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Music: A Monthly Magazine

(Chicago, 1891-1902)

Prepared by Benjamin Knysak

A reflection of the American Progressive Movement’s concern for education and reform, Music was published and edited by the music educator and prolific writer William Smythe Babcock (W. S. B.) Mathews (1837-1912). Beginning in November of 1891, Music was published as two volumes per year with each monthly issue containing in excess of 100 pages in octavo format. One double issue appeared in August-September of 1901 and publication was suspended between May and August of 1902. In January 1903 the journal merged with Philharmonic (Chicago, 1901-1903). Mathews saw the need for a more serious music journal in the United States to stand in contrast to the numerous news- and review-oriented music journals in wide circulation. Mathews summarized his aims for the journal: “That idea, need it be said? is the establishment of a musical periodical of a character and scope not yet realized in the musical world.” In a prospectus published in The Etude, Mathews outlines his intentions: “Three grades of articles will appear: serious essays upon important aspects and principles of music; magazine articles proper, of a readable character, interesting to the great body of musical readers; [and] articles of direct practical value to teachers and amateurs.”

Each issue of Music is divided into three parts. First, comprising some 40 to 50 pages, are articles on diverse musical topics. Mathews’ editorial column titled “Editorial Bric-a-Brac,” running from 10 to 40 pages in length, appears next, followed by news, articles of a practical or educational nature, and columns devoted to organizations promoted by Mathews. Many articles include significant iconography and musical examples. Particular strengths of the journal are the coverage of American music and musicians, biography, musical news, and music education.

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, commonly referred to as The World’s Fair, is a prominent topic in the first years of Music. The official announcement of the musical activities at the upcoming Exposition was made by Theodore Thomas, the Exposition’s Musical Director, in Music. Over fifty articles were published on all aspects of the Exposition, including performance reviews, accounts of the musical congresses, news, the trade exhibitions, editorial commentary, distinguished foreign visitors, and discussions of musical progress in America.

More than three hundred biographical sketches of musicians, composers, and educators appear in Music, often under the rubric of “Noteworthy Personalities.” Music also contains more than fifty interviews of national and international figures, including Theodore Thomas, John Philip Sousa, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, Richard Hoffmann, David Bispham, Siegfried Wagner, Eugène Ysaÿe, Camille Saint-Saëns, and numerous singers, pianists, and pedagogues. Some 700 illustrations, largely photographs, are found, many accompanying biographical texts. Of particular interest are photographs of local and international musicians, many autographed.

The state of American music and methods to achieve a characteristic, national music is a reoccurring theme. Recent works of American composers are discussed. More than thirty articles and reviews can be found of compositions by Mrs. H. H. A. (Amy) Beach, whom Mathews describes as “standing high, if not at the very head of American composers, man or woman.” Although Mathews criticized Edward MacDowell’s works as “pretentious,” thirty-five articles appear on MacDowell and his compositions. Works of Dudley Buck, Arthur Foote, George Chadwick, William Mason, and the Pittsburgh-based Adolph M. Foerster are discussed throughout. Frederick W. Root’s criticism of American composers’ “slavish” imitation of European models begins a long-running series of articles on methods to achieve “Americanness” in music, with Edward MacDowell calling for comparisons with European composers, Emil Liebling advocating the composition of works appealing to non-American audiences, John S. Van Cleve criticizing the avocation of “hypodermic injections” of Native American and African American music, and Oscar Sonneck calling for composers to “throw off all unnecessary European influences.”

Studies of Native American (Indian) music by the musicologist John Comfort Fillmore and the ethnologist and musicologist Alice C. Fletcher are featured. In addition to articles on musical-theoretical topics, Fillmore writes on his theory of “universal harmonic melody” which posits that all music, including Native American or “primitive” music, progresses toward a system of tonic harmony. Fletcher, contributes articles on music of the Omaha Tribes and Native American music in general. 2,325 reviews of concerts and publications comprise an important aspect of the journal. Most reviews are written by Mathews. Pianists Emil Liebling and Eugene E. Simpson contribute occasional concert reviews. Theodore Thomas’ Chicago Orchestra concerts receive significant attention including Thomas’ programming, musicianship, and management of the Orchestra, along with examination of the Orchestra’s financial affairs, attendance, and roster. Thomas’ activities as music director of the World’s Columbian Exposition are also reported and discussed.

As a pianist and piano teacher, Mathews takes particular interest in piano recitals. William Mason, Mathews’ teacher and friend, receives significant attention for his methods (the Touch and Technic series). Virtuoso pianist, Chicago resident and friend Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938) garners great praise for his performances and compositions, especially Godowsky’s Studies on Chopin Etudes. Mathews also reviews and promotes the work of other pianists including Emil Liebling, William H. Sherwood, Fanny Bloomfield-Zeisler, Emma Eames-Story, Edward Baxter Perry, Paderewski, Teresa Carreño, Ossip Gabrilovitsch, Harold Bauer, Josef Hofmann, Raoul Pugno, Alexander Siloti, Emil Sauer, Mark Hambourg, Arthur Friedheim, Mortiz Rosenthal, Vladimir de Pachmann, and Augusta Cottlow.