The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 266

véritables beautés de
l'art, & à la musique vraiment naturelle."


_On the Defects of Modern Music._

[No date.]


**** I like your ballad, and think it well adapted for your purpose
of discountenancing expensive foppery, and encouraging industry and
frugality. If you can get it generally sung in your country, it may
probably have a good deal of the effect you hope and expect from it.
But as you aimed at making it general, I wonder you chose so uncommon
a measure in poetry, that none of the tunes in common use will suit
it. Had you fitted it to an old one, well known, it must have spread
much faster than I doubt it will do from the best new tune we can
get composed for it. I think too, that if you had given it to some
country girl in the heart of the Massachusets, who has never heard
any other than psalm tunes, or _Chevy Chace_, the _Children in the
Wood_, the _Spanish Lady_, and such old simple ditties, but has
naturally a good ear, she might more probably have made a pleasing
popular tune for you, than any of our masters here, and more proper
for your purpose, which would best be answered, if every word could
as it is sung be understood by all that hear it, and if the emphasis
you intend for particular words could be given by the singer as
well as by the reader; much of the force and impression of the song
depending on those circumstances. I will however get it as well done
for you as I can.

Do not imagine that I mean to depreciate the skill of our composers
of music here; they are admirable at pleasing _practised_ ears, and
know how to delight _one another_; but, in composing for songs, the
reigning taste seems to be quite out of nature, or rather the reverse
of nature, and yet like a torrent, hurries them all away with it; one
or two perhaps only excepted.

You, in the spirit of some ancient legislators, would influence the
manners of your country by the united powers of poetry and music. By
what I can learn of _their_ songs, the music was simple, conformed
itself to the usual pronunciation of words, as to measure, cadence or
emphasis, &c. never disguised and confounded the language by making
a long syllable short, or a short one long when sung; their singing
was only a more pleasing, because a melodious manner of speaking;
it was capable of all

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