Monday, March 11, 2013

Bookstore find - amateur band guide

Recently I made a bookstore pilgrimage and came home with a treasure: The Amateur Band Guide and Aid to Leaders, by Edwin Franko Goldman, published in 1916 by Carl Fischer.  1916 was during World War I.  Charles Ives had recently written some of his most famous pieces; Arnold Schoenberg had written Pierrot Lunaire four years earlier.  John Philip Sousa was touring with his own band.  Charles Ives completed his Fourth Symphony during 1916; he had finished his second String Quartet a year earlier.

Goldman's book is a long way from all of these.  He doesn't mention very much actual music by name; what he does mention are waltzes, polkas, two-steps, marches, quicksteps, and so on.  He talks about having the band play chorales as an exercise; otherwise the only "classical" genre he mentions is the overture.

This, in other words, would have been the musical diet of a primary source of small-town entertainment during that time.  Here's how the band would have been organized, including sample by-laws, a suggested rehearsal schedule, some basic instructions on how to conduct, explanations of tuning and warm-up exercises, and a whole chapter describing, and listing the ranges of, a number of typical band instruments.  The ranges given are approximately those that would be considered appropriate for high-school performers today.  Goldman also discusses the care and maintenance of the various types of instruments, and has compiled a bibliography of tutors and exercise books. 

As musicians, we're aware of history in a special way.  The  past is never entirely dead, because we're always picking it up and re-creating it.  The wind and brass players who took part in the premiere of Ives's third symphony in 1946 probably learned from some of the material Goldman lists.  It's one thing to read about music and musicians of the past, it's another to play their music, and it's something else yet again to hold in your hand the same book they held.  What significance this all has for us today ... that's for us to decide.

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