Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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112             STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
contributing as they do toward material prosperity and well-being, were also held in esteem. Any adult male human being who could not or would not make himself of value to the community in any of these lines was worse than useless. Music, water-color painting and em­broidery were pleasing accomplishments for young ladies whose social position warranted their indulgence in such unproductive pastimes. It was known that there had been artists in times past, for their names are to be read in history; there were known to be certain opera singers and others who devoted their lives to musical activity, but they were like beings from another planet, always "foreigners," "Signor" or "Madame," a little to be pitied and a little to be scorned. This attitude of mind has not entirely vanished from the land even in this Year of Grace.
Stephen Foster's career is a good example of what happens when a musical soul is placed in an unmusical environment. Nothing ever takes the place of instinctive and intuitive culture, and this is absorbed unconsciously during the early years of life. No amount of study and industry can develop to its fullest possibilities the talent of one whose childhood is barren of music. Neither pov­erty, nor the material conditions surrounding his early life, thwarted the development of Stephen Foster's genius. The answer to the riddle is to be found in the mental atmosphere in which he found himself. There is no evidence that Stephen Foster ever at-i tempted to overcome the deficiencies of his early musical i education. On the contrary, he was either content with 1 his achievements or, feeling that the struggle was hope­less, lacked the courage to begin it.
It may be seriously doubted whether greater technical facility would have improved his music or achieved for him a greater name in history. The general average of his work might have been higher, but his best songs might have lost something of the sincerity and naive charm







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III