Sightreading unknown pieces
I am convinced that there are more unknown composers than famous ones and there are more unknown pieces than known ones. What's more, I'm convinced that there are many lovely pieces yet to be discovered.
Curiosity leads me to browse and discover sheet music of such unknown masters at the Archive Bookstore in London. Over the years, I have collected many pieces of single sheet music which are brown with age and forgotten by the masses.
Today I sat down at my Gerhard Adam grand piano with a pile of such sheet music. As a collector, I never had the time to really look at what I collected.
Each unknown piece I sightread I asked myself why it was not known. Was it composed at the wrong time to an audience that's not sophisticated enough to appreciate it? Or was there another piece slightly more popular than this one? Was it not performed enough or to the right audience to give it the attention and respect it deserved? Or was it known by others but not me?
When I come across unknown composers, I ask myself the same questions. Was there a more popular composer that made it difficult for the unknown composer? Did he lack charisma? Was he a recluse?
The late composer and pianist Robert Avalon challenged today's audiences to listen to music of live composers. People like to hear the familiar; they like being able to recognise a piece they've heard before. New music is daunting --- unless it sounds like something they've heard before.
Unknown music by unknown composers ---- hmmmm --- that would make an interesting CD. But who would buy it if people prefer to listen to music they've already heard before --- those well-known pieces of famous composers?
7 July 2004 Wednesday