A Historical Example of Racist Views In Music-Making


Concepts of lips, lungs and music-making represent a long-standing tradition. This is from an article published 110 years ago in a Hamburg newspaper announcing an up coming concert:


“On Monday evening a 14 person Original-Negro-Band will give a concert in the Ratskeller...  Even though these 14 persons from 10 different tribes have never enjoyed a music school, they still correctly read music, and not only of their homeland melodies, but also of a beautiful repertoire of European masters.  This band is of special interest to musicians, who will find themselves asking:  How is it possible, that these people with their thick, swollen lips, can form a good embouchure on wind instruments?” 


[“Neger-Concert”, Harburger Anzeiger und Nachrichten  ( November 6, 1886).  As quoted in Fred K.  Prieberg,  Musik und Macht (Frankfurt am Main: Gustav Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1991): 109.]


We ironically note that these people with their “thick, swollen lips” became the most influential and celebrated wind players of the 20th century.