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Professor Carpenter is a musicologist and composer presently teaching at the State Teachers College in Glasshoro, New Jersey. Besides American music, his fields of interest embrace Spanish and Italian music of the Renaissance and English music of the Restoration period. Salon Music in the Mid-Nineteenth Century HOYLE CARPENTER about midway between what is generally known as "popular music" and that called"classic" is a category known as salon music. None of these types is sharply defined. Popular music merges into the salon type, which, in turn, blends into "classic" through an equally vaguely defined area. All three types were cultivated in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century . Stephen Foster's "If You Only Had A Moustache" is a good example of the popular type. Wyman's "Silvery Waves" is salon music par excellence . A Beethoven or Mendelssohn overture is representative of the classic type. While salon music is still published and available in most music stores, it is much less in vogue than a century ago. What are the characteristics of this music? To begin with, it is not a native product such as "Dixie," even though many American composers contributed to its literature. Its very name suggests a French origin, although large numbers of German musicians have written in this genre. Salon music is, above all else, elegant. It is polite, well-mannered, graceful . It is never vulgar or uncouth. It sometimes expresses lofty sentiments, as in "The Maiden's Prayer," but it is never profound. It may imitate nature ("Woodland Echoes") or it may take the form of refined dance music ("Secret Love Gavotte"). Perhaps the most typical of all is the set of variations on some well-known song or operatic air ("Listen To The Mocking Bird"). While this music makes but slight demands on the performer in the way ofmusical insight, the technical demands are often quite considerable. The variations by Henri Herz, for example, on "The Last Rose Of Summer" demand well-developed scale and arpeggio techniques both brillante and 291 292HOYLE CARPENTER leggierissimo. They demand good control of staccato. There is a long passage of rapid repeated notes and a glissando in double thirds. Even in the nineteenth century this type of music was not without its critics. Like the popular songs, they represent the average musical consciousness, but upon a lower plane in consequence of having no poetry to keep them in check. This music usually consists of a very simple and natural melody, set to the most elementary harmony, and brightened up with a few stock passages, arpeggios and the like, simple and easily to be executed by players of small attainment, but modeled upon passages in pieces by first-class writers. Of this kind may be mentioned the variation pieces of A. P. Wyman, Chas. Grobe, the operatic arrangements of James Bellak, and the variations of Thos. P. Ryder, Chas. D. Blake, and others. All of these men made money, and several of them received large sums which a poetic justice would rather have seen bestowed upon worthier efforts. Even these parasites upon poetic music have their uses. While they occasionally take up space which might be better occupied, they do, nevertheless, afford delight to many whose interest in music is so slight that nothing less easily assimilated would stand a chance of being received. . . . The older music of little difficulty was mainly of French origin, in the style of François Hunten [ 1793-1878; a once-fashionable composer now largely forgotten]. In this music the left hand had very little to do, but the melodies were delicate and refined, and although simple in its mechanical demands upon the player, it had a certain air and grace, not uncomely. This later popular music of America . . . has no grace, but what it lacks in this respect it makes up in pretension. Its sole aim is to sell, and to delude the purchaser into the idea that in playing it he is performing something worth while.1 Mr. Mathews' judgment does seem to be overly harsh. There are degrees of quality in all art forms, whether pretentious or not. At least, in one respect , these composers are in good company...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 291-299
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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