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

The Music Lover's Digest

The Best in Musical Literature from Everywhere
Debussy and Tone Madness
"I have known Debussy now for nearly twenty years. When he was just beginning to revolt from the standard of Massenet and others of the conservative camp he suffered for some years with the idea that he was becoming a victim of the single tone. You know what that is, the kind of madness which afflicted Schumann, Smetana and other musicians who lost their reason, although it has also happened to perfectly sane people who have something radically wrong with their ears—the constant vibration in the ear of a single tone of unvarying pitch and intensity.
"Anyhow, Debussy was apprehensive, for he could not hear the common chord of C-E-G without also hearing a very dissonant note, the D just above, vibrating at the same time. For a long time this troubled him. Then he took thought and realized that the fancied difficulty was in his very sensitive ear hearing, at the same time that the simple major chord was sounded, the vibration of an important overtone—the overtone, to go into technicality for just a moment, nearest related to the third note of his common chord.
"Then Debussy commenced to experiment, and he said to himself: "Why need a piece of music be composed as if no such thing as an overtone existed? How can a common chord be sounded without overtones being sympathetically vibrated? And if my ear craves that satisfaction of having these overtones definitely sounded—why not?'
"Perhaps you think that was not a great step to take. I think it is the most revolutionary thing that has been done in music since the discovery of the 'third,' back in the Middle Ages, which was found to be consonant with the 'first' and the 'fifth' degrees of the scale, and form the last essential of that common chord that is the commonest and first accepted principle of music of to-day. Nowadays, thanks to the initiative of Debussy and others, chords with their fundamental tones and overtones much more dissonant than the ninth are sounded simultaneously, and we only wonder why we were afraid to do this before. And if we think a little further we may realize that there are probably vibrations, not only of tones over a chord, but of tones underneath a chord—that, in fact, we know neither the bottom nor the top, the beginning nor the end of the vibrations set in motion when we strike the elementary tones that make the so-called common chord."—Harold Bauer in the Boston Globe.
A Musical Flower Garden
Weber is like the carnation, bright and spicy.
Beethoven is like the rose—is, and ever will be, first of all.
Mozart is the modest violet, simple, unassuming, but delicious.
Liszt is like the gaudy tulip—it attracts and dazzles us, but it is not dear to our memories.
Chopin is like the tuberose—of an unearthly sweetness, but always associated with sadness.
Haydn is a whole field of buttercups, daisies and pink clover blossoms, over which the bees are buzzing.
Mendelssohn is like the jessamine, sweet, but too much is too sweet. Who can play the forty-eight "Songs Without Words" at one sitting?
Schubert is like the pansy—bewitching, with a thousand different phases, ever new, and equally charming whether somber or bright.
Bach is the nasturtium of the music garden—the more the blooms are plucked the more luxuriant is the growth and more abundant the blossoms.
Wagner may be likened to the lily—the beauty of which unfolds slowly, and whose majestic form and purity of color are very unlike any other of the flower kingdom.—From Music and Musicians.
Carl Czerny's Picture of Beethoven
Czerny was the author of a brief history of music and of an autobiography, from which one is tempted to offer a delightful picture of Beethoven as he remembered him in after years, and on the occasion of his visit, as a boy of ten, when Beethoven agreed to give him instructions.
"On a wintry day we sallied forth to the street called Tiefen Graben and mounted to the fifth or sixth story. We entered a veritable desert of a room—papers and clothes scattered about, some trunks, bare walls, scarcely a chair except the rickety one before the piano. Beethoven was dressed in a dark gray jacket and trousers of some long-haired material which reminded me of the description of Robinson Crusoe I had just been reading. The jet black hair stood upright on his head. A beard, unshaven for several days, made still darker his naturally swarthy face. I noticed also with a child's quick perception that he had cotton wool which seemed to have been dipped in some yellow fluid in both ears. His hands were covered with hair and the fingers very broad, especially at the tips."—Thomas Tapper in The Musician (Boston, Mass.).
Liszt's Rhapsodies His Natural Music
In the rhapsodies Liszt gave full rein to his fancy. His natural love of ornamentation is plainly seen in the cadenzas, fioraturi, arabesques and embroidery which take the place of the impromptu decorations with which the gipsies adorn a melody. Divided into the lassan, or slow action, and frishka, or quick one, they gave to Liszt an ample opportunity of passing from the indolence of the East to the dash of the peasant dance, of leaving the chant to join the harlequinade. He was a virtuoso in thought as well as in digital dexterity. His was no vassal intellect overawed by the grimaces of Doctor Dry-as-Dust. The old pasha of music scattered his jeweled notes over the paper and kicked his heels high like some tinker losing himself in the final orgy of the czardas. (We remember the Pesther Carnival.) He transferred the melodies of   cymbalom and hegedüs to the pianoforte and then clothed them in the dazzling brilliance of the orchestra. Here we leave Liszt, the romantic dreamer in Paris salons, the orator of the symphonic poems, the religious mystic crossing himself before his ikons, the incomparable pianist, the elegant gentleman with his intimate knowledge of the etiquette and vocabularies of Europe. We are again in Hungary moving, not among Tassos and Dantes, but amidst all the copper-skinned rabble of the market-place and the bazaar; in Hungary where the tinkling bells of the caravan lead us to the Orient which nourishes lotus-eaters and opium-smokers in its bosom, and preserves its ancient beauties in gilded mosques and heavy-scented seraglios.—D.C. Parker in the Musical Standard of London.
King David the First Bandmaster
David might well be called the first bandmaster mentioned in history, for he was the first orchestral organizer of which we have any record. His band numbered two hundred, fourscore and eight, and he thus led the first body of players. He no doubt possessed a knowledge of instrumentation and tone-color effect, for he assigns his subjects to special instruments.
The fourth Psalm, "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness," be directs to be played by his chief musician, who was a player of the harp and the sackbut. Psalm fifth, "Give ear to my words, O Lord," he assigns to the chief musician, who was the solo flutist of his band. Psalm sixth, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger," the chief musician or soloist on the string instrument, who had a virtuoso's regard for expression, is called upon to perform, and so on through the Psalms.
David without question had in his band all of the component parts of the modern orchestra—strings, wood-winds, brass and percussion. At the dedication of Solomon's temple, David and all the house of Israel "played before the Lord with all manner of instruments made of fir wood, and with harps and with psaltries, with timbrels, castanets, cornets and cymbals, and the sound of the trumpet was heard in the land even as it is heard to-day." Popular as a composer and popular as a conductor, David was certainly to be envied.
From these Biblical days to the present time the instrumental body has existed in many forms—bands composed entirely of bagpipes, orchestras composed entirely of string instruments, bands of oboe players, bands entirely of brass, bands of brass and wood-wind, bands of trumpets, bands of bugles, bands of drums, and all sorts of combinations have been made by man.—John Philip Sousa in the Spokane Chronicle.
Ingersoll's Odd Aspect of Music
It is probable that I was selected to speak about music because, not knowing one note from another, I have no prejudice on the subject.
All I can say is, that I know what I like, and, to tell the truth, I like every kind, enjoy it all, from the hand organ to the orchestra.
Knowing nothing of the science of music, I am not always looking for defects, or listening for discords. As the young robin cheerfully swallows whatever comes, I hear with gladness all that is played.
Music has been, I suppose, a gradual growth, subject to the law of evolution; as nearly everything, with the possible exception of theology, has been and is under this law.
Music may be divided into three kinds: First, the music of simple time, without any particular emphasis—and this may be called the music of the heels; second, music in which time is varied, in which there is the eager haste and the delicious delay, that is, the fast and slow, in accordance with our feelings, with our emotions—and this may be called the music of the heart; third, the music that includes time and emphasis, the hastening and the delay, and something in addition, that produces not only states of feeling, but states of thought. This may be called the music of the head—the music of the brain.—The late Robert Ingersoll in an address before the New York Liederkranz April 2, 1891.

<< Questions and Answers     Kreutzer, Kreutzer and Again Kreutzer >>

Monthly Archives


The Publisher of The Etude Will Supply Anything In Music