MusingMuso Posted April 21, 2007 Share Posted April 21, 2007 I spent Saturday afternoon in York, and of course, that would never be complete without a visit to Bank's Music. (Sorry, I didn't have time to stay for Evensong at the Minster). Whilst this is in no way a criticism of Bank's, I had no option but to make a mental comparison between "then" and "now," as I recall literally hours of music-browsing in my youth, and the fact that I now have a music collection worth many, many thousands of pounds; more or less exclusively obtained from the old York shop, in the days when Miss Banks would stalk around and glower at everyone. Gone are those days, when a well respected organist took a copy of a Bank's edition back to the shop because there was a faulty page in the copy, which had misprinted quite badly. Miss Banks stared at him angrily, and in no uncertain terms, told him not to go into the shop if all he was going to do was complain! Of course, one or two of the original staff are still there, and especially Nicholas, who must have the most astonishing encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical. "I need a new copy of the Reubke Sonata," I said. Nicholas launched into his usual routine. "You must have the old Oxford edition edited by Ellingford, which has quite a lot of mistakes. I would have recommended the Daniel Chorzempa edition, but that's only available as a facsimile now. However, we should have the Schott/Wiener Urtext Edition in stock, and the nice thing is the fact that Reubke's signature appears on the cover." 10 seconds later, and the copy is before me, paid for and placed in a bag. "Are you playing it somewhere?" Nicholas asked. "Yes," I replied. "Well, it's 22 minutes long you know, but I expect it would have taken longer at Merseburger Dom when it was first performed," he replied. I was re-assured to know that I wasn't shaving off any time, or indeed adding to it. That wonderful knowledge and the personal touch belongs to a different age, when people took time and care, and yet, as I glanced back at the organ section, it was a tiny fragment of what was once on the shelves, and through which I would rummage for a whole afternoon in days gone by. The simple fact is, music publishing (like all other forms of publishing) is changing, and perhaps we are now in the multi-media age, when we can browse on-line for sound-samples or recordings, then send off an e-mail and place an order for the hard-copy. Long gone are the days when one would regard Bank's as the unofficial organist's meeting place, where students and masters would rub shoulders of a Saturday afternoon, and discuss this or that in a kindred spirit of excited discovery; like small children at the ice-cream stall. But something troubles me about the on-line age, where retailers press keyboard terminals, make the necessary electronic order, then have things sent to the customer in a quite impersonal way. It isn't the cameraderie that I miss most, but the fact that physically browsing through music is a wonderful way of discovering repertoire and stretching the boundaries. I fear, I think, a world in which only a few hundred pieces would form a fashionable hard-core of available repertoire, almost to the exclusion of all others, and which would thus maintain an unchanging musical status-quo which would then become static and self-destructive. I believe there is something profoundly disturbing about "cherry-picking," like those dreadful supermarkets who want to sell the most popular paperbacks, but wouldn't dream of stocking serious or relatively obscure literary works. On the other hand, from a business perspective, I can full understand why music-shops have to go down this route, because having a massive stock-pile of obscure or less fashionable works amounts to a type of slow commercial suicide. I have this nagging fear that when I next visit Bank's, I may find only Bach, Vierne, a handful of Reger works, a number of seasonal albums, Noel Rawsthorne hymn accompaniments and the remainder of the stock by Kevin Mayhew. As it happened, I stumbled across some albums of Polish, Latvian, Estonian, Russian and Czech music which interested me, and which I didn't know about, or for that matter, any of the composers within the pages. How would I know if they existed if I could not have browsed the shelves? Do you understand what I'm getting at? Retraction of stock leads to a self-perpetuating and irreversible decline. I think Stephen Farr conceded a point I made before Christmas, when I asked of him whether it was the father or the son who wrote the Czech organ-work he learned; to which Stephen responded to the effect that he didn't know that there were two important composers with the same surname. Is music-publishing, and the inherent restrictions of publishing copyright, actually its own worst enemy, when commercial considerations now play such an important part in the art of survival? This all I will write for the moment, because I would like to hear other views about this. At the same time, it raises a number of interesting possibilities for the future, but is anyone capable of grasping the nettle, I wonder? MM Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Please sign in to comment
You will be able to leave a comment after signing in
Sign In Now