Root's New Course in Voice Culture and Singing: for the Female Voice. Published by Root & Sons, and the John Church Co., Chicago and Cincinnati.
This work is a new departure in vocal methods. Mr. Root has made a practical combination of the best traditional methods with the newer physiological ideas. It is the first vocal method given the public on truly pedagogic principles, and is the outgrowth of many years of special work. In it more than a thousand pupils have been trained. The book has been modified and added to as farther experience demanded. It is especially adapted to class singing, where the class make a specialty of voice development, rather than sight reading. However, the latter element is not overlooked, for the book contains ample material for the most efficient sight singing. The book is logically graded. Each subject prepares for the next. All work is precisely marked out, and the pupil knows exactly what to do and the best way to do it. Furthermore, the book shows the pupil how to criticise her work; an element too often overlooked.
There is a comprehensive series of exercises for the development of the innate feeling for rhythm ; and when we consider the fact that rhythm is the life and physical element, as it were, that which is the vehicle for the tones, by which is contained all the sentiment and expression of whatever is sung, Mr. Root has done well to give prominence to this indispensable part of a musical education.
The author gives clear explanations of, and directions for tone-placing, resonating, and the development of the best quality the individual voice is capable of producing. A practical system of breathing exercises is a feature of the book, which enables the pupil to develop good lung capacity and control of the breath, without which all else will prove a failure. He shows how to develop power without forcing the voice; how to correct or avoid the nasal or throaty breath tones; how to secure a true intonation and how to correct one that is faulty.
With the great majority of teachers the pupil is compelled to depend too much upon imitation, and what they may gain from their teacher's singing, and then carry out a series of experiments for themselves and with the teacher's aid, rather than upon a self-knowledge and a knowledge of how the tones are to be produced from the physiological consciousness. Mr. Root gives numerous descriptions and practical examples, so fully illustrated that the pupil is enabled to get complete control of all parts that have to do with voice production. That unruly member, the tongue, he shows how to bring under subjection, and how to control the larynx and to produce special effects by the contraction and expansion of the pharynx. Mr. Root shows the pupil how to control the palate as well as all other parts that have to do with voice production in a way that gives the pupil complete control over them in so sure a way that it is not a matter of guess or imitation. By the practice of these exercises the pupil is as easily enabled to control their movements as she is those of the hand in piano tone production.
A portion of the work is devoted to song and ballad singing, in which clear enunciation is made a special study. All the different vowel sounds, and the sounds produced by the consonants, are illustrated by a full set of exercises which are part of the pupil's daily work. Mr. Root does not treat all of these purely from a mechanical standpoint, but there is a great deal of taste and æsthetic feeling manifest throughout the work. The pupil is taught to sing with expression and declamatory effect. He aims at making musicians as well as singers of those who study this work. Last, though not of the least practical value, is the series of testing and grading exercises which will enable the teacher to find out exactly what each pupil can do. Their power of advancement is, as it were, exactly measured. This is a new feature of especially practical value to those schools that graduate vocal pupils.
From an extended conversation with Mr. Root five or six years since, I was very much impressed with his profound knowledge of voice culture, and in the following year I had the pleasure of hearing one of his large classes, in which my belief in his exceptional teaching powers and thorough grasp of the subject was fully confirmed.
This method I particularly welcome as being a great step in advance of anything that has heretofore appeared upon this much mystified subject; a subject upon which Mr. Root has succeeded in throwing some clear sunlight and dispelling the fogs of tradition and mystification that are the stock in trade of many teachers.
Charles W. Landon.
The Alpha Music School for the Piano. By Henry Schwing.
Mr. Schwing is a teacher, of a long and successful experience. He, therefore, gives a piano method for beginners, which is something more than an experiment. He makes a very strong point of time; this he develops, hand-in-hand with note reading. Many of the first exercises are played as duetts with the teacher. This holds the pupil up to a steady and unbroken rhythm. He takes much pains to teach the child to dwell upon the internal, or innate feeling of rhythm, and to feel and know that his counts are of equal duration, and to count carefully the time of each note, whether he gives one or more counts to a note, or, notes to a count; meantime, the counts following along unbrokenly.
This he does by the aid of his four-hand arrangements, and special preparatory studies preceding each. The arrangements call for strict legato. There is no reiteration of tones, but the arrangements of the melodies are such that the pupil's hands can remain at rest. There is no temptation to lift from the elbow, but to use the fingers only. Independence of the hand is also made a special study; independence in rhythm as well as in movement. From the first lessons, Mr. Schwing has marked out much note-writing for the pupil. This is a feature that is coming more and more into practice in teaching beginners. The tendency of the book is toward the classical; particularly to the preparation of pupils for music of the best grades.
In an early part of the course, the pupil is taught the elements of harmony, in which his knowledge is to be put to practical use. Thus harmony becomes a live subject, and not a mere theoretical working out of exercises. This tends to the musical development of the child from the harmonic study, while the many pieces develop the feeling for melody and refined taste. The book does not go very far into the art of pianoforte playing; as the title indicates, it is a book for beginners.
For the class of teachers who put brains into their work, and require brains in their pupil's work, the book will be especially valuable.
National, Patriotic and Typical Airs of all Lands.
Compiled by J. P. Sousa. H. Coleman, Phila.
This volume is, perhaps, the most important and comprehensive that has ever been issued of melodies for all nations. The scope of the work is quite extended; there are popular songs from the most remote savage tribes; some of them are almost unknown to the civilized world. In all there are 250 different national melodies. The work is of greatest interest to all musicians.
—John Church & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, send us the following pieces, by William H. Sherwood: "Medea," with detailed analysis and critical annotations, by A. J. Goodrich; this piece is being played in Mr. Sherwood's concerts with great acceptance. Five others are "Buy a Broom," "Christmas Dance," "Exhilaration," (4-hand pieces), " Ethelinda," " A Caudle Lecture."