The CMS Amidst National Societies

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The proliferation of music societies in this country is remarkable if not actually startling. It is doubtful if any other area in the field of the humanities is so thoroughly organized. The National Music Council now has over fifty member organizations in the field of music and there are innumerable others which are not actually national in scope. An explanation for this tendency to organize into specialized groups is not easy to find. A mere statement that people with common interests and common problems have a tendency to band together is much too simple. These same interests and problems exist in other parts of the world, but I know of no other country where the many different aspects of musical life and activities are represented by as many individual and independent musical societies as in the United States. It must be due to something in the nature of the American, and I prefer to leave to the anthropologists and the sociologists the search for an explanation of this phenomenon. Whatever the explanation, we are faced with all these organizations whenever we embark on any discussion of American musical life.

In my opinion, this American proclivity to organize into specialized associations reflects a deep sense of social responsibility as well as a desire to improve the quality of the activities of an association's membership. It reflects an awareness of the social and artistic effects of the work of the individuals in a group. On the whole, I think we can say that the American musical organizations have been successful in their efforts to improve their branches of the profession or their specialized activities.

But there is a grave danger in this proliferation of organizations. The danger lies in the tendency of the organizations to regard their own problems as the only important ones in our country and also a tendency to neglect any consideration of the many other aspects of American musical life. This results in a kind of narrow parochialism which has a disruptive tendency. The same urge which leads the individuals to form themselves into an organized group should lead them to an awareness of the problems of other groups and a desire to work with these other groups. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

It might seem that membership in the National Music Council would be sufficient to fulfill this obligation for a broader group action than the individual organization can undertake. This is only true in part. The National Music Council is a loose confederation of associations brought together to discuss broad problems which transcend the area of interests of any single organization or frequently any group of organizations. In this it has been quite successful. But this still leaves a broad area neither covered by the Council nor by its constituent members, and responsible organizations will seek out this field for investigation. In addressing the College Music Society, I realize that I am speaking to the converted. In fact, this is one of the reasons that I accepted this assignment to speak on such a delicate subject. I have already been impressed by the way this Society has demonstrated its broad interests.

The relationship of this Society to other societies represents only the practical aspect of the consideration of how your activities affect other groups and how in turn you are affected by the work of other groups. This relationship with other organizations involves a certain amount of politics which may even lead to the formation of joint committees. There may be occasions, however, when unilateral action may seem more desirable. There may also be occasions when the other organizations may resent any discussion of its field of endeavor and may even regard it as an unwarranted invasion of its private domain. Neither of these eventualities should deter this or any other organization from consideration of any subject. Public action or public pronouncement is something else again and may well lead to embarrassment if there has been no consultation with the other group.

In this paper, I shall attempt to describe briefly some areas which seem to me to deserve the attention of the College Music Society, and which may eventually lead to contacts between this Society and other societies. Since I have never been a member of any faculty, I shall not dwell on the technical aspects of college education which may involve interrelationships with other organizations. I am not competent to speak on problems of curriculum or problems of accreditation and shall leave these to my professorial friends. Nor shall I discuss relationships with private foundations or even with government agencies. I shall speak only in generalities and begin by discussing music education in its broadest sense.

I attended your joint meeting with the American Musicological Society in Chicago and was pleased to note that the subject discussed at the dinner was music education at the elementary and secondary levels. Perhaps those responsible for the arrangements provided this as a sort of antidote to the musicological atmosphere. To me this seemed an interesting and laudable example of looking to the future as well as to the past. In meeting with the musicologists, the college teachers were looking forward to the graduate level since musicology is usually taught as a graduate subject. In discussing music education, the college teachers were looking backward to the preparation of the students for college. I wish, though, that this sort of discussion would become more of a two-way street. The American Musicological Society might spend more time discussing the preparation for musicology, but perhaps this is already being done at faculty meetings. On the other hand, there are no common meeting places like faculty meetings to bring together the college teacher and the high school teacher. I should welcome a critical evaluation of teaching at the college level on the part of the high school teachers. It seems logical for them to consider the training they received to prepare them for high school teaching as well as the instruction that their pupils will receive when they go to college. I suppose that this sort of discussion is rare because of the fear of an evaluation of higher education on the part of those teaching at the lower levels. It may be based on the assumption that higher education is synonymous with better education, an assumption which might prove to be unfounded.

The field of education has many more ramifications than those represented by the terms musicology and music education. I might mention the field of music librarianship, for instance. It is surprising to me how many college professors, who are avid library users, are themselves quite innocent of the many problems facing the music librarian. For instance, adapting a college library collection to the institution's curriculum and the faculty's research activities within the budgetary limitations is not always easy. The position and rank of personnel frequently make it difficult to fill vacancies. Only in some institutions do the librarians enjoy faculty status.

There are many other specialized groups whose activities are closely related to the field of higher education and whose work merits the special attention of the College Music Society. A glance at the membership of the National Music Council will reveal quite a few of them ranging from the Institute of Jazz Studies to The Moravian Music Foundation. I cannot possibly dwell on all of them. Instead, I can only indicate these broad areas which I believe should receive the attention of this Society, but the College Music Society hardly needs any urging from me to continue along the path on which it has already embarked.

There is, however, one area which, unless I am mistaken, has not received sufficient notice on the part of this Society or of other organizations in related fields. I refer to the private music teacher. I think it safe to say that almost every one of us received his first musical training on an individual basis rather than in a classroom. This usually occurred in early childhood and so we are less apt to remember it as much as we do our later training in colleges or universities. Yet this was our basic training which molded our musicianship. I do not know of any statistical studies on the subject but it may still be true for most of the music majors in colleges today. I can remember one class in musicology at the University of Berlin when Curt Sachs suddenly turned to us and said something like "Let's not kid ourselves, we are all a bunch of disappointed concert pianists." Furthermore, I think you would be surprised at the number of private music teachers today who are college graduates. I am well aware of the fact that there is a great deal of individual instrumental and vocal instruction being offered by the American colleges. But there are obviously major pedagogical differences between instruction given in an institution and in a private studio.

The College Music Society is itself an outgrowth of the Music Teachers National Association, an organization which includes in its membership many private teachers. I do not mean to imply that the creation of this separate organization was unnecessary or in any way unjustified. I do hope, however, that the college musicians will not turn their backs on the subject of private instrumental and vocal instruction and that some mutually satisfactory means may be found for the two organizations to work more closely together.

The field of college music education, however, has many ramifications which go beyond questions of curricula and course content, important as these are. There are relationships with the fields of commerce, labor, law and politics which do affect the work of the college. Let us turn to the matter of publication. As individual authors, you have of course given thought to the publication of books, scores and records, but there are probably questions of trade practices involving the industry as a whole which could be reexamined. Conferences with the pertinent trade associations might be fruitful and result in the improvement of certain conditions which exist today. In fact, I know of one industrial association which would welcome the expression of opinion from an organization like this one.

Closely related to the field of publishing is that of copyright. At the present time, a new copyright law is being prepared, but most of you probably think that this matter is something best left to the lawyers. This is a mistaken viewpoint. I am sure that most of you have at one time or another reproduced copyright material by photographic means or reproduced on tape a phonograph record containing copyrighted music. In doing so you were technically guilty of copyright infringement under the present law, and the fact that there was no intention of wrongdoing does not relieve you of your responsibility. The question of fair use is, therefore, a vital one to every member of this organization. The present copyright law does not even mention the term "fair use." Similarly, the problem of performance rights should be of interest to this organization. There are some who feel that academic institutions should pay for performance rights under certain circumstances. Here is an area where closer relationships between societies would seem to be appropriate, and conferences between the College Music Society and the performance rights societies would seem to be in order. There are still other questions of copyright which are of vital concern to you in your work and I wish that I could impress on each and every one of you the importance of this subject. The National Music Council has had this subject on the agenda at several meetings which I attended. It was sad to observe how unprepared most of the representatives of the different organizations were for these discussions. It is urgent for this Society to study the question and express its collective opinion based on its own interests. Your report should be widely disseminated and sent not only to the Register of Copyrights, who I know will study it with care, but also to associations of publishers, broadcasters, record companies, and others who will not be diffident about making their own views known.

I should also like to say a few words about government subsidy of the arts, a subject which is being widely discussed today. Although mention is frequently made of subsidy at all levels, the discussion is mostly about federal subsidy. I suppose it seems easier to rely on the federal government. After all, they print the money! Seriously though, this is probably the most important problem facing us today and one which, therefore, merits our most serious consideration. The discussions which have come to my attention so far are all in terms of generalities. If groups of intellectuals like this one do not study the problems of subsidy in its minutest details, I fear that the effects of the subsidies, when they come, may result in bitter disappointments. There are already a few cities and states which subsidize music. In fact, we are meeting in a State which has subsidized music for many years. I refer of course to the State Symphony Orchestra and the subsidized opera activities in North Carolina. If and when the federal government enters the field on a large scale, the situation will become very complicated indeed. I do not think it wise to equate it with the activity of a large and generous foundation which will react favorably to all applications received. Nor should you sit back and rely on the legislators, since they in turn will have to rely on the experts, which throws the problems right back in your laps. This may be a subject which is too broad for the College Music Society to handle alone, but it can start and then go into conference with other associations even before discussing the matter at the National Music Council meetings. When the Congress gave a federal charter to the Council it was because Congress wanted to have a source of expert opinion in the field of music. Several bills which have passed since then give specific instructions for consultation of the National Music Council. The effectiveness of the Council, however, depends on the enlightened participation of the member organizations.

Before closing, I should like to point out that among the many subjects which I have omitted from this discussion is that of music in international relations. The reason must be obvious—the subject is in excellent hands elsewhere in this issue of SYMPOSIUM. I should also like to congratulate the College Music Society for its breadth of vision as demonstrated in its sessions during the few years of its existence. I am sure that its influence on American musical life in the future will be very great.

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Last modified on Thursday, 15/11/2018

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