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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

The right notes


Recalling the rigours of musical accuracy

Most of us music lovers indulge our enjoyment of the art with countless forays into areas of music old and new. We are probably oblivious to the precise joys of specialisation, preferring to learn from chance encounter. Wise or unwise, this was how I was eventually baptised into the intricacies of scholarship and specialisation. In mid-teens my way of musical thinking was first ruptured and then enriched under the influence of the distinguished Bach scholar Walter Emery. He and Desmond Ratcliffe and I became proof readers for the publisher Novello -- Emery extremely knowledgeable, Ratcliffe shrewd and quick to learn, and me gawky and inexperienced. Frankly, I had not the temperament to take up a musicological career, even as a secondary pursuit. But the singular acuteness of Emery's musical mind was a revelatory influence, and I remain perpetually aware of that to this day.

So, when listening to old music that has required the hand of a specialist to provide an authentic reading, my thoughts go back a half-century to the brilliance of Walter Emery. Musicology has now long provided a sophisticated research tool, and the amount of early music plucked from obscurity and subjected to expert scrutiny grows continuously. One day we may have emptied and scraped the bottom of the barrel, but we don't anticipate such a calamitous event just yet!

Copyright © 3 October 2002 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK




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