The Wind Band: Its Literature and Technique, by Richard Franko Goldman

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The Wind Band: Its Literature and Technique, by Richard Franko Goldman. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1961. [xvi, 286 p., 8vo; $6.95]

Richard Franko Goldman is an important figure in the world of bands and has made many contributions as conductor, arranger and editor. Much of the band repertoire stemming from the period of Gossec, Catel and Mendelssohn is presently available because of Goldman's work. A major portion of the important original works for band has been realized from the many commissions awarded through Richard Goldman and his famous father. Through his activities as assistant conductor and, since the death of his father in 1956, conductor of the Goldman Band, Mr. Goldman has been engaged for almost thirty years in the performance of band music at the professional level. Like his father he has maintained a true interest in public school instrumental music developments and has given generously of his time and efforts in conducting clinics and concerts with high school and college players.

Unlike most of his colleagues in the band field—both professional and educational—Mr. Goldman enjoys a reputation as a scholar and writer. He has been the editor of The Juilliard Review, and he has written many articles as well as two previous books, The Band's Music (1938) and The Concert Band (1946).

Mr. Goldman's latest book, The Wind Band, is another valuable addition and will undoubtedly enjoy wide circulation. As the title indicates the book attempts to cover almost every aspect of the band and herein lies a main point of criticism. Each of the ten chapters could serve as the nucleus of a complete book. The chapters are organized under four divisions: Part One, "The Band as a Musical Institution"; Part Two, "Technical Problems of the Band"; Part Three, "The Repertoire of the Band"; and Part Four, "Improving the Band." Parts One and Three review much of the same material as portions of Fennell's Time and the Winds (1954) and thus, though they embrace 180 of the book's 270 pages, do not offer a great amount of new information. Parts Two and Four present some critical matters with which band directors are faced and comprise an original and provocative discussion of several currently controversial topics.

Though band directors of varying interests and inclinations will read this book, this review is intended primarily for those college teachers who are involved with bands. The College Music Society has lately cast a suspicious eye at the musical worth of some band activities on the college level. [See Resolution in SYMPOSIUM, vol. 1—Ed.] There is ample evidence in Goldman's book that such a glance is long overdue, but it is not primarily from this point of view that this review takes the direction it must. Though some disagreements—as well as concurrences—will be noted with various opinions given by Mr. Goldman, our principal concern is with the unscholarly style in which the book is written. We would expect the author to be not only informative—as he often is—but meticulous in details of grammar, documentation and style. If writers about bands would have bands taken seriously by serious musicians and scholars, then such writers must make careful distinctions between personal opinion and provable knowledge. Mr. Goldman frequently fails to do this and he adds to the resulting confusion with a rambling, narrative style of writing which hinders the development of ideas in logical sequence.

We will cite first some of the editorial errors which plague all authors. On page 171 the word "arrangement" is misspelled; the closing parenthesis is omitted after the word "example" in the sentence beginning at the bottom of page 200; and the word "original" is misspelled in a comment at the bottom of Illustration XXXII on page 118. Mistakes of a different order include an ambiguous use on page 183 of the word "obviates." On page 72 there is an obvious miscalculation: "He [Sousa] was offered the leadership of the Marine Band in 1880, when he was twenty-four years of age. . . ." Born November 6, 1854, and appointed leader of the Band on October 1, 1880, Sousa was one month shy of his twenty-sixth birthday. Another discrepancy occurs between the statement on page 232 that "the first complete United States performance of the Symphony [No. 19, of Miaskovsky] was given by The Goldman Band on July 7, 1948," and the fact that the Symphony appears in a copy of the program given in Illustration XXV on page 93, dated January 3, 1948, with the notation, "First Performance in America." One final example concerns the remark on page 225 that parts of Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy ". . . had, for example, been sketched or completed by 1905." Concerning this music Grainger himself wrote: "It was conceived and scored by me direct for wind band in 1937." Grainger had noted down only the singing of various folk-singers in Lincolnshire in 1905-1906, according to his own statements.

Admittedly, these citations are not of great consequence, but, together with other matters to be mentioned, they offer evidence of some rather slipshod scholarship, unexpected in the person Fennell calls "the outstanding band historian of the present day." More important criticisms can be aimed at the approach Goldman makes to his historical survey. Space prohibits a careful and detailed critique of the writing, but a few points must be made. First, there is not a single instance of documentation in the entire book! Details concerning people, organizations, events and music are cited with no attempt to indicate sources of information. It is perfectly logical to accept, without documentation, a Goldman opinion that "the end of the eighteenth century closes . . . the 'early period' in band history, for as has already been noted, the 'modern' band begins with the French Revolution," for this is a matter of considered judgment by an expert. But it is not possible to accept such statements as the following without some source reference: "Thus, we know that the Federal March of Alexander Reinagle (1756-1809) was performed, presumably by a band, in 1788, for the Fourth of July procession in Philadelphia. . . ." Literally hundreds of such unsubstantiated assertions are made in Part One of the book, and all but the least astute reader must eventually wonder why Goldman feels it unnecessary to cite references. Perhaps he feels that the bibliography—which is far from definitive—offers sufficient justification for the absence of footnotes.

Mr. Goldman frequently adopts a technique of oversimplification in treating certain fundamental questions regarding the band's origin and history. For example, he raises the question, "Why was the basic wind character [of the band] preserved" in the transition from the movable to the stationary band? Obviously, such a question has no single answer, but the author supplies one with a quotation from H.G. Farmer—without a footnote—relating to the mass appeal of the rhythmic clarity of the winds. Ascribing to this assumption the principal responsibility for the very existence of the modern band is characteristic of the author's extreme tendency to oversimplify. Mr. Goldman's historical approach is basically a narrative account of important personalities, with little concern for causal developments and relationships.

In attempting to give a picture of contemporary bands Mr. Goldman seems to have drawn from a rather limited survey of current conditions, particularly with regard to college bands. Undoubtedly aware of the rumblings within the College Band Directors National Association resulting from the ill-advised reading of a certain paper at the Chicago meeting in 1960, he has rightly inferred that some bands are out of step with their parent music departments. "In some cases," he writes, "the band and the music department are not on notably good terms." But he goes on to say that the basic problem is due to the fact that the band—and its director—is often more closely associated with the music education department and is thus ". . . part of a pre-professional training of a special type. . . . The band helps train music educators for the public schools, and in this way the entire band movement is kept more or less on its own terms, while maintaining a constant feeding process." The conclusion that Mr. Goldman draws is that ". . . the band movement itself may become more and more divorced from other musical studies . . . and from the main stream of musical life." These comments are unquestionably appropriate to some situations, but I do not believe such situations would be representative. The wide-eyed freshman who enters college believing that the band is all-important soon discovers other musical interests. The typical college band director encourages every student to do so, though perhaps the atypical ones seem more numerous and important than they really are because of the national reputations they enjoy. Only the prima donnas among band directors have engineered such situations as Mr. Goldman describes; most are well aware of the importance of balance, musical and otherwise.

Mr. Goldman avoids becoming involved in the argument over the educational worth of the marching band in college and I would agree with his opinion that marching bands belong primarily in the category of entertainment. He does not seem to understand, however, that the present college band director, having created this Frankenstein, is now trying to find a way out and would appreciate more than just a passing mention of his predicament. It is this aspect of band activity to which administrators are more and more frequently addressing the accusation of questionable educational value and this may be the Achilles heel which enables a mortal blow against public school instrumental music and eventually college bands. Mr. Goldman could have done a service by investigating and discussing this point, though perhaps band directors will require psychiatric help before the problem is resolved.

A portion of the chapter on contemporary bands is devoted to a discussion of high school bands and includes a somewhat curious statement to the effect that youngsters in poor bands derive ". . . as much benefit from their efforts, as the youngsters in much better bands." Mr. Goldman seems to betray here a basic lack of faith in the musical significance of public school instrumental training, regardless of its quality.

In discussing the lack of stability in the instrumentation of the band, Mr. Goldman makes the statement that "the band today could, if it wished, scrap its entire existing repertoire and start all over again. All that would be seriously missed would be a handful of original band compositions . . . [and] these would . . . have to be re-scored." This is a striking commentary on the aesthetic frailty of the band as a performing medium and it tends to negate the value of the efforts of all the great men Mr. Goldman has previously cited, including his famous father. Such is not the intent of the statement; rather the point is to contrast the band's position with that of the orchestra whose ". . . artistic life . . . depends on its existing repertoire." His summary statement, "the artistic truth is that the performer exists for the repertoire—not vice versa," makes this clear, but it cannot remove the inference that the band, as an ensemble, must be considered somewhat less than successful as a musical organization—certainly a strange attitude for one who is regarded as a champion of bands.

The chapters on instrumentation and arranging present some basic truths and explain many of the problems inherent in choosing an effective ensemble of winds. Mr. Goldman disagrees with those who would seek to create an inflexible instrumentation, stating that standardization ". . . must treat many individual instruments as 'optional' and allow many possibilities of variation. . . . The composer . . . must have the right to leave out [certain instruments] if he wishes."

Mr. Goldman weighs the merits of transcriptions for band of music originally conceived for other media. He argues that the idea of transcriptions is valid and only stipulates that the music involved should be adaptable to band. Considerable space is devoted to a discussion of present problems in publishing music for band in several different sets of parts, all deriving, in each composition, from a single basic arrangement. He recommends a solution for this problem: publish one arrangement for college and professional bands and another arrangement, of the same composition, for high school and junior high school bands. A seemingly better idea is suggested less prominently: publish each composition in only one set of parts. Mr. Goldman touches but lightly on one factor connected with the problems of scoring and repertoire, namely, the tyrannical role played by publishers of band music who generally tend to avoid marketing works which are thinly scored and thus considered unsafe [italics mine]. Mr. Goldman obviously recognizes the fact that many arrangers and publishers are more concerned with selling their music than with maintaining high standards of quality, but he avoids saying so by relegating the problem to one of technical difficulty rather than musical quality.

Mr. Goldman discusses the problem of cueing and doubling as if every note in a score were always played as written. He ignores the possibility—and seems unaware of a common practice—that the director may wield his red pencil with whatever abandon he wishes.

I believe a majority of directors would emphatically disagree with Mr. Goldman's statement that "for many works, a full score is either unnecessary or economically impractical." One of the most serious obstacles to efficient use of rehearsal time—especially with amateur bands—is the lack of a full score. One type of full score escapes mention by Mr. Goldman: the full score in concert key, which is a very useful tool.

Perhaps the most significant—and grammatically awkward—single statement in the book is the following: "Today, more than at any other time in its history, the central problem of the band is its repertoire." The author develops this theme in one of the most interesting portions of the book and contributes much careful and original thought toward its proof.

In the section entitled "Improving the Band," Mr. Goldman makes many valuable—though few novel—suggestions. He tends to oversimplify the problems and techniques related to tuning the band but makes the excellent observation that too few school band members are aware of pitch intervals, stating that a correction of this weakness would eliminate the necessity for the all too prevalent and ineffective use of a single tuning note.

In summary, the book constitutes a worthwhile addition to the existing literature on the subject of bands and the author demonstrates a keen understanding of many currently perplexing practices and trends. The book falls short of being a scholarly work because of the attempt to cover too broad a scope with a superficial kind of research. The most serious deficiency involves the total lack of documentation, and this fact alone makes much of the information suspect and reduces the value of the book as a point of departure for future scholarly investigation.

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Last modified on Thursday, 15/11/2018

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