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THE modern musical missionary is the pianist. Thanks to his ubiquity and assiduity, the present has become a musical age. It may well be claimed, without fear of contradiction, that the piano-forte has made this generation the most musical that ever lived. Never before was the divine art so generally cultivated, never were the masters so extensively studied and appreciated. Wherever the germs of the art could be found, the piano has been the ever-ready means of nourishing and developing them.
It might be urged with reason that the piano-forte of to-day is the crowning accomplishment of musical science, inasmuch as it is an ample substitute for all other varieties of musical instruments. Practically speaking, it has displaced the harp, that oldest symbol of the art, hallowed by the biblical record of its association with the earliest forms of religious worship. And in a measure it serves to replace the organ, the only other invention capable of producing musical chords. We have no other instrument comparable to it for general adaptability alike to the demands of the
artist and the amateur. Possessing a clearly defined individuality of tone, it rivals in delicacy, brilliance, and power many orchestral instruments, blending with them in exquisite accord, strengthening and embellishing their harmonized effect.
There surely can be no necessity for arguing the value to society of an instrument so ductile in expressing musical thought. In every festivity it becomes a prominent factor, and serves equally as a source of recreation or of intellectual profit.
The universality of the language of music, the wonderful advancement of the art itself, from a simple form of evanescent amusement, or from a limited method of use in ecclesiastical observance, to the present state of perfection, whereby its effects upon the mind are absolutely sublime-all should be largely credited to the piano-forte. We cannot help believing that, had the Greeks and Romans of the classic era possessed such an instrument, their poets, painters, and sculptors would have had the companionship of composers worthy of their exalted work. As it is, music has been the
The art of making a piano is not less important than the art of playing upon it. We must have piano-makers before we can have piano-players.
Cabinet-making and piano-making are two widely different branches. Probably some people have a confused idea that they are in a degree related. But they are not. The mistake, however, has been made by persons who have gone into the business, so it is not wholly unpardonable in others. The art of piano-making is not a trade, to be learned mechanically alike by the quickwitted and the dull-headed. The instrument is based upon scientific principles, which cannot be mastered except by lifelong study and practical experience. Its mechanism is designed to produce certain
effects under certain conditions, just as a clock is contrived to mark the movement of time. Now a clock that, from any cause whatever, is led astray, is not a clock at all, but a delusive counterfeit. So, too, the piano that fails to realize, when played upon, just such tones as the performer is justified in expecting, is open to the same objection as the unfaithful timekeeper. No argument is needed to satisfy our intelligence that a poorly made piano must inevitably increase the difficulties encountered in mastering the technique of the instrument. The least reflection shows that, whenever a piano is to be selected, sound taste as well as true economy will counsel the choice of one that is above suspicion. For, unfortunately, in the piano world as in society, "all that glitters is not gold." Anybody who has been an inmate of a boarding-house, or inhabited a flat, can bear witness to this, unless it be one afflicted with that singular inability to distinguish a musical sound from pure noise, which characterizes some people, and which may be said to correspond to what is termed colorblindness in others. These are the persons referred to in the poet's warning, who, not having "music in their souls," are presumably "fit for treason, stratagems, and spoils." Persons of sensitive musical temperament, whether professionals or amateurs, readily recognize the difference between pianos. They learn to know the distinctive qualities of tone, for no two pianos of the same scale are precisely alike, any more than two voices can be identical. To the untutored ear the difference may often be unappreciable, but it is always sufficient to challenge the attention of the experienced player.
It is common enough to hear of the beneficial influences of the piano in the home circle, where it is pictured as exercising a sweet fascination over the several members of the family, diverting the nervous and petulant children, and soothing the care-worn and anxious parents. It is undoubtedly a
panacea for the blues and a promoter of gayety. But these results presuppose a fine-toned piano. Good cometh not from evil, and a crudely wrought instrument, harsh-toned and ill-tuned, is more likely to add to domestic discords and family jars. A dissonance is always painful in its effects upon the nervous system.
To the annoying hand-organist we can give hush-money, and he moves on; but the lady boarder next door, with nothing but a three-dollar bonnet on her mind, can make life dreadful to forty people by torturing the great composers on the disorderly key-board of the regulation boarding-house instrument. Perhaps the time may come when society will pass unwritten, but none
the less effective, laws, to insure immunity from this too prevalent annoyance. We can condone the offense of the strolling Italian, with his gymnastic-monkey beggar, for necessity makes him turn the crank that splits our ears; but what excuse should avail in the case of Miss Lydia Lighthead, who distracts with dissonance in the drawing-room? It would seem as if people who, in their attempts to present a fashionable exterior, had been jockeyed in their purchase of a piano, take special delight forever afterward in advertising to the world their own discomfiture, and simultaneously in exercising a vigorous revenge upon such of their fellow
creatures as may chance to be helplessly within ear-shot of their costly box of discords.
Once let it be well understood that a poor piano is but an index of vulgar taste, and the occupation of those who thrive on the ignorant vanity of their customers will be gone. There is ground for hoping that this end is not far off. A recent tour of curiosity and inquiry among the magnates of the American piano world has led us to this conclusion. The greatest evidences of prosperity prevail in those manufactories where only the highest grade of pianos is made. A stroll of this sort, through a vast department of industry, representing millions of invested capital, necessarily yields much useful and entertaining information. The meth
| ods of work in several establishments were found to differ materially, and a close investigation showed plainly a difference in the quality of the material used and the labor expended. The establishment that interested us most, by reason of the manifest superior system followed, and by the extraordinary care bestowed upon even the minutest detail in the construction of the instrument, is that of Messrs. Decker Brothers, located on West Thirty-fifth and Thirtyfourth streets. Here we discovered a harmony of purpose typical of the concord of sweet sounds to be produced from every one of their noble-toned grand, square, and
upright instruments. Although hundreds of hands were at work upon pianos of all kinds, in every stage of progress, from newly made frames to finished and "regulated instruments, there was no confusion, no loud talking, no idle-apprenticing. Every man seemed to feel a pride and a responsibility in his work. Moreover, they looked more intelligent and self-reliant than others we had noticed elsewhere engaged in the same pursuits. It did not take long to discover that the strong arms and the expert fingers are controlled by one active head. That head is Mr. John Jacob Decker, probably the most thoroughly practical and experienced manufacturer in the country. Nor is there a severer critic of the instrument anywhere. At the start the Deckers aimed high, and have faithfully adhered to their own superior standard of workmanship. But it is not the production so much as the result that interests. Tone is the one object for which the piano is made; hence it is never lost sight of in the construction. Success in this essential is rightly esteemed a crowning triumph.
is a nobility and refinement in it that at once appeals to the soul of the performer, inspiring him and making him loth to lift his hands from an instrument whose music wells forth as from a unison of glorified harps.
Another source of delight is discovered in the perfect action of each piano, as exemplified in the evenly balanced tones of the entire scale. It is readily understood that unevenness in the action would produce an unequal body of tone, destructive of fine effect, let the player be ever so artistic. The sensitiveness of the artist seems to have been well appreciated and duly anticipated. The player is made to feel a certain sense of security that is frequently wanting in other instruments. This confidence in the reliability of the mechanism of a piano is of vital importance to an artist. A slight inaccuracy of action is often enough to cripple the efforts of public performers, and injure their reputations. At the warerooms, ample opportunity is had for testing the excellence of the work, which is found to be admirable throughout. Most connoisseurs are attracted by the upright pianos, of which class this house is producing some notable examples. Fashion has set the seal of approbation upon this compact and elegant form of piano,-always the English and Continental favorite,-and consequently the demand for it is great, and growing. The square seems destined soon to fade into the Past, to keep company with the ancestral spinet and harpsichord. The grand and the upright
are the favorites for the future.
All objections once raised by musicians to the upright have long since been silenced by such examples of its tenacity, tone, quality, and beautiful action as characterize the Decker production. It is demonstrable that durability and all the essentials of an instrument of the highest class are attained in these, and in all the other styles made by this house.
It is pleasant to be able to testify to the absolute mechanical perfection of these instruments, which are daily assisting to advance the standard and expand the taste for music. The prosperity of such a house as that of the DECKER BROTHERS is in itself a sure indication that the art in this country is in a healthy state of development.
THE illustration which embellishes this page pictorially represents the most perfectly equipped, picturesque, and beautiful edifice used for a tobacco and cigarette manufactory in America, and, probably, in the world. The establishment is located on the western side of the Genesee River, just where that charming historic stream is spanned by the granite aqueduct of the Erie Canal, in the very center of the pretty city of Rochester, New-York, and is owned and occupied by the manufacturers of the far-famed "Vanity Fair" smoking tobacco and cigarettes. It was erected by the owners within the past twelve or fifteen months, its foundation being laid upon the river's bed, and is the largest and finest structure of its kind to be found on this continent. Three acres of ground are inclosed within the limits of its exterior walls. The magnitude of the annual trade of this establishment is something remarkable, as may be inferred from the quantity of stock emanating from it, kept constantly on hand by dealers everywhere.
The drawing here presented is so nearly accurate as to render any detailed description of the external appearance of the premises unnecessary; unless it be to add that communication between the eastern and western wings-the former fronting, as is indicated, on the river, as it rushes in foaming torrents over the Genesee Falls, a little way below-is had by a foot-bridge, crossing the open square midway, and connecting by intersection at the second
floors; and that an adjunct is about to be built, which, beginning at the tower on the north-west wing, and uniting with the corresponding end of the east wing, will make of the whole a perfect square. Vast as the present facilities are, the firm are impelled by their increasing business to complete. this additional building as quickly as possible, in order to make room for the storage of the immense supply of leaf-tobacco which they keep constantly on hand.
To the tower there is probably no counterpart in the world. It is an ornamental column at once imposing, substantial, and grand. Including the exquisitely modeled copper figure, twenty-one feet in length, of Mercury, which typifies the firm's trademark and stretches skyward from the summit, it is one hundred and eighty-two feet in height. It is seen from a great distance, and arrests the attention of travelers, as does the manufactory itself to which it is attached. A swift-water canal and terraced race-way, the latter constructed by the firm, bounds the manufactory on the west and north as the river does on the east. A green sward, protected by iron railing, fills the interval between Court street on the south and front and the main building; while, away out to the north, the city of Rochester, with all its varied, busy forms of human life, as will be noticed in the cut, extends into the open country.
Within, everything is as attractive and unique as without. In examining the premises internally and externally, it is difficult