Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Historical Sin of Omission?

In the context of my efforts to bring social theory to bear on how I write about music, I decided that it was time for me to give a serious reading to Arthurs Loesser's Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History. I had examined a copy from the San Francisco Public Library; and the initial chapter, on the earliest forms of keyboard instruments, convinced me that I needed the time to give the book a serious reading (and probably to collect my own notes about that reading). This morning, however, I put the book to what I thought would be a simple test and was more than disconcerted at its failure.

The test concerned an Examiner.com piece I wrote at the beginning of the day, covering a recital of the music of Johannes Brahms last night at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I decided it would be appropriate to call the piece "A Schubertiad for Brahms," since the occasion was very much true to the Schubertiad concept (at least in the spirit of the Oxford Companion to Music source that I cited). Nevertheless, I figured that it would be worth the time for a quick check to see if the term "Schubertiad" had been used for recitals of music other than that of Franz Schubert. The index of Loesser's book was the first source I checked; and I was quite surprised to discover that "Schubertiad" was entirely absent from that index. I found it hard to believe that a book claiming to be a social history first published in 1954 would fail to mention the Schubertiad. My guess is that I shall eventually find the term lurking somewhere in the text, but it still strikes me as important enough to merit its own index entry!

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