We sure use a lot of old resources in the horn world

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Periodically I will see people on social media referencing Morley-Pegge for definitive information on horn history.

As great a book as it was, the book is dated, as is the Farkas book as a horn pedagogy reference. That may sound like heresy, I know. People are very reluctant to criticize in the horn world. But saying that these resources are dated is not an unfair criticism, it is rather the simple statement of an objective fact.

Seriously, it is long past time for horn players and teachers to use and demand newer resources. Speaking generally, books written half a century ago are no longer definitive references in any field. Since I brought up the Farkas book, there are objectively a number of problems with it. Any experienced horn teacher can recognize a few, and for sure I have pointed out a few of these problems in my writings here in Horn Matters.

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Perhaps I need to do a series of articles that point out problems in older sources more directly than I have to done to date.

Part of the bigger issue today is that students writing horn history papers reference the same old tired books over and over, and don’t question information that is plausible sounding. Actually, this is essentially the same as the “fake news” seen so much on social media. People see some news story that seems correct and repeat it. The thing to realize is that, if you really drill down in the the underlying sources, you can see how things get repeated from source to source but they are not always repeating accurate information.

If you lack expertise in a topic way too much sounds plausible. The classic example in horn history is the Beethoven 9 solo, which was certainly written for natural horn and not written for any specific player. Take a moment and skim this article if you are in doubt: 

The Natural Horn and the Beethoven 9 “Controversy”

Still, the fanciful stories persist involving crook changes, the early valved horn, writing the part for a specific hornist, etc. The stories will never go away until people reference new resources — teachers insisting on the use of new sources might finally begin to move the narrative from plausible stories to facts.

Of course, part of the problem is there are not a lot of recent horn resources to reference. Earlier this year I posted an article that listed all of the 14 books published on the horn, 2013-18. It has further notes back to 2008 as well.

Not a lot has been published in the past ten years. It may be as simple as the market is perceived to be too small to interest serious publishers. Online materials fill the gap to a point, Lord knows I’ve done my part, but we really need more. Books are considered to be more definitive. I actually fleshed out a proposal for a book with a publisher at one point not too long ago, but it has not yet went forward. I’d very much like to do something that was not self-published and could reach a wide audience, on horn history and horn performance. If you are reading this and have leads I could seriously follow, be in touch.

University of Horn Matters