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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000130.txt from 2005/05

From: Jim and Joyce <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Possible racist views in music titles (was: Rubank Method:,
Date: Fri, 06 May 2005 17:45:55 -0400

I think that Dan has provided enough context to suggest that "Black
Dance" was in fact selected to play on a racial sterio-type. Dan has
written on this subject before. I tried to google up additional
information on this topic and found an old posting, which I am
reproducing because it provides more interesting information. It is a
very serious subject and poses the dilema of how to both learn from
history and avoid causing needless hurt. I think Dan is suggesting that
the easiest approach is to avoid the problem -- and I don't think Dan
would fault anyone who simply avoided the problem. But, it always is
good to think about these things and I appreciate Dan's framing of the

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000917.txt from 1999/05
From: "Dan Leeson:>
Subj: [kl] Fillmore and the dark side
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 18:03:56 -0400

This fascinating discussion of Fillmore and his many names brought
back to my attention that there is a subtopic here that is hardly
known about both Fillmore, Sousa, and a number of other band
directors of that era when bands were king.

In an effort to write little novelty pieces for their bands (such
as, for example, "Lassus Trombone"), music with either subtle or
even overtly racist themes were exploited. It is hard to understand
if these men were out and out racisits, or if they simply carried
the naive view of many Americans of that same era. But a lot of
this very good music is no longer played because to do so would
be a national public embarassment.

Music that depicted the lazy, shiftless, mindless black man can be
found among the writings of almost every one of the great American
bandmasters. One by Fillmore is entitled "Nigger Fricassee."
How much of this stuff is around any longer is not known by me
and whether or not it maintains the high musical standards of
some of the things we know is also unknown by me. But it is
an aspect of a great creative period in American musical history
that deserves better understanding, both in terms of the intent
of the musicians who exploited this awful period of public racism,
and its impact on the already racist thinking of many Americans.

I remember one work that I played with the Sousa band that had
three sections. In the first one, the Red Man was the central
musical theme. In the second one, the Black Man, and in the
third the White Man. Now on the surface one finds little of
the racist thinking to which I alluded earlier, except the character
of the music keeps getting better and more noble as one proceeds
from red to black to white. There was no "yellow" section in
the music because I don't think that Sousa had much experience
with Orientals.

This is probably nothing more than what was prevalent American
thinking at the time, but we have lost some unknown quantity of
what may be very good music because of these themes that appear
within the music. One work that we have not lost is just of
this character, "Lassus Trombone" which is a musical depiction
of the happy, shiftless, Jim Crow. I suspect, but do not know,
that Fillmore may have had his soloists in some sort of blackface
when they performed this three-trombone novelty.

Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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