Mudcat Café message #4032205 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4032205
Posted By: Brian Peters
04-Feb-20 - 11:13 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
I must take issue with Jack Campin's acceptance of Harker's claim (in 'Fakesong's' predecessor) that: “he isn't attacking Sharp himself, but the followers who refused to examine where he was coming from.“

This is highly disingenuous, at least where 'Fakesong' iself is concerned. Harker has indeed claimed that he was merely redressing the balance, away from the pre-existing adulation of Sharp by Maud Karpeles and other followers, and in the sense that there was a bubble that needed to be pricked, he might have a point. However, it can't be argued that that he doesn’t attack Sharp personally. What is “culturally exploitative and reactionary”, if not an attack? The book is unable to provide even the most banal snippets of biographical detail without resort to subtly loaded terms:

“Sharp was acknowledged to be a 'Freethinker' and a 'Radical', but distinctly lightweight.”

he took care to ingratiate himself with the music-loving members of the expatriate English and German bourgeoisie”

“He pestered Schott to publish his sonatas”

And here is one of my favourites – note the contents of the two bracketed sections:
“He rowed keenly in the second boat (for which there was little competition), took lodgings out of college in Tennis Court Road so as to be able to make as much noise with his piano as he wished, and became Secretary of the College Debating Society (at the third attempt)

That is not impartial reportage.

Harker consistently selects and edits quote that might cast Sharp in a poor light, while ignoring anything that might be construed favourably. For instance, of Sharp and Karpeles in Virginia: “They ‘went to see an old coloured woman’, but she sang only ‘one good tune’...”

Here’s what Sharp actually wrote about Aunt Maria Tombs (Harker doesn’t dignify her with a name):

[MS Fair copy, 22/05/1918] “ Aunt Maria is an old coloured woman, aged 85, who was a slave belonging to Mrs Coleman who freed her after the war and gave her the log cabin in which she now lives, which used to be the overseer's home. I found her sitting in front of the cabin smoking a pipe. We sang (to) her 'The Sinner Man', which delighted her beyond anything and made her dub me 'A soldier of Christ'. She sang very beautifully in a wonderfully musical way and with clear and perfect intonation.”

To me, that reads like a convivial meeting with an African-American woman that Sharp respected as a singer, and doesn’t square at all with the picture of the stuck-up English racist. But you wouldn’t get any sense of that from Harker. Believe me, there are many more examples.