What will the Muses do in these hard times? Must they cease to hold court in opera-house and concert-room, because stocks fall, factories and banks stop, credit is paralyzed, and princely fortunes vanish away like bubbles on the swollen tide of speculation? Must Art, too, bear the merchant’s penalties l or shall not rather this ideal, feminine element of life, shall not Art, like woman, warm and inspire a sweeter, richer, more ideal, though it be a humbler home for us, with all the tenderer love and finer genius, now that mans enterprise is wrecked abroad? Shall we have no Music? Has the universal “panic” griped the singers’ throats, that they can no longer vibrate with the passionate and perfect freedom indispensable to melody? It must not be. The soul is too rich in resources to let all its interests fail because one fails. If business and material speculation have been overdone, if we are checked and flung down in these mad endeavors to accumulate vast means of living, we shall have time to pick ourselves up, compose ourselves to some tranquillity and some humility, and actually, with what small means we have, begin to live. Panic strangles life, and the money-making fever always tends to panic. Panic is the great evil now, and panic needs a panacea. What better one can we invent than music? It were the very madness of economy to cut off that. Some margin every life must have, around this everlasting sameness of the dull page of necessity, — some opening into the free infinite of joy and careless ideality, or the very life-springs dry up.
Music is a cheap luxury; the more so as one seeks real music for its own sake, and not the music which is imported like the Paris fashions. This winter it will be a question between whether we can afford to pay for it, and whether we can afford to do without it. We think the absolute necessity of some diversion, something to lift the leaden cloud, and keep us in a state of natural buoyancy and courage, already settles the question. Music we shall have, simply because we need it. Or view it from the opposite side, from the point of mere political economy. Music, in many ways, has built itself up into a great industry among us, — music-publishers, musical instrument-makers, music teachers, musical performers, — all mutually dependent, and together swelling the national industry to the amount of many millions. It is the opportunities of hearing music, it is the concerts and the operas, that give the impulse to this whole many-branched machine. Taken together, it feeds many mouths, and helps turn many other very different sort of mills, and plays its part in Wall Street and in State Street, and its notes in that sense enter as much into the general currency as they do into the general ear in another. Now which is cheaper, which is wiser, to employ these artists, and the crowds of workers whom the public exercise of their talent keeps in motion, or cast them off upon society to be a general burden in a more hopeless form? Surely, we can afford the stoppage of some banks and factories, quite as well as we can that of music. Let us look around, then, upon its prospects for the winter.