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The Musical Independent

(Chicago, 1868-1873)

Prepared by Richard Kitson and Vashti Gray Sadjedy
Introduction by Richard Kitson
Online only (2018)

The Musical Independent, A Monthly Magazine [MIN] was issued regularly by the well-known firm Lyon and Healy in Chicago, Illinois from November 1868 until March, 1873. The entire publication consists of forty issues, each of approximately thirty-two pages, presented in four volumes: Vol. I, Numbers 1 through 14 from November through December 1869; Vol. II, Numbers 15 through 26 from January through December 1870; Vol. III, Numbers 27 through 36 from January through October 1871. Following a gap in publication caused by the Great Chicago Fire, Vol. IV, Numbers 1 through 4, were issued from November 1872 through March 1873, the final issue incorrectly given as issue Number 5. In the first volume the pages are numbered successively from 1 through 440, with the sheet music included in the continuous pagination; in Vol. II, pages 1 through 192 and Vol. III, pages 1 through 160, the sheet music are independently numbered supplements. In Vol. IV, Numbers 1 and 2 (November and December 1872) pages are numbered 1 through 20, while Numbers 3 and 4 (February and March 1873), pages are numbered 65 through 103. There is no accounting for pages 21 through 64. In the RIPM calendar unnumbered pages are indicated by numbers in brackets.

Each issue of MIN is organized in four parts. First as series of articles on a myriad of topics; second, the music of several compositions for pianoforte solo or voice and pianoforte; third, a repetition of the journal title, editor’s name and the date of the issue followed by unsigned remarks probably written by the editor; fourth, reviews of new music publications and performances by instrumentalists, orchestras and singers and miscellaneous articles of related interests.

The journal’s founder and editor was W.S.B.(William Smyth Babcock) Mathews (1837-1912), a well-known pianist, piano teacher and writer on music, who in 1867 located himself in the rapidly developing city of Chicago. Mathews was an experienced writer, having contributed to Dwight’s Journal of Music beginning in 1859. His signature is rarely encountered in the journal, but it is likely he is the author of many unsigned remarks about musical life in Chicago and the reviews of concerts and music publications. Among his signed articles are a series study about the construction, relation and progression of chords, a biographical sketch of the Negro prodigy pianist Thomas Bethune Green, commonly referred to as “Blind Tom,” remarks on congregational singing, several extensive reviews of the Triennial Festival of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society in May, 1871, a comparison of music education in Boston and Chicago, and remarks on the determining factor in the character of a music journal.

Unfortunately for Mathews and the journal, the Great Chicago Fire (8-10 October 1871) consumed the journal's subscription lists and files, thus halting publication. In 1873 the journal's editorship was assumed by the pianist and composer Robert Goldbeck (1839-1908). Investigation of all aspects of the four issues published by Goldbeck, however, reveals possible financial problems owing to the decreased musical readership in a time of rebuilding.

The writings of a German author and an English music critic are copied from their original sources. A series of important articles in twenty-one parts entitled “Practical and theoretical school of modulation” by the German piano pedagogue Heinrich Wohlfart (1797-1883), a translation by Mathews of Theoretisch-praktrische Modulationsschule appears in the first two volumes. Articles by Henry Fothergill Chorley, copied from the London Athenæum, include a tribute to Rossini, a review of the Bayreuth première of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, and a sketch of Mendelssohn from W. A. Lampadius’ Life of Mendelssohn.

Twelve native born American musicians and writers on music, many self-trained or trained in the musical institutions of the United States, contribute articles on a wide range of topics, a number of which provide insights into the state of music in the United States in the years immediately following the conclusion of the Civil War. Benjamin Franklin Baker (1811-1889), composer and teacher, responds to the editor’s criticism of his musical terminology. Dudley Buck (1839-1909), composer and organist, active in Chicago from 1869 to 1871, contributes an historical study on the relations between harmony and melody, defends his review of James Harrison’s setting of the Te Deum canticle, and writes about organ touch and the use of organ pedals and combinations. The music educator Calvin Brainerd Cady (1851-1928) provides a tribute to George E. Blake, the oldest living American music publisher. Articles by John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893), founder and editor of the Boston periodical Dwight’s Journal of Music, are copied and include a report on the acoustical problems encountered at the Boston Gilmore’s National Peace Jubilee, derogatory remarks on street musicians, and a summary of the musical and dramatic situations of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Composer of hymns and director of the National Academy of Music at Davenport, Iowa, J. F. Fargo (dates unknown), provides articles concerning the duties and responsibilities of music teachers. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) describes how the definiteness of words prevents communication of delicate distinctions of thought. Noted American composer John Knowles Paine (1839-1906) provides a paper on the scientific study of music, given originally at the National Musical Convention in 1869, and the annual report of the musical holdings at the Boston Public Library. Henry Southwick Perkins (1833-1814), an important singing school teacher and director of musical conventions contributes a study of music in the Roman Catholic Church, advocates the teaching of congregational singing, writes about the importance of counting time. H. S. Perkins’ brother William O. Perkins (1831-1902) writes an historical sketch about the advance of choral singing in the United States, remarks on musical conventions in outlying locations. Silas Gamaliel Pratt (1846-1916) is a regularly featured writer who reports of the musical life of Berlin gathered during his years of musical studies in the city. Eben Tourjée (1834-1891), a choral conductor and organist describes the Boston National Peace Jubilee organized by Patrick Starsfield Gilmore, and makes a plea for public support of an American National Musical Congress. The articles of George Putnam Upton, music critic of the Chicago Tribune, who signed his articles with the pseudonym Peregrine Pickle, include remarks on sopranos who refuse to sing in opera choruses, an amusing sketch of operatic tenors and basses, the personality of the conductor Theodore Thomas on and off stage, and the musical history of Chicago 1847 through 1866.

On the occasion of the journal’s twenty-eighth issue, February 1871, tributes to the excellence of the content were offered by pianist William Mason, Dudley Buck, H. S. Perkins, and with ten unsigned tributes from various newspapers and journals.