The University of Mississippi

Music 502: Baroque Music

Thomas Mace Discusses Musical Rhetoric

A Necessary, and Short Digression Comparing Musick to Language, or Oratory.

Now here, it will not be Inpertinent, to make a short Digression, and to say something in This Respect, of Musick; which I believe, every one will not believe, or think possible; and especially, in the manner of Invention, in Composition.

But This much I do affirm, and shall be ready to Prove, by Demonstration, (to any Person Intelligible) That Musick is as a Language, and has Its Significations, as Words have, (if not more strongly) only most people do not understand that Language (perfectly.)

Further Explained.

And as an Orator, (when he goes about to make a Speech, Sermon, or Oration) takes to Himself some Subject Matter, to Exercise Himself upon, as a Theam, Text, or the Like; and in sundry ways, at his Pleasure, and yet not stray from, or loose His intended Matter. Even so may a Learned Master, in This Art, do the like; and with as much Ease, Scope, and Freedom (significantly.)

The Divine Rhetorical Power of Musick.

And as in Language, various Humours, Conceits, and Passions, (of All sorts) may be Exprest; so likewise in Musick, may any Humour, Conceit, or Passion (never so various) be Exprest; and so significantly, as any Rhetorical Words, or Expressions are able to do; only, (if I may not be thought to Extravagant in my Expressions) if any Difference bel It is, In that Musick speaks so transcendantly, and Communicates Its Notions so Intelligibly to the Internal, Intellectual, and Incomprehensible Faculties of the Soul; so far beyond all Language of Words, that I confess, and most solemnly affirm, I have been more Sensibly, Fervently, and Zealously Captivated, and drawn into Divine Raptures, and Contemplations, by Those Unexpressible Rhetorical, Uncontroulable Perswasions, and Instructions of Musicks Divine Language, than ever yet I have been, by the best Verbal Rhetorick, that came from any Mans Mouth, either in Pulpit, or elsewhere.


Those Influences, which come along with It, may aptly be compar'd, to Emanations, Communications, or Distillations, of some Sweet, and Heavenly Genius, or Spirit; Mystically, and Unapprehensibly (yet Effectually) Dispossessing the Soul, and Mind, of All Irregular Disturbing, and Unquiet Motions; and Stills, and Fills It, with Quietness, Joy, and Peace; Absolute Tranquility, and Unexpressible Satisfaction.

I speak not by Roat, but by Experience, and what I have often found, and felt.

This Relation will seem strange to many; which I shall not wonder at; because I know there are but few, which do arrive at that Height, and Degree of Experience, and Knowledge, both of the Art, Practice, or Effects of It, or (which is more) that do make use of Their Musick, in such a Solemn, and Divine way.

--Musick's Monument 1676.

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