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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

The unwritten obligation

A musical question with no clear answer

As over the last decade or so I've heard less fury from conservatively-minded musicians about scandalous new music from young and irresponsible composers, we must have entered a new phase of development in which either the vehemence of the conservatives has quietened down or their ears have caught up with what is sometimes called 'progress'. I do not think that a tidy answer will do. Much more likely that we all are susceptible to conditioning in this matter as with all areas of development.

But over the years I have often been startled by the rantings of experienced musicians confronted by music they loathe, usually through its radical deviation from the comfort of familiar language. My father led the way, at first to my utter confusion, but latterly by my resignation to simple facts. Listening to Handel and then Bartók was -- to him -- an attempt to straddle two planets light years apart. Music inhabited one and unbridled din the other.

As the immediacy of this quarrelsome situation has lessened in a world of much confrontational music, I still hear music which suggests a boxing ring, with the average music lover as the losing opponent. Everything depends on intrinsic quality -- a condition that is as elusive as a five-legged tiger.

There are those who believe that the onus is on the creator, to stimulate whilst avoiding an impassable barrier, and yet generate material that builds with quality. Thank goodness that the world continues to discover talent that has the potential, and sometimes enough support to draw attention. Surprising the number of listeners who fail to recognise the unwritten obligation of us all to actively support the promise of new talent.

Copyright © 2 September 2003 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK



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