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Editorial Musings

After music

How odd it is that in reading we are often brought to a sudden stop by a notion that is obvious and almost commonplace, so much so that we cannot recall giving it conscious thought. It happened to me last week in leafing through the Vaughan Williams’ collected essays: ‘in primitive times the intervention of the written note between the composer and the performer did not exist.' Yes, any fool would know that immediately. I certainly have given conscious thought to that and its consequences in years past. Then it drifts down (or perhaps up) to settle in the mud. That enormous area of assumptions we continuously rely on in daily living perhaps requires an auxiliary department of ‘assumption thumpers’ ready to jab us into conscious thought when our assumptions reach danger level.

There’s no real harm in assuming that primitive musicians went to the nearest music shop for the latest primitive song, but it becomes absurd to assume that written notation has always existed. Vaughan Williams went on to conjecture a new art form in future years whereby a composer will be in direct touch with listeners.

At this point in time, with the year 2000 only months away, may we envisage a time when composers could transmit musical thoughts directly into cyberspace to be picked up by individuals from such a device as the computer. Vaughan Williams was right in declaring this facility - should it happen - a new art requiring a new language.

I do not find myself thrilled at such a prospect!

Basil Ramsey, 21 January 1999

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