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Excerpt from Modern Violin-Playing
Well, the strict and truthful answer to this query is that, first of all, nobody is born with a divine gift of violin-playing any more than he is born with a divine gift of walking, or of talking the language of his own parents. He has to learn all three.
About once in a hundred thousand times it happens that a player hits on the correct mechanical procedure by accident, just as about once in a hundred thousand times an engineer might guess the tensions of his steel bridge correctly. The engineer can only repeat his success by the miracle of a second lucky guess. In that respect the violinist has the advantage over him. When once he has hit on the right method, he recognizes its value by its artistic results. He tests it; and finds that, with him, it always works. That gives him the one thing for which he is searching - personal security on his instrument. The physical why and wherefore of the matter never crosses his mind.
But observe the vast difference between the two cases from the teacher's point of view! N 0 one, out of a lunatic asylum, would ap point the guessing engineer to a university chair of engineering. The violinist, on the other hand, though he is certain to have all the artist's distaste for definition and all the artist's confusion as between means and sensation, is immediately labelled genius.
N ow, so long as he remains in the genius-business, there is not one word to be said against him. But as soon as that cap is stuck on his head, he becomes a potent money-drawing attraction as a teacher. And there the trouble begins.
He collects a great many expensive pupils, who come to learn the mysteries of his art. In the class-room they all stand round him, open-mouthed with the words How is it done? And he has not the remotest idea of any satisfactory answer to these terribly searching words. He may Show them how, of course. He may play the actual passage under discussion. If it comes off the first time, all he can answer to their question is, Like that. If it doesn't come off the first or second time, he has to try again, blaming his bow or perhaps the weather for his earlier failures. And even if he plays the passage finally - nay, even if he plays it finally with the most perfect and con summate art - his pupils have learned nothing technically. After the exhibition, one can only say that he differs from them in that he can play the passage sometimes, and they can not.
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