Konservatorium 1905-2005. Die Departement Musiek En Die Konservatorium Aan Die Universiteit Stellenbosch by Geleentheid Van Die Eeufees 1905-2005

By Walton, Chris | Notes, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Konservatorium 1905-2005. Die Departement Musiek En Die Konservatorium Aan Die Universiteit Stellenbosch by Geleentheid Van Die Eeufees 1905-2005


Walton, Chris, Notes


MUSIC TEACHING INSTITUTIONS Konservatorium 1905-2005. Die Departement Musiek en die Konservatorium aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch by geleentheid van die Eeufees 1905-2005. Edited by Izak Grové. Stellenbosch: SUN Press, 2005. [150 p. ISBN-10: 1-919980-67-9; ISBN-13: 978-1-919980-67-6. ZAR 200.] Illustrations, appendices.

The music department of the University of Stellenbosch turned one hundred years old in 2005, and is thus the oldest institution of its kind in South Africa. A centenary such as that demands a Festschrift, of course, and here it is. Its title in translation means "Konservatorium 1905-2005. The Department of Music and the Konservatorium at the University of Stellenbosch on the occasion of the centenary 1905-2005"- though the dates are not the only tautology here, for the Department of Music and the Konservatorium are really one and the same thing. After the standard words of greeting from the Chancellor, Vice- Chancellor, and Dean of Humanities, the book proceeds with a chronology of the "Conserve" (as it is generally known). There is then a broad variety of chapters on its various directors, its buildings and facilities, its instruments, its composers, its music library, and its academic programme. The book also offers a large number of photographs, ranging from the stock, staged photos of staff and/or students from 1930 to the present day, to more (or less) spontaneous shots of individuals. There are two appendices. The first is a list of staff from the hundred years in question, the second is another photo gallery, this time of the contributors to the book.

This Festschrift is very nicely produced, as one would expect from SUN Press-one of the newcomers to academic publishing in South Africa, but already one of the most innovative. There are quite a few typographical errors and the odd missing line of text (p. 64) that the editor should have spotted, but I gather that a second printrun has since corrected these. There are several other glitches that betray a certain lack of editorial focus; it is unclear, for example, why one list and a set of photos should be declared "appendices," while the other photos belong officially to the body of the text; nor is it clear why the first dozen pages have no page numbers. There is no index.

These are minor quibbles; the book is on its own terms an engaging history of the institution. These "own terms," however, are the real problem. A Festschrift of this kind is always going to tread a difficult line between objective scholarship and coffeetable self-congratulation. But here, the self-congratulation remains essentially unquestioned and unquestioning. That might not matter in a book about an institution in Boston, Bridlington, or Brisbane. But this is Stellenbosch University in South Africa, a country that from 1948 to 1994 was ruled by white supremacists who adopted fascism just when most of the world had abandoned it. Apartheid was modelled on the long-abandoned Nuremberg Laws of the Nazis, and underpinned by sex-obsessed theorists who believed "blackness" to be a matter of "infection" that could be avoided by "protecting" white women from the supposed sin of miscegenation (see J. M. Coetzee, "Apartheid Thinking," in Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996], 163-84). A pseudo-anthropology and a pseudo- Christianity were then developed in order to provide the scientific and theological justification for white "superiority." The whole edifice was propped up by a vast security and military apparatus that employed strict censorship, condoned the torture and murder of non-combatants, and did not hesitate to stockpile chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in preparation for the "total onslaught" of its supposed enemies (the phrase was former president P. W. Botha's, but obviously, perhaps intentionally, redolent of Joseph Goebbels's "totaler Krieg"). The success of South Africa's multi-milliondollar propaganda campaign of the 1970s and 1980s, coupled with the fact that apartheid itself was dismantled in a political compromise in the early 1990s, has tended to obscure to outsiders the real nature of the regime-as it did, too, to many white insiders (Daniel Goldhagen-like questions of general complicity are yet to be raised in South Africa, and perhaps never will be). …

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