Katharine Goodson

Katharine Goodson. Biographical. Miss Katharine Goodson was born at Watford, Herts, England. She commenced the study of music at so very youthful an age that she made several appearances in the English Provinces before she was twelve years of age. Her talent aroused such interest that she was sent to the Royal Academy of Music in London. There she was placed under the artistic guidance of one of the foremost English teachers of pianoforte, Oscar Beringer, with whom she remained for six years. This was followed by four years under Leschetizky in Vienna.

Leschetizky saw splendid opportunities in such talented and regularly trained material and is said to have given particularly careful attention to Miss Goodson. It is not surprising that upon her return to London Miss Goodson made a profound impression upon the musical public and laid the foundation for a splendid reputation. She toured in England, Germany, Austria and America with great success. In the Grove Dictionary, her playing is described in the following manner: “It is marked by an amount of verve and animation that are most rare with the younger English pianists. She has a great command of tone gradation, admirable technical finish, genuine musical taste and considerable individuality of style.” In 1903 Miss Goodson married Mr. Arthur Hinton, one of the most brilliant of modern English composers.

Katharine Goodson: The Natural Tendency to Analyze

“Judging from the mischievous investigations of things in general, which seem so natural for the small boy to make, it would appear that our tendency to analyze things is innate. We also have innumerable opportunities to observe how children, to say nothing of primitive people, struggle to construct—to put this and that together for the purpose of making something new—in other words, to employ the opposite process to analysis, known as synthesis. Moreover, it does not demand much philosophy to perceive that all scientific and artistic progress is based upon these very processes of analysis and synthesis. We pull things apart to find out how they are made and what they are made of. We put them together again to indicate the mastery of our knowledge.

“The measure of musicianship is the ability to do. All the analyzing in the world will not benefit the pupil unless he can give some visible indications of his proficiency. Indeed, important as the process is, it is possible to carry it to extremes and neglect the building process which leads to real accomplishment.

Katharine Goodson: The First Step in Analyzing a New Piece

“A great many of the pupils who have come to me indicate a lamentable neglect in an understanding of the very first things which should have been analyzed by the preparatory teachers. It is an expensive process to study with a public artist unless the preparation has been thoroughly made. Reputation naturally places a higher monetary value upon the services of the virtuoso, and for the student to expect instruction in elementary points in analysis is obviously an extravagance. The virtuoso’s time during the lesson period should be spent in the finer study of interpretation—not in those subjects which the elementary teacher should have completed. Often the teacher of an advanced pupil is deceived at the start and assumes that the pupil has a knowledge, which future investigations reveal that he does not possess.

“For instance, the pupil should be able to determine the general structure of a piece he is undertaking and should be so familiar with the structure that it becomes a form of second nature to him. If the piece is a sonata he should be able to identify the main theme and the secondary theme whenever they appear or whenever any part of them appears. Inability to do this indicates the most superficial kind of study.

“The student should know enough of the subject of form in general to recognize the periods into which the piece is divided. Without this knowledge how could he possibly expect to study with understanding? Even though he has passed the stage when it is necessary for him to mark offthe periods, he should not study a new piece without observing the outlines—the architectural plans the composer laid down in constructing the piece. It is one thing for a Sir Christopher Wren to make the plans of a great cathedral like St. Paul’s and quite another thing for him to get master builders to carry out those plans. By studying the composer’s architectural plan carefully the student will find that he is saving an immense amount of time. For example, let us consider the Chopin F Minor Fantasie. In this composition the main theme comes three times, each time in a different key. Once learned in one key, it should be very familiar in the next key.

“The student should also know something of the history of the dance, and he should be familiar with the characteristics of the different national dances. Each national dance form has something more than a rhythm—it has an atmosphere. The word atmosphere may be a little loose in its application here, but there seems to be no other word to describe what I mean. The flavor of the Spanish bolero is very different from the Hungarian czardas, and who could confound the intoxicating swirl of the Italian tarantella with the stately air of cluny lace and silver rapiers which seems to surround the minuet? The minuet, by the way, is frequently played too fast. The minuet from Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is a notable example. Many conductors have made the error of rushing through it. Dr. Hans Richter conducts it with the proper tempo. This subject in itself takes a tremendous amount of con- sideration and the student should never postpone this first step in the analysis of the works he is to perform.

Katharine Goodson: The Poetic Idea of The Piece

“Despite the popular impression that music is imitative in the sense of being able to reproduce different pictures and different emotions, it is really very far from it. The sub- ject of program music and illustrative music is one of the widest in the art, and at the same time one of the least definite. Except in cases like the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony, where the composer has made obvious attempts to suggest rural scenes, composers do not as a rule try to make either aquarelles or cycloramas with their music. They write music for what it is worth as music, not as scenery. Very often the public or some wily publisher applies the title, as in the case of the Moonlight Sonata or some of the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words. Of course there are some notable exceptions, and many teachers may be right in trying to stimulate the sluggish imaginations of some pupils with fanciful stories. However, when there is a certain design in a piece which lends itself to the suggestion of a certain idea, as does, for instance, the Liszt-Wagner Spinning Song from the Flying Dutchman, it is interesting to work with a specific picture in view—but never forgetting the real beauty of the piece purely as a beautiful piece of music.

“Some pieces with special titles are notoriously misnamed and carry no possible means of definitely intimating what the composer intended. Even some forms are misleading in their names. The Scherzos of Chopin are often very remote from the playful significance of the word—a significance which is beautifully preserved in the Scherzos of Mendelssohn.

Katharine Goodson: Studying The Rhythm

“A third point in analyzing a new piece might be analyzing the rhythm. It is one thing to understand or to comprehend a rhythm and another to preserve it in actual playing. Rhythm depends upon the arrangement of notes and accents in one or two measures which give a characteristic swing to the entire composition. Rhythm is an altar upon which many idols are smashed. Sometimes one is inclined to regard rhythm as a kind of sacred gift. Whatever it may be, it is certainly most difficult to acquire or better to absorb. A good rhythm indicates a finely balanced musician—one who knows how and one who has perfect self-control. All the book study in the world will not develop it. It is a knack which seems to come intuitively or ‘all at once’ when it does come. My meaning is clear to anyone who has struggled with the problem of playing two notes against three, for at times it seems impossible, but in the twinkling of an eye the conflicting rhythms apparently jump into place, and thereafter the pupil has little difficulty with them.

“Rhythmic swing is different from rhythm, but is allied to it as it is allied to tempo. To get the swing—the impelling force—the student must have played many pieces which have a tendency to develop this swing. The big waltzes of Moszkowski are fine for this. If one of Leschetizky’s pupils had difficulty with rhythm he almost invariably advised them to go to hear the concerts of that king of rhythm and dance, Eduard Strauss. Dances are invaluable in developing this sense of rhythm—swift-moving dances like the bolero and the tarantella are especially helpful. Certain pieces demand a particularly strict observance of the rhythm, as does the Opus 42 of Chopin, in which the left hand must adhere very strictly to the Valse rhythm.

Katharine Goodson: The Analysis of Phrases

“The ability to see the phrases by which a composition is built, clearly and readily, simplifies the study of interpretation of a new piece wonderfully. This, of course, is difficult at first, but with the proper training the pupil should be able to see the phrases at a glance, just as a botanist in examining a new flower would divide it in his mind’s eye into its different parts. He would never mistake the calyx for a petal, and he would be able to determine at once the peculiarities of each part. In addition to the melodic phrases the pupil should be able to see the metrical divisions which underlie the form of the piece. He should be able to tell whether the composition is one of eight-measure sections or four-measure sections, or whether the sections are irregular.

“What a splendid thing it would be if little children at their first lessons were taught the desirability of observing melodic phrases. Teachers lay great stress upon hand formation, with the object of getting the pupil to keep the hand in a perfect condition—a condition that is the result of a carefully developed habit. Why not develop the habit of noting the phrases in the same way? Why not a little mind formation? It is a great deal nearer the real musical aim than the mere digital work. The most perfectly formed hand in the world would be worthless for the musician unless the mind that operates the hand has had a real musical training.”

Katharine Goodson: Studying The Harmony

“Every piano student ought to have a knowledge of har- mony. But this knowledge should be a practical one. What do I mean by a practical knowledge of harmony? Simply this—a knowledge of harmony which recognizes the ear as well as the eye. There are students of harmony who can work out some harmonic problem with the skill of an expert mathematician and yet they never for one single moment think of the music their notes might make. This is due to the great neglect of the study of ear-training in early musical education.

“To be able to recognize a chord when you see it on paper is not nearly such an acquisition as the ability to recognize the same chord when it is played. The student who can tell a diminished seventh, or an augmented sixth at a glance, but who could not identify the same chords when he saw them through his ears instead of his eyes is severely handicapped. But how many musicians can do this? Ear-training should be one of the first of all studies. It may be acquired more easily in childhood if the student is not naturally gifted with it, and it is the only basis of a thorough knowledge of harmony. The piano teacher cannot possibly find time to give sufficient instruction in the subject of harmony at the piano lesson. It demands a separate period, and in most cases it is necessary and advisable to have a separate teacher; that is, one who has made a specialty of harmony.

“The piano itself is of course a great help to the student in the study of harmony, providing the student listens all the time he is playing. Few adult piano students study string instruments, such as the violin or ’cello—instruments which cultivate the perception of hearing far more than can the piano. For this reason all children should have the advantage of a course in ear-training. This should not be training for pitch alone, but for quality of tone as well. It may be supplemented with exercises in musical dictation until the pupil is able to write down short phrases with ease after he has heard them once. A pupil who has had such a training would make ideal material for the advanced teacher, and because of the greatly developed powers of the pupil would be able to memorize quicker and make much better progress. In fact, ear-training and harmony lead to great economy of time. For instance, let us suppose that the pupil has a chord like the following in a sonata:

If the same chord appeared again in the piece it would probably be found in the key of the dominant, thus:

It seems very obvious that if the pupil could perceive the harmonic relationship between these two chords he would be spared the trouble of identifying an entirely different chord when he finds the repetition of it merely in another key. This is only one of scores of instances where a knowledge of the harmonic structure proves to be of constant importance to the student.

Katharine Goodson: A Careful Analysis of Touch Effects

“Here again we find an interminable subject. Although there are only a few principal divisions into which the subject of touch might be divided, the number of different sub- divisions of these best known methods of striking the keys to produce artistic effects is very considerable. The artist working day in and day out at the keyboard will discover some subtle touch effects which he will always associate with a certain passage. He may have no logical reason for doing this other than that it appeals to his artistic sense. He is in all probability following no law but that of his own musical taste and sense of hearing.

It is this more than anything else which gives individuality to the playing of the different virtuosos and makes their efforts so different from the playing of machines. Time and time again mechanical efforts have been made to preserve all these infinite subtilities and some truly wonderful machines have been invented, but not until the sculptor’s marble can be made to glow with the vitality of real flesh can this be accomplished. Wonderful as the mechanical inventions are there is always something lacking.

“Here, again, ear-training will benefit the pupil who is studying with a virtuoso teacher. It is impossible to show exactly how certain touches produce certain effects. The ear, however, hears these effects, and if the pupil has the right kind of persistence he will work and work until he is able to reproduce the same effect that he has heard. Then it will be found that the touch he employs will be very similar to that used by the virtuoso he has heard. It may take weeks to show a certain pupil a kind of touch. The pupil with the trained ear and the willingness to work might be able to pick up the same touch and produce the same effect after a few days. A highly developed sense of hearing is of immense value to the student who attends concerts for the purpose of promoting his musical knowledge.

Katharine Goodson: The Responsibilities of The Teacher

“The more one contemplates this subject the more one realizes the responsibilities of the teacher in the first years of music study. Of all the pupils who commence in the art there are but few who make it a part of their lives; many of those who do continue find themselves handicapped when they reach the more advanced stages of the journey, owing to inefficient early training. At the period when their time is the most valuable to them they have to take up studies which should have been mastered eight or ten years before. The elementary teachers all over the world have a big responsibility. If they belittle their work with children and pine for the kind of teaching which the virtuosos attempt to do, let them realize that they are in a sense the foundation of the structure, and although perhaps not as conspicuous as the spire which towers up into the skies, they are certainly of equal importance.”

Katharine Goodson: Questions in Style, Interpretation,

Expression and Technic of Pianoforte Playing

1. Is analysis natural to children?

2. When should the first steps in analysis be made?

3. Why is a knowledge of the different dance forms desir- able?

4. What may be said of the poetic idea of the piece?

5. What indicates a finely balanced musician?

6. Should phrase analysis be taught at an early age?

7. Is the ability to identify a chord by hearing more impor- tant than the ability to identify it by sight?

8. Does a trained ear help in the acquisition of touch?

9. What may the pupil learn from concerts?

10. When is the teacher’s responsibility greatest?

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