'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
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