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On Developing the Musical Taste of the Public

THERE is a lesson in the drawing of large crowds of people to the summer parks, attracted in many cases by the opportunity of hearing good music performed by first-class musicians. This is the case, without doubt, at those parks where the Damrosch, Herbert, Sousa, Pryor and Creatore organizations are heard, as well as smaller bodies of men selected from the ranks of the leading symphony orchestras of the country. The programs presented to the great public, made up of persons of all tastes, from crude to highly artistic, are based on catholicity of idea, for every one is given a chance to hear something he will like, and, what is of still more value to the cause of music, hear what he likes done well. A great musical work done poorly, played in a slovenly way, or in any respect inadequately presented, is a distinct injury to art. An easy, simple piece well played opens the way for the rendering and enjoyment of a work a little higher in the artistic plane.

Therefore we present the thought that so far as music is to interest the great public the taste of the latter must be gently and tactfully led, not antagonized and forced upward. We believe that a certain proportion of the best music, played frequently at these summer parks, is right and just; that the playing of such works aids the cause of music and raises the standard of taste. A study of the programs given at the best family resorts near Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago during the past eight or ten years will convince the skeptical of the truth of this statement. Theodore Thomas used to say that popular music means familiar music; that is, music that contains in it harmonies that are not strange, melodies and rhythmical figures that have been heard frequently, and styles of composition that are clear and free from complexity of construction. Let the people hear a number of pieces of high class a sufficient number of times, played with spirit and proper expression, as well as fine technic by the players, and they will, in good time, familiarize themselves with the characteristics of such pieces and learn to appreciate them.


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