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Art and Artlessness.

Ambitious young musicians are continually forwarding to us specimens of their work, with the request to publish them and thus give them the opportunity to make their first round on the ladder of fame. Unfortunately, the writing of music is not an easy matter, and young composers are very apt to confound enthusiasm with inspiration. Here, however, we wish to refer to a more practical matter: the youthful, and sometimes the aged, composer very frequently attempts to write in a language of whose grammar he is ignorant; and whatever may be their other merits ninety five per cent. of the compositions forwarded show an inexcusable lack of knowledge of harmony.

A knowledge of the grammar of music will not make a composer, but ignorance of the grammar of music prevents a composer from properly expressing his thoughts. It seems absurd to insist on the common-place that a knowledge of harmony is a necessity to a composer of music, but if any one should doubt that the truism needs to be repeated again and again let him glance over the works of the composers of popular music and be horrified by the ignorance displayed.

Let the young composer then remember that however valuable may be his thoughts, however soaring his imagination, he is helpless until he has thoroughly learned the grammar of his art. Art without technic is artlessness, a Raphael who did not know how to draw, to mix his colors, or to use his brush might be filled with inspiration and yet stand idly helpless before his canvas. What then shall be said of the uninspired man, whose ignorance of the grammar of his art only the more plainly shows the poverty of his ideas?

Here is a very safe rule to follow: let the young composer resolutely refrain from writing until he knows how to write correctly, or, at least, let him keep his compositions in the secrecy of his own desk. It is curious how many geniuses of yesterday become the nonentities of next year, and even real genius is liable to do things of which its more ripened experience is ashamed.

 

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