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What has the modern music world to give the general public to take the place of the old-time popular cantata for stage representation, a form of entertainment, it is true, crude in inception so far as stage business is concerned, given often without scenery, with nondescript costuming, music of no great value, perhaps, no dramatic contrasts, little or no cohesion of idea and workmanship, yet popular and useful despite all that might be said by way of arraignment? Are we to have nothing from our American dramatists and composers that will suit the taste of this portion of our public, conform to the art canons of drama and music, yet easily staged and simple of representation ?

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The composer, if he marks his own phrasing, should certainly do so better than a pedagogue who may undertake to revise and edit. The former is certain to indicate his ideas according to the bearing each single part may have on the whole. The latter will be more likely to accomplish his work on technical lines, mechanical instead of artistic.

*****

If a man wishes to gain fluency in expression of his thoughts he must make a point of expressing them. Two ways are open, in writing or viva voce. The former affords the larger field and also offers opportunity of more careful expression. You may overestimate the value of your thoughts or you may very much underestimate the use they may be to your fellows. Self-confidence and self-reliance come only after repeatedly measuring one’s strength against that of others.

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You are teaching your pupils. You ask them to note down special points in your instruction. Are you taking down what they teach you? Has it ever occurred to you that a pencil and pad are convenient adjuncts to the furnishing of a studio?

*****

One of the leading musical educators of this country once said to a pupil in composition who asked him what was necessary to obtain a good working knowledge of the larger forms, “A few rules and a great deal of application of these rules.” Not every one can become a successful composer, but well-nigh every musician who is within touch of a good instructor can learn the principles of musical construction, even if he has no ground for cherishing the hope of becoming a luminary in the world of composition. A knowledge of construction is an invaluable help to analysis and to phrasing.

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Has it ever occurred to some of our enterprising, ambitious, restless American musicians that the larger cities in India, China, and Japan, in which are many Americans and Europeans, whose commercial interests compel them to live there—such cities as Capetown, South Africa, Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Yokohama, for example—might offer a good field for musical work in teaching and concert playing or private entertainment? We have noticed in exchanges, both American and English, ideas somewhat similar to those above. If the idea is feasible, a young man would certainly profit by the opportunities and experiences opening up to him in these new conditions. It may be worth while to consider this possibility and to investigate the possibilities of these new and far-off fields.

*****

No man knows what the future has in store for him. No one dare assume that he will remain in his present sphere for the rest of his life; no one should feel that his field of labor is definitely and finally marked out for him. Every one, who is even to but a small degree observant of life and its conditions, knows that all is subject to change, and furthermore that this change is oft-times radical and startling. Leaving aside this latter feature, it is well worth considering one point in regard to that kind of change which is one of development.

A teacher may be circumscribed in his sphere of activity, may feel himself qualified and adapted for a broader field and yet unable, by force of environment, to pass on to this higher plane. What is he to do? Sit down, in placid ease, with folded hands, and wait?

No time that is spent in acquiring knowledge bearing upon his profession, knowledge and ideas that will help him to become a better teacher; no work, no matter how hard and exhaustive, that makes a man stronger and more self-reliant, is ever lost.

Teachers who feel themselves tied down should resolutely set to work to bring about self-development, with the sincere and unwavering confidence that if opportunities are presented to them they will be able to accept them, and meet the new and more exorbitant demands made upon them in the new and broader, more exacting fields.

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Chaminade says “science does not hinder inspiration, but inspiration may be greatly hindered by lack of science.” It is, perhaps, unfair to say that many compositions of the present day lack inspiration. That is a point not to be determined by mere dogmatic assertion, but there need be no hesitancy in saying that many of them reveal a lack of science. A man may have beautiful melodies, rich, glowing harmonies and tone-color combinations flowing through his consciousness, but he will never be able to give anything like an adequate expression to these conceived effects unless he has a practiced hand so far as the science and technic of composition is concerned. In this number the publisher of The Etude makes an offer that should help to stimulate aspiring composers to serious systematic study, and to an endeavor to obtain a knowledge of the resources and possibilities of that sine qua non of the composer of music other than mere “tune,” that rich field—thematic treatment. We trust that we shall have a ready and full response from composers. It is an offer that should appeal directly to students of composition by affording them an opportunity of measuring their own ability and training against that of others.

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The art of music is gradually assuming a new phase in social life. Men of thought begin to appreciate its worth as a serious consideration; women of society begin to apprehend the dignity of its message. Latterly, the fact gains credence that our greatest composers live not by virtue of a tinkling cadence, a mellifluous melody, the sonorous harmony alone, but by the message each brings of ennobling sentiment and lofty aims. It behooves teachers, therefore, as its messengers, to study well the art’s “eternal principles,” and while new inventions, new systems, new methods come and go, to be in readiness for a questioning world as to music’s vital significance.

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Not alone the method of Leschetizky, the use of a Steinway piano, the record of being Liszt’s “favorite pupil,” the advantage of a personal acquaintance with Grieg, will assure success to the teacher. Not even the careful reproduction of a Schubert lyric, nor even of a Beethoven epic, will do more than give credit for digital and vocal skill. ‘Tis a thorough study of the art of whose manifestations the above names attest the value, which should be the focus of the musician’s strivings, the objective point of his studies, the text of all his teachings, the principle of his life.

*****

Those organists who, in all seeming, try to impress beholders with the idea that organ-playing, and particularly concert work, makes great demands upon the muscular system and requires, as an inevitable adjunct, extraordinary gyrations and contortions, whose pedaling causes the body to dance up and down like a Jack-in-the-box, who must twist and squirm from side to side in making changes in registration,—these organists, who produce more effects to the eye than to the ear and the soul, should go to one of Alexandre Guilmant’s recitals and learn a lesson. The great French organist’s attitude and actions are, in the highest sense, calm and dignified. In a Frenchman, whom we Americans consider excitable and animated in the extreme, we would look for the direct opposite. But not so, as said before, is the style of M. Guilmant. Never, even in great climaxes, does he allow himself to appear excited or agitated. The organ is an instrument of the massive type, a power, a force of tremendous nature, and the one who directs great things must be perfect master, must be repose personified. True art conceals difficulties, artificiality creates them.

*****

Have you tried to utilize that principle of mankind, the tendency to aggregation? Where is your ensemble class? You say you have but one piano. Perhaps if you bring your ingenuity to bear on the problem you can find some way to surmount the difficulty. Is there no violin player that you can reach, not only one, but two or three? Or a flute player, it may be, is in your community.

One other line is open to you. Why not get together a choral organization of some kind? Perhaps you already have a choir. The aggregated force and endeavor of your community, in musical affairs, may be waiting only for your initiative to be set into activity—a force that has wonderful momentum once set in motion.

 

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