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(London, 1945-1947)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2023)

Keynote: The Progressive Music Quarterly [RIPM code KYN] was published in five single issues (Autumn 1945 to Summer 1946) and incorporated the journals Jazz Record, L. L. C. U. News Letter and Vox Pop. Re-named Keynote: The Music Magazine, the journal was then published as one monthly issue in January 1947 and six bi-monthly double issues from February-March to October-November 1947. Under the editorship of H. G. Sear, Keynote was the bulletin of the Workers’ Music Association (W.M.A.), an organization founded in 1936 by the composer and musical-political activist Alan Bush, but the journal's pages remained “open to members everywhere.” The quarterly single issues each contain thirty-two pages printed in two-column format. The issues of Volume 2 contain twenty-four pages also printed in two-column format. The pages of are numbered individually, each issue beginning with the number 1. Throughout the publication copious photographs and drawings, and occasional musical examples, enhance understanding the subjects of the wide variety of articles.

The issues correspond to the usual format of music periodicals of this period. Following a table of contents are a mixture of articles on a myriad of subjects: reviews of books on music, music publications, and gramophone recordings of classical and jazz compositions. Illustrations of musicians, singers, dancers and actors, buildings of musical institutions and photographs and drawings of stage productions are found throughout the issues. Advertisements, often dealing with current musical performances and publications, are placed at the beginnings and ends of the issues.

The topics of the articles reflect aspects of the cultural life of the post-war period. The central interest, musical life in Britain, deals with the growth of musical performances in London, the history of the Huddersfield Choral Society, the musical education of the masses, the development of the English ballet, new English opera companies at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Sadler’s Wells Opera,  Glyndebourne, as well as amateur opera performances, wireless music from the British Broadcasting Corporation, the formation and purpose of the British Arts Council and the International Society for Contemporary Music (I.S.C.M.). The activities of contemporary British composers are featured in articles about Lord Berners, Arthur Bliss, Benjamin Britten, Alan Bush, Benjamin Frankel, Alex Rowley, Edmund Rubbra, Bernard Stevens, Michael Tippett and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The worth of outstanding British performers is discussed in reviews. Studies of the problems and development of current British musical education are an important feature.

Studies of “modern music composers” and their new musical languages deal with Arnold Schoenberg, Alois Hába, Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell and Bela Bartók, and include a study of Debussy’s role in the revolution against romanticism.  Jazz and popular music of the twentieth century occupy a prominent position, in regular columns “Jazz recordings,” “Swing recordings,” “Swing scores” and studies on the objection to jazz, the influence of jazz on European composers, and the historic roots of jazz in the American south and from African American musicians (“negro” in the language of the journal). The influence of Latin American (Cuban) dance music (the rumba, congas, etc.) and Afro-Cuban instruments on the music of the American dance band is explored.

Interest in the development of music in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the various  socialist satellite countries of the USSR in eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia) is notably strong: the development of music in Bashkira, a pioneer Soviet jazz orchestra, studies of folk dancers, singers and musicians in the contemporary Soviet Union, questions of state control of music, music in Armenia, veteran Russian composers who have won Soviet recognition, and Gerald Abraham’s criticism of state interference concerning Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk and his Symphony no. 7 (“Leningrad”).

This RIPM Index was produced from a copy of the journal provided by the Westminster Music Library (London).