Music Composers

Benjamin Cutter-Part 6

The Road To Mastery

The road to mastery in musical composition is a long one. To go through it worthily means to possess an intellect of no mean order. The requirements in the way of concentration, imagination and unflagging doing, are fully equal to those made by the higher mathematics. But taken early and carried along sensibly, the boy of gifts, of whom alone we write, learns his harmony in two or three years' time, learns to handle chords, to harmonize tones, to modulate. It is very likely that his gift prompts him to strike out on his own account and to write little pieces or to arrange for orchestra. He next takes up counterpoint, learning the so useful art of placing one melody against another, without which all choral composition is defunct, and meanwhile is carried through the so-called small forms for piano, piano and other instruments, voice. This counterpoint, this long and severe part of the course, is where the American is at his weakest, where he becomes exhausted, and where, when one reaches down to the last analysis the great men of all time have been greatest - Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, Strauss. In this pitting of one part against the other, this interweaving of many voices to which modern music owes so much of its charm and which is yet only a phase of technique, wholly subordinate to beauty of melody - the life of all music - in this phase of his art the young American is too little schooled. Instrumentation, the art of writing for the orchestra, and the practice of the larger forms - overture, opera, symphony - conclude the course.

The Opportunity of the American Boy

It is safe to say that the American boy is the equal of that German or that French boy who is given this training and who stands it because the course of work is pursued so leisurely and so rationally. Why the young American has not done as much as his transatlantic brothers may be apparent to the reader; it is not due altogether to a lack of gifts. In the next two decades the growth of musical life in this country seems bound to produce orchestral bodies in our larger towns and cities and that great thing in the musical culture of a race, the good opera house. To cater to these needs, and to the needs of American home music, should be the future of the young American composer.

The Etude Magazine November 1912





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