London 0 jfirA I
58, Frith Street, London, W. 1.
Edited by COMPTON MACKENZIE
TBLBPHOl'lB: Regent 1383.
TBLBGUM8: Parmaxto, WeBtoent, London
D R. MALCOLM SARGENT, at the age of thirty-three, has just refused to play the cinema organ for half an hour every day at 12s. 9d. a minute. This shows a more genuine horror of the instrument than even I could have fancied possible in these days of hard struggling for economic existence. What puzzles me, however, even more than Dr. Sargent's devotion to art is why i t should be worth while for a West End cinema theatre to pay £7,000 a year to any man, whatever his acrobatic and musical ability, to play their organ three t imes daily throughout the year for ten minutes at a session. I really should very much like to know the name of the cinema theatre which was prepared to offer this price, and I think Dr. Sargent owes i t to his professional brethren with lower ideals than himself to reveal the name. £7,000 a year is a lot of money to earn by pulling out the stops of even the most elaborate instrument with such tact as to melt the hearts of all who l isten. Dr. Sargent points out in a mysteriously ubiquitous interview that his acceptance of the offer would have meant the complete cutting off of his other musical enterprises, that he owes a moral obligation to many musical people in this country, and that no offer of money will ever tempt him from his work. I am not going to be so unkind as to suggest that Dr. Sargent has been indulging in a l i t t le harmless self-advertisement at the expense of the Press, but I confess I should like to see that contract he was offered, in the same way as I should like to see the contracts offered to some of my l i terary colleagues by cinema companies, of which we sometimes read in the gossip columns of the daily Press. I have in my day met actors with such an unworldly devotion to their art that they have turned down engagements at twice and even three t imes as much as they had ever been paid a week before, merely because they did not feel that they could do justice to the part which was being offered to them. Art for art's sake is not so rare as many people imagine. At the same t ime, Dr. Malcolm Sargent has set a standard of self-denial which will make us examine his gramophone records with particular attention in future, and i f he should swerve one inch from the right road to the summit of Parnassus we shall not be able to let the slip pass unnoticed. Meanwhile, I commend to his attention the version we lately had from H.M.V. under his baton of Quilter's Children's Overture, which was a heavy-handed affair and not up to the standard which we shall expect from him in future.
The problem of art for art's sake is one which has vexed the artist from the beginning, and there still exists a great deal of confusion over this in the minds of the public. On the whole, looking back through the history of art, we may say that the really prodigal, fertile, creative, or inventive minds have never hesitated to take on a job of work which some of their admirers may have thought unworthy of them. You will remember Beethoven and that Scottish publisher. At one t ime, before everybody took to public selI-expression as ducks to quacking, we could divide artists into two classes-the major and the minor. Tennyson was a major poet; Blake was a minor poet. This distinction will perhaps help my readers to understand that I am not trying to institute a comparison of merit when I speak of major and minor artists. Mendelssohn was a major composer; Franck was a minor composer. Now, i t is perfectly clear that a major artist, possessing as he does a larger margin of productivity on which to draw than a minor artist, can afford, with this bigger balance in his mental bank, to indulge in extravagance and squander his genius occasionally. A minor artist who lacks this margin of superfluous product ivity is incapable of writing what are called " potboilers" because lacking the inspiration or inward urge on which he has to rely, he will be physically incapable of responding to the temptation of writing something merely for the purpose of gaining money; but to attribute to him for this refusal a moral superiority over the major artist is to applaud an impotent man for not being a rake. I f there be anything in the suggestion that no artist should write for money out of the margin of his superfluous productivity, why should any artist write for money ever? I have never noticed among my fellow-writers who boast that they are incapable of writing" pot-