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Editorial Musings

Dreadful silence

'Times are getting harder for the composer. There is so much music-making nowadays: from its youth up the public is over-accustomed to music, so that its sensitivity to it constantly declines. That very piece of music which leaves people unmoved today because their ear is sated with music, would affect them greatly if they had heard no music for a whole year'..

Is there not a cautionary air about that statement that fits the musical world today like a glove? Weber was moved to write that in 1802. One can barely imagine the response given, say, a tabloid newspaper column today. Maybe there should be a contemporary Weber of government rank to issue an edict banning all musical performance for one year. What an outcry would ensue! Music would suddenly become the one thing that everybody found essential for survival, and covert means of listening to it would spring up all around. The music police would be combing town and countryside with listening devices ready to pounce on small groups huddling in basements, barns, in the middle of golf courses, coaches tearing down motorways and freeways carrying fanatics with earphones clamped to their heads, and short haul airways making a fortune organising illicit music parties for round trips.

The unequivocal outcome of such an action would be a staggering response to the power of music for the first week after the ban. Thereafter the old ways would swiftly creep back and music would revert to its subservient role as a background to endless conversation. The true worshippers of music as an incomparable art would return to places where it is accorded due reverence..

As we are all guilty of breaches of that musical status, I for one will take more care when I play a record or listen to music live. I shall also say a quiet 'thank you' to the spirit of Weber for the warning he issued as long ago as 1802.

Basil Ramsey, 18 February 1999

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