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The Value of Imagination.


Imagination is the idealizing faculty; it is that power in human nature which perceives ideals, which gives a knowledge of the beautiful. By its power, working in us, we are enabled to form mental pictures, or “visions,” of the perfect.

The imagination is not confined to artists and poets alone, but is possessed by all mankind; therefore it must have its part to play in our lives; this being admitted, it follows that the imagination needs a proper and careful training and cultivation.

We know the dangers of false emotionalism; but we err if we say the imagination must be repressed in order that false emotionalism may be stamped out. Rather must we advocate such a training of this higher faculty as will benefit our entire nature. Only by proper cultivation of every faculty created in us can character, as a whole, be perfected.

Music appeals largely to the emotional nature. If we would have it perform its mission grandly, as teachers of the young, we will be ever watchful to see that only true emotionalism is developed. At the very outset, with even the youngest pupil, an appeal will be made simultaneously to the intellect and the imagination. There is mental (or intellectual) exercise when a child learns about notes and the keyboard of a piano; and at the same time we appeal to his imagination, when we play tones, loud and soft, and say we wish to make the tones sing. We can, from the start, foster and begin to train the emotional possibilities of each pupil.

The present writer deplores the craze for technic when she observes the influence it has upon the highest and best side of human nature in ninety students out of every hundred. In spite of all the cautions from time to time offered by the best technicians themselves, who say, “Remember that technic is only a means at an end,” the majority of students look upon it as the end itself. In other words they watch the mechanical execution rather than listen to the music produced. They have not the judgment rightly to discriminate, yet they offer “judgments” very freely.

A player may have all the wonders of technic, and if he does not possess that which we call soul, what do true lovers of music care for his display of “difficulties overcome?” Technic is indispensable; but there is altogether too much pedantry on the subject at the present time—a reaction must come. Now, what will reaction mean? Simply, coming to a realization of the real thing—the soul of music. It will surely come, and this reaction will be tremendous in its power when it does come. What is going to bring this much-needed reaction? According to my idea a right and proper cultivation of the God-given faculty—Imagination. Does the sculptor think more of the way he is handling his tools than he does of the figure he dreams about and is bringing out from the block of marble? To be sure, the tools enable him to realize his dream— all praise due the tools be granted to them—but we never forget they are but the tools. Skill in the use of fingers, hands and arms must be ours if we would play and play well upon the pianoforte, but technic cannot interpret or catch the musical idea of the composer.

The moment we place technic on a pedestal and worship it, we are frustrating music in its true mission. My plea is, let all of us who love music and are studying it, give to the technical (or mechanical) side only its due and proper share of our thought, having always a care that we do not close out that which is of far greater importance—the poetic element. To speak practically, let us pay more heed to the inner meaning of a composition; let us cultivate our feelings, our emotions, our imagination by endeavoring, first and always, to comprehend and to bring out the composer’s meaning; let us pay more attention to the sort of tone we produce than to the manner in which we move certain muscles or joints in order to strike a key.

We know a musician is truly inspired when he compels us as we listen. If he display all the wonderful musical gymnastics of the day and lack the one important thing, soul, he fails rightly to interpret or to move his hearers.

I believe it to be the mission of music to touch and develop the poetic side of our natures, thus to lead us ever onward and upward. And I accordingly deplore anything which, even for a time, interferes with or hinders its course in our lives.


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You are reading The Value of Imagination. from the July, 1906 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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