The significance of the contribution of blind musicians to the growth of classical music in Western civilization with a critical assessment of their present position in the USA, UK and RSA
Kruger, Christie Marius Frans
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This thesis concerns the part played by blind musicians in the development of serious (classical) music in Western civilization. Initially this research project was motivated by the complete absence of a thorough and representative biographical catalogue and directory of blind musicians of the past and present generations. Although several names of blind musicians are included in music lexicons and books dealing with music, no attempt has as yet been made either to assess their contribution in the evolution of music or to compile a representative biographical dictionary, with the result that the names of many of them, however internationally famous they were during their own lifetime, were more or less relegated to oblivion. Consequently a large number of these musicians did not receive due credit for their role in the music-making process in Western civilization. Although the directory does not claim to be a complete list in every respect, it is as accurate as possible. Moreover, the catalogue aims at a scientific assessment of the significance of the contribution of blind musicians to the growth of Western music. It is meant to initiate further investigation and to be a nucleus for research on blind musicians. The directory is based on more than two hundred biographies, about one hundred and sixty from abroad and more than fifty from the Republic of South Africa. Both the composers JSBach and G F Handel were not included in the text of this thesis for an obvious reason: they completed the bulk of their compositions before turning blind relatively late in their lives. Despite the interesting theory of the Australian researcher, Barbara \Villiams, who suggested the possibility of visual impairment in the case of the Danish composer, Dietrich Buxtehude (his compositions not being in his own handwriting), no further proof could be found to substantiate her theory. Consequently Buxtehude with his work was not considered in this thesis. Existing doubts concerning the visual capability of Paul Hofhaimer, the famous Austrian composer and organist, rendered a consideration of his musicial contributions unnecessary. However, Arnold Schlick, Frederick Delius and some other composers who contributed considerably to music after they had become blind, were accounted for in this research. The thesis is divided into two sections. Part One is devoted to biographical sketches arranged in various chapters, starting with Antiquity to 400 AD, followed by a discussion of the significant musical contribution of the blind bards from Antiquity to the nineteenth century. All subsequent chapters correspond with the various stylistic periods in the history of music. It may be anticipated that the relevant data will supply ample proof of the significance of the achievements of blind composers, performers and teachers. Part Two clarifies the meaning of music in the lives of the blind. Thereupon follows a survey of the development of printing used for blind readers and scholars, education for the blind, the establishment of the first schools for the blind and a historical overview of the era of the institutions. Finally a critical assessment of the current situation in the lives of blind musicians furnishes an indication of the future of blind musicians in the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of South Africa. Part Two ventures some suggestions to policy makers, educationists and the blind themselves. Guidelines gleaned from the research made possible the identification of problem areas and possible measures that may be adopted towards the improvement of the present position of blind musicians in these countries. Above all Part Two is a plea for the sympathetic understanding of the autogenous problems of the blind, endeavouring to evoke from society and its leaders a more realistic approach to the blind musician's capabilities documented in Part One. The blind want the world to realize that they do not ask sympathy which will place them in an inferior position and that they do not expect any lowering of standards on their behalf which will degrade their dignity. They received their affliction from the hand of God and by the grace of God they intend serving his purpose. Their educators should heed their request: "Il faut cultiver notre jardin." (Voltaire, Candide) It is a plea that blind musicians be allowed and encouraged to partake in the development of music in the future. From policy makers and employers they expect a more realistic approach to their merits let the abilities and qualifications of each individual be the criteria. The data for this thesis were compiled from books, magazines, brochures, widespread correspondence and, as a consequence of the very nature of the subject, a large number of personal interviews including, as a matter of geographical necessity, numerous telephone calls. The research project was conducted over several years, 1986-1988. This comprised personal visits abroad during the year 1986, to facilitate an on the spot investigation of the present situations in the United States and United Kingdom. Similar personal investigations were conducted in the Republic of South Africa, during 1987-1988. Furthermore, research necessitated fifty-nine questionnaires posed to blind musicians. The feedback of the latter amounted to a reliable 79,7%. Discussions with the personnel of various organizations representing the blind produced invaluable information and revealed genuine interest in the cause of the blind.