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Canadian Music Journal

(Toronto, 1956-1962)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2021)

The quarterly The Canadian Music Journal [RIPM code CMJ] was printed at The Tribune Press, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, from the issue dated Autumn 1956 to that of Autumn 1957, and then by The University of Toronto Press, from the issue Winter 1958 to the final issue, Summer 1962. In all, twenty-four issues, ordered in six volumes, were printed. Each issue consists of between seventy and ninety pages, numbered independently. Consideration of the state of music in Canada by the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (1949-1951) brought about recommendations and the establishment of the Canada Council and the Canadian Music Council (Conseil Canadien de la Musique). Among the Music Council’s projects was the creation of the Canadian Music Journal. The new publication was prepared under the guidance of the Council’s President, Sir Ernest MacMillan, an editorial board with Arnold Walter as Chairman, and an editor, Geoffrey B. Payzant of Mount Allison University. The majority of articles and reviews are written in the English, but there are several important articles and reviews written in French, Canada’s other official language.

Each issue is divided into three and occasionally four major sections. First are learned articles often on topics with particular relevance to contemporary music in Canada; the second section entitled “Perspectives” and contains reviews of important music festivals at Stratford, Ontario, Otter Lake Music Centre at Weir, Quebec, the Mount Allison Summer Institute, the Banff School of Fine Arts, Alberta and the Vancouver, British Columbia, International Festival; the Toronto opera festivals; opera in Montreal and television telecasts of operas by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Third are extensive reviews of new records, new music and new books. The occasional fourth section contains letters to the editor. At the end of every issue is a one-page collection of remarks about historical and contemporary music and musicians gathered by Leslie Bell. The first two sections are printed in single column format, the remainder in two-column format. Extensive advertisements mainly concerning the products and publications of Canadian music merchants and publishers are confined to alternate pages in the third and fourth sections.

The learned articles of the first section of the journal offer critical opinion on a wide variety of topics. A number of historical articles study various aspects of both Canadian indigenous folk music and European art music. Alistair P. Haig discusses Henry Frost, a pioneer (1816-1851) and a school teacher on the Third Concession, King Township in York County, Ontario, who created a set of twelve manuals constituting a complete course in the rudiments of music. James McCook studies musical instruments among the pioneers of the Canadian West. Helmut Kallman writes about the purchase of the Percy Scholes Music Collection which became the nucleus for a Canadian National Music Library. Kallman’s review of Past and Present, A Canadian Musician’s Reminiscences , by Louise McDowell, reveals a book about a little-known Canadian, a graduate of the Toronto Conservatory of Music in 1892 and the Leipzig Conservatorium in 1903; later active as a piano teacher in Winnipeg for over thirty-five years, and, after retirement, a resumption of teaching in Kirkland Lake. Dorothy Blakey Smith discusses music in the furthest west of Canada one hundred years ago. Kallman also deals in several articles with the place of the organ in the development of music in Canada: the organs brought from Paris to Quebec by Bishop Laval, the first organ builders in Canada, the strange ways of organists’ compensation, a dynasty of organists in the Gagnon family in Quebec and organ compositions, and 129 organ pieces by Canadian composers. In his two-part article “A Century of Music Periodicals on Canada,” Kallman provides a chronological study of Canadian music journalism. “Music Education in the Schools” presents reports variously from provincial, municipal and local teachers and administrators of school music across Canada. The noted ethnomusicologist, Marius Barbeau deals with the Indian songs of the Canadian northwest and the folksongs of French Louisiana. 

Nathaniel A. Benson writes a sympathetic biographical sketch of Edward Johnson, the Canadian tenor, who was forced to seek his musical education in the United States and Europe because of inadequate educational facilities for music in Canada, and highlights Johnson’s long association with the Metropolitan Opera Company beginning in 1922 and his appointment as General Manager in 1935. Arnold Walter provides an “In memoriam” for Johnson, with a biographical sketch of the late tenor and his burial with great honors.

Two articles are informative on several Canadian concert and operatic venues built in the 1950s. Graham George’s “Three Canadian Concert-halls” describes new theatres and halls in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, designed for a number of different and acoustically contradictory purposes. V. L. Henderson reveals “Acoustic Considerations at the O’Keefe Centre” in Toronto for various types of productions identified for the acoustical consultants; the noise factors of the subway and Yonge and Front streets in Toronto; potential sources of noise within the building are people and mechanical services; seating capacity and shape of the auditorium; sound reflections; differences of reverberation times for different types of production; acoustical absorption; intercommunication within the theatre; and radio and television installations.

Considerable attention is given to contemporary Canadian composers in biographical sketches and overviews and analyses of their principal compositions. John Beckwith contributes a number of important articles about Canadian composers: he provides a biographical sketch of Jean Papineau-Couture, composer and Professor of Music at the University of Montreal including the influence of Stravinsky’s compositional procedures and a summary of Papineau-Couture’s compositions in five stylistic divisions are included. Beckwith reviews a recording of recent orchestral works by Claude Champagne, François Morel and István Anhalt and the CBC International Service Transcriptions which provides recordings of compositions by Canadian composers. Albert Guerrero (1886-1959), the Chilean-born pianist and teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto and long-time resident of Toronto is the subject of another Beckwith article. Robert Turner discusses composer Barbara Pentland, including her remarks on the lack of Canadian composers of an earlier generation for either emulation or admiration which led to her turn to American contemporaries such as Walter Piston, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives of an earlier generation as influences in the formation of a musical style in Canada. Composer Udo Kasemets deals with John Weinzweig, providing a biographical sketch of the Canadian composer and teacher, born 1913, his musical studies in Toronto and at the Eastman School in Rochester, N. Y.; his call to organize the Canadian League of Composers and analyses of his principal compositions, classically formed and serially conceived. Kasemets also deals with the advancement of publication of Canadian composers’ scores and distribution of miniature scores from composers’ manuscript by the Canadian Music Centre and compares the background influences on composers in French-speaking Quebec with a unified national heritage, and English-speaking Canada, in which the English language is only a means of communication. Harvey Olnick writes about composer Harry Somers, his piano studies with Reginald Godden, composition studies with John Weinzweig at the Toronto Conservatory of Music piano studies with E. Robert Schmitz in San Francisco and compositional studies with Darius Milhaud in Paris. An overview of Somers’ compositions is provided. Thomas Archer provides “Claude Champagne,” a biographical sketch of the French-Canadian composer with overview of his principal works.

The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould writes about the doctrinal schism for adherents of the twelve-tone system of composition brought about by Pierre Boulez’ declaration “Schoenberg est mort.” The versatile Canadian composer Murray Schafer deals with a variety of topics in his several contributions to CMJ, including remarks on Harry Partch, creator of a tonal system based on a forty-three tones to the octave pattern of acoustic (not equal) intonation, and the International Folk Music Council’s Twelfth Annual Conference in Sinaia, Romania. In “Two Musicians in Fiction,” Schafer compares Romain Rolland’s Jean Christophe (1912) and Tomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus (1948) as biographies of fictitious composers of undisputed genius. In his reviews of Conversations with Igor Stravinsky by Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft and Moving into Aquarius by Michael Tippett, Schafer reveals the difficulties of such interviews becoming fragmentary and rambling. Of considerable interest is Schafer’s investigation of the controversial poet Ezra Pound’s interest in music .

Canadian composer Otto Joachim is editor of “Electronic Music,” a special collection of twelve papers published by the Northwest German Broadcasting System, and translated by D. A. Sinclair for the National Research Council of Canada. Sir Ernest MacMillan’s “The Organ Was My First Love” is an autobiographical sketch by the well-known Canadian organist, conductor, composer and writer on music. Udo Kasemets’ article “The Saskatoon Summer Festival of Music, 1959” reports on the marking of the golden anniversary of the foundation of the University of Saskatchewan in 1909 at Saskatoon. 

Geoffrey Payzant’s “Editorial note” is a deliberately controversial article about an extensive and important aspect of music in Canada, the competitive music festivals, and invites comments by readers. Despite the over one hundred and fifty festivals held in Canada each year, the writer is unconvinced and unimpressed by the mere vastness of the movement. There is some disagreement in this matter revealed in letters to the editor.

Peter Garvie, a regular contributor to the Canadian Music Journal, summarizes current British composers and their compositions: Ralph Vaughan Williams whose achievement was the assimilation of the twentieth century into British music by creating a musical language based on Tallis, Byrd, Bach and folk song; in Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, the composer’s slow path to recognition and his musical style using twentieth-century techniques are studied; discussing Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, Garvie reveals the opera’s structure and its forward motion of the action. 

Reviews of the newly created long playing recordings are extensive and tend to feature rarely heard historical music (Monteverdi and Gesualdo) and twentieth-century compositions using new technical advances. For example, Milton Wolson deals with John Cage’s Indeterminacy, a reading by Cage and music by David Tudor of ninety anecdotes read one after the other at varying speeds of delivery so as to fit each of them into one minute; the result disrupting assumptions about the relations between sounds or the goal to which we suppose the sounds are leading the listener. Reviews of important contemporary publications about music and musicians are informative.

Marvin Duchow reports on the International Conference of Composers at Stratford under the auspices of the Canadian League of Composers and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Foundation, at which sixty prominent composers of twenty different countries held discussions of esoteric musical fashions of contemporary music. Leslie Bell investigates the CBC experiment of frequency modulation (FM) radio network broadcasting in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Chester Duncan’s “Points of View on Modern Music” contains the opinion that newly composed music reaches two groups of persons who hear it in different ways.