<<< << -- 3 -- George Balcombe ACROSS THE MEADOW -- >> >>>
Duration therefore has no influence on the quality of a composition. Greatness in
composing, as somebody once remarked, lies not in knowing how to start, but when to
[listen -- CD2 track 15, 2:49-4:06].
After a composition tutorial with a modernist student in an American university,
Vaughan Williams reputedly said, 'If you ever happen to think of a good tune, don't
forget to write it down, will you?' What a pity that Vaughan Williams seems not to
have tutored many composers of light music. The point is, that tunes-with-accompaniment
are the only things that light music has to offer, with the exception of 'Aaaaaarghh!',
Ketèlby, who has nothing to offer.
A formula now emerges for producing light music clones. Each clone must occupy
between two and five performance minutes. It must consist of tune-and-accompaniment.
It must use a limited form of diatonic harmony throughout. The orchestration must
similarly make no demands on players beyond the normal range of their instruments.
And the scoring must usually be for small orchestra although, as on these two CDs,
larger forces could be used.
Each item of light music has a title suggestive of a programmatic background,
such as town or country landscapes, or an imitation of machinery such as steam
trains, clocks or windmills. Waltzes, galops, jigs, and dancing insects gives
audiences what they want. Nostalgia and other sentimentalities, otherwise propagated
by chocolate boxes or snowy Christmas cards, cater for what Dorothy Parker once called
the 'gamut of emotions from A to B'.
There is not much that counsel for the defence could say in mitigation of light
music's cultural crimes against humanity. However, the jury should consider the
circumstance surrounding light music before invention of the microphone. In those
days live music of many sorts was available, small orchestras for the comics singing
music hall ditties, while brass bands blew their faces red in summer parks, as their
military equivalents marched down the street. Up-market restaurants and hotels had
their Palm Court Orchestras which, whilst playing during luncheon, afternoon tea and
dinner, had their repertoire muffled by the hubbub of table talk.
At least light music's decibels did no permanent damage to audience ears,
unlike the cosmic acoustic storms which pass as popular music today.
Copyright © 20 March 2007
George Balcombe, London UK