- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 29 Dec 1932, p. 350-355
- Johnson, Edward, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The art of experiencing pleasure through hearing as one of our most primitive and precious possessions. The pleasure implicit in music, an art which since time immemorial has swayed the emotions of humanity and which, especially at this time, has an important bearing on our mind and spirit in a way few of us fully realize. Endeavours in Guelph to place music in a much more intimate and closer association with normal everyday life. Educators throughout the world devising ways and means whereby they can stimulate the interest and enthusiasm of the youth of the country. The speaker's belief that in art and music lie important keys to unlock the treasures of elan and "urge" so vital to the higher fulfilment of youth's destiny. The sense of hearing that is left very much in the background. An illustration of the way in which we moderns have come to use the eye as a means of understanding, to the disadvantage of other senses. Acute hearing used by primitive man for protection. Re-acquiring our capacity to hear through the medium of music. Music as the embodiment of rhythm. First teaching children how to place the voice. Bringing into our childrens' souls the greater and more valuable things of the spirit through the medium of art. Some illustrative experiences. The speaker's belief that art and religion are in the same sphere, and that of all the arts, none is so infused with this feeling of beauty than music. Music as the language of the universe. The ability of music to humanize and refine. Music as the true medium of expression through which are reflected the ever-changing aspects of humanity. Music as the only art wherewith to reveal the Infinite.
- Date of Original
- 29 Dec 1932
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- Full Text
- MUSIC IN A DISORDERED WORLD
AN ADDRESS BY MR. EDWARD JOHNSON.
Thursday, December 29, 1932
LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, President, introduced the speaker.
MR. JOHNSON: In the hustle of modern civilization in the engrossing material battle for financial progress the world today has forgotten, or perhaps mislaid, one of our most primitive and precious possessions-the art of experiencing pleasure through hearing. The pleasure I refer to, of course, is that implicit in music-an art which, since time immemorial, has swayed the emotions of humanity, but which, especially at this time, has an important bearing on our mind and spirit in a way few of us fully realize.
In Guelph, Ontario, we are endeavoring to place music in a much more intimate and closer association with normal everyday life. We are, as it were' putting music in the schools on a basis of arithmetic; in other words, as an essential in life. 1n this way, we believe, the children, on maturity, will have gained an asset in life that will not only bring them pleasure, but will influence culturally every channel of thought and reason.
Educators throughout the world are devising ways and means whereby they can stimulate the interest and enthusiasm of the youth of the country. In music and art, I firmly believe, lies an important key to unlock those treasures of elan and "urge" so vital to the higher fulfillment of youth's destiny.
It is remarkable that physical laws have boundless potentialities of which we have as yet scarcely touched the fringe. Witness all the marvels that have comer into being during the past twenty years. The potentialities were always there-radio, television, radio telephony arid aviation are but a few of the marvels that lay unsuspectedly within the grasp of humanity, ready for the vision" the word, the experiment, that would summon them to the service of man.
If this is so in the field of science, how much greater unplumbed depths lie in, the human mind-the human intelligence? In this organization which we call the body, we have senses endowed by nature which we scarcely ever think about. We accept them as a matter of course. We get up; we walk; we run; we eat; we talk and listen. And all these actions, behind which are so many wonderful, intricate and delicately balanced mechanisms and thought processes, we perform instinctively and unthinkingly. It is only when one of the parts become unmanageable that we really think of the body or mind at all. And while this matter-of-fact acceptance of our bodily and mental make-up is, in a way, natural, it has blinded us too much desirable knowledge.
In particular, there is one sense that is left very much in the background-the sense of hearing. Such is our modern condition that vision has been developed to a far greater extent than hearing. Children in the cinema houses are illustrative of this. It was noted in the days of the silent films that, long before the captions were flashed on the movie screen, every child knew what the film was about. The child" it was found, did not know enough to read what he saw. In many cases he couldn't read-but he could understand. Here is an illustration of the way in which we moderns have come to use the eye as a means of understanding, to the disadvantage of other senses.
When primitive man had to defend himself against the fang and claw of nature, his sense of hearing was more highly developed thaw his sense of vision. It had to be, because by the time he saw his enemy it would probably have been too late. And because of that acute hearing, he naturally had a keener, more active, pleasure in attractive sounds. Since in modern life we have so much that is beautiful, so much that can be appreciated only through hearing, it is evident that we are losing a great deal if we do not endeavor to re-acquire what we have lost of our capacity to hear. In our developing or recapturing this sense of hearing, it is my contention; that there is no better medium than music.
Music is essentially the embodiment of rhythm. It began by rhythmic beating; then by swing; then by pitch; then by humming; and eventually by singing; then by tune and gradually through the centuries until we have the various instruments we know today.
Rut the voice was first-the voice was the essential; and it is the voice we must first approach. If we teach the children how to place the voice; how to gain from natural tests a knowledge of the qualities we know are there; how to get head resonance, expansion, inflection" diction, enunciation and quality; and if they carry this knowledge through life, is this not a splendid asset? Forgetting other aspects for a moment, business men will be the first to recognize how great this asset is when through it comes a man of personality, a man who has a sense of culture, a manner of speaking no one can take away from him.
Then there is culture-an attribute that is being valued more and more in life. If we teach the child culture, he will have a reserve that will be his to draw upon even in times of world depression. And, in writing of depression, I would like to say to the people of Canada that, although I visit the Dominion only occasionally, I know Canadians are putting up a great fight and I know they are going to win. I have abundant faith in Canada and the future that awaits her-and to bring that future nearer we must bring into our souls, into the minds of our boys and girls, that feeling not only for those material things which we have seen slip away" but for the greater and more valuable things of the spirit.
There is no greater way, perhaps, of accomplishing this than through the medium of art. Sometimes we think of art as "arty," but a fellow who is aesthetic-who thinks of and intensely appreciates beautiful things-is just as big a "he-man" as the fellow who glories simply in muscle. The way to create beautiful actions is to produce beautiful things, and the fellow at school today who acquires a love of the beautiful is making valuable and constructive mental progress.
In the realm of artistic things, one phase, of course, appeals to me because it is my life work, and that is music. And to me the finest quality of music is that it stirs the imagination-that in the rendering of a great symphony it is not the words we must hear to comprehend, but the beauty and message of the music. We have only to let our minds work before our emotions have full play. And, if we can teach this to children, if we can teach them to develop the quality of their imagination-to reach out beyond material things and bring beauty to themselves-that quality will rain with them through life.
Art,, whether it is music, poetry or engineering, is necessarily creative. A man who makes a great business who constructs a railroad-who makes a bridge-who does anything creative-has within him the seed of an artist. He must have, for to create demands imagination. And this is the quality which we want to instill into the young folk so that they will grow up and, in taking over charge of the country, will have the vision and imagination to carry it to a great goal.
A little digression may prove the value of some quality other than material in our lives. In the larger cities, more than the smaller cities, perhaps, a great fight is going on to keep up the spirit of the people. In New York, for instance, every Tuesday afternoon at five o'clock, there is what they call a singing felt in the Town Hall. Some ladies raised enough money to take over the Hall, to get a Welshman who sings gospel songs, and a small orchestra. In addition, they have a screen and a lantern slide. At five o'clock the doors swing open and crowds pour in. Old songs of the gay nineties are sung as the. words are flashed on the screen, and, as a novelty, they usually ask some celebrity to join in the songfelt. Some weeks ago they had genial A1 Smith with them, and he sang "The Sidewalks of New York."
Two weeks ago in the Embassy at Washington, I dined with His Excellency the Minister, Mr. Herridge and his charming wife, and among the prominent people present was Hersham Meyers, Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank. Another Canadian guest asked Mr. Meyers for a statement he could take back to Canada. Mr. Meyers replied: "My dear friend, when things were at their very best, they never were as good as people thought they were; now they are at their worst, they are not as bad as people think they are."
My own experience bears this out. We have it in our theatre. The people who started the opera were. Perhaps, those who were hurt the most. We have, for instance, men who have given millions to support good music and who today are unable to take boxes for the season. But they are game and they get their friends or associates to assume the burden. This spirit, which is based on things more intangible and mare valuable ultimately than material considerations, is the spirit which must and will carry us through, and I feel confident that this year things will be adjusted in the theatre world. On our side, we have difficult moments, but we still have our souls in our work and try to keep up our spirits, believing that, when the financial situation is clear, people will again turn to the things in which we have faith. Everywhere the public is saying: "We'll see it through," and they are seeing it through. I believe, as my friends who conduct the songs at the New York Town, Hall believe, that, in order to pep things up a little, we should say, "We'll sing it through."
One of the greatest English writers and poets said:
"Mathematics is the science of Truth, and Art the science of Beauty." My belief is that art is beauty and beauty is art. I would go farther and say that art and religion are in the same sphere. They are each manifestations by which man endeavors to express his most shy and ethereal conceptions-his inward aspirations. They have to do with his emotions and they come from the spiritual, from the innermost depths of his soul. Just as religion is born of a religious feeling, so art is born of an artistic feeling. Art, in other words, is born of a feeling for beauty. Beauty must be found in life and then recreated into art.
And, of all the arts, none is so infused with this feeling as music; none is so simple as music; it has, indeed, been called the language of the universe, and its function in life is tremendous-as potent, almost, as speech itself. Music in some form is the outlet of a country's social and natural life. Great music is a tie that binds, a bond that brings us together, heart to heart, irrespective of birth, position, culture or ability.
Music humanizes and refines. Above all other arts, it is the true medium of expression through which pulse emotion and feeling-through which are reflected the ever-changing aspects of humanity: the joy of life, the tenderness of love, the poignancy of sorrow, the sword of pain-the whole gamut of human emotional experience. And, translated into music, human emotion assumes a dignity, reveals a hidden power, by which it rises from the personal to the universal, interpreting not only the individual, but the race. That is why music, in the arc of its flight, constitutes the only art wherewith to reveal the Infinite. (Loud applause.)