It is absolutely imperative for one who would interpret music to cultivate the memory. The musician who cannot play or sing without notes is compelled to expend a large amount of mental activity on reading these, and will find it difficult to heed the manifold requirements of musical expression and delivery, of which a few hints have here been given. A musical composition is never thoroughly understood until it has been intelligently memorized. One who can play or sing without notes is as free as a bird to soar aloft in the blue ether of musical imagination.
[Illustration: Franz Liszt]
Every interpreter of music longs for appreciative listeners, and young musicians, in especial, often lament the lack of these. It is well to remember that the genuine musical artist is able to create an atmosphere whose influences may compel an average audience to sympathetic listening. A good plan for the artist is to be surrounded in fancy with an audience having sensitively attuned ears, intellectual minds, and warm, throbbing hearts. Music played in private before such an imaginary audience will gain in quality, and when repeated before an actual public will hold that public captive.
We have it from Ruskin that all fatal faults in art that might otherwise be good arise from one or other of three things: either from the pretence to feel what we do not; the indolence in exercise necessary to obtain the power of expressing the Truth; or the presumptuous insistence upon, or indulgence in, our own powers and delights, with no care or wish that they should be useful to other people, so only they should be admired by them.
These three fatal faults must be avoided, or conquered, by the person who would interpret music.
How to Listen to Music
Listening is an art. It requires close and accurate attention, sympathy, imagination and genuine culture. Listening to music is an art of high degree. Many derive exquisite enjoyment from it, for music is potent and universal in its appeal. To listen intelligently to music is an accomplishment few have acquired.
A great painting presents itself as a completed whole before the observer’s eye. It holds on the canvas the fixed place given it by the master from whose genius it proceeded. No intermediary force is needed to come between it and the impression it makes on the beholder. Music, on the contrary, must be aroused from the written, or printed page to living tone by the hand or voice of the interpreter, and but a fragment at a time can be made perceptible to the listener’s ear. Like a panorama, it comes and goes before the imagination, its kaleidoscopic tints and forms now sharply contrasted, now almost imperceptibly graduated one into the other, but all shaping themselves into a logical union, stamped with the design of a creative mind. Properly to inspect the successive musical images, and grasp their significance, in parts and as a whole, demands keen mental alertness.