In the mid 19th century, a number of music periodicals emerged
that gave new as well as established composers the opportunity to showcase their
music and get it circulated to relatively large numbers of musicians and music
fans. These magazines allowed teachers, scholars and performers to connect and
share ideas and the latest techniques. Publications such as, The Musician,
Perry's Music Magazine and The Echo were quite popular and though
there were many that were published, most lasted only a few years. The greatest
of all music magazines is perhaps arguably, The Etude, published continuously
by Theodore Presser & Co. from 1883 till 1954.
This month we will share with you some musical examples from various
issues of some of these publications and also give you some insights into the
articles published, the opinions of some of the experts and a little of the
content so you can gain a feeling for the flavor of the magazines. In one issue,
it will be impossible to cover all of the wonderful music and ideas that these
magazines brought to the homes of people over the years but we do hope that
it will give you a good sampling.
Also this month we introduce a new composer biography for Anna
Priscilla Risher. Ms. Risher was a talented composer and pioneering female orchestra
conductor who was a regular contributor to the Presser Etude magazine from before
1920 till her death in 1945. Thanks to one of her relatives, we have been provided
with copies of some of her music, photos and her biography. As well, we have
some selections from Etude magazine of her work. We think you will find her
music enjoyable and we are providing six of her works as a part of the biography.
Be sure to visit the Anna
Priscilla Risher biography page before you leave us this month!
Sing Me A Song Of A Lad That Is Gone
From Etude, March, 1908
Music by: E. MacLean
Lyrics by: Robert Louis Stevenson
Cover artist: Rudolf Stuven
Etude Music Magazine premiered in October of 1883, published
by the Theodore Presser company It was continuously published for almost
100 years, ending its incredible run in 1954 after serving millions of
musicians. The Presser company is hailed today as the longest existing
continuous publisher and they have an interesting history. Presser traces
its origins to 1783, when Batelle’s Book Store (later the Oliver Ditson
Company), began a music publishing business in Boston. Read
more about Pressers
history here. Here is an image of the first Etude magazine and you
can see from the above image, Etude covers evolved to rival some of the
best sheet music covers of the day.
Each month, Etude magazine published from fifteen to twenty or more scores
of piano etudes, grand master's works and songs from contemporary composers
and the masters. The songs published in Etude, though musically of very
high quality were often quite different from the popular songs being published.
In many cases, they are more classical in form and require higher levels
of pianistic and vocal skills. Keep this in mind as you work your way
through this month's issue. This song from the March, 1908, is a song
with a Scottish flavor based on a poem by the great Robert Louis Stevenson.
It was used by several songwriters as a basis for a song, including one
titled Over The Sea To Skye by Annie Macleod as well as one by
John Leavitt. You can find numerous mentions of the song in various forms
and often it is listed as a traditional folk song The poem is number 42
from an extensive Stevenson work titled Songs of Travel and Other
Verses. The music is quite typical of the works I have encountered
in Etude, very polished and high quality, I think you will enjoy this
romantic setting of Stevenson's poetry.
Some of the contents items for this 1908 issue were:
- Why We Should Support American Music, an appeal to look to
American music with less emphasis on European influences.
- Poor Pay For Musicians, an appeal for more public funding
for the musical arts and to stimulate and encourage musicians.
- Humor In Music, an interesting dissertation on how some music
depicts the emotion of humor.
- The Business Man and Music, a double edged editorial that
both criticizes businessmen as rather unsophisticated musically and
praises their contributions that help develop symphonies and venues
For those of you who remember the type of puzzle called a rebus, there
is an interesting musical rebus on page 199 of this issue. If you can
solve it, send me an e-mail
with your answer, and I'll e-mail you a free PDF copy of the score to
this song as your "prize". (Your e-mail system must be capable
of accepting PDF attachments)
this original song now (SCORCH format)
Time I've Lost In Wooing
The Musician, August, 1911
Music by: John H. Dunsmore
Lyrics by: Thomas Moore
Cover artist: Reg. Bolles
The Oliver Ditson Company of Boston also created a magazine
for musicians. Very similar in presentation, size, design and content,
this magazine was a direct competitor of Presser's Etude. Ditson was purchased
by Presser in 1931 so the Musician Magazine was discontinued then and
if anything, merged with the Etude. Ditson were perhaps the longest running
publishing house in the country and were the premiere publishing house
in America for well over a century and a half. The Ditson Musician magazine
has no relationship to current magazines with the same or similar titles.
The song I have selected from this magazine also has a Scottish flavor
and, like our first example, has as its basis a poem by a famous poet,
Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852). This poem is from Moore's Irish Melodies,
volume 6. Just as with Stevenson's poem, this one was also set to music
by a number of composers over the years. One setting has found itself
classified as a seafaring song, to hear an alternative
melody for this work, you can find it at Lesley Nelson's site, just
click the link above. Musically, this work is complex but very enjoyable.
It is, again, a work that elevates to an art or classic song rather than
being in the form and sound of the more popular songs of the era.
The August, 1911 issue of the Musician featured an article about the
violin makers of Mittenwald, Germany, calling it the "German Cremona"
(Cremona, Italy was the home of some of the greatest violin makers in
history, including Stradivarius.) There is also an interesting article
titled Popular Taste In Music, Is It Bad? In this article, the
It is a generally accepted premise among those who call
themselves Musicians, and spell the word with a capital initial letter,
that the fact that a piece of music has attained a wide popularity goes
far to prove its lack of artistic merit. It is undoubtedly true that a
very large portion of the music that takes the public fancy is scarcely
worth the paper on which it is printed.
OUCH! The author goes on to agree with this premise and attributes our lack
of taste to a poor education. He adds insult to injury by mentioning that
no self respecting musician would play this music and that those who do
are plebeian, recreational composers! He mentions that, musicians of
serious aim are usually possessed of sensitive natures and unpractical character
and thus are unpopular fellows. The sentiments in this one article, unfortunately
define the rather elitist nature of the music magazines of the day. Throughout
the collection I have, I find similar articles critical of popular music
and those who play and listen to it. This reached it's height with the August,
1924 issue of The Etude which really tears into jazz, you'll see that issue
later in this months edition.
this 1911 song (scorch format)
listen to MIDI version
Maying With You
From The Etude, June, 1915
Music by: D. Spooner
Lyrics by: Elizabeth Gordon
Cover artist: unknown
Over time, the Etude magazine covers rivaled those of the greatest sheet
music covers. I have tried to select some of the best for this feature
and this cover is one of the most striking. A portrait of Beethoven contemplating
a sunset, it offers a colorful and pastoral scene of beauty. By this time,
advertising in the Etude had also reached a high level and contained within
it are a number of colorful and interesting historical ads. One advertisement
that began appearing in the Etude with regularity were those for Cream
Of Wheat. Around
the turn of the century, the CREAM OF WHEAT Company began an advertising
campaign that enlisted the talents of America's finest illustrators. It
is important to remember that prior to the electronic age, magazines were
a primary source of entertainment, and good artists were in demand to
fill the advertising needs of the time. In those years, often termed "The
Golden Age" of American illustration, many leading artists were hired
by companies to illustrate for newspapers, magazines, books, and posters.
These images bring high prices on the collectors market and are a favorite
for framing and displaying. This particular ad was painted by "Brewer".
This song, is a typical Etude, artsy song from yet another composer who,
according to the above issue, must have been of a serious nature and with
a personality that was impractical for he did not seem to make the hit
parade with any of his songs. Nonetheless, it is a very musical work and
I think you will enjoy it as a newly discovered treasure from the past.
This issue of Etude had a very interesting article about teacher competency
that proves that no matter how much times change, they stay the same.
This quote from 1915 could well have been written by a politician or teacher
Teachers in some states have been working to secure laws
requiring every teacher to pass examinations leading to certificates entitling
the teacher to teach. In other words, a certain standard of proficiency
is set and then the teacher is expected to come up to the standard.
The article goes on to tie that effort to the concept of standardized texts
and teaching materials and states their "unequivocal" opposition
to the employment, adoption and advocacy of any proprietary material
of any kind whatsoever in any State system or other system of standardization.
Like I said, the more things change...
Other issues discussed in this issue include an article about "hack"
piano players called Blacksmiths at The Piano, How to remedy hand
cramps and how to practice staccato.
Listen to this 1915
song (scorch format only)
Listen to MIDI version
You In The Land of Love
From The Etude, April, 1920
Music by: Geoffrey O'Hara
Arranged by: T.E.B. Henry
Cover artist: Wm. S. Norten Heim
I think this is one of the most beautiful Etude covers I have seen, the
art by Heim is a beautiful depiction of spring. You can clearly see with
this edition why collection of these magazines has become almost as popular
as collecting sheet music from the period. Competitive bidding for early
editions of The Etude can become quite intense and some have gone for
prices that astound me. You can find hundreds of issues up for bid on-line.
The song I have featured is one by a composer who was a popular one of
the time. Geoffrey O'Hara wrote the famous World War Song, K-K-K-Katy
as well as other popular hits of the period. As such, though O'Hara has
written a song that extends beyond the evil depths of popular song, it
still has that sound and flavor of one. The preface to this piece in the
magazine states: A fine modern ballad with a strong and flowing refrain.
Mr. O'Hara's musical activities in connection with our Nation's War Camps
during the World War have added much to his fame.
Etude magazine this month was full of tips on how to practice and "secrets
of success". In addition to focus on the piano, Etude magazine had
sections dedicated to Organists, vocalists, violin and even a children's
section. For April of 1920, the violin section sadly announced the death
of Ms. Maude Powell, the foremost woman violinist in America. Ms. Powell
had been ill for a few months and suffered a breakdown at a concert in
Uniontown, PA on the night of January 7. She died the next day. The violin
section also announced that now that the war was over, shipments of fine
European made violins were again finding their way into the United States.
O-Cedar polish was advertised as "harmony" of taste and care
for your piano in a full page color ad and Ingram's Milkweed cream was
said to have beauty in every jar. Actress Jane Novak said;
I studied toilet aids as I study my roles and I chose Ingram's
milkweed cream after a very critical selection. It has fully proved its
very unusual qualities to me.
this great old song (scorch)
Listen to MIDI version
A Dream of Yesterday
From Etude Magazine, December, 1920
Music by: Kate Vannah
Lyrics by: Vannah
Cover artist: unknown
The December, 1920 issue continued with the beautiful cover motif that
had been a hallmark of Etude for several years now. A huge two page spread
advertisement offered holiday gift offers for "Music Lovers".
Of interest were items such as Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians
with an American supplement for the princely sum of $20 (it costs over
$2,000 now) and The Standard History of Music for $1. More Christmas gifts
are listed on the last page including violin outfits for $15, music rolls
for $1 and lithographs of famous composers for 30 cents each. A full page
ad featured a picture of Rachmaninoff playing the piano advertising the
"New Edison, the phonograph with a soul". Amid a number of Christmas
themes and stories about the origins of some carols, a program for a suggested
Christmas festival was offered as one that "may be given with very
slight expenditure of money, time and effort, but with most pleasing results."
The teacher's round table featured articles about overeating, professional
courtesy and coping with performance nervousness.
Included in the nineteen musical works in this issue were a number of
works by Mendelssohn, Wagner and other great composers as well as a Christmas
work by Anna Priscilla
Risher. Among the vocal works is this rather pleasant but complex
love song by Kate Vannah (1855 - 1933) Little can be found about her other
than some listings of songs such as Good Bye Sweet Day, Cradle song,
Titania's Cradle and Separation. I did discover that some
of her music was performed at the World's Fair in 1893, but could find
little else about her (another casualty of attitude?). The introduction
to this song by Etude editors states: "An artistic song with a broad
and expressive melody. A real singer's song by a well known woman composer."
this great 1920 song (scorch)
to MIDI version
There's More Music and Covers in this month's issue, go
to part B.
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