This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
Kreutzer Sonata: a topical reference, as this story by Leo Tolstoy was published in 1889.
Mikado … amateur first trombone: In The Mikado (1885) by Gilbert and Sullivan, Nanki-Poo, son of the Emperor, explains his disguise to Yum-Yum as follows: 'Some years ago I had the misfortune to captivate Katisha, an elderly lady of my father’s Court. She misconstrued my customary affability into expressions of affection, and claimed me in marriage, under my father’s law. My father, the Lucius Junius Brutus of his race, ordered me to marry her within a week, or perish ignominiously on the scaffold. That night I fled his Court, and, assuming the disguise of a Second Trombone, I joined the band in which you found me when I had the happiness of seeing you!' Yum-Yum falls in love with him.
The 'olde worlde' captions to the illustrations may be the editor's way of warning readers that this article is meant to be funny. There has always been a tradition of very good musical performance throughout Wales. —— David Skilton
Perhaps the most pernicious and demoralising of the recreations of this, our Land of England is that terrible bugbear known as domestic music. I verily believe it is responsible for more sin and iniquity than any other form of English amusement. Lying, hypocrisy, and doubly-concentrated deception are one and all accentuated by the influence of domestic music. It has caused husbands to deceive their wives and families, and in his Kreutzer Sonata Tolstoi tells with terrible force how a wife used it as a blind for the purpose of humbugging her husband. But without attempting to treat the subject with the severity of the Russian novelist, who considers that music may rise to 'the height of indecency,' I propose to show some of the results accruing from indulgence in domestic music. I have frequently wondered whether Mr. Gilbert had been the victim of domestic music shortly before he wrote the Mikado? Surely so; else he would never have penetrated the keen and cutting satire of making his heroine fall in love with an amateur first trombone who, on his own confession, was 'no musician.'
In no place is the demoralising tendency of domestic music more in evidence than in the drawing-rooms of the middle-class communities. During the miseries of that essentially English Institution, an evening at home, music is always more or less to be found in the programme. And what is the result?
Lying! Sugar-coated lying perhaps, but none the less lying.
Let us diagnose the case and unearth the reasons for cause and effect. We will commence with the young gentleman who is labouring under the delusion that he is the possessor of a tenor voice. He is asked out so that he might experiment upon old-time songs, and new-fangled waltz-refrained ballads of love and sentiment. He is fully aware of the prevalent fallacy as to his vocal powers, and gives himself airs only equalled in their absurdity by some of the so-called music he is fond of warbling. As soon as things get into something like order in the drawing-room he is asked to sing something.
He had been sitting in a corner of the room for some time, waiting for the moment when he shall be asked to perform, and is bursting with an ambition to show what he can do. He has brought a roll of music with him, and has carefully left it on the hall table. This gives him the opportunity of leaving the room to fetch the songs, and thus draw people's special attention to the fact that he is going to sing. Yet when the hostess requests him to favour them with 'one of your charming ballads, Mr Thomson,' he fei[g]ns a well-studied hesitation, and remarks that 'he would much rather not.'
Of course, he is pressed to oblige, and after some humming and hawing he consents.
This is the first phase of the hypocrisy resulting from W. Thompson's vocal possession. The second follows — and it is the worst of the two — when he has tried to sing a song and has so distorted it that the composer would fail to recognise it. The hostess tells him that his singing is 'really charming,' the young ladies call it 'lovely,' and his rival the baritone, who hates tenors in general, and Thompson in particular, perjures himself by giving it as his opinion that he has 'a very fine voice.' And all the outcome of domestic music. Very shocking it is to feel that what should be a harmless form of amusement should produce such lamentable results.
Ye lodger's horror.
Many a peaceful and respectable householder has, ere this, had cause to regret the existence of domestic music. For instance, a nice, quiet old gentleman of studious habits may find his next-door neighbour has a passion for the cornet. This being so, the old gentleman is likely to be driven frantic by the efforts of his neighbour to perfect himself as a cornet soloist. He practices all the evening and rises early in the morning to resume his duties. It can therefore be no matter for surprise if the studious one indulges in strong, not to say profane, language. And should he be tempted to transgress the roles of sobriety occasionally it can scarcely be wondered at. An amateur who is trying to play the cornet is calculated to drive any rational member of society to the verge of distraction.
There is but one way to settle such a man, and that is to employ a man who knows nothing at all about music to take the house next door and perpetually practice on the trombone.
Yet the man and his torments are simply the result of domestic music. He is anxious to appear before his friends as an instrumentalist. Poor mortal, poor friends. The old lady, who told her son to 'put his fiddle away until he had learned to play it,' had, in spite of her Hibernian blunder, much method in her madness. She knew perfectly well that preparation for the production of domestic music is as likely as not to lead to fatal results – moral or physical.
Ye ocarina. p>
I am told, upon the authority of a teacher of the instrument, that the flute is becoming a popular and fashionable instrument with the fair sex, and ere long the lady flautist will be included on all occasions when domestic music is to the fore. I regret to hear it, for next to the man who plays upon the cornet I should place in the category of musical nuisances the lady who plays upon the flute. Yet there is much sin and wickedness in the world and domestic music, and especially female flautists, may be a form of penance designed by a long-suffering Providence. If the pain inflicted be equivalent to the sins committed by performers and listeners, the remedy will, indeed, be a drastic one.
The lady pianist is on the same level with the tenor, the only difference being that her sex entitles her to be the recipient of more perversions of the truth in the form of compliments than the male pretender.
Seriously, domestic music is undermining the moral nature of the young people who indulge in it. They say things about each other that they do not mean and know to be untrue, and their only excuse is that the truth is not pleasant at times, and that they must be civil to the people they meet at their own and other people's houses.
And all this is the outcome of domestic music.
Links to Related Material
- The Drawing-room Ballad or Parlour Song (homepage with links to two dozen songs you can hear)
- Samuel on Smoking Concerts
- Samuel on Evening Parties
- Samuel on MusicHall “Artistes”
- Samuel on Popular Songs
Last modified 20 April 2022