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Editorials

The Greatest Question

We were just about to wish all our readers and our musical friends, for the fortieth time,

“A Joyous, Prosperous, Happy New Year,”

when we realized that the greatest material question of man is “how can I obtain the most real happiness?”

It was no mere rhetorical climax when Thomas Jefferson wrote into the declaration of independence his list of inalienable rights, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The pursuit of happiness is the basis of all true thrift, industry, ambition and much of our good behavior.

In sincerely wishing you who hold this new year copy of the Etude in your hand a happy and successful new year, we are certain that you, as a music lover, realize that you possess one of the greatest instruments for happiness—music. You are blessed more than ordinary mortals with the fairy wand to bring gladness and consolation to others.

Your own joy in music, your success in the art, your success in life, must depend very largely upon how much genuine happiness you can carry to others with your music.

If you can bring the joy of tears and the joy of laughter to multitudes, the world will discover that you are a great musician, whether you are Harry Lauder, Jan Ignace Paderewski or just plain Susie Smith.

Many Happy Returns

The Etude has had its Fortieth Birthday. We have eaten our cake that we baked in the October Anniversary issue and have recovered from the consequent indigestion. It was quite a Party, judging from the vast number of letters that reached us from delighted friends.

We are grateful to the very large number who have written to us anent the October issue and wish that we might print all of the wonderful letters that have come to us from old friends, telling us how much the Etude has meant to them for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years. We thank you all for your cordial good wishes.

We resolved to print the first letter of congratulations that came to us as a type of the many, many greetings. Strangely enough it came in advance of the Anniversary itself and from our overseas contemporary, The Musical Standard of London.

“We note with great interest the announcement of the 40th anniversary of the founding of ‘The Etude’ and venture to congratulate our contemporary upon forty years of splendid work on behalf of the lovely Art of Music.

“The Etude, in its great work of encouragement to the American Composer and Artist, while ignoring no phase, no development of musical progress abroad, follows a policy we have tried to adhere to in our own Journal.

“The Musical press of any country should be the patron of native composers and executants, altho’ unhappily enough this is not always so. It should be the earnest desire of all thinking American and British musicians to seek in every way to advance and assist each other, since in many senses the music of these two great English-speaking nations does not occupy the strong world position it undoubtedly should.

“The Etude seems ever ready to publish the views and teachings of English as well as American creative musical artists. It is of much importance that this is so in a magazine which by virtue of its extremely high aims and its splendid literary quality must penetrate into American home life and thus disseminate the ideals of its editors and proprietors. We wish The Etude continued prosperity and success.” H. A. Dean, Mgr.

The Musical Mark of a Gentleman

John Wesley is quoted as saying “The Welsh are as ignorant as Cherokee Indians.” Like many pulpit utterances this was flagrantly erroneous. The Welsh in Wesley’s day may have been short on the kind of book learning that he deemed necessary; but in folklore, husbandry and in other ways they showed a wisdom which their English brothers often missed.

While the Englishman considered his sword the mark of a gentleman the Welshman considered the harp the mark of a gentleman. It remained for a Welshman, Lloyd George, to have the supreme position in Great Britian (sic) during the greatest of wars. It was a case of the gentleman with the harp directing the policies of the sword holders. In ancient Wales no one could be considered a gentleman who could not play upon the harp. For this reason it was expressly forbidden to teach slaves to play the harp. Only the King’s musicians and gentlemen were allowed to own harps. Moreover it was illegal to seize a gentleman’s harp for debt, because that would have reduced him to the rank of a slave.

Musicians and Tobacco

Musicians are accused of inordinate use of tobacco. Many are inveterate smokers; but many more are total abstainers. The use of smoking tobacco in various forms has increased prodigiously during the last few years. The anti-tobacco crusaders attack the use of the weed with Volstedian ferocity. Are their attacks well founded or necessary? We purpose discussing this question, not determining it in this short editorial.

America is responsible for the weed and the habit. How long it had been used by our native Indians before Columbus discovered them smoking it wrapped in cigarettes of corn husks, no one knows. In less than a century its use spread all over Europe and parts of Asia. Its consumption has always increased, never decreased. The plant is a first cousin of the Irish potato, the egg plant, the jimson weed and the tomato. It gets its generic name, Nicotiana, from Jean Nicot, French Ambassador to Portugal, who, in 1560, sent seeds of this popular member of the nightshade family to Paris.

Tobacco is a sedative and a narcotic. Our interest in it at present is to give our musician readers a means of judging for themselves whether its moderate use is likely to injure them in their professional work. Medical opinion in the past has been varied. For instance, many years ago some Dr. Richardson, in the London Lancet, said of it: “It is innocent, compared with alcohol; it does indefinitely less harm than opium; it is in no sense worse than tea; and by the side of high living it contrasts most favorably.” Nevertheless, it is a drug; and the enormous increase in its consumption makes careful attention at this time desirable.

The best work we have ever seen upon the subject is the recently published volume, Tobacco and Mental Efficiency, by M. V. O’Shea (The Macmillan Company). The author is professor of education at the University of Wisconsin. He has for years been carefully collecting statements from physicians, university presidents, psychologists, scientists, literary men, artists, musicians, presidents, judges, schoolmen, financiers, military and naval officers, and other public men. Ninety-five per cent of the men of distinction thus consulted say that they have been unable to detect any mental or physical injury from the use of tobacco. All, however, seem to take a positive stand in the matter of smoking in youth, which they concede to be very injurious.

Now, let us look at the reports of delicately contrived scientific apparatus which, with the faithfulness and veracity of all machines, tells the actual facts. Prof. O’Shea, who cannot be accused of being illiberal, devotes the second half of his book to this subject.

The reports of investigations made by public school teachers among students have indicated that the advantage is overwhelmingly in favor of the non-smoker. He stands higher in his class, is more healthy, more energetic, has better memory, better reasoning powers, is braver, more obedient, more truthful, more attentive, less irritable; and, in fact, is in every way a superior individual. University statistics also show a great superiority of the non-smoker. At Columbia University, New York, one hundred per cent more smokers failed than non- smokers. Indeed, in schools and in high schools, as well as universities, the cold facts show that the student who has maintained a good average when a non-smoker has gone down steadily and infallibly when he has become a smoker.

The results of all the laboratory tests, conducted with scientific apparatus with mature persons, show that, taking a large number of individuals (mature), tobacco will slow down and disturb the intellectual processes in a majority of them. More particularly, for the musician, the pianist and violinist—whose executive ability at the instrument is of greatest importance in rapidity of tapping, muscular fatigue, steadiness of motor control, memory span and facility in learning—tobacco shows detrimental effects, reducing the efficiency of the individual from .85 to 42.12 per cent. Therefore, it is obvious that, for the musician and the music student, smoking is a hindrance to progress.

Because some of the great musicians and performers of the past have been inveterate smokers does not mean that they might not have been even greater if they had not smoked.

Pre-digested Music

Are we having an era of too much pre-digested music?

By pre-digested music we mean pieces and editions in which all suggestions of difficulties are so carefully screened out that the student has as little work as possible in assimilating the piece.

Expert dieticians have found that some of our many bodily ailments are due, without question, to the too great refinement of foodstuffs. Foods are clarified and purified and beautified until the food value is gone. We require the valuable bran and mineral salts in wheat, for instance; and there are thousands now who demand whole wheat and bran bread, who were brought up to believe that the whiter bread was the better it was.

In music the student often selects pieces in which there is so little to do in the way of fingering or in difficulties of any kind that the pieces “play themselves.” Publishers all know that such pieces “sell best.” The teacher and the student call for them “pre-digested.” In this way much extremely delightful music is side-tracked. Very often just a little more earnest practice would master certain apparently intricate pieces and put the performer in possession of many interesting additions to the repertoire. If the performer does not do this he is likely to go on playing pieces that have been worn threadbare, just because they are pre-digested.

Take, for instance, the delightful Valse Christine by Rudolf Friml, which appeared as the first number in the July Etude. Here is a piece which is comparatively simple; but it does not “fall under the hands” as it might if Gustave Lange had developed the theme in conventional style. It contains slightly different chords and passages; and, because the performer has not played them over and over again thousands of times, they do unquestionably present difficulties to some students. However, none of these difficulties are such that they cannot be readily mastered by a little earnest practice. Two or three hours may be needed by some; but at the end, instead of having a piece that sounds like everything that everybody else has played for years and years, you have a piece with the kind of freshness that comes with unconventionality.

Much of the music of Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, Mrs. Beach, Schütt, and some others, strikes into unconventional and wholly delightful lanes. In the masterly set of pianoforte pieces by Mrs. Beach, called “In Grandma’s Garden,” as in the delightful Nocturne in F Sharp Minor of Josef Hofmann, there are passages that do not immediately fall under the fingers. They require a little work but they amply repay the student for all such labor.

The editor recently played through the Brahms Album just issued. There are few measures in Brahms that do not contain unconventional hand positions. Brahms composed with his brains and not with his fingers, despite the fact that he was a pianist of ability and often performed in public. Because the fingers balk at certain passages some lazy students are done with them at once. For this reason many of the works of Brahms have been very slow in securing world popularity.

Just as the athlete grows by seeking new opposition to his muscles, new weights to lift, new tests of strength and agility, so the musician will grow, not by dodging difficulty but by courting it and mastering it.

What’s the Matter With Jazz?

First, Jazz, at its worst, is an unforgivable orgy of noise, a riot of discord, usually perpetrated by players of scant musical training who believe that their random whoops, blasts, crashes and aboriginal tomtoming is something akin to genius.

Second, Jazz, at its worst, is often associated with vile surroundings, filthy words, unmentionable dances and obscene plays with which respectable Americans are so disgusted that they turn with dismay at the mere mention of “Jazz,” which they naturally blame for the whole fearful caravan of vice and near-vice.

Yet, in the music itself there is often much that is charming and genuinely fascinating when written and played effectively. There is no more harm in well written Jazz than there is in a Liszt Rhapsody. Some of the tunes employed in Jazz could be manipulated by a master into a composition of world currency and permanence. On the other hand, many of the Jazz arrangements made especially for the talking machine records are among the most ingenious and fresh bits of original orchestrating we have heard in years. Surely there is no harm in such things. They provide rhythmic and melodic stimulation for thousands of people to whom such a musical prod is a real god-send. What a humdrum life this would be without inspiriting music. True, you and we may get it from the Rimsky-Korsakoff Schéhérazade, the Chabrier Spanish Rhapsody, or the Dukas Sorcerer’s Apprentice; but there are others whose musical taste may demand a more primitive form of syncopation and fantastic orchestration. We have no quarrel with “Jazz” when it is artistically worked out, effectively played and done among decent surroundings.

Along in September, the Mayor of Philadelphia, Hon. J. Hampton Moore, one of the finest executives the city has ever had, revoked the license of a leading theater playing a musical review based largely upon “Jazz” extravaganza. The performance was so objectionable in its intent that even the calloused noses of the hardened theatrical critics turned up with disgust. Naturally Jazz was blamed. The money loss of the producers was reported to be immense—possibly $75,000. Some theatrical managers are never brought to their senses until they get a good stiff kick in the pocket-book.

If the makers of Jazz desire to continue their success and provide musical entertainment that is inspiriting without being offensive, they may take a lesson from experiences like this which are likely to increase in number with the accumulating public indignation over the evils of Jazz.

Good Jazz can be a wholesome tonic; bad Jazz is always a dangerous drug.

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