Self Study in the Art of Music

 A Remarkable Interview Secured Expressly for The Etude Music Magazine
with the World Famous Virtuoso Pianist and Composer

January 1928

 "Knowledge, Breadth, Character, Culture, Education and Thoroughness are the Great Determining Factors in the End. It Makes No Difference Whether you Get These in School, College, Conservatory or Not--Get Them You Must or Suffer the Consequences."

"Better Not Concern Oneself About the Moderns Until the Classics Have Been Mastered. If You Want to Bathe in Music, Don't Worry About the Greeks of Musical Art When There are Oceans of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin." 

                                                                                                     What is "Self-Taught?"
"THE VERY WORD 'self-taught' may easily lead to misunderstandings which are difficult to correct. In a broad sense, all artists of high achievement are 'self-taught,' notwithstanding the fact that they may have spent years with teachers. On the other hand, there is some difficulty in conceiving one who is wholly un-taught. We are all susceptible to impressions that come from the outside. We may not receive direct instruction through regular lessons; but we absorb ideas and information from all manner of sources. Often this process goes on unconsciously. It does seem, however, that there are some people who have such marked innate gifts and understanding of basic artistic principles that it is difficult to account for their achievements unless one is to accept the oriental theory of re-incarnation.

   How, for instance, is one to explain the genius of Mozart or of Schubert? In mere childhood they were developed far beyond their elders. Surely no teacher could possibly have taught them all that they knew in such a brief period. It should be remembered, however, that these are altogether exceptional cases. The ordinary music student cannot be judged by them any more than Richard Wagner's measure can be taken by comparison with the average man.

   "With the majority of pupils, a thoroughly schooled and ably trained teacher can shorten their periods of work enormously and spare them from making fatal blunders in the path of progress. Even here, however, every frank teacher will admit that the pupils who make the real advance are those who realize that their success must depend upon their own initiative, hard work and the preservation of their personalities as artists. The pupils must lend himself to the teacher's leadership; but, if he imagines that a great teacher with a great name will carry him to triumph unless he (the pupil) supplies ninety per cent of the effort (the motive force), he is doomed to disaster."

                                                                                                    Technic Developed
"NOW HERE is an astonishing thing. Although I never practiced studies and exercises of any kind in the ordinary sense, I achieved a peculiar reputation as a great technician. But I make a marked distinction in the matter of technic. To me technic should include everything that has to do with the craftsmanship that leads to a beautiful, artistic and soulful performance. The finger mechanism is to my mind only a small part of technic; for the word should embrace phrasing, touch, expression, nuance, rhythm and so forth.

In a similar manner I had thatI have a reputation for being a contrapuntist. This is equally curious. During my friendship and association with Saint-Saens (who even went so far that he wanted to adopt me, give me his name and will me his fortune), I found that this great French master made it a practice to spend a certain time each day working out contrapuntal exercises. He continued this practice even until his advanced years. I have never done a contrapuntal exercise in my life. Of course, in my work in composition I have devoted serious attention to the weaving of the various melodies into contrapuntal designs in the musical tapestry. That is the art of music in its highest form--but, as for contrapuntal examples, of the school-book type. I have never written one."

to be continued...