WALTON William - Autograph Letter Signed 1942 explaining the speed of his music
William WALTON (1902-1983)Autograph Letter Signed (“William Walton” to “Dear Sir Adrian” [Adrian Boult, at the time conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra], explaining, in a rather complicated manner, the speed at which some pieces of music should be played.
2 pages oblong 8vo on letterhead of the Hotel Portmeirion, Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales, “Tues.” n.d. [stamped by the recipient 8 October 1942].
“Dallas Bower telephoned me yesterday that you were in doubt about the speeds of the pieces of music in “Christopher”. My metronome having been broken & it being impossible to obtain another, I thought the best way to indicate the speeds was to put the approximate length at the end of each piece & to indicate various points with additional instructions in the piece such as “20 secs. Col. speaks.” I feel, with the aid of a stop watch, that [it] shouldn’t be difficult to arrive at the right speed which the piece is to be taken. Generally speaking, the music is so arranged that bars can be cut without difficulty if the music should happen to be too long or that bars can be repeated if it is too short. Not knowing how fast or slow the various actors are going to speak, it was difficult for me to be exact, but on the whole I think there shou[ld] be little difficulty in fitting the words & music once the actors have got a hang of it.
I should have liked to have been able to be present but these days are the only chance I’ve got for a short holiday & I’ve been getting very tired, having written over 3 hours music in the last eight month for films & plays. Too much, and all useless except for what the music has been written for. I trust all will go well.”
The “Christopher” for which the music was written was a radio play on Christopher Columbus which starred Laurence Olivier. Walton had also written music for one of John Gielgud’s productions, and most notably the music for the film The First of the Few, a wartime morale booster about R.J. Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire, directed by and starring Leslie Howard.
The letter was once in a ring binder from which it has been torn, affecting two words of the text.
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