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The Etude Music-Study Clubs.

Conducted by

LOUIS ARTHUR RUSSELL.
 
A most encouraging response from all over the country has followed the announcement of the establishment of the plan of The Etude Music-Study Clubs, and from many music-centers comes the news of club organization. This is most gratifying, and The Etude promises that there shall be no disappointments for those who are planning a winter's work through this department of the magazine. Definite schemes of study are now maturing, and a most interesting series of subjects are being prepared by noted specialists in the several branches of music-study to be presented to the club-members. Clubs should be formed at the earliest possible time, so that the full course of study may be enjoyed.
 
* * *
 
A new department of study will be added in the December club number: "The Study of Current Events."
 
A very interesting source of culture is in the study of the doings of the musical world "to-day," and fifteen minutes may be profitably devoted to this subject at each club-meeting.
 
The following line of work is suggested:
 
At the roll-call let each member in answering the roll give a half-minute's statement of some interesting musical event of the time since the last meeting. At the conclusion of the roll-call the time still open may be devoted to comments by the leader or the members, the answering of questions, etc.
 
That this part of the club-work may be made more beneficial, correspondence should be had with the Editor, and perhaps it would be well to have one member of the club prepare topics for the members, taken mainly from the "Musical Items" column of the previous month's Etude.
 
The department editor suggests for the November meetings the following topical questions:
 
1.                  What prominent pianists are now before the American public?
2.                  What prominent vocalists are now before the American public?
3.                  What prominent violinists, etc.?
4.                  In what cities is "music" most active (publicly) ?
5.                  What do you know of the Oratorio Societies of America? Who are their conductors? What works are they studying?
6.                  Name the oratorios and their composers now claiming the most attention on the part of American Choral Societies.
7.                  Tell what you can of the music and its composers in the concert repertoire of the most popular pianists, organists, violinists, and vocalists now before the American public.
8.                  What cities have permanent orchestras? Who are the conductors?
9.                  What cities have regular grand-opera, seasons?
10.      Name some of the most popular opera singers now, or to be, in America this winter? Name the opera directors (conductors) ?
 
Study along these lines as a first means of creating interest in this department will awaken a desire to know much of the public doings of the world's most noted musicians, and will serve to quicken interest in the really artistic field of music. It might also stimulate the members to look out for new works of importance, if the leader at each meeting asks the question: "What new works by prominent composers have you heard of recently?"
 
Mr. Benbow's article, "A Study of Successful Musicians," in this month's Etude (see page 400), is interesting and quite along the lines of the "Current Event" idea; it should be read by a club-member alongside of the "Reports" of "What's Doing" in America.
 
 
HOW THE COMPOSER WORKS.
by w. j. baltzell.
 
1. Somewhere I have read of a blind scholar who had trained a daughter to read to him from the Greek and Latin classics, although the latter was practically unacquainted with the languages in question. Her pronunciation was accurate and her father was able to understand her reading, yet she herself knew little or nothing about the works she read,—poetry and prose, descriptive, imaginative, narrative or oratorical, all were the same to her. Elsewhere I have read of a servant with unusual powers of memorizing who was able to repeat passages from Virgil that he heard "scanned" by his young master, an Oxford student. How easy it is to parallel these instances by citing the case of piano-players who play the notes before them, knowing little or nothing about the piece, its meaning, its value as an art-work, and especially its principle of construction, something which differentiates one piece from another to a marked degree, so much so as to have given rise to classes into which compositions are divided, namely: the principle of form.
 
2. Constructive processes are necessary in all work. Man is a maker by force of necessity. Each thing in the world stands by itself. If it be used it is in connection with some other article. If a house is to be built, it is stone upon stone, brick upon brick, timber to timber; an engine is composed of many parts, each fitted to the other, in accordance with a definite, predetermined plan; a painting consists of colors, of lights and shadows, a sketch must have lines, straight and curved; thus we can enumerate various specimens of handicraft and arts in which the constructive process is evident.
 
3. Music shows the same principle. The material which the composer is to use is musical sound. Each separate tone, no matter what may be the pitch, duration, power, or timbre, is but one single factor. In itself it cannot be a work of musical art. It must be joined to others; and the principle, the one whereby it becomes a part of a work of art, a musical composition, is too little known, too much slighted by the average student. Why should we not know something of musical form, the constructive principle which enables a composer to work out those pieces we so much love to play and which others enjoy in hearing us play? If there be design in his work, shall we not appreciate better that design if we know something of the principles that guided him? Will we not better bring out the details of the pieces if we are able, in some measure, to follow him in his work as revealed in his composition?
 
4. Let us study the shaping of musical sounds into workable material. One sound, whether it be C, D, E, or any other note, is not sufficient. It represents no movement, no activity, no application of energy, such as must be present in anything that is a work of art or of handicraft. Suppose a second sound be added. Instantly we are aware of progress. A third and a fourth sound strengthen the impression of motion, or of something done. The query arises: How does one select the second sound?
 
The most obvious way is to make the second an exact repetition of the first. Give a child a set of blocks of various sizes, and if he try to build a house or fence, or put them into order of some kind he will place like with like. The savage in his musical efforts is almost certain to repeat the first note, pitch, duration, and power unchanged, not once but many times, which is proof that this process of repetition is the elementary one in construction.
 
But repetition persisted in becomes monotonous to an ear with some feeling for art, and a variation is demanded. Hence the second note may differ from the first, or the change may not occur until the third, fourth, or fifth notes, but rarely being deferred much longer. More than three or four repetitions usually give the feeling of monotony. This principle of variety or contrast applied in connection with pitch forms melody.
 
We have sung, perhaps played, hymn-tunes in which all of the notes have the same time-value or duration. The tune "Old Hundredth," sung to the familiar long-meter doxology, is an example. There is something monotonous in a succession of notes of exactly the same duration. This effect will be increased if the same stress of voice be used in singing the notes, or if the same power be used in striking the keys. We demand contrast again. This is secured by placing greater stress on some notes than on others, which gives us accent. Naturally there must be some rule to go by, and the simplest one will be to place stress on every other note, afterward every third note, giving us the principle of meter, or in a familiar application duple and triple time. The reader will recall that in singing the tune referred to the note, corresponding to the last word of each line, is held longer than the others. This is another recognition of the demand of our esthetic nature for contrast. We want certain notes to be sustained longer than others, or, to phrase it otherwise, we want tones of different duration. Out of this demand comes the most striking principle of musical construction, that of rhythm, which, in its numerous manifestations, such as the march, the waltz, the polka, the mazurka, etc., determines the character of a great part of the music we know.
 
A sudden and sharp sound will make a person start, such is the effect on the nervous system. And yet we are so constituted that to be in a state of mind or body that never changes becomes intolerable. We want variety in the sensations that we enjoy. If a piece be played or sung with absolutely unchanging power we refuse to be interested in it, no matter if the melody be attractive and the rhythm be striking. This change in power and intensity gives the dynamic element to music, that which we indicate in degrees by the letters, ppp to fff.
 
Here, then, we see how the two ideas of repetition and variety, or contrast, have determined the principal means at the command of the composer, namely, pitch from which melody is derived, duration which gives us rhythm, and the dynamics of music, the various shades of intensity, commonly considered to make a piece expressive.
 
I have laid great emphasis on these two ideas, repetition and variation, since they are the foundation principles of all art-construction, and open the way to an enjoyment of musical compositions from the intellectual side. Is it enough that we enjoy a suave melody, a striking rhythm, or rich, sonorous harmonies? Is there not more to a composition than that? Is not the putting together, the making of the piece, worth study? We all enjoy fine workmanship as displayed in our houses, in the garments we wear, in the tools we use. May it not also be enjoyable in the music we study and play? May it not be that an understanding of the principles of musical construction shall help us to discriminate between the good and bad, the finished and the sloven piece of musical workmanship ?
 
* * *
 
Our first subject for study this month is Mr. W. J. Baltzell's plain and most interesting study of composers' processes: "How a Composer Works." This first paper of the series begins at the very beginning of the subject, and in a most concise manner lays out the scientific basis of the constructive work of a composer.
 
In the study of this article the student should realize that Mr. Baltzell is not endeavoring to teach us how to compose, but how to comprehend the composer.
 
His opening paragraphs prove his belief that much piano-playing is of a mechanical kind, and that it lacks the element of thoughtfulness or of intellectual grasp of the meaning of composition.
 
The player who does not realize the fundamental principles of rhythmic form—the uses of dynamic variety or the beauty of melodic outline and harmonic combination—can never reveal the truth of a composition. It is, therefore, an important thing that at least in a broad way every piano-student— in fact, every player or singer—should know the characteristic shape of the composition in hand. He should feel the rhythm, mark the accent, articulate the phrases, and appreciate the varieties of nuance, else his work will be meaningless to the listener, and, of course, useless to himself; for music is mere noise unless it "says something," and to say something includes this intellectual grasp of what is to be expressed. Without this element of intellectual grasp of music on the part of the interpreter, what should be (as it were) definite speech is mere jargon.
 
For a further comprehension of the second paragraph let the class take any article—say, a piano— and in the rough analyze its parts, or a picture on the wall, separating (in mind) its various parts; then we can understand the other side of the principle; that is, to analyze, take a complete fabric, and differentiate its component parts; to synthetize is to build up a fabric, item by item; the composer's work is synthetic, the student's work here is analytic. The composer's work is creative, and, if original, we call it conception; he "gives birth" to ideas and from them constructs his composition; the interpreter's work requires perception, he sees the ideas, and reconstructs the composition, placing an image of the composer's conception before the listeners. To see the ideas of a composer is to analyze his composition. Paragraph 3 at once unfolds Mr. Baltzell's plan: we are to study the means of determining the composer's design (his meaning) in his work by looking into (seeing) his principles of construction, and the fundamental items of his conception. With some one at the piano, let us put into practical demonstration each of the points. As we read Paragraph 4 strike any single key of the pianoforte, noting carefully all the essayist says; now follow the indication of the text, striking successive tones. Let the keys struck vary indiscriminately. The second experiment strikes the same key each time (three or four repetitions). [See also Question 4.]
 
Let a member play the "Old Hundredth," the class noting the monotony in the matter of the duration of the tones, first, playing without rhythmic accent, then playing with attention to the measure.
 
It will be well for the leader or one of the club- members to play a few strains of a simple waltz, a march, a polka, and other plain dance tunes for the demonstrating of the various rhythmic forms mentioned in Paragraph 5. The sixth paragraph brings us to the consideration of a more delicate item of constructive material in music. This latter has nothing to do with the characteristic form of the work, rather to the content, referring more particularly to the expressional manner than to the class of matter; thus, we have dynamic contrast in the meter, the rhythmic pulsation, the stress or accent, and all of this must be maintained, while we play or sing loudly or softly; therefore there are going on at all times when interpreting a composition these two classes of dynamic variety, one relating to its form, the other to its expression; when the music is soft the accents are softened, but not so much as to render their significance innocuous; when the music is loud, the accent must be louder that it may still serve its rhythmic or metrical purpose. Accent is the heartthrob of music, and it beats in sympathy with the expressive element, the dynamics of the phrase or period.
 
Let this all be demonstrated in the playing of the "Old Hundredth." Then play the tune loudly throughout, then softly throughout; then with crescendo through two lines of the hymn, then diminuendo to the end, in each case marking the metrical accent.
 
Questions.
1.                  Explain Analysis and Synthesis.
2.                  Explain the difference between Conception and Perception.
3.                  What does Mr. Baltzell mean by Design (Paragraph 3), by Construction? What is meant by Concept?
4.                  Demonstrate monotony in repetitions of tunes; also indiscriminate variety; finally play a simple strain of a familiar air, looking no further into its form than in the fact that it marks a pleasing variety, indicating something definite.
5.                  Referring to Paragraph 4, what is a Melody? Let each pupil play or sing portions of some melody he may have learned.
6.                  Explain the three properties of tone: i.e., Pitch, Force, and Duration.
7.                  What is Timbre, or quality of tone?
8.                  What is Accent in music?
9.                  What is Rhythm in music?
10.      What are the two elementary rhythmic groups? Explain fully Duple (twofold) and Triple (threefold) Rhythm.
11.      Explain Dynamic Contrast, Tonal (Pitch) Contrast, Contrast of Duration, each with demonstration by playing or singing some phrase.
12.      Explain Meter and Metrical Accent.
13.      What is Measure in music? How do we know the place of accent in the measure ?
14.      What is the beat, or pulse, in musical measure ?
15.      How many beats, or pulses, to the measure in Waltz rhythm, in March rhythm, in the Polka?
16.      Define the dynamic varieties from pianissimo to fortissimo.
17.      Explain the difference between Accenting Force and Expressional Variety of Force. Demonstrate on the instrument.
18.      What is Crescendo? What is Diminuendo?
 
Consult a musical dictionary. Dr. Clark's is an excellent book.
 
* * *
 
THE PRACTICE OF SCALES AND SOME UNUSUAL FINGERINGS.
 
A clever teacher compares scales to the heavy iron used to press out wrinkles in clothing: they press out the technical wrinkles in playing. Like everything else worth having, however, scales require time if they are to be mastered thoroughly. It is hardly too much to say that, of average pupils, barely one in ten can be trusted to sit down and play even the major scales fluently, with neither trip nor mess, while, as to the minor scales, every teacher knows that it is a rara avis, indeed, who can add these to the number without many a hitch.
 
The old German who told me many years ago that every piano-lesson should begin with the playing of all the twenty-four scales, major and minor, may have been right, but he certainly belonged to the era of the stage-coach and canal boat. Nowdays we fly by express-trains and slaughter unoffending pedestrians in the whizzing automobile. In the twentieth century there is so much more to be accomplished in music, and so much less time to do it in that methods of study must, where possible, be accelerated.
 
The tranquil hour-lesson, which generally prevailed forty or fifty years ago, has largely given place to the half-hour lesson; the mere idea of spending an hour daily in the practice of scales alone, which was not an infrequent task under the old regime, would send a modern school-girl into a state of nervous prostration. To be sure, in those days the scales covered the main technical groundwork of playing the piano; they were supposed in some mysterious way to confer all the graces necessary to one who wished, in the parlance of the day, to become a "fine performer on the instrument."
 
Now, technical demands embrace many things then undreamed of. Harmonic and chord-passages have largely taken the place of the plain scale in modern compositions for the piano. In all of Schumann's works, for instance, not a single scale, with an extent of three octaves, can be found, and with Chopin and Mendelssohn the case is not far different. Yet the influence of the scale on general technic is far too valuable to be lost, and it is worth while to consider how it can be kept up with economy of time.
 
One good way is to have them played in the lesson in chromatic order, thus: C, D-flat, D, E, E-flat, etc. It is remarkable how much time is saved by the pupil's not having to search for the wider interval, as is the case when the ordinary progression by the circle of fifths is taken. Then, too, the playing of each scale after an unrelated scale furthers independence and impresses the key upon the pupil's mind.
 
The parallel minor scale can also be taken after its corresponding major scale, for example: C, C-minor, D-flat, C-sharp minor, etc., and by confining the compass to an octave, or at most to two octaves, all keys can be reviewed in a comparatively short time. In case greater shortening is desired, at one lesson the scales beginning on white keys can be played; in the next, those beginning on black keys, which also gives an independent mastery of the different scales and their fingering.
 
Another valuable way of practicing the scales, and one which is peculiarly applicable to modern methods of playing, is to play them without the use of the thumb or forefinger. This, of course, can only be advised for tolerably well-advanced pupils; at least, so far as other scales than C are concerned. There are three methods of fingering: third and fourth fingers; fourth and fifth; third, fourth, and fifth—each set of fingers used in regular order regardless of the way in which they fall on black or white keys. This may require some explanation.
 
The scale is necessarily taken at a slow tempo and with one hand at a time. The wrist is turned inward, at times very much so, in order to allow the passing of the long fingers over the short fingers and the turning of the short fingers under the long fingers. The legato must, of course, be unbroken. In scales which abound in black keys some very difficult positions are necessarily encountered, especially in the right hand descending, and the left hand ascending, for example: when the third or the fourth finger is on a white key and it is necessary to turn the fifth finger under it in order to reach a black key.
 
The chromatic scale is played with the fingering given by Chopin in his etude, Op. 10, No. 2; from C to C, R. H., 5, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5; L. H., 4, 3, 4, 3, 5, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 5, 4. Owing to the regularity of the intervals and the fact that the longest finger is played only on the black keys, it is not at all a difficult scale to play with this fingering; even children readily acquire it.
 
It may seem dangerously irregular and topsyturvy to those trained in the old school, but there are many advantages connected with its practice; it develops the strength and independence of the weak fingers to a marked degree; it prepares the hand for the study of scales in double notes—legato thirds, sixths, and octaves; it gives great freedom of position in part-playing, in which legato effects can often be secured only by such means. Chopin, Schumann, and modern composers in general, demand it frequently, while it is particularly applicable to the playing of Bach.
 
* * *
 
The study of scales is not only, as Mr. Law has said in this interesting paper, a necessary part of the pianist's daily routine, but, rightly conducted, a form of practice of great interest. Scales should not be practiced for their own sake alone, but for the general advantage that systematic practice of these musical figures offer.
 
For instance, the playing of the diatonic scales with the third, fourth, and fifth fingers alone is not of great service in the final playing of normal scale passages, but, as has been said, such practice strengthens the weaker part of the hand, and prepares the fingers for the difficult crossings in double note thirds, fourths, diminished fifths, and sixths.
 
It must also be borne in mind that what we term universal fingering, that is, the same fingering for scales or other figures, in all keys, often brings the fingers into awkward relations and rotations, for which this special practice of scales with the third, fourth, and fifth fingers only, very surely prepares the hand. As these peculiarly modern processes must be within the control of the player of high-class music, especially of the romantic school, this class of practice is a real necessity for the advanced student.
 
Preparatory work, including thumb- and hand- crossings, the study of convenient finger rotations (usually called the fingering of the scales), all of which may be studied upon a plain table-top, should be given close attention before the scales are taken to the keyboard of the pianoforte.
 
Table-practice is an excellent means of gaining the quick thumb-action so essential in scale playing. With the hands in good condition, the thumb-action well fixed in the finger-habit, upon the plain table- surface, and with a clear theoretical understanding of the major and minor scales; the normal fingering mastered mentally and the normal rotation (1, 2, 3— 1, 2, 3, 4) of fingers a fixed habit of the hand, with a mastery over various forms of accented groups, the scale practice is a source of constant delight to the student, once they are brought into daily keyboard practice. An endless variety of rhythmic forms is available, the hands (right and left) playing different classes of touch; contrasting rhythms, contrary motion, scales in one hand, arpeggios, etc., in the other, etc., etc., through a long line of varieties of touch, rhythm, force, etc., all afford an endless source of pleasure and profit for the student.
 
Scales and arpeggios are peculiarly pianistic in character, and no one may expect to be called a player who cannot "run his scales" with every shade and character of tone-quality and with speed in all forms of rhythmic accent.
 
Questions.
1.                  Name the two forms of Scales in modern music.
2.                  How many classes of Diatonic Scale are there?
3.                  Is there more than one form of Chromatic Scale?
4.                  Is there more than one form of Major Scale?
5.                  How many forms of Minor Scale are there? Name the different forms, and explain their differences.
6.                  Write several Major Scales.
7.                  Write several Minor Scales of each variety, Harmonic and Melodic.
8.                  Explain the ancient Minor Mode.
9.                  Write the Chromatic or Semitonic Scale.
10.      What is a Tetrachord?
11.      Explain the Relationship of Scales through the tetrachord. Name the Circle of Scales.
12.      Explain parallel Major and Minor Scales; also relative Major and Minor Scales. Explain the Signatures in both cases.
13.      For instance, what is the Signature for the Major Scale of E-flat? For the relative Minor of E- flat Major? For the parallel Minor of E-flat Major, etc.?
14.      How many scales have we with Signatures in Flats? How many in Sharps? How many with neither sharps nor flats?
15.      Name the Keys and their Signatures. Name the rotation of flats and of sharps in key signatures. Thus: What is the first sharp used in key signatures? What is the second, etc., etc.?
16.      What are Enharmonic Scales? Explain them.
17.      Give the normal Fingering for each scale, major and minor.
18.      Explain the various fingerings of the chromatic scale.
19.      Demonstrate to the Club the quick action of the thumb in scale-playing.
20.      Demonstrate practically on the pianoforte the variety of uses of scales in the works of Kuhlau, Clementi, Haydn, Mozart, Hummel, and Beethoven in his earlier works.

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