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you at home, and preclude such means of information, try the thing yourselves. This is certainly possible; then if you fail, you can with some shadow of justice decry. But do not, with the airy sword of fancy, cut at a living, breathing, growing experiment.
The first argument against the practicability of introducing music into our schools, which possesses any weight, is, that the musical ear is too rare for any great results to be accomplished in instructing a promiscuous body. I pass over without comment, any objection arising from “no voice,” as it is termed, for, with one or two exceptions, perhaps, in a hundred, there is voice enough where there is ear. But let it be understood in the outset, that I do not go to the extremity of belief, and sweepingly assert that all can be taught to sing ; yet experience has greatly modified the opinion which I once held on this matter, and has more and more convinced me of the generality of the musical ear. I have seen those whose perceptions were once so obtuse that they could not distinguish between a high or low sound, become, in process of time, by living in a musical atmosphere, not only able to make such discrimination, but to sing the scale accurately with another. I have not been able to ascertain the exact number of pupils in the Hawes School who make discords while singing in chorus, but
the five hundred to whom music is taught, not twenty-five can be found palpably out of tune; and Mr. Mason, Professor in the Boston Academy of Music, has pronounced our school the most unmusical of any which it has been his fortune to instruct.
Such, then, is one fact; -and testimony of this kind might be indefinitely accumulated. And are not such facts sufficient to prove the universality of the musical ear? Is not one school, selected at random, a fair representative of the whole? What is true of human capability in Boston, is true of human capability at Lowell, and in every town in the Commonwealth.
If we compare our own community with any other, my position must receive the advantage. Nowhere is there so little musical talent as among us.
Our best vocal and instrumental artists are from abroad. Our operas, oratorios, - our
sacred and lighter compositions, are mainly imported. Italy, France, Germany, Prussia, and Spain, are notoriously in advance of us. Music is in many of the European nations indissolubly connected with public and private education ; and the German or
Parisian could hardly repress a smile at the argument against teaching vocal music, that the musical ear in children is not general or correct. Indeed, considering the objection strictly true, it furnishes to my mind, the most conclusive reason, why music should be taught.
Viewing then, this objection, as it is commonly stated, we are in the worst possible plight, for a fair estimate to be made of what we can or cannot do - of what we are or are not. We take a narrow view of the capabilities of humanity, if we, with every representation to urge such a conviction, instead of believing that we furnish a very imperfect specimen of the musical susceptibilities of the race, and that education may elevate us to the capacity and excellence of others, confirm ourselves in the prejudiced assurance, that all others are as low as we, and consequently stamp the signet of truth and unalterableness upon a very false and puerile assumption.
But I have said that this comparison with other countries is to the advantage of my position. They are much before us;
- such then we may become. Whence this difference, it is not easy to state. Probably the circumstances of climate, situation, and government, were favorable to the development of a faculty of which the pleasures are consonant with southern enthusiasm of character, or languor and delicacy of temperament and sensibilities.
Is it made an argument against the universality of the musical ear, that many
nations less refined than our own, are destitute of it? Such a statement would in the first place be denied, for the most barbarous people have, so far as observation can ascertain, their songs of a martial,or mournful, or jocose character ; and then the inquiry would be made, do you decry the utility of fostering a spirit of benevolence, or declain against the possibility of introducing kindlier feelings into the human heart, because the Caribs are said to be destitute of natural affection, and every gentle sympathy.
But let us, although the ground has been interdicted, take one a priori view of the matter. How mysterious, how inexplicably delicate, how complex is the nature of musical concord ! 'How wonderful, how exquisite the pleasure which a few tones, single or combined, will excite in the human soul! Art may analyze; - we may have the theories of Pythagoras, the demonstrations of Galilei. Science may tell us of vibrations and chords, diatonic and chromatic scales, intervals, keys,
and modulations, - and what have we gained? We have come no nearer the spirit of heaven-born music. It is as if we should strive, by dissection of the human frame to reach the seat of life,
to throw open the hidden chambers of the soul. By our very analysis we have destroyed that which we seek. Our dissection has given us nothing but artificial properties, lifeless clay. By whose agency were these properties so mysteriously conjoined; this inanimate mass inspired with vital energy, and endowed with such wonderful proportion, and beauty and power? God is the Almighty agent; his fingers have jointed this curiously contrived frame. It is from him that the soul of music
And is it possible to believe that this complex creation of divine power should be brought into existence but for magnificent results and universal good ? I cannot so read the beneficence of God. I cannot so assent to the
of ingenuity, the waste of design, which such a supposition would involve. That which is a source of such exquisite enjoyment, never could have been bestowed upon à chosen few, never could have been so scantily scattered as to render its cultivation a questionable thing, or its heavenly origin a matter of doubt.
Here, then, we leave the argument for the universality of the musical ear, repeating in conclusion that experiment has every where demonstrated the truth of our position. I place a susceptibility to musical sounds among the other endowments of the soul,-varying like all other faculties of our nature; in some, positive and predominant, in others weak and undeveloped, and in a few, a very few, an anomaly in the general organization of humanity, but like other intellectual and moral anomalies, apparently extinct. But this admission cannot affect our estimate of character in any of the other endowments of the mind, and it would surely be absurd to let it bias our judgment in regard to music. The exception only furnishes confirmation strong, of the rule from which it dissents.
But the practicableness of introducing vocal music into common schools must be examined under another light. The accidental and extraneous facilities and obstructions to it must be considered.
And I must first bear witness to the beautiful simplicity of the system of instruction as invented by the German masters, and adopted by our own. A system that makes easily intelligible the once inexplicable mysteries of the science of music;
that now brings delight and the cheering consciousness of well defined and well understood progress, where once all seemed unrecompensed toil, and unravelled labyrinths.
Look a little into the lucid arrangement of Pestalozzi, and see how clear the principles of time, or rhythm, of sharps and flats, of perfect and imperfect chords, of major and minor measures, and indeed all the elements of a most delicate and intricate science, are made. This engaging simplification of the manner of teaching vocal music is, then, one of its great recommendations.
There is, too, the strong inducement of sympathy and excitement. As many may be instructed at one time as can hear the teacher's voice, and see the black-board, — provided they are near enough in age to render a classification expedient; but in music, as in any other intellectual branch, regard must be had to the maturity and comprehension of a child. It is a lamentable mistake to suppose that the only bond of classification among pupils in music is that which a mere musical ear furnishes. Were the science indeed nothing but sound, which the young ear could appreciate as well as the matured, this might be possible. But probably no science in the world, to be thoroughly understood practically and theoretically, requires greater reach of thought, or prosoundness of attention, or more unremitting perseverance, than music. That which served to engage the transcendent powers Handel, a Bethoven, or a Weber, is not a rattle and a straw for infants. And he who should arrest me here, and argue against the practicableness of a child's learning music, because it is so deep and abstruse a subject, would be hardly more judicious than one who should close an infant's eye, and bid him not look upon objects about him, until he should be able to understand the structure of the eye, and explain the complicated laws of vision. We do not expect or wish to make our children Handels or Mozarts — but they can easily learn all the necessary rudiments of music, as soon as they are old enough to learn anything that requires some effort of mind and continuity of attention. They may, however, be trained to sing merely, at almost any age; and this is desirable, even though unaccompanied by any knowledge of the principles of the art.
What has been remarked above, will, I trust, be refutation enough to the very opposite of the objection last considered ; namely, that music is all play, that it unnerves the mind, and
produces laxity of intellectual effort, - or, at least, that there is no appeal to the understanding in it.
Where, then, pupils are classed together, of nearly equal capacities and ages, an indefinite number may receive instruction at a time ; thus, the sympathy and excitement first alluded to are great aids to instruction in this branch. We mention here, as dependent upon this consideration of numbers, the great cheapness of musical instruction ; and this, in the minds of many, is one grand element of its practicableness. That which is cheap will often, in our money-getting and money-keeping community, though of questionable utility, be tried, because it is cheap. I have barely alluded to this recommendation, which is, in truth, a very important one.
A difficulty of some weight has been occasionally suggested, that teachers are not to be found in many places competent and skilful enough to make this a part of regular instruction. In the above estimate of expense my remarks were founded entirely upon the supposition that all musical instruction should be given by professed teachers, coming in upon stated days to their respective schools. There would be, I do not doubt, a sufficient number of these teachers to meet the growing wants of the community; or if the supply were for the present scanty, necessity would speedily furnish an abundance. But it is not well to employ such teachers, when the regular instructer is competent to do the duty ; and this competency is not so rare as may be supposed. Let any one of respectable practical skill in teaching, who has an ear for music, take Mr. Mason's Manual, and he can in a very short time become efficient as a musical instructer.
It is a common practice, now, for country teachers to associate themselves together, and to put themselves, a fortnight perhaps, under the tuition of some popular instructer in Boston, during the August holidays; and they thereby acquire in a short time knowledge enough to teach with great effect in their respective schools.
I am persuaded that the time is not far distant when School Committees will be so satisfied of the importance of music as a branch of public instruction, that they will aim to make some proficiency in music a requisite qualification in the teachers whom they may appoint. In Germany and Prussia a man is not considered in any wise qualified to superintend a seminary, high or low, who wants this integral portion of his qualifica