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Woman's Work in Music

Edited by FANNY MORRIS SMITH.

THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.

This is the date when the music teacher finds herself involuntarily reviewing her physical condition and inventorying her resources of endurance for the coming season’s work. How often the account reads: “Hearing painful, sudden noises gives a sharp stab in the back, eyes still ache, back weak and tired, sleep uneasy, digestion used up, mind refuses to concentrate. Verdict, how shall I ever get through the winter!”

This is the first day of September. There are still three weeks of vacation in which to “knit up the ravelled sleeve of care.” For care it is that has ravelled our thread of life. In three weeks much may yet be done toward recuperation. To this end we publish the folfowing (sic) infallible prescription:

To begin, grudges, remorse, bitterness, and un- gratified desires taken to heart, are the very root and foundation of dyspepsia in all its varieties. People who are dwelling on these things do not open their lungs freely, and consequently do not digest their food, because they have not enough oxygen in their blood to accomplish the digestive processes. Therefore the old proverb ran, “Flee anger and forsake wrath, for why shouldst thou destroy thyself?” Let us, on hygienic grounds if no other, make peace with the world and ourselves here and now. Next, let us make a clean breast of all our own secrets, and commend other people’s secrets to the keeping of their Maker. No poison of asps is so efficacious as an unwholesome secret in the destruction of nervous tissue. There is but one way out of the pestiferous atmosphere of such burdens: Tell the truth. While people hold fast to truth they can not become involved beyond recovery in the affairs of life. That is what truth is for,—to keep folks out of trouble.

Having laid hold of truth (which is wisdom), the very best way to right up a disorganized digestion is to begin to seek opportunities of giving trifling pleasures to others. One of the most necessary things in education is the cultivation of the power of being easily amused. There is nothing in which musicians fail more habitually. No class of professionals have so few mental resources; none are so irritable; none so frequently out of harmony with life; and, it is sad but true, none so habitually occupied exclusively with their own mental experiences. Now, “to look out and not in” is the very first law of health. As Goethe remarked long ago, “Man reflecting on his physical and mental condition generally finds himself sick.” There is no better formula for sleep than to take to bed some simple little plan for the amusement of the youngest and oldest members of the family. In providing pleasure for others one always profits by the mental tonic one’s self.

So much for the thinking faculties! On possession of mens sana, let us proceed to corpore sano. Now, for the body nature has provided three energetic tonics which are but little appreciated: sun, air, and earth. Since we have learned about X-rays we know that there are associated with light vibrations producing chemical effects that pass freely into the body, irrespective of ordinary clothing. It is not too much to say that the human race is indebted to sunshine for its very existence. Sunshine will draw out soreness from strained or rheumatic joints; sunshine will sooth and relax tired nerves as nothing else can. It will penetrate the entire body with its restful, healing, and vitalizing vibrations, and literally invigorate it. To walk in the sun, work in the sun, lie in the sun are the very best things a tired music teacher can do.

Not less healing and rejuvenating is the action of earth on the body. Humus possesses wonderful cleansing powers. The mud-baths which people take for all sorts of disorders are an extreme use of what lies at hand in country life. Hours spent in the sun, outstretched on the sea sand or on woodland moss among the hills or under the fence in the pasture where the virtue of the ground can pass into the tired body and rejuvenate it, are worth all the tonics that ever have been concocted. It is not clear how the healing work is done; but whether it is the electric currents passing around the world, which flow through the human body recumbent on its surface, or whether it is the close contact with the teeming life that works in protean shapes over and through the sun-warmed mould, for some reason there is great virtue in it.

These be summer tonics; but greatest and strongest of all is air itself. Which of us stops to realize that the entire operation of our bodily functions is rhythmic, and that this rhythm originates in the action of the heart and lungs under the effects of the elements obtained by inhalation? How few musicians realize that the emotions which they are constantly translating into music retard and accelerate this rhythmic action of the heart and digestive organs! For musicians the only hope of repairing the waste of the vital forces thus made is by enlarging the breathing apparatus sufficiently to meet the drain; that is to say, by the habitual practice of “deep breathing.” If the reader will make a compact with herself that at night, at noon, and before breakfast, she will fill her lungs full of air not less than twelve times, she will be amazed at her steady gain in health and courage, and equally amazed at the low key on which ignorance and carelessness has hitherto kept her vitality. Thirty-six long breaths! That seems very little to pay for a full consciousness of youth, vigor, and power. But small as it is, ninety-nine of our readers have never paid it. The air contains the true elixir of life,—the ether whose vibrations excite and perpetuate the vital functions. When we have filled ourselves with it we are vitalized. If we will take six long breaths on a gloomy morning, our spirits will rise. If we inhale a dozen when we wake tired and unnerved, force wells up within us. Twenty through the nose at night will woo gentle sleep when every other means fail, and, incidentally, cure catarrh if we are sufferers by it, and who is not? A habit of breathing deeply when business perplexes, will absolutely take the place of stimulants. In fact, a craving for stimulants is the certain sign of a system debilitated or clogged from lack of oxygen.

Lastly, as the habit of breathing generates increased vitality, the bath becomes more and more a source of health, and more and more a delight. It is doubtful whether people who live on the allowance of oxygen which modern life affords, are in possession of vitality enough to go through the amount of bathing enforced by present custom. The tax is certainly great. But once begin to breathe and long for and enjoy exercise, and the skin resumes its normal activity. Then respiration, circulation, and digestion alike thirst for cold water, and delight in it.

What of gymnastics? Certainly, as much as you like; the more the merrier you will be. But breathe first, and study gymnastics because you begin to rejoice in your body and in all the delights of motion that lie in it; because once more you exult in the powers and joys of life. And let us whisper to you a secret. The seat of music is in the physical body and nowhere else. In the body is the solar plexus,—the seat of the vital forces. In the body is the system of nerve centers which respond to the emotions. In the body is the rhythmic action that measures time and motion to our consciousness. To the body we must look for every normal development of the art which we profess.

Some writers express a fear lest the prominence given to amateur work in club programs may lead to a self-complacency sure to be fatal to individual growth and to the musical progress of a community. Perhaps it is well that many clubs arrange for artist programs several times a year. It sets a standard for the club members to keep before them, and, at the same time, affords new ideas and an inspiration to work.

 

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