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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Missing Page

Spoke yesterday to Philip Ball, the author of "The Music Instinct". He's a science writer and his book examines "how music works and why we can't do without it". We talked about the problems of getting permission to reproduce even the shortest passage of published music. For his book he transcribed a little of a Beatles tune and then applied to the publishers for permission. (This is rarely a good idea. What usually happens with a reasonable application to an organisation which holds all the cards and has nothing to gain from an assent is a long delay followed by a refusal. This gives the person dealing with it time to pretend it has been referred to a higher authority.) The book went into production. By the time the Beatles publisher came back with their refusal the book was already printed and bound. To Philip's amazement his own publishers, Bodley Head, arranged to change the page in question, reprint it, take the wrong one and then bind the replacement into the finished copies. We both found it extraordinary that they can do that sort of thing.