Incorporating VOX, THE RADIO CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW
London Office 10A Soho Square
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
Telephone Gerrard 6098, 6099
Tele~rams Parmaslo, Rath. London
I think i t will have to be admitted that the reply of Mr. Percy Scholes to my defence of " breaks" on discs was from one point of view conclusive, for I am not really prepared to argue with him that the existing system of chopping up the movements of a symphony into more or less arbitrary durations of music is an ahsolute benefit. I frankly confess that I was making a virtue of necessity. Mr. Scholes is not even prepared to grant the necessity, but I think we have to face the fact that until our financial rulers display more courage and imagination than they show signs of displaying at present the purchaser will he debarred from giving any artistic improvement a fair chance. At the same time I must protest that Mr. Scholes's analogy from l i terature is not perfect. It is an old adage of publishing that the best serials rarely make the best novels, and that the best novels rarely make good serials. The reason for this is that from an editor's point of view the good serial depends on the merit of its first three instalments, and the novel that begins too well usually , like a sunny winter's mortling, turns to dullness later. Yet, although the compulsory breaks in the reader's attention imposed by the serialization of the novel are destructive of its form, as a matter of common practice every reader except a tormented reviewer like myself serializes for himself each novel he reads. Often he does not even bother to lay the hook down at the end of a chapter. Sometimes he breaks ofT in the middle of a sentence. Now, how far does such a method of reading impede the normal reader's comprehension of a Rovel as a whole? Mr. Scholes is obviously shocked by my suggestion that the average concert-goer is capable of wool-gathering in the middle of a symphony, but can even Mr. Scholes with his hand upon his heart declare that never in the course of a concert, even when he was musical critic of The Observer, did he ever pick up a few stray bits of flufT ? I need hardly add t.hat my metaphor is not intended to be read as the slang equivalent of promiscuous gallantry. The stray bits of fluff referred to are idle thoughts, not traviate.
However, I do not intend to dispute Mr. Scholes's contention that we ought to be able to listen to music without wool-gathering, and that if we eould be given a complete movement of a symphony on one side of a disc we should all rejoice. Whether Mr. Scholes be right in suggesting that the recording companies possess the necessary inventions to make the longplaying disc an immediate possibility I do not know. I remember . perfectly the Pemberton-Billing device, but in my experience i t never worked, and I hope that no device which is not proof against the handling of duffers like myself will be put upon the market.
Meanwhile, I have a letter from a correspondent who deplores the impermanence of records due to the continual improvements in recording by the companies, and he complains of the uncertainty which makes him wonder after he has bought a set of discs whether something better will not be issued next week. He points out that the book buyer is not exposed in this way to the hazards of progress. But with him, as with Mr. Scholes, I do not think the analogy is quite perfect. As a book buyer of many. many years' standing I haTe frequently purchased too soon an edition of some author which later on has been published with many improvements. However, I have repeatedly advocated in these columns that the recording companies should issue Spring and Autumn lists of the chief works they PI'opose to issue every year) and give up playing peep-bo with their customers as they do now. I cannot help feeling that the method of salesmanship which produces the new recording of an important symphony as a conjuror produces a rabbit out of a hat is not fair to the buyer.
These and other grievances against the gramophone may be ventilated at a public debate which is to be held under the auspices of the Golder's Green Branch of the British Music Society at 8.15 p.m. on March 21st. Mr. Hubert Foss will maintain that the influence of the gramophone is harmful to the best interests of music, and our old friend Mr . Walter Yeomans will defend the gramophone against Mr. Foss's attack. Mr. Frank Roscoe, M.A., the secretary of the Royal Society of Teachers, will be in the chair, and when Mr. Foss and Mr. Yeomans have delivered their apostolic blows and knocks members of the audience will be invited to