Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maud Karpeles

Letter No.: 
VWL4897
March 21st 1953

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,
Dorking.

Dictated, as you see:

Dear Maud
I will try to answer your questions, but I fear I am rather a broken reed. I will do my best.
P.41. I have never understood the diference1 between authentic and plagal mode, except with regard to the composers of the tune. Indeed, I am quite out of my depth with regard to Greek modes. I can only hope that Sharp was not also out of his.
P. 67. Modulation
I do not think the sentence starting "when we remember" is correct. It is curious that the fact that in Palestrina's time the cycle of keys which came in with the tempered scale did not prevail: with the curious result that Palestrina and his school have abrupt modulations e.g.: C major to A major. which Mozart would not have dreamt of. Also, I do not think it is correct to say that modulation is unknown in folk music.
Of course, in purely melodic music the modulation, being a harmonic quesion can only be suggested, and differently suggested to different harmonisers.
e.g. the first three notes downward of the Mixolydian mode always suggests to me the chords of C major, E-flat major, & F major

I think you might add a note to this effect in your preface - which, by the way, I hope will be a preface, and not come at the end as you suggest.
My screed can be called something else - as long as its NOT called a foreword.2
P.88 I think paragraph 7 is alright as it stands. I don't know the word asymmetric.
P.124 Certainly music has not been continuously progressive: e.g. Mozart is distinctly retrogressive after Bach, harmonically speaking: chiefly because he was occupied with other problems.
Also we must remember that whereas a new scientific invention necessarily causes us to scrap what has gone before, a new harmony, or a new method of orchestration does not necessarily prevent us still appreciating the old.
I will try & write a new screed for you, using some of the old, but I don't think I shall want to, nor think it be nescescary3 to, discuss the book itself, which you have already done so adequately.
Love from 
Ralph
I do hope you are better


1. sic.
2. VW had been asked to write the introduction for a new edition of Cecil Sharp's English Folk Song: some conclusions.
3. sic.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/2/3/2, ff. 88-90
General notes: 

In the hand of UVW, signed by VW.

Format: 
Letter