MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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with the power of " playing at sight," for which the term is frequently loosely applied. It does not necessarily imply the power of performance at all. To read music means to hear mentally the sound of what is printed, just as our ability to read ordinary literature means our under­standing the language employed. And as our ability to read a foreign language depends upon our power to recall the meaning of every word, so our ability to read music depends upon our ability to recall the sounds which are represented by the signs before us, or to combine sounds which we have previously stored, into the new forms presented.
73.   The immense popularity of the piano, through the medium of which we are able to produce the accurate sounds of what is printed by associating the printed signs with the arrangement of notes on the keyboard, has made the power of reading music not absolutely necessary to the executant, and it has therefore unfortunately become a neglected power. Despite this fact, the possession of it must still be regarded as one of the chief distinguishing features of the musician, and he should be able to read his Bach, and his Beethoven, as the Greek scholar does his Homer, and the German his Schiller. If we then admit that one of the leading departments of musical education is the learning to read music— and in order that we may do this, a trained ear is the chief requisite— it seems obvious that from the very first, a certain amount of attention should be devoted to this branch of study, and that in every rational scheme of musical education, no unimportant place should be given to ear-training or a cultivation of the musical memory.
74.    The Correct Method of studying Harmony.—The vital necessity of such a mode of procedure, and a proof of its present neglect, is most obvious when the study of Harmony and those still more ad­vanced studies, which eventually lead to some form of musical composi­tion, are entered upon. No one will deny that all musical studies must appeal to the sense of hearing. Now, if Harmony is one of these, and the one which teaches us how to take correctly our first steps in musical composition—and this we believe it to be—its signs must ever suggest in the mind living sounds, and the moment the exercises become a skilful manipulation on paper of crotchets and quavers, and appeal merely to the understanding and not to the ear, the study loses its true character, and becomes largely a non-musical one, which to some extent might be pursued by the intelligent deaf and dumb. For the student to devote nearly his whole attention to the treatment of chords on paper, without being able to hear mentally what is written down, is the result of a method of harmony-teaching and examining very much in vogue in the present day, and which is in open defiance to that great principle of education which affirms that the Thing (in the present instance the sound), should be first perceived, and its Sign introduced afterwards. Unfortunately, our present method is to emphasize the sign at the expense of the sound, and to work Harmony exercises after the manner in which we play a game of chess. Our one object is to check-mate our opponent—the so-called teacher—by correctly resolving the discords and avoiding forbidden consecutives. When we have successfully accomplished this, we generally feel some not un-natural desire to hear what our exercise sounds Jike, and we
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