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The Intellectual Spark


In the race for improved methods one great leading thought seems so often to be forgotten—namely, that the development of technical ability does not include spiritual growth. It may be overlooked, because thousands can teach how to place the fingers on the keyboard, how to play difficult runs; but only one among them can kindle the intellectual spark. Not the management of the technicalities, but the spirit alone is the truth, inner life, and very essence of art. It may be passed by, because the lower classes take up the divine art more and more as amateurs, but rarely bring to it the necessary intellectual culture or conception of what music and its lofty purposes are. So many practice music who bear in their hearts little or no sensibility to what is truly beautiful and grand; they look upon music merely as an ornament for entertainments. The teaching material must not be beyond the capacity of thinking and feeling of the pupil, especially when he lacks an earnest will to master the same. Otherwise, dislike to music will be engendered. Every age of youth has its particular sphere of ideas and emotions, and its limits of spiritual power. Great music is the language of the soul. In order to properly interpret it, it appears reasonable that the performer must have had emotional experiences, as some deep sorrow or great joy, has loved, or even hated. Beethoven said “Music should either bring blood or strike fire.” We can modestly add that when music does not do that, it is insipid, or the player is too undeveloped to seize its meaning. Consequently the teaching pieces have to go hand in hand with the spiritual and emotional capacity of the pupil.


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You are reading The Intellectual Spark from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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