[Teachers are invited to send The Etude short letters on subjects of general interest to the profession, such as studio experiences, ways of working and practical ideas, but no controversial letters will be accepted.]
Many speak scornfully of “mere technique,” and discourse in lofty tone of “technique a means and not an end.” But perfect technique is not merely a means, it is an element in musical beauty itself. A round and brilliant trill, a scale of absolute evenness and exquisite shading, a rich rolling arpeggio, solid to the core—these, although mere technical components of musical effect, are in themselves beautiful, just as a perfect curve or a glowing color upon the canvas is beautiful. The curved line and the delicately graded tint in themselves express nothing, they are simply technical materials, but they give æsthetic pleasure even to the wisest.
The technical effect in music is still more closely bound up with the idea than it is in painting, for in music the idea and the expression are one and the same.
In painting and in poetry a thought may be expressed in more ways than one, but not so in music—change a single note or accent and the thought is altered. In fact, in music we cannot use the word “thought” at all, except as interchangeable with expression. And so in musical performance technique and expression are absolutely inseparable. Not only is real musical beauty marred by defective technique, but, strictly speaking, it does not exist at all. Think of this, you rebellious students, to whom technical studies are an insufferable bore: and you, weary pedagogues, who are tempted to neglect the drudgery, as you call it, of teaching them! Consider that a five-finger exercise, faultlessly rendered, is beautiful in itself,—it is the perfect line or color which will not only have a function in the completed work of art, but has also a beauty of its own to the understanding as well as to the sense. Edward Dickinson.
A HIGH IDEAL.
Doubtless, nearly, if not all teachers who strive to reach a high ideal, have been confronted at some time during life by one of the numerous wiseacres who infest the earth, with the chilling remark that they were not reaching the “popular taste.” Generally the popular taste is bad, and unless there is some one to create a sentiment for better music, it continues to be bad.
Many times it takes a great deal of courage for a young teacher to stand against the average public taste regarding true art, but it is refreshing to hear of one, who, despite the opposition he or she may receive, has this courage, coupled with keen discrimination to cautiously but steadily teach and perform compositions that are indicative of a cultivated taste.
It is said that even the great Beethoven was severely criticised, and even snubbed, because he chose to think higher musical thoughts than the people around him. Suppose he had been content to listen to the murmurs of the people, not only he, but the world would have been the loser.
Let each teacher strive to reach a high ideal, resting assured that not until they have fixed the standard will their pupils, their friends or the people of their community begin to raise their thoughts to a higher level.
F. A. Lyman.
IGNORANT AND INJUDICIOUS CRITICISM.
It has been wisely said: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and in no field is this more true than in that of criticism.
People of no artistic attainments whatever will criticise the performance of earnest and well-meaning artists with a freedom that is appalling. These people are not all uneducated or fools, but are sometimes people of broad cultivation—outside of music—and give vent to their utterances without thinking of the injustice they are doing to themselves and art. It is exceedingly painful to hear young people—poor amateurs at the best—and musical papas and mammas talk about “deficiencies of power,” “inaccuracies in phrasing,” lack of “freedom
of execution,” &c., after an artist’s recital. Such criticism not only shows weakness of the speaker’s character, but places one in the light of an egoist in the eyes of people of real attainments.
It is to be hoped that a reformation will begin in this line soon, as it has a lowering and damaging effect on true art. This reformation could be best begun right in the ranks of the profession; as there never was—and is not at present—enough fraternity among musical people. It is unjust and uncharitable to pull down and criticise others to elevate one’s self. Incompetent teachers are generally of the opinion that they are the beacon lights of the profession, and that the all-powerful “my method” is the best in use. Such one-sided people never become true artists or teachers.
Foreign teachers have been in the habit of sneering at and criticising American methods and American teachers; but of late their missiles have had the effect of returning to themselves with damaging results. The public is rapidly finding that American teachers and thinkers are making most of the advancement in musical art. D. N. Long.
A WILL OF YOUR OWN.
The following highly agreeable prospects are in store for the music teacher who, from want of backbone, or from an excessive desire to please, will constantly yield to the innumerable fancies and caprices of his pupil or to the sage counsels of the pupil’s feminine parent: Either he will ultimately be compelled to take refuge in an asylum for the insane, or, sorely disappointed at the utter futility of his efforts to give satisfaction, he will, despairing, give up the ghost—so to speak. In case he should prefer to avoid the first-mentioned contingency, and to keep off the other the longest possible, he must make up his mind to have a will of his own and to hold on to it. Leo.