THE MUSIC BOX
If the Michigan game last Saturday proved nothing else, it proved that the widely heralded Michigan Band really is the marvel it is supposed to be, and that in point of execution the Harvard Band cannot hold a candle to it. Certainly the Michigan Band, subsidized by the Buick Company and fostered by the University, has reason for being so good; nonetheless, my cars at least were amazed by its technical brilliance. Besides a hair-trigger synchronization, Michigan boasts a set of trumpets which for clarity, bite, and precision are near tops among all college bands. By comparison the Harvard Band sounds dull and over-percussive. It seemed full of the booming of drums and the bleating of clarinets, while the all-important brasses cut through very poorly. Michigan had only a few drums, but these few played the most intricate rhythms with wonderful precision. And when it wanted to, the Michigan Band could play softly as well as loud: during the exciting moments between touchdown and goal kick, if you noticed, it kept right on playing, double pianissimo, without sacrificing a jot of its balance or subtlety of tone.
But where its Michigan rivals satisfy themselves with doing stock arrangements of stock numbers, our Band, which has neither the money or rehearsal-time, is continually experimenting with new and unusual music. Bob Forsberg's medleys do not yet show a real mastery of band technique, but they are striking examples of what can be done by an arranger who has imagination and who is grounded in the conventions of classical music. His fugue on the Michigan marching song which we heard Saturday was extremely effective; it would have been still more so with rehearsing.
It is this question of conducting and rehearsing on which the Harvard Band becomes stymied, and where Michigan really goes into action. The Michigan boys practice three hours a day every day in the week under a professional conductor, and I have been told that they get course credit for this time-consuming activity. Our Band, not connected officially with the College, works on a purely voluntary basis, rehearsing only twice a week, with most of the second rehearsal devoted to formation practice. And what makes the going even tougher is that the director is not experienced enough to make the band a really musicianly organization, but is just an enthusiastic amateur with a flair for band-leading. A more thorough-going professional could certainly raise the quality of the band's execution, and might conceivably arouse enough interest to bring men out oftener, possibly bring out good instrumentalists who at present stick to the Pierian. But under any circumstances, considering the disadvantages under which it works, the Band has been doing a first-rate job. The enthusiasm of its members has made it one of the best in the East, and the progressiveness of its spirit puts to shame a group like the Michigan Band, which with all its subsidies and course credits apparently would rather keep on doing the same old stuff than put itself out to learn something new.
I should like to apologize here for the statement I made in last week's column concerning the Harvard Glee Club repertoire. The statement condemning its conductor for omitting German music this year was based on faulty evidence, and the conclusion drawn from it an unjust one.