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MUSICAL CLEANLINESS, Tranchell, The Cambridge Review, 29th October 1955

Our civilisation has reached a very fine peak of hygiene in many ways—bread is wrapped, cigarettes are tipped, throats swabbed, noses blown, milk pasteurised, and flowers kept under cellophane. In the arts, however, we are lagging behind. This is an appeal, therefore, to all music-lovers, for cleaner music. We are too casual in our concerts, and risk the perils of epidemic.

Let our singers and instrumentalists wear clinical masks of acoustic lint; let our flutes and oboes be boiled before each performance; and let our music paper be impregnated with germicide. The drains of the orchestra need attention also—horns and trombones should have built in soak-aways, regularly inspected by an official, and wettened with aromatic detergent. All wind instruments require iodised mutes to prevent the spreading of disease.

For the strings, perhaps a rosin of D.D.T. will suffice. Of course, all players must have their hands declared clean before a concert, and the conductor must sign a certificate, declaring that all possible steps have been taken to protect the audience, before each movement.

On entering the concert-room each individual should receive a precautionary inoculation, together with a programme printed on hygienic tissues. In the interval an electronic nurse will take everyone’s temperature, and persons found to be feverish can be removed to hospital. A special scale of temperatures will be published for music-lovers, not exceeding 102° F. after Wagner or Kabalevsky, and not less than 32° F. after Vivaldi or Dunstable.

Organists will have to manipulate their stops with their elbows, and play in specially treated rubber gloves. Performances of opera must take place behind a screen of plate-glass, lest the dust and dirt raised by dramatic movement be communicated to the house.

We look forward to the abandonment of such familiar names as Royal Philharmonic or London Symphony, and the adoption of more reassuring terms: The Royal Philhygienic or the London Sterilised. Music-making should be as delicate an operation as surgery.

It remains for the musical repertoire to be rendered beyond clinical reproach. Some fine fellow is sure to do it and earn his Ph.D. (Sanitatis causa). Glancing through his thesis we might observe such “safe” favourites as—

The Chlorinated Water Music ..             ..          ..             Handel

The Conditioned Air on the G. String    ..          ..             J. S. Bach

The Medical Offering             ..             ..          ..                   "

The Well-laundered Klavier   ..             ..          ..                   "

Sheep may safely sneeze       ..             ..          ..                   "

Sonata Appassionata ma Profilattica     ..          ..             Beethoven

The Chloral Symphony          ..             ..          ..                   "

The Pasteural   ..        ..          ..             ..          ..                   "

Concerto for clean left hand  ..             ..          ..             Ravel

Impregnated letter-song (Hygiene Onegin)        ..             Tchaikowsky

Blest pair of Syringes ..          ..             ..          ..             Parry

Land of Soap and Glory        ..             ..          ..             Elgar

Die Reine Müllerin     ..          ..             ..          ..             Schubert

Wash me throughly    ..          ..             ..          ..             S. S. Wesley

An appendix might give a list of works and composers regarded as unhealthy. The tone-poem “Influenza,” by McLoughlin (1932) is obviously offensive, as might be the work of such composers as Blow, Koffing and Sniffl. And an undoubted ban would fall on Walford Davies’ “Solemn Malady” as a danger to even the most medicated music-lover.

Peter Tranchell