Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Howe's School for the Clarionett: A Mid-Nineteenth-Century Instrumental Tutor

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Howe's School for the Clarionett: A Mid-Nineteenth-Century Instrumental Tutor

Article excerpt

It is fascinating to me as an educator and musician to study early instrumental tutors. Over the years I have gained an appreciation and respect for the many authors who have compiled and made available appropriate materials in the hope of encouraging the American public to participate in the joys of music making. What was the content of these early instrumental tutors? In what ways are contemporary method books similar to or different from early instructional books? How do these method books reflect society's musical tastes and preferences, both past and present?

I have chosen to do a content analysis (1) of Howe's School for the Clarionett, compiled and published by Elias Howe Jr. of Boston in 1843. (2) This method book, intended as complete instruction for the clarinet, has been selected as a valuable example of a mid-nineteenth-century American instrumental tutor.

Elias Howe (1820-1895) is remembered primarily as a Boston music publisher and instrument dealer. (3) He published a number of instrumental methods for flute, clarinet, violin, fife, flageolet, and "accordeon" (4) in addition to a "large collection of comic, national and sentimental songs" titled The Amateur's Song Book. (5) On the back page of the 1843 instrumental method, Howe advertises no less than thirteen "valuable instrumental music books" which he authored, each containing numerous musical selections. (6)

By 1850, due to the success and popularity of his various instrumental books (his violin self-instruction method is reported to have sold over 500,000 copies), Howe sold his entire catalogue to the Boston publisher Oliver Ditson. Their agreement included the stipulation that Howe would not publish anything himself for a period of ten years. By 1860, Howe returned to the publishing business and also began selling musical instruments. (7) The company, having been passed on to his sons after his death, was sold in 1931. Regrettably the music catalogue plates were destroyed. (8)


Howe's School for the Clarionett was "Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843, by Elias Howe, Jr. in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts." (9) Howe meticulously identified himself to be the publisher and A. B. Kidder of No. 7 Cornhill, Boston, to be responsible for the stereotyping and printing. (10) Howe uses the word "clarionett" when referring to the clarinet. This spelling can also be found in earlier instrumental instruction books. (11) In his book tracing the history of the clarinet, Rendall states:

   The English name has been from the beginning Clarinet. It occurs at
   least as early as 1733 as the name of a popular song in the ballad
   opera Achilles. The spelling with an o inserted was favoured by the
   poets, by Cowper in 1784; and the resulting 'clarionet' is also
   preferred by Keats and by Sidney Lanier, American poet and
   flautist. This grandiose form lingered on into the early years of
   the present century, but has now, it is to be hoped, vanished for
   ever. For the curious in these matters it may be observed that the
   longer form is found in use as a surname in 1559-60, when one
   Marmaduke Clarionett was named as an escheator for the City of
   York. (12)

It is possible that Howe chose this spelling in order to give the impression of being truly informed in the area of clarinet instruction. (In this, he is not unlike an individual who refers to one who plays the flute as a "flautist" rather than using the more common term "flutist.")

A careful inspection of the front cover reveals many informative statements relating not only to the content of the tutor but also to musical life in America during the early part of the nineteenth century. Howe refers to his instruction book as a School for the Clarionett, implying that this is an organized methodology, which contains "new and complete instruction" for the study of the clarinet. …

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