Until recently music has been largely an imported commodity. Most of our musical life centred round the visits to this country of artists from abroad. In other words, it was imposed on, rather than growing within, the community.
In order to clarify the present situation, when we are being thrown back entirely on our own resources, let us examine the change that has taken place. For this purpose I bracket all visiting artists, although, naturally, they have differed vastly in the amount each has contributed to musical life here. The fact remains, however, that we have depended on them for much of our inspiration and general impetus. We have adopted their views, and worried them quite unfairly for advice and opinions. We have regarded their short seasons as awe inspiring performances and themselves as oracles. As each one left us we have slumped, musically. And then, after a judicious interval (determined by the impressario), the next artist was announced with bigger and bolder headlines.
All this is a stimulus of sorts; but it has some very grave disadvantages. It puts the accent heavily upon limelight, publicity, excitement, lion-hunting, rather than on music-making for its own sake.
In older countries, where musical life has been built on more solid foundations, the names of giants are not starred, movie-actress fashion, with every known superlative. They are announced with dignity befitting the occasion: Heifitz will play on such-and-such a day at the — Hall; Gieseking will appear with the — orchestra at — . There is no blazoning of names, no shallow press interviews which put entirely out of focus the actual music and glamourise the performance as a popular stunt.
In no sense seeking to belittle the artists, I simply submit that the because it is at home here—an expression of ourselves and an inherent here, it has tended to disintegrate it.
Now that circumstances have changed so radically, it is essential that we face the situation and calmly build up that within us which has been so grievously neglected—the music which grows—flourishes because it is at home here—an expression of ourselves and an inherent part of us.
We need training centres for teachers of music in schools (for this is a much more highly-specialised musical activity than is generally recognised). We should fan every susceptible flame of collaborative music-making in young people. Examinations and competitions must be placed in their proper perspective—a means to an end not an end in themselves.
On all possible occasions we must emphasise the importance of the music, rather than allowing accent to be on the individual performer. We must wage war on monopolist bodies who would seek to place prohibitions on musicians using their time and gifts outside the immediate getting of a livelihood. We must seek widespread improvement in broadcast music, the publication of music here other than trash or examination manuals, and the making of records that have cultural, and not only commercial, value.
In no other way can we build a foundation for the future. The time has come when the problem must be faced.