2020 Vision – a wide perspective

Maybe I should call it 360-degree vision.  I seem to be looking in several directions all at once.

I contributed to a Music Graduate Careers website earlier last year.  It’s curated by a scholar from the University of Northumbria, and it went live this week.  Interesting to see the very many paths a music degree can take you!

What else? I’ve been invited to participate in an AHTV event coordinated for AHRC grant-holders, looking at ways researchers can get involved in television.  This is an exciting opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it immensely.

I’m awaiting the outcome of a grant application that I submitted at the very beginning of November – a few more weeks to wait yet, so I just have to be patient! – and I have another idea for a big grant application, but that still requires a bit more work before we can upload it as a formal submission.

All the above is exciting stuff, but some further developments have been rather more unexpected.  Last November, my solo flute composition was performed by a doctoral student at the London College of music, with another performance expected this year.  And yesterday, I was in touch with a folklore expert on the Isle of Wight (he curates https://www.thesacredisle.uk/), who has accepted for broadcast two SoundCloud recordings of a couple of my song compositions, performed by a librarian soprano of my acquaintance.  (Librarian soprano? Soprano librarian?  We know each other because we’re librarians, AND because of a shared musical interest.  You know what I mean, anyway!)  Suffice to say, these songs will  be broadcast on an Isle of Wight folklore programme that this expert is curating.  (They’ll be available online, which is just as well, because it could be difficult trying to tune in by radio from Glasgow!)

I have conflicted feelings about my compositional activities.  Surrounded by “real composers”, I suffer severely from imposter syndrome in this regard.  And yet, whilst I’m not a professional composer, I do appear to be a composer of some sort!  I can only say, watch this space …

Claimed From Stationers’ Hall: papers from an AHRC-funded network project (Brio Vol.56 no.2, Autumn-Winter 2019)

An important research output, and also worthy of noting here on my Teaching Artist blog – first published output of 2020!

Claimed From Stationers' Hall

And it popped through the letter-box today: the latest shiny-new issue of Brio, our special issue dedicated to papers from the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall networking project.

If you or your library subscribe to Brio, put the kettle on and settle down to a fascinating read.  (Your library may have been closed for Christmas, so it might take a day or two for the latest issue to hit the shelves!)

I have added the entire issue to Pure, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s institutional repository, but it won’t appear straight away – all entries go through an editorial process to ensure we’ve logged every relevant bit of data!

If you contributed to the volume, but haven’t got access to Brio, please don’t worry – we’ll be sending you a copy in due course!

Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here’s what you can look forward to!

Brio 56 no 2 title page

Along with…

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Annual Review, 2019

In some ways, it has been a strange year.  The AHRC funding for the ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall’ came to an end in 1818, but accounting for myself and uploading outputs to ResearchFish still continued.  Brio 56 no 2Moreover, I was guest co-editor of the forthcoming issue of IAML(UK and Ireland)’s journal, Brio, which entailed encouraging, cajoling and collaborating with article authors. not to mention authoring three book reviews myself.  It will appear very, very soon, showcasing not only Georgian music in legal deposit libraries from Aberdeen to Oxbridge, and Dublin to London,  but also some very modern developments in music copyright, too.

One big excitement for me was an invitation to be a guest speaker at a seminar at the Sorbonne in Paris – speaking about someone who had really only had a bit part in my doctoral research.  More research was plainly needed, but it paid off handsomely – and having given my scholarly paper, I was subsequently invited to speak about Sir John MacGregor Murray at the Clan MacGregor Annual Dinner in Killin.  It was thoroughly rewarding to learn so much more about an individual whom I had recognised as an important figure in terms of national song, but without realising quite how important he actually was on the wider stage – both in the East India Company and as a clan chieftain at home.

Speaking on a panel about paratext at ISECS in Edinburgh was also an exciting event, and introduced me to people whom I’m sure I’ll continue to collaborate with in future.

Autumn, however, was a different kettle of fish entirely.  My husband needed a hip replacement, and until we had the date for his surgery, I could accept no further engagements.  I find it profoundly distressing to back out of commitments, but it turned out to be a salutary lesson that the world does, indeed, keep turning even if engagements do have to be cancelled.  I hope that we’ll be able to reschedule one of them.

As though that wasn’t enough, I too needed surgery, not because I was ill (I wasn’t!), but it was recommended by my consultant to ensure I would not have problems in future.  My operation ended up two weeks before my husband’s.  Suddenly, there was the pressure of completing the work on Brio, and also submitting a grant application with literally hours to spare, before heading to hospital for my procedure.  I hadn’t been off work for as long as a month for more than 20 years, but my convalescence was somewhat impeded by the need to resume caring responsibilities simultaneously.  Anyway, fully recovered now, we look forward to a much healthier 2020!

I have plans to submit another grant application early in the new year, and then … well, let’s see what transpires!  My head may be full of fascinating historical and modern music copyright information, but my heart remains with national songs and paratext!

Notwithstanding my frustration that I continue only to be a researcher for 1.5 days a week (more would make me merrier!), I do try to remind myself that I’m not doing badly given the circumstances.  Someone who is a researcher 1.5 days and a librarian 3.5 days per week cannot expect to achieve as much as someone wholly occupied as a scholar.  I’ve done a fair bit of information skills teaching along the way, too.  Research skills and bibliographical training are particular strengths of mine.  But I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that I am heartily tired of cataloguing, after nearly 32 years in the same role.  I so urgently need fresh challenges!  I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to supervise an undergraduate research project this summer, and am looking forward to another such supervision in the new year.

Beyond 2019?

My aspirations are to do more research, more writing, more teaching.  To attract more grant-funding.  And, if only it could be possible, to increase my research activity as a percentage of my weekly work.  I’ve stayed in Glasgow all this time for very valid reasons, but the final outcome is that my curriculum vitae shows a vast increase in the scope of my expertise, but a totally flat line as regards career progression.  Ah well, still some years until retirement, so let’s see what I can achieve in them!

So, what do I have to show for 2019?

Blogpost: Romantic National Song Network: Scotland. Afton Water

Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture Sage Publications, 2019: ‘Borders’, print pp.382-384; ‘Librarianship’, print pp.1334-1336; ‘Wales: History, culture and geography of music’, print pp.2338-2341; and ‘Wales: modern and contemporary musical practice’, print pp.2342-2343.

May Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du sud. Workshop: John Macgregor Murray (1745-1822): Persianate and Indic Cultures in British South Asia. Guest speaker, ‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray as a Mediator of Highland Culture’

June ICEPOPS (International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars, at University of Edinburgh): Pecha Kucha,  ‘Silence in the Library: from Copyright Collections to Cage’

July Athenaeum Award to attend and speak at the ISECS 15th International Congress on the Enlightenment

July After dinner speaker at Annual Clan MacGregor Weekend, Killin (‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray and Gaelic Culture’)

August  ‘National Airs in Georgian Libraries’, 104-114, in Old Songs, New Discoveries: Selected Papers from the 2018 Folk Song Conference, ed. Steve Roud & David Atkinson (Folk Song Papers, no.2), London: The Ballad Partners, 2019 ISBN 9781916142411

October Athenaeum Award – contribution to publication costs of Brio 56#2 (special issue dedicated to ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network) – issue will be mailed to subscribers in January 2020.

December Scottish Music Review 5 (2019), 75-87, ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’


‘Library support to students on blended-learning courses: some thoughts on best practice’ (SCONUL Focus, next issue https://www.sconul.ac.uk/page/sconul-focus )

Two further articles have been submitted but are still in the pipeline!

Beyond Academia

It took me a few months to get round to it, but I decided to celebrate my 61st year by learning a new instrument! I began by borrowing one from RCS, but this summer – as a 61st birthday present to myself – I bought a reconditioned Gaudini.  My debut was with a church carol-singing expedition last week.  It took me a week for my knees and ankles to recover!

I make occasional forays into composition in my spare time.  Having said this, I’m not a professional composer – and I’m surrounded by too many career composers to imagine that I’ve got anything very dramatic or genre-bending to say!  Nonetheless, when I look at my output just from 2019, I begin to see where the time went!  You’ll find quite a few of these pieces on Soundcloud, and some of the music is also on Sheet Music Plus – I’ve even sold some!

Compositions Performed or being Considered for Performance

  • Apart: a lament, for reeds quintet
  • Anthem: Bless this child today
  • Blueberry Enchantment: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton
  • Epiphany: a carol, to be performed at Killermont Parish Church Jan 12th 2020
  • Pan and Syrinx: flute solo, performed by Ashley Westmacott, London College of Music (Prequel Concert – Pan – Lunchtime flute music. Chamber Music Concert at University of West London, Weston Hall, St Mary’s Road, Ealing W5 5RF 1.10pm Weds 27th November)
  • The Spinners and the  Habetrot: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton

Dance Tunes

The least said about these, the better. I wrote half a dozen tunes – they haven’t got much to recommend them!


  • Auld lang syne for cello quartet
  • East India Volunteers Country Dance
  • I’m glad I ever saw the day (choir)
  • Jock o’ Hazeldene (piano)
  • John MacGregor Murray and the East India Company
  • The Lass o’ Patie’s Mill (piano)
  • The lone wanderer (2018, but I think recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton in 2019)
  • Native land adieu (piano)
  • O Come all ye Faithful: new descant (performed 22 Dec 2019)
  • Scots Wha Hae (cello quartet)

2019-11-26 16.08.05

Composition and arranging are great stress-busters for me.  But when I’m not at my computer, my other relaxation is sewing, whether by machine or by hand.  The above picture is my “cloth book for grown-ups”, which attempts to show graphically just how many legal deposit scores survive in the various Georgian legal deposit libraries.

Research also met needle and thead in various other guises!  Other sewing projects end up in my wardrobe or as gifts.  There really is a limit to how many fabric fantasias a normal house can hold!

Apparently a Composer…

In a month when I’ve been out of action, it’s gratifying to have a flute composition premiered at London College of Music by Asley Westmacott yesterday – and today one of my songs goes live via Soundcloud performed by Ruth Carlyle & David Barton – Blueberry Enchantment

Pan and Syrinx programme note

The legend of Pan and Syrinx is an object lesson for any modern philanderer, since Pan’s attempts to win the beautiful but chaste Syrinx got him absolutely nowhere!  In her attempts to evade him, Syrinx begged the river god to save her.  She was changed into a bunch of sighing reeds, with Pan ultimately creating his pan-pipes to remind him of the nymph he had failed to win.  How to turn this into a piece of music, though?  The music begins with the idea of a dialogue between Pan (the low phrases) and Syrinx (the higher-pitched answers). It becomes harder to distinguish between the two as the chase intensifies, with Syrinx’s desperation reflected in the highest, fastest passage in the middle of the piece.  Some calm is restored as she is turned into reeds, signalled by four slow ascending minims.  Pan attempts to embrace her – now a bunch of reeds – reprising the beginning of the piece.  The slower coda represents the pan-pipes that he makes as a substitute for Syrinx herself.

NHS November

I haven’t posted this month due to medical procedures affecting my family. (“How was your week?”, asked the anaesthetist. “Oh, I got the grant application in …. zzzzzz”, I said breezily.  Well, that had been the primary focus of my efforts up to that point!)

I hope to be back in circulation next week – appropriately for someone who’s a librarian more than half the time – providing the other recipient of NHS care is okay to be left in the house.  I haven’t had a whole month off since our youngest was born 21 years ago, and it has been a strange experience.  Even then, I wasn’t forbidden to drive for six weeks!

But more crucially, I may have kept an eye on my emails, but I’ve done absolutely no research for a month, and that feels quite odd.  I’ve read a couple of books – so far so good – and made a “note to self” about something to follow up.  But that’s it.  I didn’t follow it up.

The morning before my procedure, I wrote an Epiphany carol for a friend – she had translated the words from Latin in the hope that our choir might sing it early next year, so I really had to get something written if I wanted any hope of rehearsing it with them in December.  It proved not only to be a great distraction but – surprisingly, when I got round to revisiting it – I was rather pleased with it.  So, watch this space.  It was quite a high price to pay for inspiration, but on this occasion, at least something good came out of it!

More surprisingly, I spotted a request for a solo instrumental piece, on Facebook, and discovered I already had a composition which I was able to share with only two minutes’ tweaking effort, so that too will be getting a public airing in 2020.  Not bad for someone who is NOT “a composer” to trade.

Other than that – I have nothing to report right now.  But I look forward to getting back into things very soon.

Done and Dusted

Facing a rather demanding month, I decided I had to grab my deadlines by the scruff of the neck, shake them firmly and get them all neatly sorted.  By the 1st November, no less.  By dint of a bit of tactical rescheduling, I’ve got things just about organised to my liking.

This week, therefore, the research component of my work entailed:-

  • Submitting a grant application (it had gone from idea to submission in eight days flat); and
  • Editing a lecture and powerpoint, recording them for use in a month’s time, and updating a bibliography.

Additionally, the extended, dedicated special issue of Brio went off to the printer’s today.  Although I’ve been the guest co-editor for this issue, I can’t take any of the credit for the editing or proofing of anything except the bits I authored – I had more to do with commissioning the articles and chasing them up in time for the printing date!  Nonetheless, since it’s a major output for last year’s networking project, it is a great relief to know that it is on its way!

Meanwhile, I still had the larger part of my week to fulfil as a librarian, including some more user education – mercifully not quite as much as I’d done last week!  And the lecture, although I worked on it in research time, is actually one of those occasions where Librarian-meets-Researcher slap bang in the middle.  It concerns historical Scottish sources in the library.  They’re all there, and the students need to know about them – but I wouldn’t know any of the books’ history if they hadn’t been the subjects of my own doctoral research.

Moreover, I needed to play my own musical examples and get them recorded, too.  Now, I try to avoid EVER playing an instrument at work, because the students and their teachers are so blooming brilliant that I feel worse than overshadowed.  However, it was clearly unacceptable to contemplate playing CDs, on a recorded lecture that might end up online, so the only way to be sure there were no copyright issues was to record the examples myself.  Oh, the horror!  I tried singing to my own accompaniment last night, but I didn’t like the sound I made, so I resorted to playing what I could, and hoping it won’t sound too ragged for the student audience!  (At least I won’t be there to hear it!)

It’s a rather strange feeling, on the 1st  of the month, to know that – if I’m not actually ahead of myself – then I am, certainly, up to date with everything that should be done.

Now, about that list of church choir contributions that I promised to finalise this weekend …

This and not That

In the brave new world of higher retirement ages, I have a few years to go before I retire.  Since I’ve really tried to develop my career creatively and flexibly, I genuinely have no problem with this.  I’m not ready to retire – I still have more to offer, most particularly with  regard to research, writing and teaching.  Let me put it graphically – I want ultimately to retire on a high note (see header image above).  And I categorically do not wish my career to end by simply fading out of the picture!

Fade out The EndI mean, where’s the triumphant conclusion in this? Give me a Handel score rather than a subtle filmscript ending any day!

Musicologist and Pedagogue trapped in a librarian's body. I'm qualified in music, librarianship and education. I began this blog when I was studying for my PGCert in Learning & Teaching in Higher Arts Education, and I'm now using it for CPD. I'm a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Midweek I am continuing the research I commenced as PI for an AHRC-funded research network @ClaimedStatHall – early legal deposit music. Off-duty I'm hard-wired into my sewing machine!