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Thread: Who was Bickford....

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    "He also calls all of this "Universal Notation," I am sure another source of disagreement."

    There is no disagreement. The Bickford mandocello method is written in what was called "universal notation" at the time. As I stated, universal notation is just the octave treble clef, in one octave or another. Notation for the mandola in G (a.k.a. octave mandolin) and the guitar has always been 8va (and, therefore,"universal notation"). "Universal notation" for the mandola in C is 8va treble.

    The irony is that Bickford, who also played bowed strings professionally, was perfectly capable of reading bass clef on the mandocello or alto clef on the mandola in C, or whatever on whatever. Bickford was a charter member of the (Valentin) "Abt Plectral String Quartette", paying 2nd mandolin; the mandola in C player was F. Landry Berthoud; and the mandocellist was William Foster. The group routinely played string quartets from the original parts; they also played a quartet version of at least one of Abt's solo works in which the mandola part was written in alto clef. But Bickford was also a businessman and went along (as did William Place, who also formed and played in classic plucked string quartets) with the official view of the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists, and Guitarists, which advocated for universal notation.
    Robert A. Margo

  2. #27
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    "mea culpa!
    I wanted to correct my statement about Olcott being a teenager in 1914. She was not, rather she was about 30 years old (born 1885) when she moved to New York to assist Bone in his biographical study of mandolinists and guitarists."

    This is the standard story, as evidenced by introductory text on the VOB (Vahdah Olcott-Bickford) archive.

    However, I am skeptical. First, some background.

    VOB's maiden name was Ethel Lucretia Olcott (ELM, hereafter). She was born in Ohio in 1885 and moved as a child with her parents to Los Angeles, where she studied guitar with Jose Ferrer, a celebrated guitarist of the era. In 1906 she attended the annual convention of the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists, and Guitarists, where she met Myron Bickford where, as the saying goes, they hit it off. Whether they had an affair in the modern sense is anyone's guess, but there is no question that it was a scandal, because Bickford was married at the time and had a family.

    After the convention ELM went back to Los Angeles where she taught (she is listed as a music teacher in the LA city directory) and regularly concertized. Evidently she and Bickford kept up some type of clandestine relationship as he eventually extricated himself from his marriage and divorced his wife in order to marry ELM. In 1914 ELM moved back east, first to Ohio, then married Bickford in 1915. They settled in New York City, becoming, in effect, the "power couple" of the American BMG world.

    The reason I am skeptical about the conventional story is, as the above makes clear, ELM had another reason to move east -- her future husband. Further, she didn't need to be in NYC to help Bone out; she and Bone had an active correspondence long before she moved (that is, she certainly assisted him in providing information and so on, but this happened before 1914, as indicated by letters preserved in the VOB archive). The timeline also suggests she didn't actual move to NYC until after the first edition of Bone's book was published (September 1914).
    Robert A. Margo

  3. #28
    Registered User Rob Ross's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    So, while I'm not often finding myself playing classical style mandolin, in this thread I learned about the Bickford's, some pretty New Age type individuals from well over a century ago, learned some scandalous rumors about said proto-New Agers, learned about Djangobooks.com and a link for a downloadable and very straight-forward mandolin method book, and I learned more about obscure cleff notation than I had ever realized was out there before. I love this website!
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    the 1970 Suzuki-Violin-Sha Bowl Back Taterbug

  4. #29
    Registered User Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    New Age! Yes. It was Emma Lucretia Olcott's great uncle Col. Henry Steele Olcott became the first president of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society after she died. (some facts derive from a descendant with whom I have been in contact). You can see why the Bickfords were fond of astrology etc. Her entire family were quite visionary in all sorts of ways.

    Margo brings up some good points re ELO. Perhaps Bone was thanking her for other reasons! His inscription on #1 signed copy is attached; it's for sale on eBay.
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  5. #30
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    VOB's maiden name was Ethel Lucretia Olcott (ELM, hereafter).
    The mystery for me was why she is maidenly-abbreviated as ELM vs. ELO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandophile View Post
    New Age! Yes. It was Emma Lucretia Olcott's great uncle Col. Henry Steele Olcott became the first president of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society after she died. (some facts derive from a descendant with whom I have been in contact). You can see why the Bickfords were fond of astrology etc. Her entire family were quite visionary in all sorts of ways.

    Margo brings up some good points re ELO. Perhaps Bone was thanking her for other reasons! His inscription on #1 signed copy is attached; it's for sale on eBay.
    For anyone who has deepish pockets and wants such a thing, you can find it on eBay for a mere $2300 BIN. 1914 The Guitar (and) & Mandolin by Philip Bone 1st Edition #1 Signed Copy Rare!

    She must have had something pretty important to do with this book. Her photo is in it with a specific thank you:

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  6. #31
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    Default Re: Who was Bickford....

    "The mystery for me was why she is maidenly-abbreviated as ELM vs. ELO."

    No mystery, I was typing too fast and hit "Post Quick Reply" too quickly. ELO would have been better (unless one reads "ELO" = Electric Light Orchestra). There is no question that ELO helped Bone -- that much is clear from surviving letters in the VOB archives -- but exactly how much and on what would require more research.
    Robert A. Margo

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