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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

Sorry, my mistake


Perceiving the error of our ways

Thinking back through a lifetime in music recalls my teenage skirmish with Haydn symphonies in piano duet arrangement published by Peters Edition. What a revelation that proved as my interest in Haydn deepened. My father, with whom I played the duets, had long been a Haydn devotee, and I slowly realised that Papa Haydn must have been a slave to his pen/quill on paper or parchment that hindered clear writing.

Such basic irritations do not even occur to us when skating across smooth manuscript paper with a ballpoint pen. Would any of us spoilt musicians today even consider writing both score and a set of parts given the implements of the 18th century? As a junior proof reader with the publisher Novello years ago I also soon realised that human error can easily arise and prove difficult to spot in so crucial a task as presenting an accurate score and set of parts.

It quickly led me to the conclusion that composers on the whole had no more success in avoiding error than anybody else. In some cases the mistakes proved blindingly obvious, and the perpetrators would only blink in amazement when they were pointed out.

Such thoughts if directed to the matter of daily living show without doubt that Man spends much time in hurrying through matters urgent or non-urgent with the constant threat of error, small and large. It is in this area that I first connected error as a constant threat to our imagined superiority in Life. How the mighty so easily fall as they denounce such shortcomings in the activities of other people, only to discover that their own blunders are just as frequent and probably of greater significance.

Copyright © 14 June 2002 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK



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