a different Music from that which pleased me, provided he does not extend his hatred or contempt of my favourite Music to myself, and imagine that on the exclusive admiration of any one style of Music, and a close adherence to it, all wisdom, taste, and virtue depend.
I think that I would have enjoyed a discussion with Burney about music.
- How do you understand his use of the work “innocent?”
- How do “practised ears” versus the “ignorant” of Burney’s age compare to today?
- How do you think Burney would view the state of “classical” and “popular” music today?