Stephen Taylor I hate music! But I like to sing...
Het ORGEL 96 (2000), nr. 3, 5-8 [summary]

In his song text I hate music! But I like to sing..., Leonard Bernstein makes fun of the way in which we become sidetracked from the essentials of music-making by peripheral matters: 'Music is a lot of men in a lot of tails.'

The peripheral matter discussed in this article are the printed score and the problems which its relative complexity causes to so many organists.

Today young children are often encouraged to play by ear, getting to know a tune by listening first and working it out on their instrument later (the Suzuki method, for example). We grown-ups are too impatient for all that, preferring to decode the printed page as we play. Mistakes made at this point often remain unnoticed, since in our mind we have no idea at all of what the piece is supposed to sound like.

In an experiment pupils played the beginning of J.S. Bach's 6th Invention just once from the score. After analysis of the first two and a half bars (ascending and descending scales with one chromatic alteration) each pupil was able to play this passage and its inversion from bar 5 without the printed music, as well as the transposed version from bar 21.

Our impatience also leads us to practise in relatively fast tempos, causing all sorts of mistakes (and tempo deviations) simply because we allow ourselves insufficient time to read accurately.

As if these problems were not enough, we organists are not very good at listening to our own performance. At the touch of a key the sound emerges from somewhere above us or possibly behind a pillar a far cry from the young violinist developing his ear by struggling with tone quality and pitch. We play on our own and are not corrected by an ensemble when we simply add an extra half beat to the bar because we need a little extra time to see what's going on!