À l’origine de L’Histoire Générale de la Musique

Charles Burney, organiste et compositeur anglais (1726-1814), s’embarqua dans un voyage à travers l’Europe entre 1770 et 1772 pour rassembler des informations susceptibles d’être utilisées pour écrire sa propre histoire de la musique; en citant Francis Bacon et l’esprit propre de son époque (A General History of Music, Preface p.11) :

 “Sir Francis Bacon recommends histories of art upon the principle of utility, as well as amusement; and collecting into one view the progress of an art seems likely to enlarge the knowledge, and stimulate the emulation of artists, who may, by this means, be taken out of the beaten track of habit and common practice, to which their ideas are usually confined.”

L’auteur mentionne dans l’introduction de son Journal, p. 6* :

“Had the books that I have hitherto consulted, […] supplied me with the information I wanted, […]; I should not have undertaken a journey that has been attended with much fatigue, expence, and neglect of other concerns”.

 Et, comme il le précise dans sa préface de A General History of Music, p. 14, il est également poussé par le désir de fournir à ses compatriotes un texte qui leur soit nécessaire :

“I entered on so arduous a task […] neither with a view to rival others, nor to expose the defects of former attempts, but merely to fill up, as well as I was able, a chasm [sic] in English literature. I knew that a history of Music was wanted by my countrymen, and was utterly ignorant that any one else had undertaken to supply it”.

D’ailleurs, Burney a l’intention d’aborder le sujet dans une optique innovatrice, en ayant rencontré personnellement les compositeurs, interprètes et théoriciens de la musique (Journal, p. 7) :

“But these books [the books that I have hitherto consulted] are, in general, such faithful copies of each other, […]. In hopes of stamping on my intended History some marks of originality, […], I determined to allay my thirst of knowledge at the source […]. I determined to hear with my own ears, and to see with my own eyes; and, if possible, to hear and see nothing but music.

Il veut aussi assister à des concerts dans des lieux multiples et de genres variés, et les évaluer par lui-même (A General History of Music, p. 14) :

 “At length, wearied and disgusted at the small success of my researches, I shut my books, and began to examine myself as to my musical principles; hoping that the good I had met with in the course of my reading was by this time digested, and incorporated in my own ideas; and that the many years I had spent in practice, theory, and meditation, might entitle me to some freedom of thought, unshackled by the trammels of authority.”

*titre complet: The Present State of Music in France and Italy: or The Journal through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for “A General History of Music”

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