Excerpt from Old English Popular Music, Vol. 2
Hitherto, as we have seen, the English ballad and dance tunes have followed a course in many respects parallel to that of the contemporary skilled music. The same scales, the same modulations, and often the same phrases of melody... , have been employed in both and the popular music, allowance being made for its inherent simplicity of design, has been found in no way inferior to its learned companion. But, hence forward, the reader will not fail to remark that, though this parallel course cannot be said to be discontinued, in one important respect there is a great difference between the two kinds of music which before did not exist; for while the skilled composers, in pursuit of the new musical ideal, shew no abatement of energy, the characteristic of the popular tunes is a gradually increasing languor and poverty of invention.
This may perhaps be accounted for by the natural dependence of the popular upon the learned music. Before 1600 the popular com posers derived instruction and support not only indirectly from the learned compositions in parts, but also directly from those which were made for a single voice; these latter being almost without exception written in metrical form, and in a robust and straightforward style of melody, proper to the modal system, and congenial to the popular taste. But at the period we are now entering upon, the skilled composers, here as well as abroad, were applying themselves to the development of music for the single voice in ways which were quite unsuitable to the popular necessities; and their compositions, even when they were thrown into metrical form, were generally marked by a character of elegance, foreign in its origin, and unsympathetic to the usual audience of the fiddler, the ballad-singer, and the convivial songster of the tavern. The popular writers of this period, therefore.
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