WILLIAM JAMES HENDERSON
(1855 – 1937)
W.J. Henderson, a graduate of Princeton University who not only had studied the theory of music but also had taken extensive singing lessons, was the most distinguished music critic in the United States. He spoke with tremendous authority and set standards that made little allowance for differences of opinion.
Of singing: “If it is out of tune, it makes no difference who ‘thinks’ that he thinks it is not. The only question is, ‘can you hear it or can’t you?’
Whether an orchestra is out of tune, whether it is out of balance, whether its tone is coarse and vulgar, whether the men are playing with precision and accuracy, whether the strings are poor or the brass blatant are not matters of opinion at all. These are matters of fact and due to be reported upon by persons trained to hear them. Whether a singer has a voice equalized throughout, whether the lower tones are white and somber, whether her coloratura is broken, spasmodic and labored, whether her cantilena is marred by inartistic phrasing, whether she sings out of tune or not, whether she sings the music according to the score or according to her own caprices – these are not matters of opinion, they are matters of fact.
In short, nothing is more clearly known than the results which technique in performance can attain, and the only question that can ever be raised about a critical report is, ‘Did the man hear correctly?’ If it can be shown that he is in the habit of hearing incorrectly, then he is unfit for the business as a color blind man would be for the calling of art critic.
W. J. HENDERSON in “Sun”, 2 February 1908.