BEETHOVEN'S COPYIST

For those of you who are not composers or arrangers, the copyist is the invaluable individual, who even in this digital age of music preparation, takes the score and prepares each instrumental, vocal part and final edited scores for the conductor, performers and producer. Music notation requires excruciating attention to detail and limitless patience; like computer coding even one little mistake can bring things to a screeching halt.

Back in the day, we all composed with pencil and ink; usually deadlines pushed me to write in first draft/final draft ink and hope for the best. So it was also for someone far beyond my musical sensibilities: Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Poor Beethoven. He wasn’t the happiest fellow in the world. (That honor would be reserved for “The Most Happy Fella” see: “Frank Loesser”) and he took it out on everyone in his circle of friends and colleagues especially those who were always trying to help. Pity his poor copyists.

The sample of Beethoven’s manuscript above tells us everything we need to know about the challenges of working for this fellow; his scores are all but illegible, he makes changes constantly and expects you to read his mind and when you don’t he lets loose with pejoratives of symphonic proportions. To his copyist Ferdinand Wolanek who transcribed his epic 9th Symphony he wrote:

“Lousy scribbler! Stupid churl! Correct your mistakes through ignorance, arrogance conceit and stupidity. This is more fitting than you wanting to teach me, which is exactly as though the sow wanted to teach Minerva”

 Ouch. That’s gratitude for you.

Each of us as leaders has associates in our circle who make everything we do possible, just like Beethoven’s copyists. They clean up and correct our work, keep us on schedule, bring us fresh ideas and frequently do so in remote corners of the organization far from the limelight. In theatre it is the Stage Manager, in the Navy it’s the Chiefs, authors perish but for good editors and executives of every stripe rely on administrators, executive assistants, subject matter experts and technical advisors to keep things straight.

Honor them. Treat them well. Elevate them to the highest levels of esteem because the fact is, without Ferdinand Wolanek and his colleagues we would never have experienced Beethoven and without the heroes who make your business possible, well…… “Lousy scribbler! Stupid churl!!”

 You get my point.  

©2015 Minerd Music Works LLC