Edinburgh next! Music Festivals Galore

This Friday, it’s my talk at Edinburgh Central Library to celebrate the Bicentenary of the First Edinburgh Musical Festival.  The paper is written, the powerpoint prepared, I’m polishing my performance and raring to go!

I’m so excited to have today arranged to go on a guided tour of Parliament Hall, the morning before my talk.  That’s where the first festival sacred concerts were performed, and I get to stand inside and see exactly (well, as exactly as 200 years will allow) what the audience and performers saw thenI’m thrilled!  It’ll be great to have the venue in my mind’s eye as I give my talk.

A month later, I’ll be back in Edinburgh again, this time for the Scots Fiddle Festival, where I’ll be talking about ‘Fiddle books by the dozen’ – a retrospective look at my part in the Bass Culture project, and telling fiddlers what they can expect when the Historic Music of Scotland website goes live.

I have some more tentative plans for further lectures/seminars in the new year, but nothing finalised yet.  I’d better get weaving on responding to a couple of calls for papers.  There are barely enough hours in my day!

The Doctor Will See You Now. (Yes, the Doctor!)

I hesitate to blog about this, but I feel I should.  I received a distressing phonecall at home the other day when I was off work and shortly to attend a medical appointment. There are some sick individuals out there!  He used my full name, called me “horrible and pretentious” (I hope I’m not), accused me of calling myself “Doctor” when I wasn’t a General Practitioner, then finished with “IDIOT!”, and put the phone down. Not knowing the difference between PhD and GP would be ignorance, of course.  Anyone who knows me knows what a PhD is – and how hard I worked to get mine!

What I find disturbing, on the other hand, is the thought that the caller must have known me to have had such a well-thought out, articulate script. To answer my greeting so sharply with what they calculated would be a suitable barb takes either a quick mind or premeditated malice.  Did the caller know I would be at home that day, when normally I would be at work?  (Hardly anyone did know.)  Or did they just get lucky when I answered?

So, is this an ignorant but quick-thinking bully, or someone who knows me – or knows of me?  If the former – shame on you.  Get a PhD and you, too can call yourself “Doctor” without being pretentious. If you do know me – or of me and mine – then rest assured we’ll find out who you are.

Claimed from Stationers’ Hall: ‘Trifling’ Books of ‘Mere Amusement’


My research project has a name! If it looks rather obvious, then I’m pleased: I wanted it to be reasonably unambiguous. Since the whole point of legal deposit is to give a handful of long-established libraries gratuitous copies of everything published, I toyed with the idea of incorporating ‘free music’ in the name of the project, but decided against it – there were just too many ways this might be misconstrued!

Stationers Hall croppedMy initial focus is on the music claimed under copyright from Stationers’ Hall by the University of St Andrews between 1710-1836.  In the early nineteenth century, publishers were beginning to object to the university libraries’ claiming everything published, arguing that they were even claiming children’s books, novels and music. ‘Trifling’ material indeed, for institutions dedicated to learning law, philosophy and science!  Nonetheless, music was collected, and that’s the subject of my research.  Besides getting a thorough understanding of the collection’s history, I want to find out exactly what’s in it now, and to think about ways of encouraging reader engagement with this kind of material. Building upon research that was done in the pre-digital era, I hope also to be able to compare the present-day collection with comparable collections elsewhere.

My To-Do list got quite long when I started the project last Wednesday.  I now have lists of names and contacts, publications to read, and a new folder in my beloved Mendeley account – a cloud-based bibliographical tool in which I keep all my references.

‘TITLE FOR PROJECT’ was marked as URGENT.  Done!  I started a project page here on this blog, but because of the way WordPress pages work, I’ll blog ongoing research activities and discoveries here on the blog homepage, keeping the project page for building up a fairly logical story. (When there are changes to that page, I’ll flag it up here, so you only need to follow this blog and you won’t miss anything!)

Mind the Gap! One Project Ends and Another Begins

Teetering on the Brink …

I was sitting checking hyperlinks today – not the most riveting of activities, I must admit – when it dawned on me that my next research day is the last scheduled day that I’ll be working on the Bass Culture project that has occupied me for the past three years.  (Every week, I’ve been working three days as a librarian and two as a postdoctoral researcher.)  When I go to the research room on Tuesday, it will be to finish checking links for the database that will become a searchable website.  Even though I’m sitting at a desk in my own institution, I’ve been part of a small research team for the length of the project.

But when I go to the research room on Wednesday, it will be to start setting things in train for the new project, investigating the historic Copyright Music Collection held at the University of St Andrews. The days I’ll be at my research desk won’t change, but there won’t be a team – just me.  And while I’m getting stuck into the new project, I’ll also be thinking about how I can extend it, both in terms of scope, and the practicalities of making it happen.

Whilst I’ll still be in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – my natural habitat, it seems! – my focus will change, too.  On Tuesday, I’ll be dealing with Scottish fiddle tunes that would have been performed by Scottish (and sometimes English) fiddlers for dancing, or keyboard players just for pleasure.  On Wednesday, I’ll be starting to contemplate predominantly English publications imported to Scotland under copyright legislation. Indeed, when the University authorities went through their legal deposit acquisitions, I’ll wager they were rather stymied as to what to do with this musical stuff.  Hardly the stuff for philosophers, theologians or mathematicians!

So my research topic is still in Scotland, but in a rather different context!

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PS  Exchange Talk at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at 6 pm, 12th October. 

Common Threads – And Nothing to do with Sewing!

Exchange Talks – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Whilst I’ve been beavering away gathering information for my First Edinburgh Musical Festival talk, the realisation that my Exchange Talk will now take place before the Edinburgh one prompted me to make a start on writing the Exchange Talk first.

Common threads final choiceOn Tuesday evening this week, I decided to call it “Common Threads”.  I pulled a few books off my shelves, arranged them tastefully if inartistically on the floor, took a batch of photos to illustrate this theme, and wrote a brief blurb about the talk itself.

On Wednesday evening, I wrote it.  All of it.  (Well, not word-for-word, because I find it much easier to be natural if I don’t read from a script, but I wrote about four pages of outline and decided that I quite liked it.)

Today, my colleagues set to work planning publicity for it.  There was just one problem.  Don’t laugh.  I needed a subtitle.  Could I come up with one?  No.  I went for coffee, hoping that the creative juices would flow along with the caffeine.  Still nothing.  I can write readily, fluently, at the drop of a hat, but devising a subtitle that would enhance the title without pre-empting the blurb, proved harder than you’d imagine.

Finally, just before lunchtime, a subtitle popped into my head, and I hastily emailed it away.  Job done.  Now I can get back to Edinburgh in 1815, and all will be well!