The Fons de Música Tradicional at the Institució Milà i Fontanals (CSIC-IMF) in Barcelona has more than 20.000 melodies, copied on paper, collected between 1944 and 1960 throughout Spain; most of them were compiled through the 65 folkloric missions and 62 notebooks presented to competitions organized by the Folklore Section of the former Instituto Español de Musicología of the CSIC, in which 47 researchers participated.
Dressmakers, do you use a toile? I only learned the word the other day – it’s a kind of dry-run garment that you make to ensure the pattern fits, before you make the garment in fabric that you would be seen dead wearing. This morning I made my toile out of old bed-linen. Dilys (my new dressmaking dummy) looked very fetching in it, apart from the sleeves not being attached. (They were too tight on me, so some re-engineering of the pattern was required! Dilys has no arms – she didn’t need the sleeves anyway.) My intention was simply to ensure that I’ve got Dilys’s measurements right, before launching into my Spring 2015 sewing spree.
Working with Dilys is a new experience for me, but so was my attempt to scale up a dressmaking pattern out of an A4 book. One square = 5 cm, it said.
Lesson 1: never try to draw your own graph paper then copy it.
Lesson 2: if you can avoid it, don’t try to scale up a dressmaking pattern
Lesson 3: As above … especially if there are nine differently coloured lines denoting different sizes!
Lesson 4: Although, theoretically, enlarging on a photocopier should have been the easy answer, it turned out to be much trickier than it seemed. The first 200% enlargement wasn’t too bad, but working out which bits to enlarge for the second 200% enlargement was going to be complicated – on Friday, I gave up and went to Mandors for proper dressmaking graph paper at lunchtime instead.
Anyway, here we are on a Sunday evening, and the toile-enveloped Dilys stands watching as I get to work on the nice black and white cotton fabric that will become my new dress. There’s only one problem that I can see – it looks spookily like a repeat of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s logo! Now, why didn’t I notice that when I bought it? I wonder if my colleagues will notice when I turn up in it?
I wrote a piece for flute quintet at the weekend! I should explain – I don’t generally go around composing random flute pieces, but I’ve done a couple of arrangements of Scottish folksongs for Sheffield Flute Choir, and I thought I’d arrange another. Arranging is fun, and safely within my comfort zone. I do it quite well – but I don’t claim to be a composer.
So, when I thought I’d do another arrangement, all I had to do was choose a tune, right? I was completely certain there was a piece called ‘Ossian’s Dream’, and I decided that, whatever it was like, I’d arrange it. I thought it might be in the Scots Musical Museum – it wasn’t. I looked at the National Library of Scotland’s wonderful Digital Gallery of Scottish music books – it didn’t come up. There certainly was a famous painting by that name by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres – indeed, the artist’s sketch also survives – but that wasn’t much help to me. In my mind, the dreaming Ossian in my mind was asleep under rustling trees, his own clarsach silent in front of him, and an Aeolian harp hanging from a branch, occasionally sounding in the breeze. He was indeed remembering fallen heroes, but the setting wasn’t quite like the painting. And I found a very animated, modern piece by Andy Lindquist – no traditional Scottish tune lurking there!
Need I continue? The only answer was to write my own ‘Ossians’s Dream’ for flute quintet. Here’s a midi-file of it:- the Sheffield flautists haven’t tried it yet!
This was the theme of the SCURL event held at Glasgow School of Art last Wednesday. SCURL stands for Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries, and this day was planned to give librarians an opportunity to talk about outreach.
I co-presented a paper with our Archives Officer, Stuart Harris-Logan. It occurred to me that I could put my talk AND the PowerPoint into a Storify story. The link is here if you’d like to see it. (My apologies – I don’t have the text of Stuart’s paper, so the Storify is basically my share of the talk!)
I can’t believe it’s 30 years since I was organist at this, the church with the nicest name of all the places I’ve ever played! St Augustine’s Church, Norwich-over-the-Water is now under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It’s a mediaeval church with the only 17th century brick tower in Norwich.
While I was there, I composed a Palm Sunday hymn, ‘Sing Hosanna, ye people young and old.’ I fished it out today, and decided I’d better get it saved in Finale Songwriter and Soundcloud so that I have a digital record of it. Here’s the midi-file.
Now, there’s a hymn-tune called ‘Sursum Corda’ which has a similar outline for the first two lines. However, mine alternates between 7 and 6 beats in the bar – that’s certainly different! – and the last two lines go their own individual way. I have no idea if I had come across the earlier hymn when I wrote mine, but I can honestly say that there was no intention of basing mine on someone else’s tune. If anything, I think it simply betrays my immersion in mediaeval music and plainsong for several years as a student!
I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.