The Etude
Name the Composer . Etude Magazine Covers . Etude Magazine Ads & Images . Selected Etude Magazine Stories . About . Donate .

How to Assimilate

The student who sets himself to work to acquire knowledge, and neglects to consider the question of how he is to arrange and classify it for himself, so that it be at hand when needed, and in orderly, compact, available form, is guilty of a misdemeanor which is exceedingly popular in all communities and is therefore regarded with exceeding lenience by their members; he is sim­plywasting time.

He is not usually aware of it in the student-days, but there are two ways of wasting the time which is set apart for education: one is to neglect to consider the question of assimilation (in which case his study becomes of no practical use to him) and the other is to spend the time in idleness. As to this latter, he is, of course, instantly ready to salve his con­science. He indignantly points out, to himself and to those who may presume to think that he probably is like other people, that he has hardly known what it was to rest for the past three months; week after week has gone by and found him eagerly occupied with work in some form or other; if a man or woman can study eight or ten hours a day and then at the end be accused of idleness it is evident that some radical revision of the moral law has occurred and righteousness and justice have taken upon themselves new-fangled meanings.

One May Work and Yet be Idle. 

And yet a man can work all day and nevertheless be idle; for idleness has other phases than sitting on a veranda-chair or lying on the grass on a sunny morn­ing. He can work,—that is to say, be busily occu­pied,—yet perhaps wasting his energies on something which is keeping him from devoting his attention to the main thing. That is usually a task from which he shrinks because of its difficulty: it would cost him at least an effort of nerve to begin to do it, and nerve is exactly what we all hesitate to do anything but abuse until we learn that only by using it can some­thing be achieved. If he be a painter, he can always find some side-track on which to be busy; he has to buy a larger easel, or better colors, or different paper and canvas for this great idea that is to come, in­stead of setting himself down to do it with the mate­rial that was lying to his hand. “No day without a line” is the old maxin (sic)of the Latins; one sheet of paper or piece of canvas covered with attempts is better than a dozen intended masterpieces. One hour devoted to the removal of a known fault in music is better than a day spent in doing things in the old futile fashion.

How to Promote Assimilation. 

If he ask the question how the knowledge he has acquired is best to be assimilated, how he is so to work it into himself as to be able to make use of it at any moment, the obvious answer suggests itself that assimilation is not a thing which he is able to control. He can only place himself in a position that makes it possible; for it is a subtle, silent process that goes on if he allow it to do so, but not unless.

This it unfortunately is which his very eagerness prevents him from considering, or which is made im­possible, at least difficult, in other ways. If he be not himself eager he is liable to be endowed with anxious parents who mistake severity for kindness; he must work, work, work; more especially is it de­sirable that he undergo the discipline of working in directions that are uncongenial to him; youth is the time when the seed is sown; we must be active so long as the day allows. He is thus urged on to fresh ac­quirement. If the parents are not behind him he has the plodders among his colleagues as example. In nine cases out of ten he is apt to meet with a teacher who judges of progress by the time expended, who with the best intentions strives to stimulate his en­ergy, not perhaps ignorant, but very frequently forget­ful of the proverbial effect of all work on Master Jack and not an hour of play.

The sad effects of this are to be seen in every town; if a city have a reputation for culture, there it is sure to be. Pupils eagerly pay for lessons, or their parents do it for them, but they would be more than likely to consider the money wasted if the teacher were to suggest some day that he and they instead should spend the afternoon in roaming through the woods. And yet if he were capable at all, of any real use as teacher, he could often be of greater service in the one way than the other; for play is not one whit less important than work, and few can do it well; more­over the jaded student, not to speak of the jaded master, cannot play alone; if he be left to do so he would be as apt as not to return to his task again.

And so assimilation is prevented. If we give way to our national curse, the “quick lunch,” or were to do nothing but eat all day, our digestive organs would soon begin to let us know that they felt called upon to disapprove; if we neglect the warning, the food that we take is doing us infinitely more harm than good, the time that has been spent in taking it has been more than wasted.

Were we compelled to pay the cat a few dollars for an hour’s instruction we probably should give atten­tion to her, and there we have an object-lesson of the finest; but unfortunately it is to be had for noth­ing, and so we do not respect it. To be as active as she when occasion requires and as absolutely passive when at rest is the ideal condition. She never suffers from nervous prostration, and yet she can earn her living, if need be, better than we. But her instinct tells her that assimilation is necessary, tells her also that all she can do is to give it time and rest.

Neither her nor any other active mind is idle when it is apparently doing nothing.—Wardie Crescent.





As A concrete expression, music is capable of only one quality,—intensity,—and through this element it finds its great emotional character. In this abstract quality of music it finds its greatest force as a socio­logical factor, for society is held together in sympathy more by abstract ideas than by concrete details.— Louis Arthur Russell.

And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.— Chaucer.


<< Some Qualities of the Ideal Student.     Special Notices >>

Monthly Archives

The Publisher of The Etude Will Supply Anything In Music