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Pierian "Criticism"


The Harvard Crimson assumes no responsibility for the sentiments expressed by correspondents, and reserves the right to exclude any communication whose publication may for any reason seem undesirable. Except by special arrangement, communications cannot be published anonymously.

To the Editor of the CRIMSON:

In last Saturday's CRIMSON an article appeared by Mr. Virgil Thomson purposing to be a criticism of a recent concert given by the Pierian Sodality Orchestra. It is generally supposed that the word criticism means an expression of one's views from an unbiased and impersonal standpoint--especially in its application to concerts, paintings, and the like. Certainly none but a most unmitigated neurastheniac would attempt to apply this somewhat broad definition to Mr. Thomson's effort of Saturday last. That there was something radically unfair about his "criticism" and his presumptuous attitude the following three points will, I hope, make clear.

First, in his reference to the manner in which the music was played. I have delayed the writing of this letter in order to await the result of the orchestra's trip to Springfield last Sunday. Here if played precisely the same music as at the Brattle Hall Concert. Had this concert been a failure, as I was led to believe by Mr. Thomson's article, the Brattle Hall Concert was, I would have doubtless been forced to believe the half truths of his article. However, I am saved from this painful conclusion by the following facts; an audience of over two thousand persons applauded and approved to such an extent that an encore was necessary; the critics, whom we are led to believe, are of at least as good a mental caliber as Mr. Thomson, unanimously accredited the orchestra with "a high degree of musical ensemble," and hailed it as "long among the best of college orchestras." Moreover from personal observation it did not seem to me that many among the audience at the Brattle Hall Concert shared Mr. Thomson's somewhat slanderous opinion of the occasion.

The second point which I wish to mention is this: the connotation of Mr. Thomson's article is that the Pierian Sodality Orchestra is rapidly on the decline. This I know is not the case--in either case this matter would seem not to be within the jurisdiction of a "musical critic." It would seem that he draws his conclusion from the absurd caption "unskilled instrumentalists cannot rival professionals"--a statement the fallacy of which in connection with the Pierian Orchestra, made up of students, would at once be apparent to even an "adenoidial moron." Furthermore, were the Pierian Sodality in any such state of affairs, as Mr. Thomson describes, the Music Department of this University, under whose constant guidance and advice it acts, would have long since corrected these conditions.

While I refer Mr. Thomson to that time-worn but in this case extremely appropriate fable of the fox and the grapes. I feel called upon to ask why he should have interested his famous Tangos to be played by a "Village Band," why he should indulge in a play of terms like "sheet-music trade, "familiar restaurant repotory," and "a tender and devoted skill," and why as a candidate for position of Conductor of the Pierian Orchestra last fall, he should now cry for another Davison.

At least Mr. Thompson does not represent the Music Department in his article, though he may endeavor to give such an impression. Were his a musical criticism, written fairly and sympathetically as one would expect from a man in Mr. Thomson's position and of Mr. Thomson's ability, instead of a hodge-podge of personalities, the Pierian would not feel called upon to raise its voice. Charles G. Thompson '27.

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