John Man, vocalist and visionary, was recently delighted to give his audition pianist some poorly-taped mash of crumpled, illegible music which looked as if it had been photocopied by an eager, drunk dinosaur singularly ill-equipped for the task.
“I wanted my audition to go smoothly, so I made sure to pay absolutely no attention to the layout of my scores,” he said, sipping some sort of green chai mush that smelled of grass and reindeer farts. “Everybody knows that if a pianist struggles with the score, it means they aren’t good enough.”
We spoke to Bob Guy, the pianist in question, and asked him what sort of experience he had experienced. “Some would say that having the music neatly bound is ideal,” he said, “or at least having the pages in the right order. But I much prefer fumbling around with enormous, unturnable pages while trying to guess what clef I’m in or what the left hand at the bottom of every second page might be. I know there is a bass note, probably- but which one? That always gets me.”
We asked Man if there was a particular rationale or principle that he used to guide him in the printing of his scores. “When I drop the book onto the photocopier like a sleepy toddler and press copy without checking a single thing, I make sure I have the music part facing down,” he said. “That is what I have learned.”
Guy did not mind the challenge of playing for Man’s audition, saying that at least his music was in the right key. Sometimes Guy has to transpose the score himself or work off an edition that looks like it was edited by the whole family just before nap time. “I applaud the dedication and industry with which some singers apply absolutely no skills to the job of transposition,” he said. “They make it look so effortless.”
We asked Man if he thought there was anything he could have done to make the scores easier to read. “Why should the pianist’s score be my problem? All I care about is doing everything I can to make sure the performance goes well.”