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Speaker shares discoveries about composer

staff writer

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 11:09

Jenny Doctor

JENNY DOCTOR GIVES a lecture on Ralph Vaughan Williams, a late composer who was associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation. DELAYNE LOCKE photo


The late composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was the subject of the hour as Dr. Jenny Doctor gave a speech on Williams’ life and music at the Merrill-Cazier Library on Wednesday afternoon.


“He definitely felt that music wasn’t just for musicians to play for audiences,” said Doctor, a professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. “He believed that the real way that you got to know music — and I think most of you in this room will agree — is by playing it yourself.”


Throughout her speech titled “Vaughan Williams, Boult and the BBC,” Doctor spoke to USU students about Williams’ collaborations with conductor Sir Adrian Boult as well as his career and association with the British Broadcasting Corporation.


“The thing that I think is really interesting is that BBC sort of froze the way they thought about Vaughan Williams with 1945,” Doctor said. “They didn’t allow him to grow in that 13 years before he died.”


During that time, Williams composed his seventh, eighth and ninth symphonies.


“He wrote three symphonies over the age of 70,” Doctor said. “That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. And they aren’t just repeats, they grow — they actually move into the kind of music that was being performed after the war, which was absolutely different than the kind of music that was performed before the war.”


Doctor said Williams’ wanted everyone to be learn his music.


“That’s how you really get to know a piece, isn’t it?” Doctor said. “He felt that that’s how people really communicated through music, was by learning how to play themselves.”


Doctor said during the 20th century, something happened that had never happened before.


“Sound technology made it possible for the greatest music to be performed at you, rather than you having to sit at a piano and try to figure out what it sounds like, which is what happened in the 19th century,” Doctor said. “That was called the piano culture.”


Doctor said people always hear about first performances when they read music history.


“One of my mentors always used to say “It’s not the first performance that matters, it’s whether there’s a second performance,” Doctor said. “So the BBC repeated these pieces over and over again, and that is, I think, quite important.”

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