Vaughan Williams on Music by David Manning

By David Manning

Live performance audiences have a permanent affection for the tune of Ralph Vaughan Williams; a composer of dance, symphony, opera, track, hymnody, and picture song, severe scholarship on his song is presently having fun with a revival. 2008 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Vaughan Williams passing. This assortment brings jointly a number of energetic writings, a few for the 1st time, and plenty of for the 1st time on account that their preliminary booklet by means of probably the most articulate, cherished and interesting English composers. Making to be had essays, articles, pronounces, and speech transcripts from 1901-1958, Vaughan Williams on song exemplifies the multi-faceted nature of his contributions: energetic supporter of beginner song and English song, a pacesetter within the folksong revival, educator, performer, and polemicist. Vaughan Williams was once one of many cultural giants of his day, a determine of iconic stature whose impact stretched a long way past musical circles; his friendships with Bertrand Russell and G. M. Trevelyan, and his tireless paintings on behalf of quite a few firms and explanations, from Jewish refugees to the 3rd Programme, gave him a special position in British nationwide lifestyles. He additionally had a strong impression within the usa, at a time while the foreign dating used to be imminent its zenith. via most of these views, the phrases are unmistakably these of a working towards composer; a tender composer on the flip of the final century, looking for his personal musical voice amid generally varied stylistic impacts of the dominant and profitable figures of Brahms, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky, and a mature composer within the mid-century, having discovered that wonderful voice which keeps to resound around the globe. the quantity can be a huge contribution to the literature not just on British song, but in addition on 19th- and twentieth-century British cultural and highbrow existence as an entire, putting Vaughan Williams' political and aesthetic suggestion in a broader cultural viewpoint.

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Literary Awards
Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2010)

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Long rests will be hurried through, short rests will be made into enormous pauses—in fact, every factor antagonistic to rhythm, melody, sense, or beauty, if not already put in by the composer, will be 26 vaughan williams on music added by the singer. This is the tribute which the modern ballad pays to melody and rhythm. The words of these precious productions are worthy companions to the music. Most of them are only saved from blasphemy or indecency by being absolutely meaningless. Often a vicious and mechanical emotion is stirred by some verbal phrase such as ‘When the city lights are low’, or ‘When the children are asleep’; or worse still, the author introduces some tag which he imagines is out of the Roman Liturgy—a device well-calculated to wring the withers of all those unacquainted with Latin.

And yet music, the subtlest, most sensitive, and purest means of selfexpression, is supposed to be on a plane by itself, a thing detached from its surroundings, a mere sensation to be enjoyed by the epicure. Thus it comes about that the cultured amateur says to the composer, ‘What have you to offer me better than the great Masters? I have my Bach, my Beethoven, my Brahms. They are enough to satisfy me; or can you show me more subtle harmonies than Debussy, more striking orchestral effects than Strauss?

The ‘musicianly’ composer has studied the whole anatomy of inspiration, and has found out all the mechanical means by which beautiful music is produced. Equipped with this knowledge, he proceeds to build up compositions with yard-measure and plumb-line, quite forgetting that no man can make a living body out of dead clay unless he has first stolen some of the heavenly fire. Many a young composer has stifled his natural impulses in the desire to be musicianly. If he has elected to be ‘romantic’ he considers himself lost unless he crushes all his power of invention under an entanglement of trombones and bass tubas—and all because Wagner’s special inspiration required special expression.

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