Scribbling in the margins

Scribbling in the margins

Maybe it’s because of my day-job, but you’ll never find me with a pen in my hand if I’m reading a book. Playing every day in an orchestra means a large turnover of music with new pieces to be learnt quickly: our usual format is two days rehearsal and then a concert, although we can sometimes squeeze in one day’s rehearsal for a concert. The point is that you always need to mark your music with conductor’s directions, personal reminders or a witty anagram of the composer’s name. The golden rule is “no ink.”

Particularly with hired music, where there’ll be stern instructions from the publisher to only use a soft lead pencil in making marks. Someone else, somewhere else in the world will be playing these parts next week and mightn’t agree with the conductor’s interpretation or your witty asides. Using a soft pencil means a part can be returned to a near-virgin state after a few seconds with an eraser and some elbow-grease.

So when I’m reading a book I’ll always have a pencil in my hand. And yes, I have to confess to being a margin scribbler. I always try to enter a dialogue with a writer rather than just be a passive consumer of his or her ideas. If something reminds me of another book or concept I’ll write a note. At other times a simple exclamation mark at the side of a passage is all that’s needed to express knowing displeasure at an idea, or, if I really disagree, a lengthy “but…” rebuttal works it’s way down the margin to the bottom of the page.

Call me old-fashioned (I rarely am) but it’s an honourable tradition…

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