Simon Rattle joins angry letter to the Guardian

Simon Rattle joins angry letter to the Guardian


norman lebrecht

April 03, 2017

The letter that the Guardian has been reluctant to publish – a rebuttal by musicians of a stupid article on ‘elitist’ teaching of children to read music – has gained some extra names and newsworthiness.

We hear that around 400 musicians have now signed, including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir James MacMillan, Colin Matthews and Sarah Connolly.

No word yet from the Guardian about publication. They are not coming out of this well.

Read the full letter here.



  • Smetanapolka says:

    How can the author of the Guardian piece claim not to be able to read music and then say she’s passed Grade 8?
    All grades require it – for some of the marks – don’t they?

  • Miles Golding says:

    Norman, please don’t refer to it as “angry”. Nor is it an “attack”. It is a calm, measured and well-reasoned rebuttal of key points in Ms Gill’s article.

    • pooroperaman says:

      ‘Norman, please don’t refer to it as “angry”.’

      So why isn’t it angry? It jolly well should be.

  • Grade8Singing says:

    It is (ridiculously) possible to pass Grade 8 singing while failing the sight singing. Grade 8 singing is a bit of a joke, tbh (and I speak as someone who has it).

  • George Porter says:

    Maybe it hasn’t been sent yet, as signatures are still be collected?

    Anyway, it was just an opinion piece from someone of no significance.

  • Holly Golightly says:

    Of course “The Guardian” would be ‘reluctant to publish’. With its blatant agenda, faux and ‘invisible’ news that news site is not worth a snowball in hell. No wonder they have the begging bowl out. And it’s for a reading age of 11.

  • Alexander Davidson says:

    I don’t know why anybody is taking this so seriously. Guardian opinion pieces are of notoriously inconsistent quality. While some are well informed and well argued, others, such as this one, essentially provide an opportunity for somebody to express a view on a subject about which they evidently know almost nothing. There was a Guardian opinion piece some years ago on racism, patriarchy, class privilege, and body shaming in Thomas the Tank Engine which was so laughable that I had to read it twice before I realised that it was not, in fact, a parody of a Guardian opinion piece.

  • Rhian Samuel says:

    As with all these things there is SOME truth in it . . . I don’t think the article is quite as stupid as many musicians are claiming. But Ms Gill doesn’t know much about music notation, including the fact that staff notation is only one form of it (though she’s actually noted the fact that guitar tablature exists). She’s so exercised she can’t sight-read: it’s a shame tonic solfa has gone out of fashion — so useful, and easy, for sight-singing for the amateur choral singer, and so widespread 50 years ago. Same thing with the Kodaly method.

  • jonathan dunsby says:

    Yet another misleading Slipped Disc heading.
    It was NOT an angry letter !

    • Jonathan Dunsby says:

      Please note that this is NOT the Jonathan Dunsby who teaches at the Eastman School of Music. This Jonathan Dunsby has not contributed to Slipped Disc in any way in, e.g., 2016 or 2017, and for the sake of clarity does not propose to do so. The possibility of misidentification was drawn to Mr Lebrecht’s attention long ago but no action was considered necessary or appropriate. Sorry for the confusion folks, but what can one do?

      • pooroperaman says:

        Use a pseudonym?

      • Karen Fodor says:

        ===Please note that this is NOT the Jonathan Dunsby who teaches at the Eastman School of Music.
        ===This Jonathan Dunsby has not contributed to Slipped Disc in any way ….. and for the sake of clarity does not propose to do so.

        Mr Dunsby – you don’t have a very uncommon name. And how do you know you’ll never, ever post at SD ? All sorts of interesting things are discussed here.

  • Phill says:

    How can anybody take the Guardian seriously? I wouldn’t even waste my time or energy penning a response to them, they’re an absolute joke.

  • Bert says:

    Her article was a decent one. Most popular music artists cannot read music and it’s been that way since the 1950’s. It is not in any was essential or needed for a career in the music industry.

    The ‘problem’ with classical training to me seems to be everyone sounds much the same to the average music listener because they’re trained to sound the same.

    Self taught musicians have their own character wrapped up large in their playing style. The way new musical styles and genres comes through is not by getting everyone to follow the same lessons, it’s be letting individuals learn in their own way.

    You should let people put themselves into their playing style instead of mandating what that style ‘should’ sound like.

  • MLG says:

    Ms Gill’s article reeks of “I can’t do this thing well, so they should drop the topic from the exams so they it will make me look smarter.”

    FWIW, many of the kids taking our music teacher’s lessons are from state schools. With private school fees at £12,000 a year at least, the state school pupils’ parents are the very few with enough spare cash left to afford them!

    I have learnt music both using notation (piano) and without notation (guitar, singing): you can certainly get by strumming notes but if you want the nuances in instrumental music, you’ll need to read notation. Singers could certainly learn a pop song without reading anything, but not all music is pop music.