LETTER: Rhythm of a real composer

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The Independent Online
Sir: So Ravel's Bolero indicates that the composer "was in the early stages of dementia", because its "most striking feature" is the persistent rhythm ("Bolero: the work of a man going mad", 4 September)?

No, Dr Eva Cybulska, that's what the music is about. Composers aren't laboratory rats: they make up music as a voluntary act of will, and sometimes the act of will involves deciding to illustrate the idea of persistence. Oh, and by the way: the "evolution of the theme" that your niece is looking for is there, under and around the persistent rhythm.

That's how you can tell the music is by a real composer, not a minimalist wannabe.

On this showing, was every Baroque composer who wrote music on a repeating bass line also showing incipient dementia? (How about Pachelbel, with that perennial Canon?) A couple of years after Bolero Ravel managed to overcome his disability to toss off a couple of magnificent piano concertos - not a "throbbing rhythm" in a carload.

ERIC VAN TASSEL

Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

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