It is a truth universally acknowledged in the game preserves of East Africa that one needs roughly 100 prey animals [Impala, African buffalo, zebra, etc.] to one predator [lion, leopard, cheetah, etc.] for a stable sustainable balance. [This is why the story of Noah's Ark is implausible. What did the lions eat after they polished off both Impala? And how did the Impala survive to the present day?]
I thought of this the other day when I was trying to find a music store in the Triangle Area [Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh] that carries chamber music scores and parts. I have found a violinist -- my first small victory on the way to assembling a string quartet -- and we shall be trying out some Mozart duets for violin and viola, K 497, on Sunday. Now, the Triangle is an area pretty well stocked with academics, medical personnel, research scientists, and even a symphony orchestra, and yet it has been very difficult for me to pull together a string quartet. What is more, there is literally no shop in the region that carries a good selection of sheet music. I did hear of a fabulous store in Charlotte [a three and a half hour drive to the West] but when I looked for it online, I found it had just closed after many years.
Apparently, it takes a very large number of amateur and professional classical musicians to sustain such a store. You can see why. Once you have purchased, let us say, a set of parts of the early and middle Beethoven quartets, you have them, and for as long as you are alive, you are not going to need another set.
The same problem afflicts restaurants, even though unlike string quartet music, people will eat more than one meal in their lives.. Almost any area will have a large number of cheap, fast food and take-out restaurants, but you need a sizable business community on expense accounts and a large number of couples who like a really good meal to sustain even one first-rate gourmet restaurant.
In the end, I had to get Shar Music in Ann Arbor to overnight me the Mozart duets so that I could take one copy over to Liz Prescott, the violinist, and start practicing the viola part. It all made me appreciate Stammell Strings in Amherst, MA a good deal more.