Eine kleine freimusik

Music resourcesDid you know that Mozart couldn’t actually read the music he composed? Admittedly he was five at the time. Later he wrote his own music down rather than get his daddy to do it.

He probably didn’t die unloved and in penury, as the film would have it, but he was often short of a florin or two. He wrote his first symphony whilst living in Ebury Street, but would he have been better served if he’d remained a Westminster resident rather than swanning around Europe?

Too right, he would – as long as he joined the library.

Had he continued to live in Pimlico, now approaching his 250th birthday, he’d have a range of opportunities to read music and read about music without spending a penny. For a start, a quick wander up Buckingham Palace Road, pausing on the way for coffee and torte at Starbucks, would take him to Westminster Music Library, an Aladdin’s cave for music lovers (Aladdin? You’ll find him under “pantomime”, Wolfgang).

The largest public music library in the south of the UK, Westminster Music Library was founded in 1946 when a music critic left Westminster his huge collection of books, letters, manuscripts and scores. And it has been expanding ever since. They’ve got books on just about every genre of music you can think of. They’ve got magazines, lots of them, with long runs of back numbers (although not quite back to the 18th Century!), across the range of musical styles. And scores – oodles and oodles of scores. Want to try before you borrow? No problem – they’ve got a lovely electronic piano you can use.

They’ve always had a lot of songs, words and music, but finding them was a problem as they were often ‘hidden’ in albums. Not any more – the library staff have painstakingly trawled through these albums, humming every tune as they went, and have produced a Song Index, now available online. Entirely free.

[Warning: non-free paragraph] If Wolfgang wanted to make music with chums, they might not all have his facility for remembering music in huge quantities. So what they would need is an orchestral set. Now these are not free – there is a hire charge. But divide the charge out amongst a group and they are very reasonable. These sets are also listed online. It’s a long list.

Back to free stuff, and grab a passing mouse, for we’re going online, Wolfie. Music Reference Online does exactly what it says… but it’s rather more exciting than it sounds. It comes in four parts – classical music (20,000 pages), African American music (34,000 pages), world music (a mere 9,000 pages) and 335,000 pages of musical scores. I hope your breath was taken away by those numbers, but don’t try to remember them. Just take it from me that the range is enormous. And in case not everyone is as serious-minded as Mozza, they’ve got pictures, thousands of them. And music clips to listen to.

So as he wanders off to Trumper’s to have his perruque powdered, the ageing infant prodigy can be well satisfied with his (largely) cost-free excursion into the musical world of Westminster Libraries.

[David]

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4 responses to “Eine kleine freimusik

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