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|On taste, execution, genius, application and manner.
Written by Claire 16
(8/13/2013 6:19 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, taste, penned by Kristin N
One modern commentator of Jane Austen noted that in her time ‘performance’, in all aspects of life, was the key word. Nuances in dress, behaviour and those all-important accomplishments were scrutinised as minutely as if they were ‘sexual characteristics’- as indeed they were.
And so, we are presented with a host of terms that differ somewhat from their modern meanings. When a young lady practised the musical arts – singing, dancing and playing musical instruments – she usually built up a repertoire or ‘playlist’ of carefully perfected pieces.
If she was said to have great TASTE, it complimented her choice or appreciation of certain music, such as Scotch or Irish airs; concertos; Italian love songs; or the more informal country dances, folk melodies or sentimental numbers about Blue-Eyed Mary, The Rose Upon My Balcony and the like. (Others include Going to One Wedding Brings on Another (Northanger Abbey) and The Girl I Left Behind Me (Vanity Fair))
The difference between taste and execution is mentioned in Chapter 27 of Emma, where Emma is said to have taste on the piano, but Jane Fairfax both.
EXECUTION is the actual performance of the piece or how well it was played; not to be confused with MANNER, or style.
Elizabeth Bennett, though not the best player, has a more pleasing, “easy and unaffected” manner of playing in contrast with her sister Mary, whose "pedantic air” and conceited fashion ‘would have injured a higher degree of excellence’. Expression, elegance and poise also refer to manner.
Mary Bennett’s vanity pushes her to apply herself regularly to study and practise the piano. Still, one can have application without GENIUS.
What exactly is ‘genius’? It didn’t necessarily mean being a prodigy, but rather denoted an intellectual quality encompassing aptitude, talent, inspiration or creativity. CAPACITY had a similar though less-potent meaning, but indicated mental-physical skill, something like hand-eye coordination and ‘quickness’ of fingers.
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