from Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 to Fry, Bridget

Letter No. VWL5220

Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Bridget Fry

Letter No.: VWL5220

The White Gates

August 31st [1943]

Dear Biddy
Thank you very much for your letter and for returning the book.
I have looked through your exercises and have marked one or two places that I don’t care about. I am sure you are going the right way to work to learn to be a composer – Firstly, you are learning to think contrapuntally – Secondly, you are living with a lot of beautiful melodies and inventing other melodies to go with them – Brahms used, I believe, to say that when he wanted to stimulate his invention he let his mind run over some German folk tunes and I think we might well do the same with ours. I know that elementary harmony and counterpoint exercises are dull in themselves unless you keep in mind the end in view – just like you do your scales and arpeggios on the pianoforte.
I feel sure that if you get to know – as I daresay you already do – through actual hearing or through gramophone records – a lot of Palestrina and Byrd you will think any amount of strict  counterpoint in two parts worth while as a stepping stone – And in the same way, if you know the Bach choral harmonisations which every composer ought to know, (They can be got all collected in one volume at Novello) you will think any amount of harmony exercises worth while to helpyou if  they help you to do something like those.
Let me know if you go to the R.C.M. and I will do my best to get you placed with the right teachers.
All good wishes
R Vaughan Williams