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Thought and Action in Musical Europe

By Arthur Elson
In the Monthly Musical Record Albert Visetti writes of some experiments to show the effect of music on madness. They were performed at a sanatorium in Villejuif, under the care of Dr. Vaschide, and with the assistance of the pianist Duprat. The music in almost all cases had a soothing effect and brought back memories long forgotten. "When I listen to it," said one patient, "I do not suffer; I forget my illness." In some cases intelligence and satisfaction showed on faces that were usually blank. Naturally the character of the music has much to do with the result, and it may cause excitement as well as calm. Thus an epileptic patient, on hearing Schumann's third Intermezzo, became most violently agitated. She called to the experimenters to let her alone if they did not wish her to die. This is almost what one would expect, for the piece is so brusque and jerky in its rhythm that it would certainly irritate oversensitive nerves or brain.
The use of music as a healing agent in mental and physical ills may yet become very valuable. There are many cases of its employment in the past. It is said that music of a lively rhythm, when played to a person bitten by a tarantula, aroused him so that he danced wildly about the room, and thus caused a perspiration that brought about a cure. The rapid dance called the Tarantella is named from this idea. The habit of stuttering is often helped by singing, and the regularity of vibration seems to be of instant benefit. Another disease amenable to the influence of music is St. Vitus Dance, in which case singing is again the most powerful musical influence; but probably all forms of music would exert some effect.
Music is not yet understood in its psychological action, but at least we know that it does act directly on the brain to produce emotions. In psychology an emotion is considered as the result of a physical effect rather than the cause; that is, we say that joy makes the heart beat fast, but the psychologist tells us that our heart beating fast is what gives us the physical feeling of joy. Yet there must be some message to the heart from the brain, telling it to beat faster, even though we notice only the sensory effect.
There can be no doubt that music, in its action on the brain, must arouse the involuntary motor nerve-centers that cause our emotions. The kind of emotion resulting seems more than a mere matter of association, such as having a march suggest soldiers merely because we have seen soldiers marching to music. We distinguish between music that is lively, or tender, or lofty, or sad, because in some way it speaks to a different set of nerves in each case and causes a different emotion.
With this in mind it is not hard to see why the Schumann Intermezzo should have agitated the epileptic. A doctor of medicine would not give something to irritate a patient when a sedative was needed, and the dispenser of music should follow this sensible example. Something steady and strong, like Handel's Largo, would have had a better effect, or perhaps a softer selection, like the slow movement of the Sonata Pathetique, or the short and well-known Nocturne of Schumann. No doubt the humorists will have us consider "Ein Heldenleben" a specific for the sleeping sickness, and Paderewski's symphony a cure for insomnia, but it really may come about that the doctors will prescribe Bach fugues for amnesia, or Chopin nocturnes for nervous prostration.
The new Strauss opera is sometimes called "Der Rosenkavalier" from the old custom of sending a silver rose as a message of love. Ochs von Lerchenau, a rather pompous relative of a princess in a small state, tells her of his love for Faninal, the daughter of a rich burgher. The page, Octavian, is selected as the bearer of the rose. But Faninal cares little for Ochs; and in the second apt we find her indulging in a fervid love duet with Octavian. This brings about a duel with Ochs, in which no one is seriously injured. To free Faninal from the undesired attentions of Ochs he is drawn into an assignation with a waiting maid, who turns out to be Octavian in disguise.
Strauss is no less able in bargaining than in composing, it would seem. The report is current that he will not let his new work be brought out in any theatre unless the said theatre's manager will agree to perform "Salome" and "Electra" at least four times a year for ten years. Another item states that the Comedy will be heard in Dresden early in the winter.
Weingartner is bringing his experience to bear on a new opera, to be called "Don Juans Ende," after the poem by Otto Anthes. A violin concerto by Leander Schlegel is to be performed by Marteau. Songs recently published include lyrics by Sinding and Andreae, and a set of three effective duets for women's voices by Max Reger. Among choral works recently issued are the cantata "Die Apostel in Philippi," by Richard Bartmuss; some four-voiced female choruses, with piano or harp, by Robert Fuchs; "Post Tenebras Lux," a cantata by Otto Barblan, and the "Völkergebet," a lofty work for male chorus and orchestra by Herman Hutter. Incidental music to "As You Like It," by Walter Braunfels, is also published. Some claim that Scheinpflug's Overture to a Shakespearian comedy is based on "As You Like It," but others have called it "Much Ado About Nothing."
New countries are creeping into the periodicals. From Japan comes the news that the Tokio Academy of Music (or Japanese words to that effect) has made piano compulsory for a certain portion of its pupils. Hitherto the organ was compulsory and piano not, but pianos are now more general than formerly. The violin is not popular, as the Japanese seem to have much difficulty with it.
A Brazilian concert at the Paris Exposition included extracts from the opera "Il Guarany," by Carlos Gomez; a Symphony in G minor, and a Prelude from the comedy "O Guaratuja," by Alberto Nepomuceno, and "Ave Libertas," a symphonic poemby Leopoldo Miguez. Music in Buenos Ayres is represented by Drangosch, Gaito, Pascual de Rogatis and Cattelani in the symphonic field, and in opera it has Luis Provesi and a composer who rejoices in the name of Donizetti. Montevideo (Uruguay) applauded "St. Francis of Assisi," a charming sacred opera in three acts by Theodore Sambucetti.
Malines has been hearing carillon competitions. Among the works given were "Het Lied van den Smid," by Andelhof; a "Marche Solennelle," by Mailly, and two Preludes by Van den Gheyn. Each contestant had to play also an Andante Cantabile by Josef Denyn; and during the subsequent festivities that virtuoso played his own brilliant   Postludium. Wagner, Bizet, Mascagni, Haydn and others were also rendered successfully on the bells. Other Netherland works are "Nos Carillons," symphonic poem by Leon Du Bois; "The Death of Baldur," by Van Oye, and an effective "Marche Commemorative" by Paul Gilson.
Novelties for Rome are Mancinelli's "Francesca" and Catalani's "La Falce," as well as Puccini's "La Figlia del West." At the other end of Europe Peterson-Berger's "Arnljot," with a historical plot, won a great popular success at Stockholm.
In England a piano trio published by Jervis-Read is rated as very brilliant. His Legend for 'cello and two "Dream Songs" are also favorably mentioned. In the Queen's Hall programs were two "Eastern Dances," by Easthope-Martin, and "In the Faery Hills," a finely orchestrated selection from a cycle by Arnold Bax. The latter's best work is said to be "The Wanderings of Oisin." Coleridge- Taylor is to write a Fantasie for violin, on American melodies, to be given at Litchfield, Conn. The Cardiff festival program includes "The Veil," by Cowen; "The Sun-God's Return," by Mackenzie, and "With the Wild Geese," a symphonic poem by Hamilton Harty. From its title the last work should abound in lofty flights of imagination.

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