No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
My Darling, This time, I have scrounged a green envelope in advance, so you will not have to wait for days for my letter. I have received two of your letters today… dated Sat 18th, and Sun 19th. They seem to come in pairs nowadays, Jess… and not quite as speedily as in the past. Maybe the mails are now travelling by ship, instead of plane. But I mustn’t complain… there can hardly be a man in the army who receives as many letters as I do: lovely letters from the most beautiful wife I have ever met…
I am glad you have had a visit from Stan Smith: and I was glad to hear too that he arrived alone. I have a feeling that he is not quite as natural when Dora is with him. I think your mother’s presence must have complicated matters quite sufficiently… I am awaiting with interest Stan’s musical essay… but I have no doubt that his comments will be as puzzling to me as they have been to you:- perhaps more so. Fortunately, it is not necessary to be a musical technician to appreciate the beauty of music. altho’ such additional knowledge must enhance one’s interest, intellectually.
I once read an article by Ernest Newman on the question of modern music:- the real modern product that is… not the semi-modern of, say a Sibelius symphony. He contended that it was foolhardy to condemn this apparently nonsensical mixture of dissonance and discord, the trouble being due to our inability to understand it. He maintained that it was necessary for those of us who are used to listening to older music to develop an entirely new “musical mentality”. In other words… it is no use listening to modern music with old ears. I think he is right. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are many people who are capable of this feat… especially people like you and I, whose ears… or musical mentality… have been so conditioned by music of the more romantic type. I think it is very likely that today’s ‘modern’ music will be popular concert hall music fifty years hence… just as Beethoven’s revolutionary ‘cacophony’ became popular fifty years later. The composer’s inspiration… his genius or what you will… placed him so far ahead of contemporary standards. This hiatus between the actual creation of a modified form of some art, and its popular acceptance, seems to be pretty universal… almost inevitable. And yet, according to Newman, it is possible to bridge the gap… providing our faculty for musical appreciation is capable of bearing an offshoot without the inherent prejudices of its parent. To me, this seems a very difficult proposition. On the other hand, it may be comparatively easy if I would only stir myself to make the necessary mental effort.
But why should I? I find that I can already understand so much music which appeals to me. I believe too that there is so much of this music in existence, that I will never be able to hear anything like enough of it. Why, then, spend considerable time training my mind to accept the modern, when I could be so much more pleasantly occupied by listening to works for which I find my appetite insatiable? Is the answer exploration? or excitement? or novelty? And if so, cannot these things be experienced amongst the composers with whom we are so much more in tune? Think of the indescribable joy of a ‘discovery’ like “Queen of Sheba”… or “Eri tu”… or “Norma’s aria”… or Handel’s “Concerto for Organ and orch”. And how exciting it is to know that the future holds in store countless similar ‘discoveries’ for us… all of them in a musical idiom not alien to us. So far as I am concerned, there is insufficient time to devote much attention to the more extreme modern music… and I don’t feel any particular regret that I have so little interest in it.
But I do realise that all art must progress and develop… or stagnate. And it is a good thing that we have ‘modern’ composers: they are a living proof that music is not stagnating. And so, I do not condemn these “pioneers”. But, in common with all pioneers, their particular genius is in advance of their times… And I do not know whether this is something we should lament…do you?
It is a devil of a job to do much writing here without being disturbed. I was interrupted earlier by the son and daughter of our hostess here. They came in to listen to the news in Dutch. And then they had to explain to me what they had heard… a most wearying business… I know about 6 words of Dutch… and they know about as much English. We manage somehow to ‘converse’, but it is a hell of a strain. Apart from these local disturbances, there are the numerous entertainments which all take up some time – viz dance last Wed, RSM’s farewell Fri, 15 troop party and dance Sat, sergeants’ mess ‘party’ Sunday… etc. I never spend more than an hour or so at these functions, but I always feel that it is time wasted… I don’t know how much longer we will be here, but I certainly hope there are fewer dances etc… I think they have been over-done.
More heavy rain today, my darling… but at lunch time it ceased and we actually saw some blue sky during the afternoon: I’m sure it is weeks since we saw any blue in the Heavens:- we seem to have learned to accept dull grey skies and scurrying clouds as an inevitable state of affairs.
I am attending 15 troop’s ‘party’ this evening and will probably be there an hour or two. I would really prefer to remain here writing to my sweetheart, but I cannot disappoint the lads of the troop by refusing to attend after they have gone to so much trouble. I hope to get away fairly early… and hope to have an undisturbed hour or two in which to write another letter… but that depends upon many factors… However… we will see…
Meanwhile, I am going to post this to make sure that it will not be further delayed.
Au revoir, dear Jess… Don’t worry about me… I am well… and still leading a lazy life.
I love you, my darling
I love you…