We have devoted this number of The Etude to a study of the great genius of music, Mozart, the incomparable. The oft-quoted statement that historical movements are like the swing of a pendulum may be reiterated here. Signs are not wanting that the swing may now be toward those principles for which Mozart stands: beauty in music, not in overpowering dissonances, in irregular rhythm, in excessive syncopations, in endless repetitions of short motives, in avoidance of cadences, but a simple, clear, logical development of the content of a musical thought, with the idea of exhibiting pure beauty in music, just as in the realm of painting and sculpture. Beauty is to be sought for itself, not an attempt to portray emotions by musical means. If a reaction comes, the principles for which Mozart stands will be felt in the school that shall arise and flourish in the twentieth century.
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An educator once said: “If I had to choose between the boys and girls of my family studying music and riding the bicycle, I should have the boys take piano-lessons and the girls learn to ride the wheel.” This is put rather whimsically, but it is not hard to discern its drift. The average boy may be trusted to find opportunities for exercise which conventionality denies his sister. He is more inclined to neglect the softening and refining influence, while she often suffers from the lack of healthful, open-air sports, which every growing child should have. Thus the foundation for an uneven development is laid in both cases: the boy is apt to grow up boisterous and ill at ease in refined surroundings, and the girl becomes nervous and deficient in physical vigor. Happily, of late years, golf, tennis, and the bicycle have done much to supply the needed exercise for girls, and music is no longer regarded as a mere drawing-room accomplishment beneath masculine dignity. A boy who plays the piano is not looked upon as being necessarily effeminate and unsuited for the ordinary athletic sports of the day. Parents and educators are beginning to recognize the refining influence of music. They realize that a young man who sings or plays the piano has a potent safeguard against the allurements of coarse company.
In a prominent military academy in an Eastern State music is made a leading feature. Not only do the boys take great pride in their band, but a large proportion of them take piano-lessons. Their teachers find that this musical interest largely solves the question of discipline; the boys find a vent for superfluous energy in the necessary practice and rehearsals for musical occasions. Germany, the most military nation of modern times, is also the most musical. There the boys study music as generally as the girls with us. Its pursuit as an occupation and accomplishment by men who have brought their country to the front as a world-power shows that it is not incompatible with the sterner qualities which command success in wholly different fields.
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The musical season is now on. We trust it will prove a prosperous season for the artists and helpful to those who form the audiences. We trust a larger number of pupils will be at work, and a larger number of teachers busier than ever before. It is vital to the development of the musical interests of this country that good music be heard everywhere. Teachers can do a part of this propaganda by their work in the studio. But that is, after all, a limited field. The general public must be reached more effectively than heretofore. More persons should hear more good music. Every town and every hamlet should have some musical entertainments during the present season, as many of them as can be made to cover expenses. Some one must take the lead in organizing such concerts. To whose interests do such events contribute more than to those of the local teachers? We want to hear from all sections of the country in regard to work of this kind, what success is reached, and the apparent results. Every community has a right to culture; music is a powerful means of culture; the members of the profession owe to their neighbors the duty of giving them good music as often as they can be persuaded to listen.
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The appointment of Emil Sauer to be Director of Artistic Pianoforte Playing at the Vienna Conservatory furnishes food for reflection, and has been the cause of much comment, favorable and otherwise.
There seems to be a point beyond which the class system, usually employed by conservatories, cannot go. Artistic finish, the final, polishing process, as it were, must be imparted by personal contact, by individual attention alone. The directors of the Vienna Conservatory in making the appointment under discussion seem to have recognized this fact. The functions of a teacher in such a department are not to impart mere mechanical skill and rudimentary attention to detail. That were better left to the usual efficient class-instruction.
It is only the pupil with an assured technic and sound general musical knowledge who can hope to profit by personal contact with a great artist, and to such a pupil this contact should prove of inestimable value. It does not necessarily follow, either, that the possession of a consummate virtuosity carries with it the faculty for imparting instruction. In fact, the contrary is frequently the case. Nevertheless a great artist, working after the manner pursued by Liszt with his followers, and dealing only with pupils of high attainments, should accomplish a world of good. As knowledge of the higher pianoforte playing, coupled with superior technical efficiency, increases, the necessity for such teaching becomes more and more apparent. Looking at the matter from this stand-point, the Vienna Conservatory is to be congratulated on the acquisition of Emil Sauer.
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There is an old saying to the effect that a man may shut out the whole world by putting a miserable little penny in front of his eye. The saying is true, and the customary application of it is equally true. A man may see only the penny close to his eye and be blind to the dollar that the expenditure of that penny would bring him.
In speaking of a certain artist who was about to undertake a concert-tour, a gentleman who knew him well said: “I anticipate that his tour will be a financial failure, though he be a fine artist; for he is so ‘close’ in his expenditures that he will fail to see that a proper investment will give him a standing in the eyes of the people and be as bread cast upon the waters. He will go to cheap hotels, get cheap programs, use poor paper in his advertisements, will cling to every cent in such a way as will give in advance the impression that he is a cheap man.”
The above is simply in way of illustrating the point. It is one way of being cheap. There are others! The teacher may save money by having a poorly-furnished studio in a cheap location; may save money by not giving a public recital; may save money by not using dignified advertising; may save money by not dressing according to his standing. But that money so saved may be the dearest money he ever earned, for it will probably lose him many times its value in income because that saving has given him the reputation of being a cheap man.
People like to save money, but they do not like to see other people save. A reasonable expenditure is frequently a good investment. Better spend a little too much, in the matters named above, than a little too little.
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In the many columns of advice constantly offered to the music-student, it seems strange that so little is said about the cardinal matter of bodily health. To be sure, here, as in all departments of human inquiry, there is a vast contrariety of view, and much nonsense is suggested from time to time; yet no one will deny that attention to the soundness and efficiency of the body is of prime import. The musician does not need any special kind of health or any peculiar sort of hygienic knowledge, but he does need that which other brain- and muscle- workers need, and possibly needs it more, since his work exercises both brain and body. The four corners of well-being—food, shelter, cleanliness, and exercise—are indispensable to the musician as to other sane workers, and every such an one owes it to himself and to his art to take this strict care of his body.
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We receive a large number of catalogues from schools of music and conservatories in all parts of the country. A study of these catalogues show clearly that the standard of work is rising, that the standard of curriculums is being raised, and that a wider range as well as better quality of work is being carried on. The instruction is not confined to piano, organ, and singing, but orchestral instruments are being studied, courses in theory are in nearly all cases obligatory, and opportunities are given for classes in history of music, form, analysis, etc.
This kind of work is not going to be without effect. It is more to be commended since it is being done in localities that hitherto have not known systematic, well-planned, well-executed methods of musical instruction. Concerts are arranged at which the community has an opportunity of learning the masterpieces of music; lecture-recitals, instructive as well as entertaining, are given; even orchestral concerts are held, with a purpose of rousing the general public. The cause of music in the United States is much better for the unstinted efforts of earnest teachers in these conservatories and schools that are being organized.
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A favorite remark of educators is that if a pupil knows a thing well he should be able to tell it, and usually the requirement is that the telling be done in writing. Hence the use of written examinations as a test, and of the written exercise, in daily-school work, as an educational method. Music-teachers, in the weekly class in theory, history of music, biography, or music-study of any kind,—and every teacher should have such a class,—will find it an advantage to have pupils write little essays or compositions on the work they study. Writing can be made to contribute greatly to educational development.
To the teacher we want to urge that he will find great benefit in training himself to write out the various principles he uses in his work. Year by year he should review them, reformulating them, perhaps setting aside certain principles that have not stood an exhaustive test. This is the way successful methods are developed. Having found good teaching principles, share with others. The Etude offers a medium for such an exchange.Etude Magazine. December, 1901