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Editorials

The concert and recital season is now fully upon us. Every teacher in the smaller cities and towns would do an excellent thing for himself and for his pupils if he will arrange that his advanced pupils hear some fine piano-playing. If parties of ten or more are made up, nearly every railroad will give special rates of fare, and the hotels will make reduced rates. Money goes further toward musical development and brings in richer results when spent for hearing fine music than in any other manner. Art necessarily must have models, and the overworked teacher can not practice sufficiently to give a model performance to his pupils. Listening to a good program often proves the turning-point in a pupil’s advancement; they begin from that moment to take their music seriously; they see for the first time the importance of thorough work, and for the first time they appreciate what the word “touch” means. Their artistic and musical eyes are opened, and the music world opens a new existence for them. But better still is it to secure good recitals in your own town, and, with a little personal effort, and by getting your wealthy patrons to subscribe to a guarantee fund, this can be easily done.

 

Shun the vices of vanity. Noble and normal love of honest praise is not vanity. Vanity is the poisonous product wrought by the decay of selfishness. Vanity is to aspiration what alcohol is to corn—the one is fever, the other is food. The glow of delight which thrills your bosom when you find that you have brought tears to the eyes of your listener by the adagio from Beethoven’s E-sharp minor (sic) sonata or Chopin’s  “Funeral March” is not vanity, but healthful art-happiness. When, after your recital, your enthusiastic admirers nearly wring your hands off in their excitement after your magnetic playing of a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, the pride you feel is nearer to vanity, but may not really be so.

I will tell you what is vanity. It is vanity that makes you ask, first of all, about a piece of music that you think of studying, “Will it take?” Take with whom, forsooth? Does it take with you? is the question. Has it magnetic iron to feed the red corpuscles of your own blood. Fie, for shame! Be a vital center yourself. Draw others to your higher plane. Hypnotize the world with the charm of mystic beauty. Only in depraved, inert flesh can the microbes of tuberculosis and diphtheria find a suitable soil in which to fatten. Only that teacher is a good teacher of whom his patrons say, “He gives a good deal of classical music that shoots over my head.”

 

 

A principle insisted upon by some writers on physical culture, as opposed to those who advocate athletics, is that size of muscle does not indicate a vitally strong and sound man. When the call went forth from our government that volunteers were wanted for military service, it was found that many men of good physique were not passed by the examining surgeon. The reason was that the vital organs—the heart, the lungs, the stomach, etc.—were not in perfect condition. For endurance, for long-sustained effort, we must be vitally strong and sound. Outside appearances form no criterion by which a safe and sound judgment can be made. We must go deeper and seek the vital principles upon which a thing is based.

The questions which a conscientious teacher needs to ask himself are, Am I giving instruction that contains within it real vital truth? Is it alive with the power that causes growth and nourishes this growth with the warm, rich, red blood of sound musicianship? Is this growth fostered and guided by a correct understanding of its nature? Am I using proper care to secure a sturdy, straight growth that has in it the elements of independence that will one day allow the pupil to stand alone, to form his own judgments, tempered from time to time by riper experience?

The best teacher does not aim for the superficial display and brilliant meretriciousness, which may be likened to the gigantic, swelling, knotty muscles of the athlete who often falls a victim to premature decay. The rather does he seek to develop his pupil into the likeness of that man who, by reason of sound vitality, is able to make the race with the swiftest and strongest.

 

 

Elsewhere in this issue may be found a malignant attack by “Old Fogy” on the music and memory of the late Peter Illitsch Tschaikowsky. We say “malignant” with sorrow, for, despite his occasional acerbity, our contributor is seldom personal, although rather old-fashioned in his judgments. Hence our surprise at his rather frenetic outburst on the subject of the works of the great, dead Russian. Above all things, Tschaikowsky was a master of his material; above all things, he had something new to say. His brutality was not frequent, and this, with his artistic license, was the outcome of a sorrowful and indignant nature. He was a patriot, who loved his country profoundly; his private life was unhappy; so it is not extraordinary that his music should at times show traces of revolt and passion. Being a dramatist,—an orchestral dramatist,—Tschaikowsky naturally selected subjects for his symphonic poems that would bear his picturesque, poignant, and passional treatment. In his symphonies the themes are Russian to the core, and the color, rhythmic vigor, poetry, and science displayed are the sign-manual of this composer’s claim to genius. No; “Old Fogy” for once has let his better judgment be swept away by an unreflecting gust of passion. Perhaps his surroundings had something to do with his want of moderation. He went to New York and lost his usual critical moorings, not to speak of the company in which he found himself. Tschaikowsky was a very great artist, a musical thinker, and a man of temperament.

 

 

There is a freedom in the playing of an artist and a display of finish that the amateur seldom attains. We recognize that it is largely in these things that one can recognize the artist. Ambitious amateurs seemingly have sufficient technic for playing, but they do not do the fine playing. Why is this? If you will read over the programs of the many pianists for one or more musical seasons, you will find that nearly every one has given certain pieces in his programs, and that a number of other pieces have been in the programs several times. In other words, all pianists play about the same set of pieces. Did you ever stop to think that they have been playing these pieces ever since they were young students; that they have played them in public for years, perhaps; and that they have known these pieces so long and practiced them for so many years that they know them not only thoroughly, but that the pieces themselves have become part of their musical consciousness—a part of their musical life? We speak of “playing” the piano; these artists have practiced and known these pieces so long that for them it is literally “playing” to render them. Their pieces are no longer “difficult” to them. From the above statements can be culled one thing of practical value: if you hope to play in public, select your pieces and work on them early and late. In music schools the graduate’s program should be all well in hand long before the graduation day. And no piece should be played until the mind can be entirely free to fill it with emotional and soulful feeling, all under the control of a refined taste.

 

 

“O that mine enemy would write a book,” said a cynic once upon a time. The critical faculty or tendency is much more common than the constructive. It is far easier to say how a thing should be done than to do it. This is the time of all times that shows a veritable craze for writing. Every woman’s club contains one or more who show far more ability as poseurs than as writers. Musical journals contain any number of cards of professional lecturers. Teachers in various cities announce lecture recitals, analytical readings, chats with pupils, historical evenings, and so on, through as many “changes” as the most accomplished carilloneur is able to make on his pet chimes. Yes; every one will and does write. We are not disposed to carp at the spirit and ambition displayed. A fire generally starts with a great deal of smoke, especially if very much green wood is in the pile. But by and by the cloud clears away and the clear flame shows forth, steady, warm, and rich in its ruddy glow, dispensing the nourishing force of heat and life to all who come within the circle of its influence.

If one wishes to write, he has made but a step. He must know his subject thoroughly; he must order his materials, and he must have a vocabulary of sufficient extent to allow variety in expression. It is no easy trade, this of the writer’s; and it is just as well to say to the apostles of technic that there is a writer’s technic as well as a pianist’s. It takes practice to write fluently, clearly, and, above all, to say something worth saying. In this present day the things worth saying, while not exhausted, are not easy to find out. What the great majority of writers are compelled to content themselves with—and this is no light thing either—is to say some well-known truth in a new and striking way, hold it up in a new light, or give it new life by some startling figure of speech or powerful illustration.

The editor of a journal such as The Etude is able to use perhaps one-tenth of the articles sent in for consideration. It is a regrettable condition, but it is true. Crudeness of expression, triteness of thought, verbosity of language, redundancy of idea, flowery apostrophes to music, illogical and incoherent construction are not factors to give interest to an article. To be valuable to a busy teacher, who, frequently, has not even time to do original thinking or to develop ideas, a journal must come to him with new thoughts, clear and incisive in expression, forcible in illustration, conceived in simplicity, and clothed in as few words as possible. He is seeking knowledge; he wants inspiration. He can not afford to waste time on old ideas and hackneyed expression. He must have that in his mental life which is a parallel to those qualities in the physical life which make flesh and blood, give marrow to the bones, pith to muscle, and quickness to nerve. He wants the very best that his fellow can give him.

We say this not to discourage those who wish to write, but to spur them to the highest point of their powers, and to continued persistence in writing and a study of the best models. Even practiced writers are accustomed to revise, prune, and polish their writings. We want our contributors to send us only their best ideas, in the very best form of expression they can give to them.

 

 

One of the best places to go to when one wishes to observe or to philosophize on musical conditions is to a crowded concert-room. Not long since the present writer stood as a solitary unit in a long, double line that must have contained fully 800 persons, before the door of a hall in which the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Rosenthal as soloist, was to give a concert. This door led to the only part of the house which had not been sold out in advance. In this crowd could be seen types of almost every class into which the public is divisible—the music student, the “solid business man,” the college student, the aspirant to the medical, legal, or other professions, the clergyman, and others who represented various means between marked types, of every age, condition, and race, all willing to put up with the discomfort of standing in a close line for three-quarters of an hour in order, later, to hear the best that music can offer. As many varying tastes as there were individuals, yet all, for the moment, united in a community of feeling by the desire to hear music.

This hydra-headed creature, the public, with as varying tastes as it counts in numbers, pays tribute to the power of music to draw all together for a time, and to furnish to every one a motive for eagerness to come within its sphere of influence.

As, later, the observer looked over the people in the hall while Mr. Gericke’s bâton waved now right, now left, one moment drawing out a dynamic power that shook the great building, at another subduing the sound to the softest pianissimo, he could not but think of the potentialities of the moment. Here were hundreds of listeners, every one of them open to the reception of impressions which might be evanescent or in the highest degree permanent and pregnant with great possibilities. Could one but have looked into every heart, what might he not have learned of mankind! To the worn-out business man, driven almost to desperation by the merciless competition of commercial life, the moment may have been one which relaxed the strain and allowed elastic nature to reassert herself; to the mother, burdened by the cares of household drudgery, there may have come visions of an ease and plenty which not even the wonderful lamp of Aladdin could surpass; to the brain-worker may have come the ether which sets the intellect aglow with that mysterious power that causes thought to sweep like a torrent into the channels of working activity. Thus we might go on, enumerating conditions, philosophizing on results that arise from hearing great music by great artists, and show how every one may receive an inspiration suited to his own peculiar needs if he will but pay heed to the message it brings.

Music tells no tale, but its wonderful power lies in this: that every one may take it into his own life and interpret it according to his own nature. Is it wonderful that the art has had its martyrs, its enthusiasts, who have sacrificed all for its sake?

 

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