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Music and the Season


BY MARIE BENEDICT.

As the spring is gradually unfolding its charm in the outer world, to be succeeded in time by the joy of early summer, the teacher may markedly enhance the pupil’s interest in the lesson and in the practice-periods by the use of pieces whose titles and con­tents associate them with the season; with the out­door life and the out-door mood. There are many such pieces available for the easier grades of music-study. For instance, Grieg’s “To Spring,” Mendels­sohn’s “Spring Song,” Godard’s “Swallows,” and Mc­Dowell’s “To a Wild Rose” and “To a Water-Lily.” Of a somewhat higher grade of difficulty, Grieg’s “Papillons,” Schytté’s “Forest Elves,” Godard’s “Pan” or “Pan’s Flute,” and Jensen’s “Dryad” and “Mur­muring Zephyrs.”

Three Points of Value.

Music thus associated with the season may be made to influence the pupil to fuller development in several different lines. First: with a teacher who is enthusiastic, who is really in love with the subject, it may serve to quicken into action the pupil’s latent interpretative faculty by its illustrative emphasis of the truth that every genuinely musical composition, no matter how simple it may be, reflects somewhat of life, as seen and felt by the composer. The picture in tone may be, as we say, purely subjective, indi­vidualistic, filled only with the mood of the com­poser at the time of writing; but even this is very closely connected with more general life, for the com­poser’s mood is the product of the contact, or, far more frequently, of the struggle, between his own individuality and the world as he has found it. It may be suggestive of the great principles and per­sonages of the world of action, or of the fanciful, mythical, allegoric scenes and beings of song and story, or of the world of Nature, with its ever-varying moods of storm and sunshine, of struggle and calm.

The earlier, and the more deeply, this truth is im­pressed on the mind of the pupil, the sooner will his interpretative power, if he have any, be awakened and brought into action. In other words, the sooner will his playing prove to be music, instead of mere notes. The crying need of the mass of pupils to-day is development in the field of expression, in the power of interpretation. Of the making of many notes there is no end; but where are the pupils who can give really satisfying renderings of the simplest piece, as judged by genuinely musical standards? It may be said that such standards are too far beyond the ordinary pupil’s ability; but have not the highest ideals always led to the greatest accomplishment? Was anything ever gained by the substitution of standards which might be attained with no very great difficulty, for one whose height above the in­dividual’s present power of accomplishment is a con­stant inspiration, a continual incentive to renewed application, to more earnest endeavor?

In these little Nature pieces the connection between the music and the ideas suggested by the titles may readily be pointed out by the teacher; for each num­ber is delightfully characteristic, of the mood influ­ence, the individuality of its subject. All this, of course, will not be immediately grasped by the pupil; unless he be blest with very unusual musical gifts, much time and patience will be required from the teacher before the interpretation will be at all satis­factory. But much of the unmusicalness of the play­ing of the average pupil is due to the fact that he is allowed to march gayly through piece after piece, with little, if any, thought as to the real meaning of any one of the list; or of the time requisite for the thorough study which would enable him to do the composition, and himself as well, something like justice; and with still less thought concerning the province of music, in the true interpretation of the phrase.

The second way in which the use of music asso­ciated with the seasons may conduce to the pupil’s growth is in drawing his attention to, and stirring his interest in, the wondrous charm of the out-door world. In initiating the study of Nature, establish­ing the beginnings of that which may and should prove a growing intimacy with her Protean moods, phases, the teacher directs the pupil to that which may be the source of infinite enrichment of his in­dividuality, of the broadening and deepening of his natal powers, and which shall thus prove of lasting value in his special study, as well as in his every point of contact with life.

Thirdly, the reflection in melody and harmony, of the spirit of the beings of myth and fairy tale, of those representatives of Nature, with whom the im­agination of the race in earlier days, peopled forest and mountain, field and spring, should lead to loving familiarity with the gems of poesy and story in which they hold sway; to study of literature, which will awaken the pupil’s imaginative power as the magical influences of the spring-time awaken the flowers.

Summer.

Tschaikowsky’s. “June,” “A Barcarolle,” is an­other composition whose title is attractively sug­gestive of the summer-time; while its subtitle brings to mind the large class of pieces associated with the dreamy flow of the river or the persuasive call of the sea.

I have recently noticed the announcement of a little set of pieces, entitled “Summer Pictures,” among The Etude’s later publications. Their names are sure to take captive the fancy of the most youthful votary of the muse, so clearly do they speak of the happy out-door life in which the little ones always delight.

Autumn.

Turning to the time when the first sparkle of autumn’s elixir is perceived in the air, we find Tschaikowsky’s “September,” “The Hunt,” a number of considerably greater difficulty than its companion of June, but one which furnishes excellent practice, and which, when played just as it should be, is an effective member of the pupil’s recital list. Among pieces of the later season, when the glory of October is covering field and forest, may be mentioned Mc­Dowell’s “In Autumn” from “Woodland Sketches” (the same set to which belong the “Wild Rose” and “Water-Lily”), and, in the opposite, but no less char­acteristic, mood of the fall, Perry’s “Autumn Rev­erie.”

Winter.

For the winter, the teacher will find the most fruit­ful field, musically speaking, among pieces connected with in-door life; with the richness and brilliance of the court functions of long ago, as are the Polonaise and Minuet, with the warmth and glitter of the modern ball-room, as the waltz, or with the careless gayety and jolly good fellowship of the homes of the peasants, where originated the mazurka, and many another dance of strongly individual rhythmic style and interesting history.

Turning again to the great Russian, Tschaikowsky, we have in “Troika en Traineaux” a number asso­ciated with snow-covered valley and hill, through which rings the infectious merriment of the sledging party and tinkle of the silver bells.

 

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You are reading Music and the Season from the May, 1902 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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