Friday, April 25, 2008


Dmitri Nabokov has announced that he will not destroy the unfinished manuscript (a collection of 50 index cards) of his father, Vladimir Nabokov's last work, The Original of Laura, thus violating the author's own instructions. This decision is naturally welcomed by all of us who continue to greet Max Brod's decision not to destroy the manuscripts of Franz Kafka's works. But it is not a consensus opinion: many do think that final requests by artists should be honored and the theoretical debts of an estate to an artist to "the world" or to "humanity" often fail to balance with the injury or neglect suffered by that artist, while alive, due to "the world" or "humanity".


The estimable Frank J. Oteri writes about become executor of the musical works of an impressively prolific, but little-known, composer, Gabriel von Wayditch, and the comments to his article share some similar stories of other composers. Oteri raises the question: "What force would drive someone to create such a vast body of work without any opportunities, either financial or promotional?" But isn't the more important question: "If you believe in your work, what possible force could stop you from producing it?"


Starting in High School, I made a serious study of the scores of Harry Partch, transcribing the better part of them by hand into my own analytical notation. I was fortunate because a few friends of Partch had endeavored, after his death, to make copies of all of his Ozalids, and I had access to the sets owned by Ervin Wilson and Lou Harrison. The Partch estate itself was unhelpful with this and has since entrusted the scores to a major traditional publisher, which has not yet, even after several years holding the scores, been able to publish the scores as anything other than rentals of manuscript copies, thus, in a real way, making the scores even more inaccessible today and, in the end, discouraging rather than encouraging more performance and study of Partch's work.

1 comment:

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm sitting here thinking of works destroyed by the composers themselves and how much I'd like to hear them: much early Brahms, most of Dukas, Sibelius's Eighth and goodness knows what else he burned in the 1940s