The Great Piano Craze of 1910
The great piano craze of 1910 built up for fifty years. The piano was such a fad that people took twenty lessons and set themselves up as master teachers. Such was the desire to impart their passion for the piano that many didn’t bother to learn how to play very well. Rather, they relied on the same text they had learned to feed the next student in line. Imagine millions of American kids in 1910 practicing Rustles of Spring on their upright grands! It wasn’t a very lucrative profession even in 1910. Everyone wanted to learn, so a teacher had lots of students available. Then came electricity and the automobile and everyone wanted to be out in the roadster instead of at home listening to Schubert.
First Came The Automobile
Americans, always a mobile crew, started moving around as never before. But mobility was good in other ways, for if it drew people away from their homes, it also drew them closer to each other. In big cities great piano artists like Paderewski could be easily viewed and appreciated. The great artists that played for Americans made them hungrier for more culture. Before World War I the piano was the popular vehicle for that madness. But what did real teachers have that the dilettantes with twenty lessons under their belts didn’t?
A Piano Teacher On Every Corner
The one distinction was that they could really play. The great piano teachers of 1910 were almost all pupils of the great Franz Liszt. The musician’s joke is that anyone who saw Liszt play would claim to have studied with him, just for the reflected glory. Such was the power of the Maestro’s name.
War And Radio
But just as this craze was reaching its zenith, World War I came and destroyed that “old world.” The modern age had clenched humanity in its machine driven jaws and would never lose hold. With the advent of the cheap, mass-produced radio in 1926, the end was not far away for the piano craze. By 1960 it had all but faded away. Even to this day, many pianos produced for this craze still stand, dusty and unused in people’s living rooms. They are a distant reminder of a day when people provided themselves with their own culture instead of trusting huge corporations to do it for them.
There Is No Culture Today
There are no more great piano virtuosi in popular culture because there is no popular venue for them. Sting is classical music now. The folks at PBS are ever vigilant in preserving whatever culture they can sell. Mozart is used to clear shopping malls of teens at midnight, and it works quite well. Kids hear Mozart now and they run.
Rap And Rock Is All There Is
There are no great modern composers because the greedy financiers just want the next Disney-like hit. Thus you get the current ultra-inane Broadway fare. There are no great operas. Those mad enough to write them do not get the chance to do them anywhere significant. Those who do succeed present us with braying sopranos and murky, humorless libretti. No one would come to it anyway. Yes, America, let’s dam that ancient river so we can all have more power for our phone chargers.