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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

'A composer is or isn't'


That remark by Stravinsky in his conversations with Robert Craft can be derided by those musicians (including those who aspire to be composers, or those who consider that they have 'arrived') indignant at the apparent flippancy. To those who are not composers (which includes me) it seems a straightforward matter. The sensitivity usually rises from musicians desperate to receive some encouragement for the notes they commit to manuscript paper. They in most cases feel an urge to compose and send their offerings to publishers, or bestow the latest piece on a local performer.

Often it is the local performer who kindly encourages a musician with ambitions as a composer to do so with guarantee of a first performance. From my publishing experience of some years, I see the routine as cast in stone never to change. People take to music and some invariably itch to compose. The tragedy is the high percentage of tryers who face disappointment before truth dawns. But that is one of the basics of life's experiences whether we make music or marmalade.

I return to the absolute truth of Stravinsky's remark in relation to those who never give up. I have met all too many otherwise good musicians with that glint and obstinacy to prove to the world their creative talent against the musical world's extraordinary blindness. My plea to those who have yet to accept a simple truth is to think about Stravinsky's blunt remark. Very few of us have the gift, and if your musical friends have made their unwelcome opinion clear to you it is more likely to be true than false.

One of the best antidotes is a glimpse of the labour in vain by genuine composers unable to gain the professional performances they so deserve.

'A composer is or isn't.' It is harder to be a composer than not.


Copyright © 24 August 2000 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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