The music exams of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, 1859–1919

Wright, D. C. H. (2012) The music exams of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, 1859–1919. In: Music and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain . Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 161-180. ISBN 9781409405832 (hardback) 9781138268234 (paperback) 9781315596624 (e-book)

Abstract

The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce was the original title of the Royal Society of Arts, today contracted to the acronym RSA. Between 1859 and 1919, the Society offered written music examinations: theory, rudiments, elementary musical composition, harmony and counterpoint; and, from 1879 until 1914, it also ran practical instrumental and vocal exams. Today few are aware that these exams ever existed. Cyril Ehrlich’s groundbreaking social history of the music profession in Britain notes their presence, while remarking simply that ‘for reasons which remain obscure these examinations never became popular’. Now the Society’s music exams have been largely forgotten, as has the fact that their pioneering nature and distinctive purpose meant that for a time they made a particular contribution to the development of the Victorian musical environment.

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