‘Turning over an old leaf…’

One of the more curious features of the material that constitutes the Deryck Cooke Archive is that even though Cooke published hundreds of articles, reviews and other writings over a 30-year period, his papers do not contain a large number of typescripts or carbon copies. From the relatively few pieces that do survive as autographs – and the fact that most of these seem to have remained unpublished – we may deduce that Cooke was not the sort of writer who hoarded his ‘originals’ once a piece was in print.

Instead, Cooke’s habit was to preserve articles in their published form – either by retaining the entire journal or programme-booklet, or by keeping loose pages torn from the publication concerned.

Ex. 1: Christ und Welt: 'Märsche der Trauer and des Triumphs – Die musikalische Ausdrucksweise Gustav Mahlers’, 6 January 1967, p. 15.

Ex. 1: Christ und Welt: ‘Märsche der Trauer and des Triumphs – Die musikalische Ausdrucksweise Gustav Mahlers’, 6 January 1967, p. 15.

This accumulation of items is, of course, of considerable assistance in the project (currently under way) to produce the first full-scale Deryck Cooke Bibliography. For without access to these printed pages, it is likely that the very existence of many articles would have remained unsuspected: few people, one feels, would think of searching for Cooke’s name in, say, the German evangelical newspaper Christ und Welt – yet we find that a piece by him (‘Märsche der Trauer and des Triumphs – Die musikalische Ausdrucksweise Gustav Mahlers’) was indeed published there (6 January 1967, p. 15; see Example 1).

In a majority of cases, of course, discovering the origin and date of the ‘tear-outs’ requires no effort at all: like newspapers, The Listener and Radio Times have always carried a header and date on every page; and many serious journals can now be searched electronically. At the same time, however, a proportion of our tear-outs cannot be identified using these means – and the task of divining the publication details is one whose nature and difficulty varies from item to item.

Ex. 2: ‘Bringing Mahler to Life’; tear-out; 1 p.

Ex. 2: ‘Bringing Mahler to Life’; tear-out; 1 p.

Some cases are solved by a process that involves as much luck as judgment. Example 2 shows a page that does not identify itself in any way – but, to someone who happens to have read a lot of old music journalism, is immediately recognisable as coming from the magazine Music and Musicians during the editorship of Frank Granville Barker; with internal evidence also taken into account, it is no difficult feat to discover that the item appeared in Vol. 12, No. 12, of August 1964.

Ex. 3: ‘An Outstanding Composer of the Twentieth Century’; tear-out; 3 pp.

Ex. 3: ‘An Outstanding Composer of the Twentieth Century’; tear-out; 3 pp.

And Example 3 can be traced to the notably obscure journal Denmark: A Quarterly Review of Anglo-Danish Relations (No. 133, Autumn 1965) – not because of anything read or recognised, but solely because the article begins on the reverse of the magazine’s title page! Without this piece of good fortune, one imagines that the item would have remained unidentified in perpetuity.

Other items, however, require some involved detective work – and have needed anything up to half a day’s investigation before the case can be closed.

Ex. 4: ‘The Symbolism of The Ring’; faint (and apparently reduced) photocopy; amended and inked-over by Cooke; 12 pp.

Ex. 4: ‘The Symbolism of The Ring’; faint (and apparently reduced)
photocopy; amended and inked-over by Cooke; 12 pp.

Example 4 is one such…

With nothing familiar about the style or layout; nothing printed on the verso pages; and no identifying header or footer, the printed text itself had to be ransacked for clues. And since nothing in Cooke’s actual article revealed anything about the time or place of publication, attention shifted to less obvious aspects.

To begin with, there was the typography – whose style seemed to suggest the 1970s rather than the 1960s.

Then there was the editor’s introduction. From this, one deduces that the event at which Cooke was present had to have taken place in 1975 or earlier, as Cooke died in October 1976 and therefore would not have introduced a ‘December Ring Cycle’ in that year.

In addition, there was the introduction’s use of the term ‘Teach-in’ to characterise the speakers’ discussion of the operas. This term arose in the USA in the mid-1960s – within the tense and even violent context of campus radicalism and anti-war, grassroots activism. To find it being used in relation to pre-performance talks at a ‘high-culture’ event strongly suggested that the editor was writing at sufficient remove from the 1960s for the term to have lost some of its counter-cultural ‘edge’ … but not so far removed for it to have lost its seductive trendiness!

That the publication was British could, I think, be inferred not only from the absence of obvious ‘Americanisms’, but also from the way Cooke was presented simply as one ‘distinguished speaker’ among several – as opposed, that is, to a visitor of some specified (foreign) nationality.

And a further point also appeared to be significant. Since the editor’s reference to the Ring performances included no mention or acknowledgement of the actual opera company involved, it would seem to be the case that the publication was produced by that same organisation – presumably as a ‘house’ magazine for sponsors or other subscribers.

All of which, then, suggested that the thing to do was to look in the digital archive of The Times to see if any writer had referred to any performance of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen given in any December during the early 1970s by a new, regional or ‘fringe’ company that was British-based and had its own magazine…

And, sure (as well as fortunately!) enough, it turned out that in The Times of 17 May 1971, critic William Mann revealed that Scottish Opera (founded in Glasgow in 1962 and noted for its pioneering commitment to ‘socially inclusive’ arts provision and community ‘outreach’) would be staging a production of the entire Ring at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, in December 1971.

A call to the offices of Scottish Opera revealed that no-one there had any knowledge of a house magazine from the early 1970s (the company’s current magazine – Brio – is of recent foundation and still on its ‘issue no. 6’); but another enquiry – directed to the friendly and helpful staff at the National Library of Scotland – revealed that the original Scottish Opera Magazine did not only date back at least as far as 1966, but in its issue of ‘Spring 1972’ contained the very article whose photocopy I was looking at.


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4 Responses to ‘Turning over an old leaf…’

  1. Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

    Is Ex. 4 is the definitive published article or a proof? It is the only of the four cited examples that has been annotated (presumably by Cooke?) with grammatical corrections.


    • Mark Doran says:

      Hi. Thanks for writing.
      My suspicion is that it’s a photocopy of the article as published, rather than a proof.
      My reasons are: (i) Cooke tended not to keep proofs, as a rule; (ii) If this is a proof, it’s a jolly lousy one — as well as an illogical thing to send: why would they send the writer a bad photocopy of what their printers had set, rather than just have them print out another set of sheets? (iii) If this is a proof, someone must have sent it back to him *after they’d used it* — while apparently *not sending him* a photocopy of the published version; (iv) Cooke has inked over the fainter areas (such as towards the edges of some pages, if memory serves) — which would be odd behaviour if he was checking/correcting them; (v) Although he does mark some small changes, this does not automatically signify that the item is a proof — as he often altered printed material *after it had appeared* (presumably out of a spirit of perfectionism, or/and to save time in the future if the piece was re-used in some other context).
      I hope that helps. Do come and see the box of articles sometime! I hope the first stage of the Cooke Bibliography will be out soon, which will help people see what’s there…


  2. Mark Doran says:

    I should perhaps also say that the crazy angle of the text in Ex.4 is a true representation of the way the page was photocopied: it’s not the result of my scanning!


  3. Mark Doran says:

    On reflection, I can conceive of the possibility that the item was sent to Cooke to function as a proof; that he phoned in his corrections; and that he then retained these pages as his own archive copy…
    I suppose the way to resolve this is to get a photocopy of the published version from a library that has the actual magazine…!


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