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Laura C. Boulton

PREMIERE MUSIC PRESENTATION: The First Public Presentation of the New Series of Sound and Motion Records of African Music Ensembles by Native Court Orchestras, Singers, and Dancers
April 05 – April 05, 1935

These records and pictures were made in 1934 on the most recent of four scientific expeditions to Africa led by Mr. Rudyerd Boulton, on all of which Mrs. Boulton made careful studies and annotations of native music, and in the last previous expedition secured a large collection of musical instruments (shown at the Renaissance Society in 1933 and now in the Anthropological Collection of the Field Museum). A special grant from the Carnegie Corporation provided an electrical recording apparatus for the last expedition and the musical records were made and played back to the natives, creating the greatest amazement and interest among them.

The records and pictures were made under the supervision of Mrs. Boulton, about which she has many interesting things to tell.

They show the complex syncopation and highly developed structure of the ceremonial and folk-music in which a great variety of drums, flutes and mirambas (xylophones) are used. The voice is a part of the orchestral arrangement, and the effect is at times almost like an opera; the dances are of course a part of the dramatic ceremony.

The examples are drawn from about 25 tribes on the west coast of Africa (where the most highly developed music and other arts are found) which include the peoples of Benin and Ife, those from the British Cameroon, Nigeria, Dahomey, the French Soudan, Senegal, and the Tuaregs (nomad tribes of the Sahara desert) recorded in Timbuktu.

The Beni and the Ife tribes are skilled workers in brass, the Tuaregs in silver; others specialize in bronze, pottery and wood.

This will be the first public presentation of these records which have been heard only by invited guests on special occasions. In January they were shown before a science group at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, and in New York at the American Museum of Natural History for the staff, for Mrs. Oscar S. Straus (who, now over seventy, has been the patron of two of these expeditions and accompanied them on a great part of their itinerary), for scientists, musicians and students.

Olin Downes, musical critic of the New York Times, spent much time listening to the new records about which he was very enthusiastic.

Among the musicians who are interested in Mrs. Boulton's work are Frank Damrosch, Olga Samaroff Stokowski, Ernest Hutchinson, Ernest Schelling, Prokofieff and Charles Seeger.

In Chicago the records were played for Stravinsky, Rudolph Ganz, John Alden Carpenter and a few others, M. Stravinsky told Mr. Ganz afterward that he could listen all night to those drums.

Mr. Lissfelt, the music critic of Pittsburgh, wrote in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, "The form of this music is sometimes as defined as the contrapuntal and antiphonal music of the pre-Bach era... (Stravinsky) was dazed by the skill of the players in these counter rhythms.

"One must hear and see these documents to realize the real value and fascination of the Boulton lore."

International House Theater, at 8:30 pm.

This text was taken from the event program.


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