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Mechanical Musical Instruments


During the past few years much ingenuity has been displayed in the structure of automatic musicians, so to speak, and it is possible that the cheapness of these instruments may in some degree affect the income of the profession.

Papa is apt to conclude that rather than be tortured by Esmeralda Jane’s practicing for three hours a day and the accompanying bills for instruction, he will buy an “Æolian” or a “Kegina,” or some other automatic music box for a few dollars, and in the end enjoy more rhythmic playing than Esmeralda Jane’s.

There certainly is one good thing about the automatic box,—you can stop it when you want to. It is not liable to inflict you against your will, as is the budding Rivé-King of the household.

There are undoubtedly some thoughtless parents who will purchase a music machine and will sacrifice the child’s real interests by neglecting his artistic development. But let us hope there are not many.

Because of the rare combination of pleasure and profit in the study of music it is one of the most attractive of tasks to young people; and because of the extent of its ramifications it is one of the most valuable, combining as it does both science and art, and cultivating all of the best powers of the student.

There is something more than music in the study of music. There is the cultivation of perseverance, thoughtfulness, carefulness, self-restraint, self-control, enthusiasm,—these being of more value to youth than the mere tunes learned. And to think of sacrificing such features of human development as these for the tinkling of a music box!

Then there is another side to the matter that I do not often see mentioned. I frequently tell pupils: “If you get nothing out of your music study but the ability to appreciate a good tone quality, to enjoy a correct musical interpretation, to realize the labor that a capable executant has spent in preparation of what you hear, to become an appreciative and an understanding listener,— if you get only these features from your study of music, you are most amply repaid for your time and money, even though you are unable to play a note or sing a tone. You will have much more of real value than the person who can play but not understand, who can sing but not realize.”

I must admit that this doctrine does not generally meet with a warm reception. Youngsters want to do, not to know. But that does n’t affect my faith in the argument.




—Great masters of art ought not to force scholars, for they can exercise on them but a very indirect influence. Without doubt it is a profit to the latter to hear a master execute a musical work in his own style, but they will never be able to assimilate his individuality. As for the rest, they can learn it just as well from lesser professors. This, assuredly, does not prevent there being scholars who try, as much as they can, to copy their master, but who succeed only in coughing and spitting like him.—Rubinstein.



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You are reading Mechanical Musical Instruments from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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