Music: a Joy for Life by Edward Heath

Sidgwick & Jackson


It's a musical scrapbook. A set of coloured pictures fills 30 pages out of 200. The rest of the text (wide margins, clear print, simple style) tells a sum­mary life story with incidental music and more pictures. The £42 piano for example, an exciting ninth birthday present, is illustrated by a photo­graph of Edvard Grieg, because he wrote the first piano concerto ever to be studied by Edward Heath. Music is brought home to the multitude (the avowed aim) by precept as well as by example. The last two chapters, “Record Collecting” and “Music for Everyone”, contain helpful advice, e.g. “How, then, should you start a record collec­tion? The answer is, go for what you like”.

     Suppose an eminent musician wrote a book called “Politics: my Lifelong Interest”, which offered comparable counsel. “What, then, should you do at a general election? The answer is, vote for the candidate of your choice”. That way round is manifestly impossible. The difference must be that everyone knows about politics already, while music is a mystery reserved for the happy few. Mr Heath crusades against this inequality by recruiting for the band of brothers, and acting as their conductor. More power to his elbow.

     That phrase may explain why, outside politics, Mr Heath has become Mr Sailing or Mr Music. Both these personae are private men but public figures of speech, or metaphors of government. Steering the yacht of state, directing the orchestra of the nation, call for the same skills and stances. Admittedly both roles might be described in such cynical terms as manipulation of strings and proximity to the wind. But manoeuvres like tacking or rubato, call them what you will, are arguably also the essence of good government, which in­volves flexibility and commitment as well as a sense of direction.

     This book places those qualities at the service of the layman in the cause of music. In doing so, it shows that a specialist in the art of the possible is well qualified to explain the possibilities of art. It is meant for the kind of readership that needs leadership, and is plainly not intended for instructed or accomplished musicians; but it is admirably suited to a first reading, and well designed to lie upon the table of the house. 


The Musical Times, Jan. 1977 (p. 40) © the estate of eric sams