The Etude
Name the Composer . Etude Magazine Covers . Etude Magazine Ads & Images . Selected Etude Magazine Stories . About


The encore habit is frequently a nuisance. It length­ens programs often already long; it accustoms those who make up the audience to a pernicious habit, that of undiscriminating applause; it lowers the players or singers who respond, and it usually results in rendering for the audience another piece than the one which gained the applause. It happens, sometimes, that an artist mars the good impression of one piece of execution in a style in which he is master by another in which he is not so much at home. What a disappointment it is to a genuine lover of music to hear some exquisite bit of melody, some little tone-poem, perfect in conception and expression, fol­lowed by a trivial little piece of an artificial simplicity. Better that an appetite should be left somewhat unsatis­fied than to cloy it with sweets; better to leave the palate tingling with the flavor of some dainty morsel than to kill it with some gross spice or neutral taste.

At the present day encores are so apt to partake of the vulgar characteristics of the popular song that it is dif­ficult not to lose patience at concerts. Let the senti­ment be against cheap encores and indiscriminate ap­plause, especially when, as often is the case, it is prompted by a mere kindly spirit on the part of an au­dience, and not by genuine delight in something good, well done.


* * *

No better plea for more general education in music can be found than in the ignorance which prevails in the musical art, even among otherwise well-informed people. People who would blush to confess ignorance of the date of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, or of the specific gravity of hydrogen, will make the most absurd mistakes in music without being in the least conscious of it. Writers for the press, who make it a point to verify all their technical statements in writing about the other sciences, seem to be under the impres­sion that any kind of gibberish will do about music, on the theory that the great mass of people are as ignorant on the subject as the writer.

A striking example of the nonsense people write about music is furnished by the Associated Press account of the Dewey celebration in New York. One of the finest descriptive writers in New York was given the as­signment, and here is what he said of a portion of it:

“As the Olympia came abreast of the Chicago the guard presented arms, the drums gave four ruffles, the

trumpets four flourishes, and the band played ‘Home, Sweet Home,’ dwelling with swelling cadenza upon the minor bars. The officers at the waist raised their gold- bound beavers, and the sailors cheered,” etc.

Now from a musical standpoint this is idiotic. In the first place, “Home, Sweet Home” is in the major key, and there are no minor bars in it. In the next place there is no cadenza in “Home, Sweet Home,” and if there were it would be played by itself, and not as an accompaniment to the “minor bars.” The writer wanted to say something pretty, whether it made sense or not. He might just as well have said that “Admiral Dewey stood gracefully on his left head, with intelligent fire beaming from his feet.” Every one would recognize the latter as nonsense, but about music it seems as if anything can be said whether it makes sense or not.

As the study of music grows more and more general in this country, it is to be hoped that it will soon attain a point where it will be an essential to a liberal educa­tion, and where people who would blush to be found ignorant of the common rules of grammar, will not admit, without hesitation, that they know absolutely nothing about music.


* * *

Our range of vision increases in proportion to the dis­tance from objects. We are the center of vision, and of course the subject of importance in our own view. But we all know that as we increase our distance from objects the latter appear smaller to us. Our fellows view us as we view them. We may look at ourselves through the small lense of a telescope, but it is often the case that others are looking at us through the large end. There­fore, we will do well to remember that we do not often look so big to other people as we do to ourselves.

* * *

The correspondence of Liszt and Hans von Bülow, covering thirty-three years, edited by La Mara, has been published, with the permission of Frau von Bülow, by Breitkopf & Härtel. The majority of the letters are in French, an idiom which, in the opinion of their editor, Liszt uses with his usual artistic elegance and grace; Bülow somewhat more clumsily. It would be a nice psychologic problem to unravel the causes which induced these two men involuntarily to address each other in a language alien to one, and full of the mem­ories of his youthful triumphs to the other. It is possi­ble, just possible, that it was a part of the relief which each found in the other, thus to carry their intercourse away from the harassing emotions of daily life into a friendly territory—apart.

The letters contain significant lacunæ, and Bülow’s are much fewer than Liszt’s. Such as there are bear complete testimony to the enduring friendship of the two comrades, which neither the artistic disappoint­ments of Liszt nor the ruin of Bülow’s family relations was able to shake. As Wagner’s utter selfishness came back on his father-in-law, who met it in bitter silence, so did the desertion of Bülow by Liszt’s daughter destroy and desolate Bülow’s inner life. The two men met and parried these blows together. Neither de­serted his artistic convictions; perhaps their belief in and fidelity to each other saved them both. As years went on, Liszt became the patron of the national movements springing up in countries widely differing from Germany, and Bülow rested his perturbed spirit in Brahms, who, though dramatic, pastoral, narrative, and practical, but strong, healthy, and manly, offered an antidote for the

Wagnerismus that had destroyed the great conductor. But the very last letter that he wrote Liszt read: “Notwithstanding a heavy attack of the grippe, if it be any wise possible, I will go to the concert, where they bring out one of your new works, in order to give all the applause my hands can make.”

* * *

An art that the music student must cultivate is that of careful listening at concerts and recitals—for the ability to give an appropriate hearing to a piece of music deserves to be ranked almost as high as an art.

The most vital feature of hearing music to the best advantage is to put one’s self into the mood of the com­poser. If possible, and it frequently is, it is best to know in advance the style of the piece and to prearrange one’s mental attitude, that there may be harmony be­tween mind and music.

A mind set to an allegro is not going to appreciate an adagio, or vice versa. To appreciate a nocturne, one must have what might be called a devitalized, languid state of mind that would be entirely inappropriate to a polonaise or to a “friska” movement in a rhapsody—as much out of place as a martial mood would be in listen­ing to a nocturne.


* * *

The depth of solidity of people’s musicianship may well be judged by the books they own and read, just as their morals may be measured by the company they keep. The young person who avoids all study of har­mony or history, and all reading of biography or musical literature in general, can at the best be ranked only as a dabbler in the musical art, and really undeserving of the term “musician.” Undeserving of it because the term does not properly describe him. He may be called a player or singer, but it would stretch the meaning of the word beyond its best limits to call him a musician. And yet the word musician is used by people generally to include everything that makes a noise—from the player on a banjo or a mouth-harp up to Paderewski. This general use of the word is unfortunate, and it would be well if the profession were to do their utmost to give this term its proper application and to lead others to do the same.

* * *

The greatest mistake a pupil can make is not to put himself unreservedly in the hands of his teacher. Could the sculptor shape his marble if the material rebelled? No more can the teacher do his best unless he is aided by docility and tractability on the part of the pupil.

The pupil should make choice of a teacher in whom he has faith; and then, in the spirit of childlike sim­plicity, allow himself to be molded to the best of the teacher’s ability. The desire to do well can not take the place of the ability to do well. Desire must precede ability. And it is this desire that prompts the subjuga­tion of one’s self to the molding process of the teacher and assists the teacher in all possible ways. The inflexi­ble pupil is the non-progressive pupil. The docile pupil, adopting every suggestion, following every wish, carry­ing out every command of the teacher—such a pupil opens the way for the teacher’s best work. Such an attitude, plus talent, means success.

* * *

Chopin was utterly singular and original in all his qualities. As to melody, he was Polish, and that was then absolutely exotic; as to harmony, he was extrava­gantly chromatic, or at least so it seemed to his contem­poraries ; as to rhythm, he was revolutionary, and was a stumbling-block for many a year. He con­structed music which it was absolutely impossible to play in strict measural beating of even pulses. This lengthening certain beats to favor others we now term tempo rubato, or stolen time. Since Chopin has mounted his royal throne as king of one of the richest and most beautiful inner provinces of the piano-world, this habit of doing as he requires in the matter of beating has become familiar, and unluckily it has pervaded other styles of music to which it is inappropriate. One who plays a great deal of Chopin will unconsciously become habituated to relaxing the rhythm. When this, however, is applied to the music of Beethoven, Weber, Schumann, Schubert, and still more to that of Men­delssohn, Mozart, and Bach, it produces a dreadful dis­tortion of their symmetries. There should be a constant watchfulness, on the part of teacher and pupil alike, lest this rubato habit become a mannerism, and, in fact, a disease.

There are very encouraging signs of progress in the musical growth of America. We are beginning to pro­duce our own artists.

Heretofore we have imported them, and it is con­trary to all principles of political economy to import what can and should be raised at home. We have pro­tected sugar, iron, potatoes, wool, and tinplate, but no one has thought of protecting American artists. Music, like wheat, has always borne the competition of the world. Just in proportion as Yankee notions have risen in the home market, “Yankee Doodle” has lost favor. Americans have been afraid and ashamed of their own art for a good many years.

They have no faith in themselves nor in their own home musicians. “She sings well,” they say of the church soprano, “not, of course, like one that has had advan­tages in Europe, but very well,” and no artist that has settled among us has ever escaped the note of apology in the praises accorded his best efforts. To be local has been fatal.

Now, the musical condition of a country depends on the loyalty of each section to its own musicians,—on the faith and satisfaction in his excellence accorded the provincial genius by his own country-side. This liking for one’s own explains the fall musical life of foreign lands.

The current notes of foreign musical papers are crowded with obituaries of Italian, German, and French musicians whose names are totally unfamiliar to us, but who have had their following in their own locality; have written, edited, played, sung, and lived and died in honor.

Until every section of broad America can boast its own admired musicians,—men whose talent grows, flowers, and ripens at home,—there will be no true development of the art of music in this country.

* * *

If one has become discouraged, how shall interest be revived? is a query that is of moment to many a young and earnest teacher, and even to the student of music. With the best of intentions in the heart one will find interest beginning to flag, and that is the time for the in­quiry to be made.

Perhaps too close attention has been given to one side of some subject; the nerves and muscles may have become tired of always moving in the same way, and rebel so very decidedly as to cause a let down in energy and, of course, in results. The physical and mental go hand in hand, and we must watch one as well as the other. Try a change of work. Have you been reading too much, following too closely the intellectual or literary side of music? Then play more, practice sight-reading, hear more music, or vice versa. Have you been giving a great deal of time to the study of expressive performance of your music, so much so that you have exaggerated legitimate methods? Then try the other swing of the pendulum and give your time to technic, or vice versa. Seek rest, recreation, and restoration by a change of diet. In some parts of the country, November is an open

month, so far as the weather is concerned, and the teacher can spend some time in the open air, the frost that may be there being just the thing to tone up slack nerves and tired muscles. In other parts of the country where snow covers the ground and ice is on the streams, can anything more exhilarating be found than a sleigh- ride or a headlong dash on the steel runners of a pair of skates? Let us keep the body vigorous. If we give a fair proportion of work to the whole body, not merely to the fingers, hands, and the arms, or, it may be, to the larynx, we will be better in mind also. The red blood of health makes a better tone even in the mental being.


* * *

The teacher who is trying to raise the standard of musical appreciation in his community will do well to remember that you can not drive the masses. You can take a few persons,—pupils, perhaps,—and by dint of persistence and, it may be, by hard driving, accomplish something. The public, however, must be led. Every public program that the teacher arranges ought to keep this fact in mind. Those who compose the audience must be interested in order to care for music at all.

A teacher who had charge of the music in a public institution where some 1500 men would gather to hear him play used to say to them: “Now, boys, you ought to meet me half-way. I will play for you what you like best; but you ought also to listen to some of those I like best.” And they did, and their taste was gradually raised. Let us give the public at least some of the music that it likes.

* * *

Many writers in the press refer to the epidemic of “rag-time” music, in which we are now well along into the second year, as if “rag-time” were something new. On the contrary, it is old as the hills. There is hardly a composer, ancient or modern, but who has re­peatedly made use of “rag-time” effects in his works. The Scotch, as a nation, are so fond of “rag-time” that it may almost be said to be characteristic of na­tional Scotch music. The Scotch strathspeys, reels, flings, and other dances, and even their ballads, are full of “rag-time.” Take the Scotch songs, “Kinloch of Kinloch,” “Highland Minstrel Boy,” “Comin’ thro’ the Rye,” “Within a Mile of Edinboro’,” etc., and you will find them full of “rag-time” effects, while many of the Highland flings are as pure examples of “rag-time” as any that came to us wet from the printing press of the present year. Unless the present craze for “rag time” lets up, it will become so incorporated with the musical blood of the American people that, when we acquire a national type of music, “rag-time” effects may be one of its characteristics, as it is in the case of the Scotch.

* * *

Schopenhauer, the great apostle of pessimism, held music as the greatest alleviation to the misery of exist­ence. This misery he considered the logical result of the blind struggle of the will, ever striving for the gratifica­tion of its desires, yet never satisfied. In his view, music holds this struggle in abeyance; the will, ab­sorbed in its enjoyment, forgets to strive, and a tempo­rary peace is thus secured.

A thoughtful writer in a recent issue of the “Interna­tional Journal of Ethics” opens the way to a higher ideal of music than that of a mere opiate to the woes of exist­ence. Free performances of the great masters have been recently given in Whitechapel, one of the most degraded quarters of London, not only of oratorios but of instru­mental works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, etc. Their overwhelming effect on audiences in such a locality opens the question whether music of the highest type may be used not only as a refining and cultivating influence, but for something higher as well. The heart instinctively yearns to express its highest and holiest feelings. If this expression be denied, deep unhappiness results. In these latter days the expression of religious feeling has been checked in many ways. Higher criti­cism and scientific research have weakened old formulas in many minds, and nothing has arisen to take their place. Religion has by no means failed, but its power of expression is with many partly paralyzed. New modes of expression will be found, we doubt not, and why should not one be found in the music of the great masters? It stirs the heart, it awakens feelings none the less powerful because they can not be put into words—indeed, through it the inexpressible is expressed.” Herbert Spencer finds the union of science and religion in the fact common to both—that either one, pushed to its farthest limit, ends in the unknowable, and this un­knowable he calls God. Music—in its scientific basis the most exact and mathematic of the arts; in its substance the most indefinable and ethereal—would seem the art best fitted to symbolize this union of the known and unknown.

There is in all this a deep significance. Here it can only be hinted at, but it is worthy of consideration and development by the thoughtful musician.

* * *

A distinctively national type of American music can only come after the nation’s nationalities, which at present form the American people, have been amalga­mated into one strongly marked type. At present the German-American writes music of the German type; the American-Italian, music of the Italian type, etc.; and it will not be until successive generations have eliminated these foreign traits that distinctively American music will be written. What will be its nature is difficult to forecast, but that it will be equal, if not su­perior, to any music which has yet been composed is certain. When the true typical American finally ap­pears and, after finishing the subduing of this great continent, turns his fiery energy, keen ingenuity, and remarkable creative instinct into artistic channels, anew school of musical composition will arise which will cause the Old World to look to America for her new ideas in music, just as she now looks to us for invention and for labor-saving machinery.

<< Home Notes     Special Notices >>

Monthly Archives


You are reading Editorials. from the November, 1899 issue of The Etude Magazine.

Home Notes is the previous story in The Etude

Special Notices is the next entry in The Etude.

The Publisher of The Etude Will Supply Anything In Music