London .0.ffice IDA, Soho Square,
·Edited by COMPTON MACKENZIE
TELEPRONl!: t Regent 7977, 7978.
Parmaxto, Weetoent. London.
IMAY assume that the readers of our Christmas Number pondered well the interview with Mr. Alfred Clark, the managing director of The Gramophone Company. They will have noted that Mr. Alfred Clark when he first went to work with Edison divided his t ime between the phonograph and the kinetoscope and they will have been interested to learn that actually the first film play was devised and carried out by Mr. Clark. During the years that succeeded the development of the kinetoscope into the cinematograph, of the phonograph into the gramophone, the recording of sight and sound took each a road more and more separate from the other. Now, forty years after Mr. Alfred Clark produced that first film play of the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the rival industries of films and records appear likely to be more closely l inked together than they ever were in the beginning, and indeed the first combined production of H.M.V. and Dominion Films, Splinters, has already made i ts appearance in a London cinema. We may look forward to getting fairly soon a gramophone with a home cinema attachment, while many people think that television is much nearer than might be supposed from the attitude of the Press and Trade towards i t . What interests me particularly in these developments is the influence they may have over the performer. With the best always available i t seems increaSingly improbable that the public will put up with the second best. During the last twenty-five years over production has been the rule in all the arts. There have been too many novelists, too many violinists, too many acrobats, too many tenors, too many dancers, too many actors, too many critics and too many journalists, with the result that the public has been saturated with the thirdrate and the second-rate. I hear now on all sides lamentations over out-of-work members of orchestras and bands, · about novelists who cannot earn a l iving wage by writing their novels, and about violinists who can only succeed in keeping the wolf from the door by giving lessons. Open any newspaper and you will read advertisements by teachers
who profess to teach people to do not very well what thousands of others are not doing very well already. There has never been since the beginning of the world such a profitable harvest for even the merest gleaners in the fields of art, and i t is not surpriSing that so many rash amateurs should be thrown out of work by a reaper and binder l ike the talkies.
I t is no longer enough for a man to be able to strum on a banjo through the evening to get an engagement. Nowadays only instrumentalists who really do know how to play have a chance of being heard. I cannot shed any crocodile's tears over the misery that such a concentration of entertainment must bring to many. I cannot even shed tears for the members of my own profession. I know perfectly well that the effect of diverting so much popular attention from books to music is l ikely to make i t difficult for writers of books, but so long as this country alone pretends to find employment for ten t imes as many writers of books as are necessary, so long will i t be deluged by the outpouring of incompetent attempts at self-expression. Literature is at a disadvantage when compared with music, because any Tom, Dick, or Harry thinks he has a right to criticise a book, whereas in his judgments of music he is still subject to a few scruples of reverence for the unknown. I find among my correspondents many more people who are anxious to be told what they should like in music than what they should like in l i terature. In fact I have known a man ask me as earnestly as if his future happiness depended on the answer whether I could endorse his opinion of some t in-pot serenade or other, and in almost the same sentence go on to give his opinion of a book of mine which he was far less capable of appreciating or even of understanding than the piece of music of which he supposed he ought to exhibit so much awe.
I t will never be possible to guarantee quality in l i terature merely by restricting i ts quantity. That there will be fewer books printed in proportion to the population I have l i t t le doubt, but I am much less optimistic about, any improvement in their quality. On the other hand, of a very much higher