The Battle of Manassas for the Piano, by Blind Tom.

Cleveland, (OH): S. Brainard's Sons, c1866 [but 1884]. Second edition. 4to. 11 pp. Long introduction on the verso of the title page, the music with printed notes indicating stages of the battle. Thomas ("Blind Tom") Wiggins Bethune (1849-1908), an African-American autistic savant and musical prodigy, was born a slave on a plantation in Harris County, Georgia, near Columbus, and began his musical career at an early age on his master's piano. At eight, Tom was hired out to a promoter who toured him extensively in the United States, earning prodigious sums of money; his former master took him to Europe in 1866 for a successful tour there. A series of custodial battles and other problems essentially ended Blind Tom's career in the mid-1890s. "In the wave of euphoria after Manassas, Tom turned his hypersensitive ear into the music of the big-mouthed guns. He then framed these sounds with the South's triumphant version of events, before composing what many believed was his masterpiece … Tom's impressionistic musical description of the battle pits the harmony of the right hand against the discord of the left. An insistent bass conjures the trudge of marching columns, tonal clusters evoke the roar of cannon and musketry. A brooding soundscape then ducks, weaves, and punches its way into a medley of popular and patriotic songs … discord tugging at the heels of melody until it finally explodes into the chaos of a harem-scarem finale" (from Deidre O'Connell's "The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist, America's Lost Genius"). The first edition of "The Battle of Manassas" was published in 1866 by Root & Cady in Chicago; this second edition, including a catalogue of other war related pieces of sheet music available from the publisher, was issued by Brainard's in 1884. Both editions are uncommon, in institutional holdings and in trade. Not in Dichter & Shapiro, Levy, or Wolf. OCLC locates 9 copies of the first edition and 8 for the one offered here (Yale, Columbus State, Allen County Public, Detroit Public, Michigan, Virginia, SE Illinois, Library of Virginia); it's unclear how many of those still retain the color illustrated front wrapper, but at least two include it. Spine with tape repairs, several marginal tears to interior leaves, one leaf with tape repairs not extending into text, old tidelines in upper margin of several leaves not extending into text, lower front wrapper chipped, a good copy of a scarce printing of Blind Tom's masterpiece. Original chromolithographic wrappers, illustrated with a Civil War battle scene by Goes & Quensel, Lith., Chicago. (8686). Item #61664

Price: $1,250.00

See all items in African-Americana, Americana
See all items by , ,