Divine Stationery

A paean to the pencil

August 10, 2021

Sistine Chapel
Would you like to comment?

You need to login first

Not a member yet?

Christine Evans-Pughe's avatar

What an interesting thought! As someone whose music is covered in pencil notes and rubbings-out and then more pencil notes and more rubbings-out, I’ve no idea how I’d manage with ink.
As you say, maybe they relied on memory more. And perhaps without recordings to forever preserve errors for posterity, they were more relaxed about each performance.

Christine Evans-Pughe - 2021 12 29

The pencil, a divine item of stationery.  Any musician will say “Hear, hear”.  I think of poor Bach and Mozart with their little orchestras and grand musical ideas, and marvel that they were able to perform acceptably without using pencils on their scores.  Modern musicians mark up their scores again and again, when first learning them, when getting coaching from teachers or friends, when practising, and when preparing for the performance.  How on earth did Bach manage?  They had only messy pens.  They must have relied more on memory than we.  People were trained to memorize in those times, not like us who are sometimes spared learning the times tables at school.  I wonder if Bach and Mozart also were more tolerant of errors in their chamber music, simply because there was no way of annotating consistent performance instructions?

Peter_G_Moll - 2021 12 22

Reading mouse

Sign up for our email newsletter

Receive updates when we publish new content along with other exclusive bits and pieces.

Subscribe to our newsletter