Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/164

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��In the teaching of Harmony the Tonic Sol-fa method puts forward no new theory, but it uses a chord-nomenclature which makes the expres- sion of the facts of harmony very simple. Each chord is represented by the initial letter, printed in capitals, of the sol-fa name of its essential root, thus

��the various positions of the same chord being distinguished by small letters appended to the capital, thus

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��Harmony being wholly a matter of relative, not absolute pitch, a notation based on key-relation- ship has obvious advantages as a means of indi- cating chord-movements. The learner has from the first been used to think and speak of every sound by its place in a scale, and the familiar symbols m, f, etc. convey to him at once all that is expressed by the generalising terms ' mediant,' ' subdominant/etc. Another point in the method, as applied to Harmony teaching, is the promi- nence given to training the ear, as well as the eye, to recognise chords. Pupils are taught, in class, to observe for themselves how the various consonances and dissonances sound ; and they are practised at naming chords when sung to them.

The Tonic Sol-fa method began to attract public notice about the year 1850. Its great success has been mainly due to the energy and enthusiasm of Mr. John Curweu, who died in June 1880, after devoting the best part of his life to the work of spreading knowledge of music among the people. Mr. Curwen [see CURWEN, Appendix], born in 1816, was a Nonconformist minister, and it was from his interest in school and congregational singing that he was led to take up the subject of teaching to sing at sight.

��His system grew out of his adoption of a plan of Sol-faing from a modulator with a letter nota- tion, which was being used with success for teaching children some forty years ago, by a benevolent lady living at Norwich. He always spoke of this lady, Miss Elizabeth Glover (d. 1867), as the originator of the method. Her rough idea developed under his hand into a complete method of teaching. He had a remarkable gift for explaining principles in a simple way, and his books strike the reader throughout by their strong flavour of common sense and incessant appeal to the intelligence of the pupil. They abound with acute and suggestive hints on the art of teaching : and nothing, perhaps, has more contributed to the great success of the method than the power which it has shown of making teachers easily. A wide system of examinations and graduated ' certificates,' a college for training teachers, and the direction of a large organisa- tion were Mr. Curwen's special work. [See TONIC SOL-FA COLLEGE.] For some time the system was looked on with suspicion and disfavour by musicians, chiefly on account of the novel look of the printed music, but the growing importance of its practical results secured the adhesion of musi- cians of authority. Helmholtz, viewing it from the scientific as well as the practical side, remarked in his great work on Sound (1863) on the value of the notation as 'giving prominence to what is of the greatest importance to the singer, the relation of each tone to the tonic,' and described how he had been astonished 'mich in Erstaunen setzen' by the 'certainty' with which 'a class of 40 children, between 8 and 12 in a British and Foreign school, read the notes, and by the accuracy of their intonation.' 1 The critical ob- jection which the Tonic Sol-faists have to meet is, that the pupil on turning to the use of the Staff notation has to learn a fresh set of signs. Their reply to this is, that as a fact two-thirds of those who become sight-singers from the letter notation, spontaneously learn to read from the staff. They have learnt, it is said, ' the thing music,' something which is independent of any system of marks on paper ; and the transition to a set of new symbols is a matter which costs hardly any trouble. With their habitual de-

1 Tonempftndttng, App. XVIII. (Ellis p. 639). Professor Helmholti confirmed this experience in conversation with the writer in 1881.

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