The Christmas number of The Etude brings us face to face with the problem of bringing light to the blind, cheer to the sad, and help to the needy. This is no more Woman’s work than Man’s work; but, just as life at this moment divides the duties of most men and women differently, so it may be that the season sets before the readers of these columns duties peculiar to their sex and generation.
The subject of the December Etude is Mozart. The various articles that make up the number trace him through the phases of his career. As we contemplate Mozart the petted wunderkind, his nervous organization over-stimulated, his development forced into a precocious maturity, Mozart “always sleepy”; Mozart serving in the Archbishop’s residence and eating with the cooks; Mozart insulted and, justly indignant, kicked out-of-doors; Mozart alternately petted by one woman of fashion and shivering in the anterooms of another as he humbly waits the chance of obtaining her patronage; Mozart giving lessons for nothing and writing to his father “I am so hungry”; Mozart writing music that he cannot get published, and operas that do not reach performance; Mozart welcomed in society as a lion, but staggering under a load of debt that breaks him down; is there anything out of date in his story? With the single exception that the honorarium of patronage is exchanged for the professional fee for private and social music, the condition of the artist of to-day has changed very little since the time of Mozart. As he bitterly exclaims, musicians are not respected. Their calling puts them in false relations with society, and the burden of their art estranges them from it in a still greater degree.
Where the majority of the community look upon music as a pleasure, the point of view of the solitary individual who practices it as a livelihood will always be misunderstood; he will almost invariably be underpaid, and his stipend will be wrung with difficulty from the very persons who enjoy his art most. Doubtless the noble dames from whose enthusiasm Mozart took flight would have felt that he took a most ignoble view of art had they read in his own handwriting that he was “tired of playing for nothing.”
If music is to be raised to dignity and attract the best of our community to itself, the first thing to be done is to put the business side of it on a business footing; to provide for the maintenance of its followers so that they may live honestly in the sight of all men. Musicians are seldom as improvident as they are accused of being. The fact is that they earn comparatively little, and that little in an irregular and uncertain way. You cannot be provident when the grocery man and the butcher are the magnates before whom you tremble most.
The topic which woman’s clubs should lay most to heart just now is the question of raising and maintaining a trained body of professional musicians; of carrying their abilities to their highest powers; and of so systematizing their duties that America may be served by them as amply, adequately, and economically as possible. Their energies may well be given up to spreading a love for the art of music, and of increasing the number of its devotees. The service will be better as the demand for a better service increases.Etude Magazine. December, 1901