• The Mandolin in America

    The Mandolin in America: The Full Story from Orchestras to Bluegrass to the Modern Revival, by Walter Carter
    Milwaukee, Wisc. — Hal Leonard Corporation has announced a January, 2017 publication date for Walter Carter's The Mandolin in America: The Full Story from Orchestras to Bluegrass to the Modern Revival.

    From the pre-publication information released by Hal Leonard:

    When large numbers of students from Spain arrived in New York in 1880, they introduced the American public to a new instrument — the mandolin.

    Spanning more than a century, this book chronicles the national mandolin craze that swept across the nation and the evolution of the instrument in America to the present day.

    Eclipsing the banjo and guitar as the most popular fretted instrument in the late 19th century, the mandolin inspired the formation of the Gibson company. After World War I, the mandolin went into a long period of decline, during which it found sanctuary in rural string bands and bluegrass music.

    By the 1980s, a revival was underway, with adventurous players using mandolins in all types of musical settings, including symphonic, semi-classical ensembles, jazz, klezmer, Irish, choro, and all the branches emanating from bluegrass.

    The Mandolin in America profiles all the significant makers, including Bigsby, Epiphone, Fender, Flatiron, Giacomel, Gibson, Gilchrist, Lyon & Healy, Martin, Monteleone, National, Nugget, Vega, Vinaccia, and Washburn. Lavishly illustrated with color photos throughout, this is a must-have volume for collectors and music enthusiasts alike.

    Additional Information

    Comments 24 Comments
    1. JeffD's Avatar
      JeffD -
      This has got to be a great book. The perfect companion to Graham McDonald's book.

      We are a part of a great and grand tradition and it is, I believe, important to be conversant in its history and details. OK maybe it's not important, but it for me it certainly contributes to the experience of playing. Every time I see my hand picking up a mandolin, I experience the resonance going back so many many years.

      It is a lot like fishing, (which I also love) looking on the river and thinking about the age of things and my place in them.
    1. LadysSolo's Avatar
      LadysSolo -
      Just ordered it. Says expected to be released January 2017. Merry late Christmas present to me! (Or Happy New Year present!)
    1. August Watters's Avatar
      August Watters -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
      We are a part of a great and grand tradition and it is, I believe, important to be conversant in its history and details. OK maybe it's not important, but it for me it certainly contributes to the experience of playing..
      I'm with you -- knowing the history of our instrument adds a lot to the experience of playing. And it can open new possibilities, when you understand what has been done, particularly since there were such great achievements that you won't find youtube. I think the next generation of successful mandolin players will need to be, as you say, conversant with the history and literature of our instrument, including the early chapters to be filled out by the upcoming book. IMHO, it's essential for anyone interested in the roots of the American mandolin.
    1. brunello97's Avatar
      brunello97 -
      Quote Originally Posted by August Watters View Post
      I'm with you -- knowing the history of our instrument adds a lot to the experience of playing. And it can open new possibilities, when you understand what has been done, particularly since there were such great achievements that you won't find youtube. I think the next generation of successful mandolin players will need to be, as you say, conversant with the history and literature of our instrument, including the early chapters to be filled out by the upcoming book. IMHO, it's essential for anyone interested in the roots of the American mandolin.
      Looks like a good book. I enjoy reading these types of things.

      Not to nitpick, but I was wondering about the intro blurb on the page linked here.

      I had the understanding that the Spanish Students actually played bandurrias on their tour of the US. I could be wrong about that, but Graham McDonald suggests such as well in his "The Mandolin-A History".

      I've heard a (perhaps apocryphal) follow up story that a group of Italian-American musicians followed in the wake of the Spaniards to capitalize on the success and they actually played mandolins.

      This is not an attempt to discredit Mr. Carter's book, but it does make me wonder a bit if the intro blurb is in conflict with other "histories" about a seminal event.

      Mick
    1. DavidKOS's Avatar
      DavidKOS -
      Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
      I had the understanding that the Spanish Students actually played bandurrias on their tour of the US. I could be wrong about that, but Graham McDonald suggests such as well in his "The Mandolin-A History".

      I've heard a (perhaps apocryphal) follow up story that a group of Italian-American musicians followed in the wake of the Spaniards to capitalize on the success and they actually played mandolins.
      k
      That's the way I heard it too.

      http://www.pittsburghmandolinsociety...ry-of-mandolin

      " In 1880, a group of musicians known as the Estudiantina Figaro, or, the "Spanish Students." landed in New York City. Interestingly enough, they did not play mandolins but Bandurrias, which are small, double-strung instruments from Spain which resemble the mandolin."
    1. Bernie Daniel's Avatar
      Bernie Daniel -
      Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
      That's the way I heard it too.

      http://www.pittsburghmandolinsociety...ry-of-mandolin

      " In 1880, a group of musicians known as the Estudiantina Figaro, or, the "Spanish Students." landed in New York City. Interestingly enough, they did not play mandolins but Bandurrias, which are small, double-strung instruments from Spain which resemble the mandolin."
      Yes as noted MacDonald's book also claims the same thing:

      "Following a very successful season during the Exposition they [the Spanish Students] were booked for an American tour and arrived in New York City on 2 January, 1880, where TheNew York Times reported the arrival of 15 musicians, with nine mandolins (actually bandurrias), five guitars and a violin."

      And that is the way I've always heard the story as well and it is why I bought a bandurria while in Spain in 1980.

      But sure going to buy a copy of Walter Carters' newest book to stand along side of my copy of "Gibson Guitars: The first 100 yeas of an American Icon".
    1. August Watters's Avatar
      August Watters -
      Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
      I had the understanding that the Spanish Students actually played bandurrias on their tour of the US. I could be wrong about that. . .I've heard a (perhaps apocryphal) follow up story that a group of Italian-American musicians followed in the wake of the Spaniards to capitalize on the success and they actually played mandolins.
      Not apocryphal. The academic citation for that is in Paul Sparks' book, "The Classical Mandolin." I also included the story in my book, "Exploring Classical Mandolin." Unless there's some new evidence to consider, this is the best information historians have.

      But I'm not sure if the introductory blurb about the book is questioning this -- in a sense, the Figaro Spanish Students did introduce the "mandolin" widely to America, even if that's not the instrument they played. That's the word used in the 1880 New York Times article.
    1. DavidKOS's Avatar
      DavidKOS -
      Quote Originally Posted by August Watters View Post
      -- in a sense, the Figaro Spanish Students did introduce the "mandolin" widely to America, even if that's not the instrument they played. That's the word used in the 1880 New York Times article.
      I tend to agree, almost all the imitators used mandolins from the beginning, almost no one used the instruments of the Spanish rondalla. America began making mandolins in great numbers, but not so much bandurrias and lautos!
    1. brunello97's Avatar
      brunello97 -
      It still strikes me as "truthiness". Hard to imagine writing a book on the history of the mandolin without having read Sparks's books as some research / homework. If you are going to write a couple of new sentences in a new book, why not make them unequivocally accurate?

      "....large numbers of students from Spain arrived in New York...." Hmm. On scholarship to NYU? It wasn't a large number of students and there is no telling if the "Spanish Students" were actually students and not members of an Estudiantina who may have long since matriculated.

      Garbling actual documented information and passing it along doesn't strike me much as scholarship and actually will spread misinformation. This will probably sell a lot more copies than Paul Sparks's book.

      Yeah, I guess I am kind of cranky about this kind of stuff.

      Mick
    1. Graham McDonald's Avatar
      Graham McDonald -
      I suspect just an overly enthusiastic blurb writer from Hal Leonard....
    1. brunello97's Avatar
      brunello97 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
      I suspect just an overly enthusiastic blurb writer from Hal Leonard....
      Thanks, Graham. You're much more generous than I. I hope you are right....

      Mick
    1. Explorer's Avatar
      Explorer -
      I've known more than one person who really got motivated to buy a Theremin due to one being used on Good Vibrations, from the Beach Boys.

      And, of course, the actual instrument used was a Tannerin, which has a more controllable pitch mechanism than the Theremin.

      It's interesting to see that the mandolin might have benefitted from a similar misattribution.
    1. walter carter's Avatar
      walter carter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
      I suspect just an overly enthusiastic blurb writer from Hal Leonard....
      Yes, Graham is correct. I never saw the publisher's blurb.

      While I appreciate the advance publicity that forum members are generating, I would also appreciate it if everyone would wait until they've actually read the book before reviewing it.

      To clarify the scope... While this book covers the history of the instruments in America, it does it from a much broader perspective that encompasses the players and the styles of music and how all of that fits into the big picture of America's musical culture.

      There may be some errors, but rest assured, the Spanish Students will be playing bandurrias.

      More to come.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Giving this article a bump to remind everyone the book is now on sale directly from Carter Vintage Guitars and is available signed and unsigned
    1. mando1man's Avatar
      mando1man -
      I just got my signed copy today. It looks fantastic. A "must have" for all mandolin
      enthusiasts!!!
    1. JeffD's Avatar
      JeffD -
      Quote Originally Posted by walter carter View Post
      how all of that fits into the big picture of America's musical culture.
      That to me is what I most look forward to.

      I would like to be able to say the mandolin is more than fun, it's important. But I am not knowledgeable enough to defend that argument to the relativists.
    1. JeffD's Avatar
      JeffD -
      OK. My copy arrived late last week and I finished it. Fantastic book. Will be a reference for years and years to come. Here is everything I think about it.
    1. walter carter's Avatar
      walter carter -
      Thanks for the kind and insightful words, Jeff. In the wake of the recent books by Graham McDonald and Paul Fox, I felt the mandolin models and makers had been thoroughly covered, so I was free to explore the musical and cultural history of the instrument, and it proved to be quite an enjoyable journey.

      We share the experience of having a photo of a grandmother in a mandolin orchestra. In my case, the photo is from 1919 - supposedly after the mandolin had died. Obviously it hadn't, and that photo provided some of the inspiration to find out what was really happening with the mandolin through the years.

      Walter
    1. Graham McDonald's Avatar
      Graham McDonald -
      My copy arrived yesterday and what a delight it is. I spent the rest of the day reading through it. My main complaint is that there are a whole bunch of recordings I had forgotten about (or didn't know about at all) which I shall now have to track down and listen to!
    1. John Hasbrouck's Avatar
      John Hasbrouck -
      I finished reading my copy of Walter's book last week and am now well into my second reading. It is really splendid. Thank you, Walter!