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Woman's Work In Music

EDITED BY FANNY MORRIS SMITH

 

THE AMATEUR VERSUS THE PROFESSIONAL STAND-POINT. 

The other day I went to the studio of a friend, a concert pianist. There was to be a recital in the near future, and my call was on professional business. I found the artist with disheveled attire, a half-committed program, and a mind in anarchy. “What is it for me to open my door all day long to a troupe of people who want me to play for nothing?” he demanded. “I have invitations to play in concerts every day in the week, and not a penny of money in any of them. I hate piano-playing!” Then he sat down and comforted himself by playing beautifully.

A day or two before this a lady entered my office with two young artists on her mind, a ’cellist and a violinist, sisters. “It is very unfortunate,” she began, “I recommended them to my friends to give them the entrée to society musicales, and they refused to go. They said they had played all winter, first in one drawing-room and then in another, and the outcome had not been a single cent for the whole winter’s toil and heart-break. What are they to do?”

“Go home,” said I, “and carry music where it is longed for and needed. There they can give pleasure, build up music, and earn a modest living. Here they will starve.”

Yesterday a lady introduced herself in the streetcars. “I met you years ago, and you were interested in my studies. Now I happened to see you, and I wanted to ask one question: I have been here for months trying to get a school position at a teacher’s agency; would you stay any longer, or go home and be content with a small income?”

“Go home,” said I, “and build up music in your own neighborhood. You will not get a school by spending your little hoard in futile waiting. Where people know you you have capital invested: this capital is the friendly recognition of your neighbors. There are no neighbors in New York.”

This is a city of strangers. New York is a place to lose one’s self in; a place where, tramping the same streets day by day, you may never meet one glance of recognition from week’s end to week’s end. It is a spot where mankind swarms like ants in a hill, but where the value of the individual is in inverse proportion to the mass. Isolated, lonely, poor, neglected, hopeless, there are thousands of musicians here hidden in hall-bedrooms of third-class boardinghouses who would be great people at home. They stay, they say, “because they can’t live out of the musical atmosphere,” but really because they have become demoralized.

Some of these young women ought to be helping mother with the boarding-house or sister on the farm. Many of the young men ought to be in the country earning their bread by the handicrafts pursued in their own locality, and furthering the interests of music as they have opportunity. Not one of them belongs in the ranks of professional music, but as a musical amateur each of them has a neglected work to do for music.

I remember sitting beside a very impecunious music-teacher in a large city one day. She was making herself a dress waist. “See there!” she exclaimed, angrily. “See how beautifully that is basted? See how it goes together without a bit of trouble! When I think what a fine dress-maker I am, and what a time I have getting music pupils, I am so vexed I hardly know how to bear it!” This woman had a beautiful voice. She had earned the whole expenses of her musical education as a dress-maker. In this calling she might have led a useful and successful life and advanced the art she loved. But by passing from the amateur to the professional basis she lost her hold on success.

What America needs is a great many more amateurs whose amateurship consists in their means of support only; and a much smaller contingent of starved professionals, whose love of music is a poor reason for persisting in a life of want and disappointment. Were the class of trained amateurs I have in mind increased, there would be a chance for their patronage to support a limited professional class of musicians in comfort. As the matter stands, there is no secure income from music,—except in teaching,—and the chief security of music-teaching is like the pedagogic occupation of the conger-eel in “Little Alice”: “We call them lessons because they lessen.” Each year shortens the teaching season and limits the possible income to a smaller sum. The larger the city, the shorter the scholastic year.

Meantime the old-fashioned singing-school is out of date. Nothing is more needed, except, perhaps, the village orchestra. Given a village orchestra, a little income for a teacher arises at once. Given a singing-school, vocal lessons follow as a matter of course. Given an orchestra and a singing-school, the annual concert with a small fee for a solo artist, or for a vocalist and pianist, comes in natural sequence—and now at last is a place for the professional artist. But till the foundation of social and amateur art is laid, professional art goes a-begging, and this foundation never will be laid while our great cities are full of poverty-stricken professionals gasping for breath in their “atmosphere” when they ought to be working for their art at home.

 

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THE TECHNIC THAT ENDURES.1

Notwithstanding the improved methods of instruction in pianoforte-playing that have come to the front in these, our modern, times, few of the American women who freely devote time, energy, and money to this line of study retain their hold on their chosen art in spirit and technic and facility till middle life. This phenomenon can, perhaps, be explained by a little inquiry into the conditions that go to develop the musician and the performer. Observe that the musician takes precedence of the performer; and this is as it should be if the efforts of the latter are to attain dignity, worth, and durability.

The piano is often termed a cold, mechanical instrument; but, whatever its actual deficiencies may be, it is capable of admitting its student to a wider acquaintance with musical art and science than any other single instrument. Even while wrestling with the finger exercises, scales, arpeggios, and the various musical forms that constitute a pianist’s stock resource, correct habits of musical thought may be induced, as well as correct technical habits. The pianist’s education is on a false basis, that may at any moment give way beneath the stress of time and events, unless its trend be toward the higher culture of all the faculties. Moreover, to attain an intelligent basis of musical discrimination, with a realization of the inherent wealth of each tone or group of tones employed in practice, the technic of the spirit must dominate the technic of the instrument. In other words, if a pianist’s mechanism be not subservient to a soulful discriminating intelligence behind it, a transitory superficial existence is all that can be expected for it. When properly acquired, and viewed as a means to an end, that end being to give expression to the musical thought that holds sway in the inner sanctuary of the soul, it need only be parted with because of the infirmities of old age or other unavoidable physical disabilities. Circumstances and conditions may necessitate laying it temporarily aside, but if builded on a true foundation control can readily be regained over it. Where there is love, enthusiasm, and understanding, material obstacles are apt to be conquered, or at least held long in abeyance.

“Difficulties develop brain matter,” says Emerson, and certainly the difficulties grappled with by the earnest musician are calculated to further inner growth. A true musical education demands so much devotion and loyalty, so much patience, and such complete self-abnegation, that it cannot fail to have a refining, strengthening, broadening influence on the entire character. It should teach the student how to hear tones with both the inner and the outer ear. It should make clear the proper relationship of tones and the natural laws by which they repel and attract each other. It should show how to grasp the ideas controlling the series and combinations of tones and phrases thus mentally constructed. Its result should be right tone-thinking, tone-feeling, tone-comprehension, and tone-production. Such education must insensibly develop those musical properties inherent in every human breast.

We can scarcely conceive of a human being devoid of some innate germ of musical possibilities, for music is the noblest voice of the soul. There are, however, various phases and degrees of musical gifts. An individual may be endowed with an ear for music so keen that it is disturbed by the slightest impurity of intonation, yet may be almost wholly lacking in appreciation of rhythm, or be peculiarly dull to tonal effects. Still another may possess both a fine ear and an acute sense of rhythm, yet lack refinement of taste.

The ear may be sharpened, the sense of rhythm stimulated, the taste refined by cultivation. It is true this cannot endow a person with that wonderful something (which never has been and never will be explained) which is the birthright of certain fortunate ones, and which enables them to appropriate, to mark, learn, and inwardly digest, whatever of musical opportunity may fall to their lot, and which breathes the warm breath of life even into a crude musical performance. When this mysterious something exists to a large degree, nothing can eliminate it; but it, as well as other germs of musical talent, may, in a measure, be either invigorated or enfeebled by education.

The enfeebling process is not infrequently undergone during the period of technical training. A pupil who is allowed to pass hours in gaining facility, elasticity, and vigor of touch and technic, while the mind wanders at will, or is fixed totally on some irrelevant subject, is very apt to have musical feeling stifled; whereas this may be quickened if, from the outset, mind, emotions, and muscles be equally and adequately addressed.

Actual delight may be experienced in the earliest attempts at piano-playing if the underlying principles of each tone and phrase attacked be made clear. Whatever help may be derived from certain modern mechanical aids to technical training, there can be no question of the fact that the player who is familiar with the quality of tone produced by each kind of touch can best determine the correct movement of fingers, hand, wrist, and arms. If a pupil were but taught to master each particular step taken in touch, technic, and spiritual comprehension before venturing on any new step, that too often cruelly martyred instrument, the piano, would cease to torture the listener’s ear and smother the vital spark of musical flame in the performer’s soul.

The musical guide of the author’s own youth taught that the mind is more at fault than the muscles when we hear a pupil perform in a lame, halting fashion passages similar to models already conquered in technical exercises. He obliged his pupils to devote considerable time to each musical composition away from the instrument, reading the pages of notes as we read the pages of words in a printed book, analyzing every phrase, chord, and combination, until the entire work, with its harmony, melody, and rhythm, was mentally translated into tone, and its composer’s intention completely grasped. When a composition becomes stamped in this way on the musical centers of intelligence, skilled fingers can readily be brought to reproduce the performance that has already been mentally heard.

The name is legion of the young women who bring from their course of musical studies at home or abroad a certain glamor of artistic skill and enthusiasm, but who soon let go their tenure on what they have acquired, because, as they say, there is no musical atmosphere in the regions where their lot falls. In many such cases music has been viewed as a means of display, and becomes valueless when the opportunity for this ceases. Often, too, the power of artistic imitation has been cultivated, rather than that of artistic interpretation, and fades away when there is no longer anything to imitate.

Those who study music on an intelligent basis of discrimination, whether with the aid of the pianoforte, the human voice, or any other instrument, will be able to create their own musical atmosphere, and will not be wholly dependent on their environment. If public artists, they will hold on a high level the standard of their art; if teachers, they will sow good seed, and will not degenerate into soulless machines; while, if not employing music as a means of livelihood, they will still cling to it through life as a continual source of joy, consolation, elevation, and refinement.—From “My Musical Friend ” by Aubertine Woodward More.

 

1 By permission. Copyrighted, 1900, by Dodge Publishing Company.

 

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TEACHERS AND MUSIC-CLUBS.

The teacher that never goes out to mix with other teachers will sooner or later find work grow more difficult, ideas become fewer, and pupils more dissatisfied. No one can afford to remain alone always and to cease an interchange of thought with others, even if those others are not quite up to the mark. Adults frequently learn from the prattle of children, teachers many times obtain useful suggestions through the thoughtless talk of their pupils, and educated people can be corrected by ignorant ones. This goes to show that all intercourse is valuable in its way. How much more valuable, then, does an exchange of ideas become when all parties are intelligent and wide awake!

The club idea is not new. For centuries kindred spirits have flocked together, and the musicians of olden times were wont to gather in some “Stammkneipe,” where they could talk music and drink beer unhindered by disturbing souls. The “Kaffeeklatsch,” the quilting bee, the corn-husking, the prayer-meeting,—these were all clubs in a primitive state of development.

I do not favor an exclusively-professional club, nor one composed entirely of amateurs. Both kinds of members are needed to work harmoniously and effectively, as professionals are mostly inclined to adhere obstinately to their own individual convictions, whereas amateurs are wanting in technical experience. But, when both blend, then we are as near to the correct thing as possible, for amateurs and students can suggest what they need, and the teacher will then know what he is expected to supply. Then the various experiences of the many teachers are valuable, for, although, in the main, teachers encounter similar difficulties and similar disappointments, they meet them in different shapes, clothed in different circumstances, and different instructors lead individualities into diverse channels of reasoning. It is wonderful in how many lights a single incident may be viewed by a number of people, and how many diversified opinions and arguments can be extended in relation to some simple occurrence or need.

Another point is the value derived from the programs presented at the meetings of music-clubs. If the club is progressive, each member will take pride in presenting something new, and it may happen that you come across just the pieces you are looking for, and require for certain pupils. A piano-teacher can secure suggestions in style and interpretation from the rendering of a vocal number or a violin solo, and a singer can learn from a pianist. They all help each other unconsciously, without effort and without trouble to themselves. It is the neatest sort of cooperation, embodying business with pleasure and good feeling; all complete in a friendly spirit and with the ambition of doing better work all the time; all praise or criticise sincerely and with perfect fairness, from their own point of view, and whatever animosity may repose in the bosoms of some of the members is carefully concealed there, out of sight, covered from inspection by good breeding.

It happens, of course, that once in awhile a chronically-disagreeable personage penetrates the sanctuary, causing ill feeling and discomfort. But the wise club tries to win over this person, and then, if all noble attempts fail, freezes him out. No club can afford to harbor an incorrigible kicker, and, the sooner he is disposed of, the better.

Taken for all in all, the club is a valuable factor in music-life; there is hardly a town or hamlet in the United States which does not contain at least one; and there is probably not a teacher who knows so much but that this music-club can be of some benefit to him. Should such, however, be the case, let him organize another, a better one; let him assist in improving the old customs of teachers, and let him be up to the times; if not, then most assuredly will he remain at a stand-still, his fossilized knowledge will avail him nothing, and others will step in where he was wont to be.—Clara A. Korn.

 

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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF MUSICAL CLUBS. Second Biennial Musical Festival to be held in Cleveland.

The Fortnightly Club, of Cleveland, Ohio, will entertain the N. F. M. C. on the occasion of its second biennial meeting, April 30th to May 3d, inclusive. The convention will be held at the attractive Colonial Club.

There will be a meeting of the Executive Board of the Federation on April 29th.

The morning sessions will be occupied with business, and the presentation of papers on “Club-Methods” by Mrs. Theodore Thomas, Honorary President of the Federation, and other distinguished musical-club women. The afternoons will be filled with concerts by the Federated Clubs, and a reception tendered the delegates by an officer of the Fortnightly. An opportunity will also be offered to see the beautiful city of Cleveland.

On Tuesday evening there will be a reception at the Colonial Club in honor of the delegates, when incidental music will be given by the Rubinstein Club of Cleveland.

On Wednesday evening the Cleveland Philharmonic String Quartet will give a concert. An unusually attractive feature of the Biennial provided by the generosity of the Cleveland clubs will be three orchestral concerts by the Pittsburgh Orchestra, conducted by Victor Herbert, Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Friday night, at Gray’s Armory. Madame Schumann- Heink will be the soloist Thursday night; Mr. Sol Marcosson, of the Philharmonic String Quartet, Friday afternoon; and Mrs. Seabury C. Ford and Mr. David Bispham, Friday night.

Many delegates from federated clubs will be present, and it is earnestly desired that unfederated clubs will accept the cordial invitation extended by the Federation to visit Cleveland and enjoy the privileges of this musical festival, although they are debarred from the business sessions and the many benefits accruing to federated clubs throughout the year.

This announcement will soon be followed by a circular letter containing all information concerning the sessions, hotel accommodations, railway transportation, privilege of delegates and guests, which has been formulated by Mrs. Edwin F. Uhl, President of the Federation; Mrs. J. H. Webster, First Vice-President of the Federation, and President of the Local Biennial

Committee; and Mrs. James Pedersen, Corresponding Secretary of the Federation; and by unfederated clubs may be procured upon application to the Printing Committee, Mrs. Philip N. Moore, First Vice-President of the Federation, 1520 Mississippi Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.

This gathering of musical-club women from every State in the Union will form a convention which is unparalleled in the history of musical-club work, and the Local Biennial Committee, of Cleveland, which is made up of a splendid corps of the foremost women of that city, are leaving nothing undone to give to the club-women of the United States a glorious musical festival.—Mrs. Thomas E. Ellison.

 

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SONG-CYCLES.

The cycle of songs is the latest thing that bids fair to become a fad, not that this is new by any means, for who has written anything to compare to that remarkably beautiful cycle of Schumann’s: “Woman’s Love and Life”? However, to Liza Lehmann is due the credit for the present tendency in that direction, if not the present form of cycle, as the popularity of her “Persian Garden” will attest. It is, indeed, a question whether it was not the form rather than the music of the aforesaid composition that proved so very attractive, for a thing must be attractive to have gained the popularity that has been gained by the “Persian Garden.” It cannot be truthfully said that the “Persian Garden” is thoroughly well written for it is not. All devotees to Omar Khayyam will resent the idea that the musical setting in the remotest degree is worthy of the poetry of Omar and our invaluable interpreter, Edward Fitzgerald. But, thanks to the Englishwoman, nevertheless, for the form which has proved a novelty. There is little doubt that within a year or so everyone will be creating cycles, good, bad, and indifferent; and even now there are a number of beautiful ones, none more charming, however, than Liza Lehmann’s last one entitled “The Daisy Chain,” which had its first presentation in London, on Thanksgiving Day of 1900, and its subsequent presentation in New York, January 3d, by Victor Harris, with the assistance of the original quartet that produced the “Persian Garden” in London, with the exception of the baritone, David Bispham.

The quartet consisted of Mrs. Seabury Ford, Miss Marguerite Hall, Mackenzie Gordon, and Myron Whitney (Jr.), and a delightful entertainment it made, given with the “Persian Garden” with the original quartet. The nature of “The Daisy Chain” is, in itself, refreshing, composed, as it is, of a number of charming poems of childhood by such notable writers as Robert Louis Stevenson, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, W. B. Rands, Norman Gale, and “Anon.” The music is written in the simplest vein, and the naïveté is really quite amusing. Liza Lehmann has risen to her height here by the very simplicity of her music, which gives the composition both unity and atmosphere.

For children it is delightful, and for children grown old it is equally charming. It must not be supposed that even now Liza Lehmann is alone on the cycle-path, for she is not, and England is notably the home of this form at present. Villiers Stanford has written an excellent one on Tennyson’s “Princess,” for quartet of solo voices. Richard Walthew has written “The Village,” a cycle of two part-songs for ladies’ voices. Arthur Somervell has written one upon Tennyson’s “Maud,” and nothing could be more beautiful than the “Fair Jessie” cycle by von Fielitz, which is written for contralto solo. It is safe to say that the cycle is in its earliest days.

An interesting program for clubs might be made as follows:

Cycle, “Woman’s Love and Life”               Schumann.
(Mezzosoprano.)

Paper on Song-Forms.
“Daisy Chain”          Liza Lehmann.
(Vocal Quartet.)

“Fair Jessie”            Von Fielitz.
(Contralto Solo.)

 

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