To the children of the Parents' Union School, Ambleside
A small girl was once having a music lesson. Her teacher gave her a new piece to learn, which she explained was composed by a well-known musician who had lately visited the school. 'But,' said the little girl, in great bewilderment, 'I thought all composers were dead.'
Have we really been taught that all composers are dead? Then indeed our art is dead. Vital art must be creative.
It has been said that we should stand in the present with one eye on the past and one on the future. Let us by all means build our house on the foundations of the great masters, but let us remember that the composers of our own time and of our own country have something to say to us which even the greatest masters of the past age cannot give us; that is the only way we can build a great future for our music.
We must not let let the dead lion swallow up the living dog.
R. Vaughan Williams.
From the Letters of Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1895-1958, edited by Hugh Cobbe. Retrieved from Google Books.