Original texts of foreign-language quotations

The article contains all quotations in English translation. The original versions can be found here. Translations by the author, unless noted otherwise.

pp. 545-6: (paraphrased) Verdi’s letter to Arrivabene (Feb 8, 1878):

Io detesto questo gran ciarlatano [Fétis] no perché abbia detto tanto male di me, ma perché mi ha fatto currere un giorno al museo Egiziano di Firenze (ti ricordi? siamo andati insieme) per esaminare un Flauto antico su cui pretende nella sua Storia Musicale d’aver trovato il sistema della musica antica Egiziana. Sistema eguale al nostro all’infuori della tonalità dello strumento!!! Figlio d’un cane! Quel Flauto non è che un zufolo a quattro buchi come hanno i nostri pecorai. Cosi si fa l’istoria!

I detest this big charlatan [Fétis], not because he spoke so badly about me, but because he made me run to the Egyptian museum in Florence one day (you remember? We went together) to examine an ancient flute, by means of which, in his History of Music, he pretends to have found the system of ancient Egyptian music. A system equal to ours, save for the tonality of the instrument!!! Son of a bitch! That flute is nothing but a pipe with four holes like the ones our shepherds have. That’s how history is made!

p. 554: Kircher, Musurgia i.1: 44.

Musica igitur non à Græcis, aut Ægyptijs, aut Chaldæis, sed à primis ante diluuium hominibus primam habuit suæ inuentionis originem.

Thus the invention of music did not originate with the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, but before the flood among the first humans.

p. 556: Diodorus, Bibliotheca historica, 1.81.7

οὐ μόνον ἄχρεστον … ἀλλὰ καὶ βλάβεν.

not only useless … but even harmful.

p. 557: (paraphrased) Plato, Laws 656d-657b (tr. Trevor Saunders and Richard Stalley) 

κλ.   ᾿Εν Αἰγύπτῳ δὲ δὴ πῶς τὸ τοιοῦτον φῂς νενομοθετῆσθαι;

Αθ. Θαῦμα καὶ ἀκοῦσαι. πὰλαι γὰρ δή ποτε, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἐγνώσθη παρ’ αὐτοῖς οὗτος ὁ λόγος ὃν τὰ νῦν λέγομεν ἡμεῖς, ὅτι καλὰ μὲν σχήματα, καλὰ δὲ μέλη δεῖ μεταχειρίζεσθαι ταῖς συνηθείαις τοὺς ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι νέους. ταξάμενοι δὲ ταῦτα ἅττα ἐστὶ καὶ ὁποῖ’ ἄττα, ἀπέφηναν ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς, καὶ παρὰ ταῦτ’ οὐκ ἐξῆν οὔτε ζωoγράφοις οὔτ’ ἄλλοις ὅσοι σχήματα καὶ ὁμοῖ’ ἄττα ἀπεργάζονται αἰνοτομεῖν οὐδ’ ἐπινοεῖν ἄλλ’ ἄττα ἢ τὰ πάτρια, οὐδὲ νῦν ἐξέστιν, οὔτ’ ἑν τούτοις οὔτ’ ἐν μουσικῇ ξυμπάσῃ. σκοπῶν δ’ εὑρήσεις αὐτόθι τὰ μυριοστὸν ἀλλ’ ὄντως, τῶν νῦν δεδημιουργημένων οὔτε τι καλλίονα οὔτ’ αἰσχίω, τὴν αὐτὴν δὲ τέχνην ἀπειργασμένα.

κλ.   Θαυμαστὸν λέγεις.

Αθ. Νομοθετικὸν μὲν οὖν καὶ πολιτικὸν ὑπερβαλλόντως. ἀλλ’ ἕτερα φαῦλ’ ἂν εὕροις αὐτόθι· τοῦτο δ’ οὖν τὸ περὶ μουσικὴν ἀληθές τε καὶ ἄξιον ἐννοίας, ὅτι δυνατὸν ἄρ’ ἦν περὶ τῶν τοιούτων νομετεῖσθαι βεβαίως θ’ ἱεροῦν τὰ μέλη τὰ τὴν ὀπθότητα φύσει παρεχόμενα· τοῦτο δὲ θεοῦ ἢ θείου τινὸς ἂν εἴη, καθάπερ ἐκεῖ φάσι τὰ τὸν πολὺν τοῦτον σεσωσμένα χρόνον μέλη τῆς Ἴσιδος ποιήματα γεγονέναι.

Clin: How, then, does the law stand in Egypt?

Ath. It is marvelous, even in the telling. It appears that long ago they determined on the rule of which we are now speaking, that the youth of a State should practise in their rehearsals postures and tunes that are good: these they prescribed in detail and posted up in the temples, and outside this official list it was, and still is, forbidden … to introduce any innovation or invention … And if you look there, you will find that things depicted or graven there 10,000 years ago (I mean what I say, not loosely but literally 10,000) are no whit better or worse than the productions of today, but wrought with the same art.

Clin: A marvelous state of affairs!

Ath. Say rather, worthy in the highest degree of a statesman and a legislator. Still you would find in Egypt other things that are bad. This, however, is a true and noteworthy fact, that as regards music it has proved possible for the tunes which possess a natural correctness to be enacted by law and permanently consecrated. The effect this would be the task of a god or a godlike man,—even as in Egypt they say that the tunes preserved throughout all this lapse of time are the compositions of Isis.

pp. 561-3: (partly paraphrased) Rameau, Réflexions sur le principe sonore, 225-26

Noé, prévenu sur sa destinée, ne dut pas manquer vraisemblablement de se munir de tout ce qu’il pouvoit croire propre à quelques usages; de sorte que la progression triple, même le Tétracorde, aussi-bien que les Instrumens de Musique, pouvoient fort bien en faire partie, d’autant plus encore qu’on pouvoit avoir déjà tiré de quelques avantages de la progression sur ce qui regarde les Sciences, selon ce qui a déjà paru; mais ce Patriarche, trop occupé de son établissement sur la nouvelle terre qu’il alloit habiter, put bien négliger d’abord ce qui lui étoit pour lors le moins de conséquence, laissant la liberté ou plustôt ordonnant à ses enfans de visiter les mémoires qu’il avoit recueillis , pour lui en rendre compte. Or, ne peut-il pas se faire que la progression soit tombée entre les mains de l’un, & le Tétracorde entre les mains de l’autre, & que ceux-ci, ne voyant pas le temps propice pour en faire usage, les aient portés en différens lieux? Il est vrai que l’époque des Chinois n’est guère éloignée du Déluge, puisqu’elle precede de treize ans celle où l’on commença d’éléver la tour de Babel; mais ceux-là même qui travailloient à la construction de cette tour, ne pouvoient-ils pas avoir déjà fait leurs réflexions sur une pareille progression, soit un fils de Noé, soit d’autres à qui ce fils l’aura transmise, & qui auront ensuite passé en Chine, même en Egypte, si l’on veut, le Tétracorde pouvant avoir été porté en d’autres lieux? Tout cela est probable. Mettons que les Chinois se vantent à tort d’avoir connu la progression triple 2277 ans avant J. C. sans s’en dire cependant les inventeurs; mettons que Pythagore l’ait reçûe des Égyptiens : de qui ces deux peoples l’ont-ils reçûe eux-mêmes? S’il peut rester des doutes là-dessus, du moins on ne peut douter que la progression triple n’ait été d’abord appliquée à la Musique, que le premier des Tétracordes n’en soit le produit, & que ce Tétracorde n’ait dû exister avant la fabrique des Instrumens; & c’est ce qu’il faut bien peser [sic], en se rappelant toutes les raisons precedents, pour y distinguer ce qui peut n’être que du resort de l’instinct d’avec le principe qui le guide.

Noah, having been warned of his fate, could not seriously have failed to gather everything that he would believe proper for several uses, of the sort of the triple progression, even the tetrachord, as well as musical instruments may well have been part of this, all the more so since one had already drawn several benefits from the progression as far as the sciences are concerned, after what has already been seen. But this patriarch, too busy settling down on the new earth that he was going to inhabit, could well have initially neglected that which was just then of little consequence, leaving it up to—or rather, ordering—his children to revisit the treatises that he had collected, in order to report on them to him. For could it not be the case that the progression had fallen into the hands of one son and the tetrachord into the hands of another, and that they, unable to see the propitious time to make use of them, carried them into different parts of the world? It is true that the epoch of the Chinese is barely distant from the deluge, since the flood precedes that period where one began to build the tower of Babel by a mere thirteen years. But could not even those who labored at the construction of that tower—be it a son of Noah, be it others to which this son might have transmitted it, and who would then move on to China, even to Egypt if you will—could they not have already reflected upon a similar progression? Is it not possible that the tetrachord might have been carried to other places in that way? All this is possible. Let’s assume that the Chinese falsely pride themselves on having known the triple progression 2277 years before Christ, albeit without being called its inventors; let’s assume further that Pythagoras had received [this knowledge] from the Egyptians: from whom had these two peoples received [this wisdom] themselves? One could have lingering doubts about this , but at least one cannot doubt that the triple progression had not initially been applied to music, that the first of the tetrachords is not a product thereof, and that the tetrachord could not have existed before instruments started being produced. Given all these reasons, this is what we have to conclude, with the view to distinguishing between that which can only be the domain of the instinct and the principle which guides [this instinct].

p. 563: Rameau, Réflexions, 224

Si les Chinois & Pythagore suivent cette progression, les systèmes qu’ils en ont tirés n’ont nul rapport entr’eux, non plus qu’avec le Tetrachorde.

Even if the Chinese and Pythagoras follow this [triple] progression, the systems that they extracted from it have no relation to each other, nor with the tetrachord.

pp. 564-6: Roussier, Mémoire sur la musique des anciens, 65

Que les Egyptiens ayent un systême pareil à celui qu’on vient de voir, c’est ce qu’on ne sçauroit affirmer. Mais, ce qu’il y a de certain, c’est qu’ils avoient une Série de douze termes en progression triple, comme le prouve la réunion des deux systêmes Grec & Chinois, renfermés en puissance, & comme implicitement, dans la Lyre de Mercure.

Whether the Egyptians had a system similar to the one we just saw, we cannot know for sure. However, what is certain is that they have a twelve-fold series of triple progressions, as is proven by the reunion of the Greek and Chinese systems, encapsulated in potential and as if implicitly, in the Lyre of Mercury.

p. 566: Roussier, Mémoire sur la musique des anciens, 69

à peu de choses près, le systême actuel des Modernes

more or less, the current system of the moderns

(Omitted in published version: Diderot’s review of Roussier’s book)

Denis Diderot, Sur le système de musique des anciens peoples in Œuvres completes (Paris: Garnier, 1875-7), 9: 450, critiques Roussier’s work and concludes:

[C]e papier suffit pour mettre les ignorants en état, sinon de parler de la musique des anciens, du moins d’entendre ce que les savants en diront.

[T]his paper suffices to enable those not in the know, if not to speak of the music of the ancients, then at least to understand what the learned men have to say about it.

p. 567: Villoteau, “Dissertation,” 394

On feroit un traité très-complet de la musique des Égyptiens, si l’on vouloit suivre Platon dans tous les details où il est entré sur la manière d’enseigner, d’étudier et d’exercer cet art . . .

One would produce a very complete treatise of the music of the Egyptians if one were to follow Plato in all the details he goes into about the manner of teaching, learning and practicing this art . . .

p. 569: Fétis, Biographie universelle des musiciens, et bibliographie générale de la musique, lxvii

Tous ces instrumens sont montés un grand nombre de cordes ; ils indiquent donc l’usage habitel d’une échelle musicale étendue, et vraisemblablement aussi d’intervalles plus petits que ceux qui divisent la gamme des Européens. Ce trait est caractéristique dans la musique de l’Orient, et particulièrement dans celle des Égyptiens et des Arabes : mais ce n’est que par induction que nous pouvons parvenir à une connaissance approximative de l’ancien état de cette musique.

All these instruments have mounted a large number of strings; these indicate the habitual use of an extended musical scale, and likely also of intervals smaller than those that divide the European scale. This trait is characteristic in the music of the Orient, particularly in that of the Egyptians and Arabs, but it is only by induction that we can arrive at an approximate understanding of the ancient state of that music.

pp. 572-3: Fétis, Biographie, lxviii

[S]i le peuple originaire de l’Egypte a conservé, après tant de siècles, sa langue primitive, malgré le mélange des populations étrangères au pays et la longue domination de celle, n’est-il pas presumable que ce même peuple a aussi gardé le système de la musique antique?

If the original people of Egypt have preserved their original language after so many centuries, despite the mixture of foreign peoples in the country and its long dominance, is it not presumable that the same people had also retained the same ancient musical system?

p. 573: Fétis, Biographie, lxviii

surchargée … des ornemens embrassent en general une échelle étendue, et font passer en rapidité la voix du grave à l’aigu et de l’aigu au grave

overburdened with ornaments, comprises an extended scale, and moves with great speed from low to high and from high to low

p. 574: Fétis, Biographie, lxxi

De ce qu’elle ne peut s’appliquer qu’à une musique surchargée de mouvemens de voix et d’ornemens, il suit nécessairement que la musique actuelle de l’église grecque, et de quelques peuples de l’Afrique, nous donne une idée exacte de ce qu’était l’ancienne musique de l’Égypte.

Since it cannot possibly be applied except to music overladen with embellishment, and requiring great flexibility of voice, it follows necessarily that the present music we find in the Greek church and among some African nations gives us an exact idea of the music of ancient Egypt.

p. 575: Kiesewetter, Ueber die Musik, 35

Vergeblich aber würde man unter den Kopten auch die Musik des Alten Egyptens suchen. Sprache pflanzt sich wohl, unter allen Verhältnissen, im Familienleben von den Eltern auf die Kinder fort, und nur durch vollstuandige Vermischung mit neuen Insassen kann sie endlich verloren gehen; ererbte Musik verstummt allmälig in den Generazionen unter dem Drucke der Tyrannei, der Armuth und der Noth, mit dem Rückfall in die Barbarei. Und fände sich endlich unter den Kopten (was aber durchaus zu bezweifeln ist) irgendwo ein ihnen eigener Gesang, wer vermöchte zu behaupten, es sei noch jener ihrer Voreltern?

One would search in vain among the Copts for the music of the ancient Egyptians. Language, it is true, is transplanted from parents to children under any circumstance in family life, and only the complete integration with new inhabitants can cause a complete loss. Inherited music, however, is gradually quietened under the pressures of tyranny, of poverty, and of misery, with the regression into barbarism. Even if an original form of music were to be found among the Copts (which is doubtful), who would be able to say it was still the same as that of their forefathers?

p. 578: Ambros, Geschichte der Musik, i: 157 

wenn uns selbst nur für eine halbe Minute vergönnt wäre zu hören, was wir auf alten Denkmalen so oft abgebildet sehen.

[I]f only we could hear for half a minute what we so often see in old monuments.