London Office 10a Soho Sq uare
London W .1
THE GRAMO ,PHONE Incorporating VOX, TH E RA D 10 CRITI C and BROADCAST REV I EW
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
T.I.phon. Gerrard 2136, 2137
T.,.'....... Parmaxto, Rath, London
I AM afraid I shall have to return this month to the discussion provoked by the action of the Decca Company in publishing records of Sir Henry Wood and the Queen's Hall Orchestra at half-a-crown .
Mr. Rimington, in the November number of Rimington's Re(Jiew, presents the dealer's point of view, and in doing so misrepresents my own, either because I failed to. make that point of view perfectly clear or because he is looking at the questions too exclusively from the position of the dealer with a c:lientele of connoisseurs.
" Thirteen years of editing THE GRAMOPHONE have not sufficed to teach Mr. Mackenzie the essential truth of the art and the business for which his paper caters. As a successful popular novelist he naively imagines that i t is possible to measure musical taste and the musical public by the foot rule that suffices for the casual reading public, and that the problems of the gramophone dealer are identical with those of the bookseller. The main and vital difference between cheap books and cheap records seems completely to have escaped him. The novel conveys exactly the same thoughts, impressions and excitements to i ts readers whether i t is printed with hand-set type on hand-made paper and bound in vellum or run off ·on a monotype setting on the cheapest newsprint. The type of paper and even the skill of the setter make no difference as long as aU the letters are there in the order the author intended. I f records were but printed scores, his analogy would hold good; but they are not. Music, and in this argument records are synonymous with music, depends on a hundred factors that never enter the novelist's head. Let Mr. Mackenzie ponder for a moment what he would feel if his works were submitted to the treatment that a composer's works are bound to sutfer on cheap records; if the balance between incidents were distorted, if the delicate greens and fawns that a passage of his prose is intended to suggest were altered to heavy olive and thick muddy brown, if the very details that showed his mastery of style and brilliance of characterisation were so obscured as to be unnoticeable.
"To quote Sir Henry's testimonial is quite beside the point, since we can all hear for ourselves that even if these J'ecords give Sir Henry 'intense artistic satisfaction' they are not invariably true to orchestral colour, neither is t.he balance of parts all that i t should be . . . people who want that sort of thing get i t from the wireless for nothing. . . . Before the days of wireless gramophone users were glad to have any sort of performance of great music in their homes-but those days are past and the public that buys records is a public of intelligent people who want the best possible performance recorded in the best possible waywhich cannot be provided by Decca or any other eompany at half-a-crown for a twelve-inch record unless they have a private subsidy.
" We have been able to build up and maintain the Rimington, Van Wyek service because the six-shilling record of good music allows us a margin upon which we ca n keep eomplete stock, audition rooms, and an expert staff. The half-crown record allows no such margin, and if our clients ever schooled themselves to put up with the sort of records of good music which can be manufactured and sold for half-a-crown they would also have to expect a falling-ofT in all dealers' service. And Mr. Mackenzie is pathetically blind when he thinks that three times the sale of half-crown records would compensate the dealer. Three times the nUqlber of records means three times the stafT, three times the filing space for records: in short, three t imes the overheads.
" The future of the gramophone record lies, not in cheap records to meet the demands of the uncritical masses , but the best performances of great music which the greatest artists of the world can give. . . . I f the discerning public were to go over to half-a-crown records i t would mean good-bye within a year to all hope of any new or unfamiliar works on the gramophone and the death of the gramophone record within three years. . . . . "
I have quoted Mr. Rimington in extenso, and i t will be observed that he avoids any attempt to answer my chief contention, which is the desirableness of publishing cheap reprints of existing records of great music performed by great artists. I t is true I defended the experiment of publishing a popular conductor like Sir Henry Wood at a popular price, but MI'. Rimington forgets that I was willing to contemplate raising the prices of new recordings by star artists. I cannot for the life of me see how the publication of a standard work like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony performed in a popular style and issued at a popular price is going to afTect the business of a dealer like himself. I f his ciients, thanks to his initiative and enthusiasm, are willing to pay the additional amount