Aubertine Woodward Moore
Aubertine Woodward Moore (1841 - 1929) was a musician, author, and pioneer in the field of illustrated musical talks, called by noted Madison author Ella Giles “a highly intellectual woman of rare social as well as literary gifts.” At age five she was called the “child wonder of the guitar.” She was a music critic under the name Auber Forestier, and translated a number of novels from French, German and Scandinavian. In 1901 she wrote her first book, For My Musical Friend, followed by For Every Music Lover a year later. A resident of Madison beginning in 1879, she served as music critic for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1900 to 1911. She was a friend of world-renowned violinist Ole Bull, the Nathaniel Hawthorne family, Alice and Annie Longfellow, Edward Everett Hale, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jenny Lind, and Walt Whitman. In fact, when Aubertine came to Madison to live she gave Whitman her season concert tickets “because he loved music so well but did not have enough money to indulge his fondness for it.”
The Madison Democrat described her “invention” of the illustrated musical talk.
The place was the drawing room of the Charles Emersons, whom Mrs. Moore was visiting in Concord, Massachusetts. The time was 1880, just after the summer session of the renowned School of Philosophy.
“Informal gatherings were held at the homes of those attending the school,” Mrs. Moore recalls. “Everyone called everybody else by his first name. Ralph Waldo Emerson was just ‘Waldo’ and Louisa Alcott was ‘Louisa.’”
The evening program was in charge of Mrs. Moore. She did not tell the Emersons or even her intimate friend Elizabeth Peabody – the founder of kindergartens in America and sister-in-law of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Horace Mann – anything about her plans.
“Friends,” she began, “these pictures which you see displayed around the room are scenes of Norway. They are the places which Ole Bull must have had in mind when he wrote the music for the selection I am about to play.”
She read her now well-known translation of the Scandinavian song, talked about the pictures illustrating it, and played it on the piano.
Old Dr. Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa, leaned forward cupping his deaf ear with his hand that he might not lose a single sound, and two bright red spots appeared on Mrs. Emerson’s usually pale face.
“The pictures with the music make one really live in the song. They raise from the text the meaning which would have been latent and unnoticed,” the wise, deliberate Emerson is remembered to have said.
And so in stately, cultured old Concord was started, in a crude way, the reciprocal interpretation of music and pictures.