Category Archives: Creativity

Stitching a Lockdown Journal


I decided to stitch a record of this unique and very unsettling episode in our lives.  The intention was to stitch an entry every day, but it has proved rather too time-consuming to achieve that goal.  Nonetheless, I have stitched quite a few entries … and we’re not unlocked yet!

Here is a quick record of where I’ve got to, “sew” far …

DISCLAIMER: I am a musicologist, not a textiles expert!

Queen Elizabeth stitched this as a book-cover when she was only 11. Her needlework skills were somewhat ahead of mine!
The book is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
A political commentary

But on the 27th May, I hit a problem. I had bought tartan cotton with the aim of reproducing a book cover – but my satin stitch wasn’t up to the challenge. I ripped it out (twice) and sewed a wee tartan monster instead. (I blogged about this elsewhere – it was to document my reading about early 20th century tartanry and kitsch.)

The inspiration…

Still thinking about publisher James S. Kerr (quite possibly now owned by someone else – I won’t go into details here!), I tried to represent their Berkeley Street door …

79 Berkeley Street Glasgow

I made some greetings cards before returning to the journal again. This time I had taken advantage of a sunny weekend and the opportunity to Ronseal the garden bench! Prosaic, but essential!

Applied Ronseal wood treatment to the garden bench.

Working From Home

A week ago, I headed home half way through the day to organise my alcove desk for working from home.  Caring for a vulnerable partner meant I needed to head home before the Conservatoire actually closed at the end of the week.  I agonized the whole previous weekend about making myself unpopular and deserting my team-mates, but my prime responsibility is to keep family healthy. No-one else can do that.

FB_IMG_1584868346274Microsoft Teams? Got it. Email queries, networking in connection with the EveScores project and the impending closure, tweeting about the closure … no-one needs to worry that I wasn’t genuinely working from home.  Indeed, I suspect my research time got slightly nibbled into by all the networking. Hopefully it will balance out.

20200323_170320I decided I needed a couple of projects to do in my NON-WfH hours. I SHALL be competent on the concertina by the end of this, and I shall have documented the whole WfH episode in a hand-stitched journal.

Luckily I have a fortnight’s annual leave now – talk about a staycation  – so I can catch up and even make a head start!

20200323_170301 20200324_000543



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, 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 …


Nothing to do with teaching, and all to do with creativity ….

To my delight, some musical librarian and research friends in England have been trying some of my musical arrangements.  Let me share:-

Ruth Carlyle and David Barton perform The Lone Wanderer (an arrangement of an old Scottish tune) and The Spinners and the Habetrot (words and music entirely by me).

Another of my recent compositions currently only exists as a computer rendition – Not a Standard Minuet, for 2 clarinets and piano.

2018 Round-Up: In Creative Mode

I’m afraid it’s in my genes: my father was a musician, and my mother is a gifted seamstress. So what do I do for relaxation? I arrange or compose tunes, and I sew.  It’s an absolutely essential outlet for me.


I arrange Scottish tunes for small ensembles, and occasionally write songs with a folk influence. Find my tunes on Sheet Music Plus, or as Finale renditions on SoundCloud.  In 2019, I aspire to more tunes and (definitely) more live performances!


  • The lone wanderer
  • Nora’s vow – wind trio, or for voice, flute and treble recorder
  • The twa corbies


  • David Middleton goes to Aviemore – a set of tunes
  • For the Guild – a set of tunes
  • Jackdaw Jo, a ballad – voice, flute, violin, piano
  • My foot has gone to sleep – a set of tunes


Also by way of relaxation, I sew – my own clothes, patchwork, and occasionally whimsical toys or wallhangings.  Here are some highlights from 2018:-

Happiness is … an unaccompanied tune!

There are three strands to my professional self: librarian, musicologist and educator.  But there’s a fourth strand which stays at home – creativity.  That’s not to say, of course, that I’m not creative at work, but I don’t get the opportunity to sew or arrange tunes during my working day!

During my doctoral studies, I encountered Georgian Scottish song-collector Alexander Campbell, of Edinburgh (and the Highlands).  The tunes he collected are in a 2-volume collection called Albyn’s Anthology.  There are some lovely tunes, but his accompaniments are pretty dire.  (Sorry, Alexander, but they are!)  I have had very many hours of innocent pleasure arranging them for small instrumental ensembles.  This week I was challenged to arrange something for soprano and flute, and I ended up with this: ‘The Lone Wanderer‘.

A bit of background: the poet of this tragic song was “Anon” (maybe tune-collector 2018-10-02 10.06.41Alexander Campbell himself?), and he set it to an “ancient Lowland melody” that he had collected on his song-collecting travels. The lyrics tell the story of a girl who went out of her mind with grief, when her fiance was taken from her on their wedding day. The theme is strongly reminiscent of a very popular song, “Crazy Jane.”

Whether he died, was conscripted, or some other disastrous circumstance, is entirely up to the listener’s imagination in the present song.

Campbell went on two song-collecting tours in Scotland in 1815 and 1817, publishing a song collection after each trip. It is with relief that I ditched his accompaniment for this one and wrote an alternative flute accompaniment!

I decided to put some of my arrangements on Sheet Music Plus – they’re all here if you’re interested!