Shredding sheet music

26th October 2011 | Daily Life, Musings | 3 comments

Last week I had to empty my shelves of piano music so that the room could be painted. It took ages and resulted in tottering piles of sheet music on the floor of other rooms. As I carried armfuls of music to and fro, I reflected on how much effort had gone into acquiring all those volumes over a period of many years. Each single piece of music had probably been the subject of a special journey into town, to a music shop in one city or another.

In the light of that experience, I cringed inwardly when I read the Guardian obituary of Latin-pop bandleader Edmundo Ros. After a long and successful career, Ros finally fell out with his band members after one particular tour, and on his return ‘he sent his orchestra’s sheet music archive to be shredded at the Bank of England’.

What a gesture! I sat there amid my piles of music trying to imagine how it would feel if they were all gone for good. Would it be a huge relief, or would there be a crippling sense of wrongness and regret? There was something deeply operatic about Ros’s behaviour – not simply deciding to shred his sheet music archive, which is already a striking gesture, but sending it to be shredded at the Bank of England. Why there? I felt there was some important information being withheld. Was there some special point being made, and to whom? Can anyone send stuff to be shredded at the Bank of England? I wondered where I’d send my archive of sheet music to be shredded, should I wish to make a point.


  1. peter

    Susan — I knew a professional cellist (now deceased) who told me one day, some years after he had retired, that he had woken up that morning and believed “that the muse had just left him”. He played the cello no more – going from hours of practice each day to zero overnight, sold his valuable instruments, and gave away all his music. He lived for some years afterwards. I always thought this was quite sad.

    • Susan Tomes

      Yes, there seems to be a love-hate quality to many musicians’ relationship with music. There’s a story of Pablo Casals injuring his hand in a climbing accident, and reporting that his first thought was, ‘Thank God! I’ll never have to play the cello again.’ Fortunately he hadn’t damaged his hand, but his immediate reaction is intriguing (and believable).

  2. Roger Roser

    Perhaps Mr Ros’scores have been recycled for “quantitive easing”. Hate to think I might be spending his life’s work in Asda next week.


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