A Musical Genius

The Music Magazine 00-11-1990

The launch issue editorial by CHRISTOPHER LONG.

One of the most dire, desperate and harrowing sounds ever to emanate from a piano probably occurred in the summer of 1958. It was in Form lV at a prep school perched on the North Downs in Kent [The Hill School, Westerham], that Long (Major) was first introduced to the joys of music-making.

To be truthful it was not quite the first time. During the previous year, in Form V, Long (Major) had been one of the earliest exponents of Modernism – with overtones of Serialism – when he experimented with the full effects of filling a baby grand with ping-pong balls just moments before Mr Goodey sat down to his daily rendition of Jerusalem at school prayers.

Although Long (Major) and Schoenberg were not known to each other in those days, they would undoubtedly have enjoyed a shared enthusiasm for the idea of twelve notes being given equal stress – or no stress at all – when the length of a blackboard eraser is wedged beneath an octave or two of piano wires.

The joys of music-making were short-lived. Pleasure seldom endures. Mr Goodey, a harsh critic and a traditionalist, was hampered by the conviction that his pupils should in some way make their playing relate to the notes on the score, preferably with the two hands doing different things at the same time. Thus it was, in the same summer, that Goodey, the piano and Long (Major) parted company. In such circumstances has many a genius prodigy been nipped in the bud.

After a brief relegation to the woodwind section – as the player of a recorder which played itself, thanks to the ingenious addition of an inflated balloon attached to the mouthpiece – it was Long (Major) again who suffered indignity in the winter of 1960 when opportunity knocked in the form of a snare-drum. This drum had, it was claimed, seen service in the Boer War. It was to see service again in the end of term production of 'Bethlehem'. Roman soldiers were to enter Stage Left, heralded by an awe-inspiring roll on the drum, performed by Long (Major).

Now it's a little-known fact that a marble, when firmly drawn back against the elastic springs of a snare-drum, will, when released, whizz round half the circumference of the rim of the drum and hit the opposite end of the snare at about 3,000 m.p.h. The intriguing aspect is that the ultimate destination of the marble can never be accurately predicted. As Roman soldiers entered Stage Left, a marble exited Stage Right and parents in the first row were duly awe-inspired.

These two brief years in the long musical career of Long (Major) probably don't in themselves adequately explain his later development and ultimate fruition. They may, however, remind the serious music student that music-making and musical appreciation should be, first and foremost, pleasurable activities.

The fact that live concerts require us to sit in serried rows seems sometimes to remind us of sitting through church services and lead us often to treat performances too reverently. Frequently the pomposity and vanities of major performers lead us to take them as seriously as they take themselves. And all too often those who claim to 'know about' classical music succeed in making others feel ignorant or philistine.

Apart from such as essentials as love and food, the need for music in our lives is probably the single interest we all most commonly share. The Music Magazine concerns itself with a large part of the total spectrum of music-making and musical appreciation. Some would say that it's concerned with 'Classical' music but really we would prefer to define 'Classical' as meaning all music and musicians having enduring quality.

We hope very much that you will enjoy this first issue of The Music Magazine as much as we here have enjoyed putting it together.

Christopher Long was contracted to launch-edit the first issue of The Music Magazine, handing over to others thereafter. The title went on to become a flag-ship BBC publication during the 1990s.

© (1990) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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