Adapted from the September 1915 edition
of The Etude Magazine
Of all the forms of art that intellect has conceived to beautify and bless
our lives, to help us to forget and forgive the trials and tribulations
of existence, from the earliest emergence of awareness to the last failing
perception, none is so intimately associated with our every experience,
as music. Music is well named the universal language, not only because it
is understood and felt in every land, by every race, but also because it
voices and influences the universal experiences of all humanity. None is
in such close touch with every phase of life's ebb and flow, of emotions,
dreams, hopes, and fears as music. It has been well said that we all love
to "emote". We enjoy thrilling to the vividly expressed emotions of others
in the strains of great music. It adds so much to our own emotional experience
and we are pleased to find the moods we have ourselves felt or imagined,
reflected in musical art. It puts us in touch with other minds and hearts.
It gives us comfort in feeling that, in joy or in pain, we are one with
all humankind. Music is the golden chain whose links bind all humanity in
a bond of common feeling and fellowship.
Gods may rise and fall, faiths may wax and wane, creeds be made, modified
and abandoned, but music remains, outliving them all. What matters the form
or name of the particular cult which music is called upon to serve? The
essence, when reduced to the last analysis, is virtually the same; the effect
practically identical in every case, from ancient Egypt to modern America.
Creeds may falsify the facts, dogmas may deny the fundamental truths they
assert, preachers may vilify and blaspheme the very God they claim to serve;
but music remains true to the ultimate realities.
In later life, when we have reached the introspective and retrospective
age, we are prone to live in memories, rather than in hopes and aspirations.
Associations from our youth add a sort of mystic spell to the charm of certain
strains of music. The half-forgotten fragment of a tune, heard or recalled
by accident, is filled with reminiscences sadly sweet. It will unlock storehouses
of memory forgotten for decades and we live again among the refreshed scenes
and persons of the long-buried past. This is the secret hold certain old,
familiar melodies have on all of us; not their intrinsic worth, but the
associations connected with them.
At last, when we come to the end of our days, music provides its last comforts.
Tolling bells and muffled minor measures of the funeral march accompany
us to our last resting place. As Tennyson said, "Music that gentler on
the spirit lies than tired eyelids upon tired eyes". Thus, music is
the first, last, best, most constant of our friends among the fine arts.
It meets us at the threshold of life with gentle, caressing voices. It cheers
and strengthens us to the loftiest endeavors. It quickens our purest, deepest
emotions. It echoes our every mood and experience and leave, reluctantly,
at last only when its soft, solemn harmonies have muffled the clang of the
iron portals of the tomb. Or does it leave us even then? We can only note
that in all dreams and pictures of the hereafter, music is the only one
of the fine arts which has a place. We don't hear of poets writing or reciting
great verses, or of artists painting pictures. But, we do hear of the harp,
which is the emblem of instrumental music, and of choral harmonies among
the angels, typifying vocal music.
It has been said and often quoted, "Music is the only thing in Heaven
we have on earth, the only thing we take to Heaven". In this issue,
we've chosen songs that exemplify this journey.
To enjoy the full musical experience, we recommend that you
get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software. The Scorch
player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the sheet
music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also
allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who
play the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play the music yourself.
It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius
Scorch player now.
Long before a baby can understand spoken language, it perceives and
responds to the soothing influence of the lullaby, softly crooned
by mother or nurse. The child feels the heavy, protective love expressed
in these sweet tones. It is quieted by the gentle magic of the soft
refrain. This is its first introduction to any form of art - the cradle
song. The cradle song is probably the oldest and most widely known
and used of all musical forms. The character and moods are always
the same and the uniform keynote is maternal love.
As the child grows, it finds the natural expression of exuberant spirit
in the strongly marked rhythms and lively swinging melodies of the
simpler forms of music. They whistle or sing at play or as they go
hopping and skipping off to school. Upon entering school for the first
time, children are filled with a sense of wonder and pride at having
finally achieved a "milestone". After a few years, that initial feeling
begins to wear off. We can all remember telling our parents at some
point, "I'll sure be glad when I'm grown up and don't have to go
to school any more". And, the universal reply went something like,
"Just you wait. There'll come a day when you'll wish you were back
in school, with no worries and no bills to pay". Here's a lively
tune that captures that feeling.
This video contains the "patter" chorus that describes
an incident to which all of us can relate from our own school days.
The gaiety and sensuous beauty of the dance, as expressed by the
music, appeal irresistibly to the emotions; especially the waltz,
which is the love dance, the idealized mating instinct, voiced in
alluring melody, like the songs of birds in springtime.
Featured in our October
2001 issue, not only was this the first piece of music to sell
a million copies, but it started the "Popular Song" industry.
Aging, regrets, bad choices made, this song has them all. A story
being told to the protagonist's young neice, he reminisces and explains
how, as a young man, he viewed his true love kissing another man at
the ball. He refuses to listen to her attempts to explain, forsakes
her, and spends his life growing old, alone and bitter, only to learn
after her death that it was an innocent kiss from her brother.
A bit later we find the youth and the maiden, in the first flush
of adolescence, responding eagerly to the throbbin, sensuous measures
of dance music in its various forms. In the Victorian era, and extending
into the first decade of the new century, it was considered unseemly
for couple to dance in public, unless it was a stately waltz. That
began to change. A dance craze swept the nation's urban centers in
the early 1900s, led by young women. Soon nearly every neighborhood
hall, ballroom and saloon with the space was taking advantage of the
phenomenon, and it wasn't long before specialized dance halls sprang
up all over Manhattan. By the 1910s, over five hundred public dance
halls were in service throughout New York City, and nearly one hundred
dancing academies were in operation teaching young people the latest
Here's a tune that can't be found listed on any Irish song site,
but should be. The melody lends itself to harmony and, if sung as
a ballad, rather than at the original tempo, would make a great pub
sing-a-long. Little is known about Peters. There are only 2 other
titles that can be found which show him as composer, Morning,
Cy (1907) and The Clock of Life (1909). He was
also an arranger, teaming with Gertrude Lincoff in 1930 on Drifting
and with Billy Baskette in 1932 on Same Old Moon. Marvin
Lee seems to be just as obscure as Peters. We do know he wrote both
words and music to the 1917 song Livery Stable Blues
which is distinguished by having been recorded by the Original Dixieland
Band and W.C. Handy's Orchestra. That song was briefly revived in
1938 by Bunny Berigan and his band.
We end our St. Patrick's Day salute with another song
that makes the list on every Irish song site. But, like Kathleen,
it never mentions Ireland, wasn't written by an Irish composer, and
wasn't written in Ireland. Coincidentally, this one was also written
by a school teacher. Seeing the name of composer and lyricist, one
immediately pictures them together at the piano working out the tune
and words. However, like America The Beautiful, this
song began as a poem, with music added later.
George Washington Johnson was born in 1839 near Toronto,
Canada. At age 20, he became a school teacher in Hamilton, Ontario,
where he fell in love with Margaret "Maggie" Clark, one of his pupils.
It turns out that Maggie was suffering from tuberculosis, although
it's unclear whether they knew of the illness before or after they
were married in 1864. In any event, during one particularly harsh
period of her illness, Johnson walked to the edge of the Niagara escarpment,
overlooking what is now downtown Hamilton. There, he penned a poem
to her that was first published in 1864 in his book of poetry titled
Maple Leaves. Maggie died on May 12, 1865 at the age
of 23, less than a year after their marriage.
Austin Butterfield was born in England in 1837 and immigrated to the
United States in 1856, first coming to Chicago where he taught violin
and singing. He later established the music house of J.A. Butterfield
& Co. in Indianapolis, where he issued The Musical Visitor,
the first musical journal published in Indiana. It's unclear exactly
how Johnson's poem came to Butterfield's attention, but in late 1865,
he put music to it and it was published in 1866.
Johnson died in 1917. In 2005, he was inducted into
the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1878, Butterfield became
the second president of the Music Teachers National Association. He
died in 1891. The schoolhouse where the two lovers met still stands
on the escarpment above Hamilton, and a plaque bearing the name of
the song has been erected in front of the old building.
Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again later to see our next issue or just to read some or all of our over 130 articles about America's music.
See our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this
and other articles in our series.
If you'd like to contribute an article to us at Parlor Songs, we'd love to have
your help and contribution. The "rules"
for submissions can be found here, we'd love to have submissions by any of
our readers, anytime and would enjoy having a "reader submission" or
"favorites" feature from time to time. Heck, get involved, help us out
and write a feature for us!