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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000116.txt from 2005/05

From: "dnleeson" <dnleeson@-----.net>
Subj: RE: [kl] Possible racist views in music titles (was: Rubank Method: not all by Voxman)
Date: Fri, 06 May 2005 12:34:38 -0400

Margaret has brought up an interesting point in her note about
the Rubank methods. It is one on which I have thought for a long
time and her opening up of the topic allows me to comment on it.

One of the things that Margaret points out is that a duet in the
first Rubank book has the title "Danse Negre," or "Negro dance."
And the problem with titles like that is that you either keep
them, change them, or stop playing the music to avoid a
perpetuation of a time in American history that continues to
embarass us more and more and cultural maturity changes our
society almost from minute to minute.

I'm not really beating up on that particular title but rather a
broader issues of facing up to racism in music or music titles.
It is not an overwhelming issue, but it is not non trivial
either.

For example, Millard Filmore (of "Lassus Trombone" infamy, and
which is a very vulgar picture of black America in their "happy,
happy, watermelon eating days") wrote titles that are so awful
that the works can no longer be performed. This is indepenedent
of whether or not they are good music. The one that comes to
mind (and forgive me, I have to be explicit) is his band
composition entitled "Nigger Fricassee." When I played with
Keith Brion and the New Sousa Band, he happened to mention that
one as an example of music that simply cannot be performed under
the original title, and, except for inventing a new title (which
is a questionable practice) cannot be played at all.

There are productions of Magic Flute in which the character
Monastotos is painted green instead of black to avoid the racist
view of the part. In fact, the text of the opera reads (when
Papageno meets him for the first time), "Well, there are black
birds in the world, so why should there not be black men?" But
the fact of Monastostos' negritude is not the issue as much as it
is the slimy nature of his character; i.e., not much differnt in
effect that Stepp'n-Fetchit's portrayals in the 30's and 40's.

In the case of "Dance Negre," would "African/American Dance" do?
I think not. It is not only clumsy but unsuited to a performance
outside of the United States. (Are there African/Englishman in
London? Are there African/Italians in Rome?) Would "Black Man's
Dance" do? I also think not. If it is possible to measure these
things, it's worse than "Dance Negre."

In the case of "Pictures at An Exhibition," the orchestral
version of "Samuel Goldenburg and Schmuyle" has, to me at least,
always been an embarassment to play. It's whining, nagging music
is so very much a negative thought picture of the two men, even
though program notes wash that out when they write about the
movement. But our role, when we play, is talent in playing, not
in asserting issues of political correctness. Or is that wrong?

I pose all these points because some of them need to be
confronted. When we see explicitly racist movies of the 30s (and
even earlier silent film racism), we view Hollywood at a time
when they were both ignorant and uncaring about what they were
doing. Lord knows that Al Jolson, dressed in blackface and
singing "Mammy" would be hooted off the stage today.

I wonder if anything even bordering an ethic cleansing of music
would be an enormous overkill for what may be only a very small
problem. But if Margaret thinks that one of the reasons not to
use Rubank 1 is the title of a small duet, that is the kind of
thing that a publisher would take very seriously.

It's not as easy a problem as it looks, but it may not be worth
the solving.

Dan Leeson
DNLeeson@-----.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Margaret Thornhill [mailto:clarinetstudio@-----.net]
Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 8:37 AM
To: klarinet@-----.org
Subject: [kl] Rubank Method: not all by Voxman

Adam wrote:
>> The Rubank methods, in my opinion, go much too fast for a rank
musical
>> beginner.

Yes, for woodwind-specific reasons that are solved in part by
books like
Galper's and mine, such as developing a fine legato in the
chalumeau before
moving up.

Chuck wrote:
> If it goes too fast perhaps one should slow down and thoroughly
learn each
> line. Mr. Voxman knew exactly what he was writing in the 30's.
>

Fond memories aside, the Rubank books I have in my library (NEW)
are still
edited by:
(Beginning) Nilo Hovey and (Intermediate--1936) J.E. Skornicka
and Robert
Miller.
It is the advanced books that were edited by H. Voxman.

The first two books are in desperate need of revision.

Some small examples of why:

Virtually all the melodic material in the Intermediate book is in
the form
of duets. The worst are by Skornicka. Others are by the
violinist, Mazas
(source of many of the Rose Etudes) including one actually called
"Danse
Negre."

In a book with fewer than 50 pages, at least five are devoted to
trills and
grace notes, the darlings of the 19th century.(Klose also puts a
disproportionate, by modern standards, emphasis on
ornamentation.) How often
does a 7th grade player ever hear a "triple grace note" (read
that, "turn")
let alone need to have one ready to improvise?

There are useful technical studies in a variety of keys. There
is an
emphasis on developing staccato and velocity, which the player
may or may
not be ready for.

If an intermediate student already has this, I let him use the
scale studies
and fingering chart and cut to the chase by giving him other
things like the
wonderful 60 Rambles (which sadly, are also starting to seem a
little dated)
the Hite books, the Eric Simon pieces, Voxman's own duets (which
are fine)
and as much melodic material of all types as he is willing to
buy. A good
one that came to me recently is the Australian, Mark Walton's "66
Great
Tunes."

Margaret Thornhill

http://home.comcast.net/~clarinetstudio/

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