Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Editorial

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Editorial

Article excerpt

I love reading biographies. Over the recent past I have enjoyed learning about the lives of Frank Sinatra, Catherine the Great, Sergei Prokofiev, Mark Twain, Mao Zedong, Isaac Newton, Alexander Hamilton, John Lennon, Steve Jobs, and Ted Williams. I have even contributed to the genre myself. (1) Although the genre defines itself as the story of a person, there are infinite ways to tell that story and it all depends on the questions the author pursues. Recently I stumbled on a biography that now ranks among my all-time favorites. I just had to share it in this forum even though it has nothing to do with music education! But it is a fascinating piece of historical research and it could be applied to music education if the right scholar catches on.

Here Lies Hugh Glass is my new favorite example of biographical research. (2) The author, Jon T. Coleman, actually describes it more as a "missing person's report." (3) That's because Glass contributed only one letter known to us and people who did write about him did so through secondary sources. So, Coleman carved out Glass's story by researching the gaps around his life. The results give us an offbeat but convincing picture of how the American frontier was settled including the development of some American attitudes that continue to this day. I refer to the embracing of anti-intellectualism and a general mistrust of authority.

Glass's story can be quickly recalled. In the summer of 1823, Hugh Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear. His fellow trapper/explorers killed the bear but also left Glass for dead while taking Glass's weapons to protect themselves. After all, they were in Indian country. Glass, unable to walk and sucking breaths through a punctured trachea, crawled two hundred miles, subsisting on insects and snakes. He reached Fort Kiowa to seek those who abandoned him, bent on revenge. Glass lived for several more years, participating in more expeditions, and his story became legendary.

The skilled historian and writer Coleman pursues the environmental, cultural, political, and geographic issues surrounding Hugh Glass. The result is no less than a wonderfully energetic account of American frontier context. In fact, because much of Glass's life is speculation, this book is mostly about context. …

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