Mr. Saenger had just returned from a season of travel over America as far as the Coast. A most profitable trip he called it, filled with many interesting and unique experiences. He had been lecturing also, in a number of cities, on his new method of vocal study with the aid of the Victor Talking Machine. When he learned I had come expressly to ask for his ideas on vocal technic and study, he said:
“I think you will be interested to hear about my latest hobby, the study of singing with the aid of records.” Then he plunged at once into the most absorbingly interesting account of his ideas and achievements in this line I had ever listened to.
TEACHER, ARTIST AND ACCOMPANIST IN ONE
“This is my own idea, of combining the teacher, artist and accompanist in one trinity,” he began. “And, by the way, my idea is now patented in Washington. It is the result of nine years’ thought and labor, before the idea could be brought out in its finished form. The design has been to make the method and its elucidation so simple that the girl from a small town can understand it.
“The method consists of twenty lessons for each of the five kinds of voices: Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Baritone and Bass. Each portfolio holds twenty records, together with a book containing minute directions for studying and using the records. I believe that any one, with good intelligence, who wishes to learn to sing, can take the book and records and begin his studies, even though he has never sung before. He can thus prepare himself for future lessons. For you must understand this method is not meant to replace the teacher, but to aid the teacher. I can assure you it aids him in ways without number. It gives him a perfect exemplar to illustrate his principles. If he be fatigued, or unable to sing the passage in question, here is an artist who is never wearied, who is always ready to do it for him. I myself constantly use the records in my lessons. If I have taught a number of consecutive hours, it is a relief to turn to the artist’s record and save my own voice.
“As I have said, the design has been to make everything plain and simple. I wrote the book and sent it to the Victor people. They returned it, saying I had written an excellent book, but it was not simple enough. They proposed sending a man to me who was neither a musician nor a singer. If I could make my meaning clear enough for him to understand, it was likely the girl from a little Western town could grasp it.
“So this man came and we worked together. If I talked about head tones, he wanted to know what I meant; if about throaty tones, I had to make these clear to him. When he understood, I was sure any one could understand.
“Thus the books as they stand came into being. The records themselves represent an immense amount of care and effort. Will you believe we had to make over two thousand in order to secure the one hundred needed for the present series? The slightest imperfection is enough to render an otherwise perfect record useless. Even the artists themselves would sometimes become discouraged at the enormous difficulties. It is nerve-racking work, for one must be on tension all the time.