BY H. SHERWOOD VINING.
In musical composition every phrase has a meaning, and in order to bring it out clearly, every tone must have a meaning, and must fill its proper relation to the preceding and following tones. The pupil from the start must be encouraged to seek after a comprehension of musical expression till he can feel just that delicate gradation of volume, and emphasis, with which each tone must be produced in order to render a passage with true musical feeling.
A keen imagination seems natural to childhood and by drawing upon this faculty the teacher can awaken a child’s interest, and lay the foundation for musical and poetical conception and interpretation. It will be a great help in this work to give pieces from the beginning which have musical content, enlarging upon the characteristic meaning; if the piece has no title it is an excellent plan to give an appropriate title, and make a little story to fit it, as in the following examples for characteristic styles of little pieces:—
“A Boat Song;” call attention to the boatman’s song as he dreamily rows along, accompanied by the rolling waves, and rocking boat; the melody will then be naturally brought out, and the accompaniment will doubtlessly be smoothly played without receiving undue importance.
“A Hunting Song;” the clatter of the horses’ hoofs as the hunters gaily rush along, accompanies their gay song, which terminates as they triumphantly swing into the yard on their return home at twilight, after a successful hunt.
The “Swing Song,” and “Spinning Song,” with its hum of the spinning-wheel, would receive the same characteristic treatment. In the “Cradle Song,” the soft lullaby which accompanies the rocking of the cradle, gradually dies away till the tones are scarcely heard as the little one sleeps.
“After School,” in minor key; the little girl on her return from school coaxes to be allowed to have a little time for play; she sings very sweetly that she has learned all her lessons, and obeyed every rule all day in school, becoming a little plaintive with her ‘Prith’ee let me go.’ This piece will be appreciated and played with much expression.
“Little Johnnie,” he comes stamping in from play, in his high-top boots, and in vociferous tones sings his tale, which he enthusiastically reiterates again and again, but tired of play all day, his tones at length grow softer and slower till at last he drops off to sleep and in dreams lives over again the day’s merry fun.
“The Storm,” this will be tempestuous as the storm rages, but is followed by ‘glad and thankful feelings’ as it ceases. The ‘storm’ may be of the ‘passions,’ but if of the elements, possibly a shepherd’s song is heard, and vesper bells ring as the sun sets clear in the bright sky, while all nature is fresh and sparkling, and the air sweet and exhilarating.
“Little Fairy Waltz,” must be dainty and light as the airy little sprites come tripping over the grassy lawn and flowers, singing as they go, so light that the flowers scarcely bend under their pressure, and a breath could blow them away.
The mind will readily form its own ever varying imagery, and as the habit is formed of seeking for musical content, it soon goes deeper than the merely descriptive, and absolute music, that beauty of form, and expression of thought and feeling, which cannot be expressed in words, is conceived. “Music is a microcosm,—it is so thoroughly a product of the individual soul that it is an epitome of life.”