PREFACE TO THE SACRED HARP.
MANY efforts have been made to please the public with a collection of Sacred Music; and none but those who make the effort, know how difficult it is to accomplish this task. The Compiler of this work has spared no labour or pains in trying to accomplish this desirable object, having taught music for the last twenty years, and being necessarily thrown among churches of various denominations, and all the time observing their wants in that of a variety of church music, has in this work endeavored to supply that deficiency which hertofore existed, by placing all the church music within his reach, in one book. That such a complation is needed, no person of piety, observation, and taste, will deny. While the churches may be supplied from this work, others have not been forgotten or neglected; a great variety will be found suited to singing-schools, private societies, and family circles; in fact, the Sacred Harp is designed for all classes who sing, or desire to sing. The Compiler has not aimed at greatness or self-aggrandizement, but has desired, in his humble position, to benefit the public in general: and therefore has set out this work in a plain, easy, and familiar style; and having passed the meridian of life, and entirely withdrawn from the business of teaching, is disposed to leave this work as a specimen of his taste, and recommend it to a generous public, praying God that it may answer in full the purposes intended.
Hamilton, Harris Co., Georgia. April, 1844.
N.B. The Harp is a selection from the most eminent authors not extant; together with nearly one hundred pieces never before published, all of which have been harmonized and arranged under our immediate inspection, expressly for this work.
B.F. WHITE & E.J. KING.
A SINGING-SCHOOL, to learn and practise Sacred Music, should be a solemn place-a place of prayer: for it is as solemn a business to learn to sing the praises of God as it is to learn the word of God. A singing-school should be of the same character as a Sabbath-school or a Bible class; it is, in part, of the same class of schoools, and should be conducted with the same solemnities. We think it as much the duty of those who have the ability, to learn to sing the praises of God as it is to learn his word; and no parents or guardians, therfore, should consider their religious educaiton, nor that of their children, complete, without a knowledge of sacred music; nor think they are at liberty to sit silent in the sanctuary, to sing or not, as they please. The gift of a talent to sing, implies an obligation to improve it, and not to offer unto the Lord the halt and lame, but to cultivate the voice that they may sing to edification, and not to be an annoyance to every one near them. Sacred music, when sung in a proper style, will generally produce a religious effect in a greater or less degree. We have had the pleasure of seeing, at public rehearsals of sacred music, very deep and strong religous impressions made, not only upon the singers, but upon the congregation: and when such words as
were sung, it seemed that every one present felt their power, and felt something of the majesty of Jehovah. We have known, moreover, very esxtensive and general revivals of religion commence, and make their first appearance, in singing-schools. But who ever knew such blessings follow when secular music was practised in the school, or when the object of public rehearsal was display? We think it is time the Christian public were awake to their duty on this subject.
OF MUSIC IN GENERAL.
MUSIC consists of a succession of pleasing sounds, with reference to a peculiar internal sense implanted in us by the Great Author of nature. Considered as a science, it teaches us the just disposition of sounds; and as an art, it enables us to express them with facility and advantage. The tones of music differ from sounds in general, because they vary from each other by fixed intervals, and are measured by certain proportions of time. There is, indeed, in good speaking, a regularity to be observed, which has some resemblance to this art; and to the orator we frequently use the epithet, musical; but the inflections of the voice in speech are more variable, and slide as it were by insensible degrees, and cannot easily be limited to rule; whereas the gradations of musical sounds are exactly ascertained, and are brought to an uniform standard.
Music naturally divides itself into Melody and Harmony. Melody is the agreeable effect which arises from the succession of single sounds. Harmony is the pleasing union of several sounds at the same time. Modulation consists in rightly disposing and connecting either the melody of a single part, or the harmony of various parts. The two primary and essential qualities of musical sounds are, relative acuteness or gravity, and proportionate duration. The first property is their relabibe acuteness or gravity. Bodies of unequal size, length, or tension, emit sounds differeing in theis respect, and are said to be grave or acute. Human voices differ in this respect, viz., a man's voice is more grave than a woman's; and when the voice moves from a grave to an acute sound, it is said to ascend. Some musicians term it high or low, sharp or flat, grave or acute: any of those terms imply the necessary distinction.
The next property is time, or proportional continuance; and here, without varying the acuteness or gravity of a tione, a difference of movement alone may constitute an imperfect species of music, such for example is the drum, where the tones are only diversified by the celerity with which they succeed each other. The principal distinction, then, of musical sounds, are time and tune; and to the happy combination of these two qualities, is chiefly to be ascribed the pleasing and endless variety of musical art.