Category Archives: Events

Abstract for ISME Conference

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is hosting the ISME Conference this summer – ie, the International Society for Music Education.  I felt it would be fitting to give a paper, since I’m engaged in research and pedagogy as well as music librarianship.  I’m pleased to say that my abstract was accepted.

A Historic Approach to Studying Traditional Music: Valuing Older Collections

Theoretical/Pedagogical Background

This paper arises from my own approach to the historic Scottish song and fiddle collections that have been the focus of my doctoral and postdoctoral research; my concern that music performers should develop an understanding of the historical context in which repertoire originated; and my studies for a credit-bearing short course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, ‘The Teaching Artist’.

Aim/focus of work/research reported

I have had opportunities to teach undergraduates about early collections of Scottish traditional music, to increase their awareness of key resources and their place in the historical canon. Whilst today’s performers may do no more than plunder these collections for appealing tunes, or lyrics telling a poignant story, their history gives students deeper insight into what the material meant to earlier generations; and provides them with a source of interesting anecdotes for future use.

Students learn to search for library resources and to examine unfamiliar older material, whilst the treasured rare collections get increased exposure and appreciation.

Method/approach of the work

Taking a constructivist approach to teaching, and striving for experiential learning, I prefer to introduce one or two typical collections, and then to encourage students to interrogate these early sources by close examination of the music and its paratextual material, ie by studying the title page, dedication or contextual notes, and the form of musical presentation.  Students are tasked with presenting their findings to the rest of the class, highlighting interesting features.

Results and/or summary of main ideas

Students remark upon many features, depending on the collections they examined.  The presence and nature of accompaniment (or its absence); commentary in the preface about the method of compilation or approach to performance; attitudes to authenticity; notes relating to particular pieces; or even something as comparatively old-fashioned as sol-fa notation all prompt observations about the volumes’ compilation and intended audiences.  Researching the material and devising a presentation promotes deeper engagement with this historical material.

Conclusions and implications for music education

Taking a historical approach to traditional music counterbalances to students’ preparation for a career in the performing arts, by enriching their understanding of how the repertoire developed; learning how to research and interrogate the sources; and sharing their findings.

They also gain insight into the value of library collections that have been built up over the years, and a readiness to spend time with older resources that are a little harder to understand than today’s.

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Three conferences in April … and networking

I’m surprised I’ve made it to the end of the month, really!  Earlier this month, I went to my professional association’s annual conference – the International Association of Music  Libraries (UK & Ireland) Annual Study Weekend.  I had the opportunity to speak at it, so quite a bit of my spare time in March went into making it good!  I spoke about my latest research project and how I hope to extend it more widely, if I can get grant funding.

That was a fairly last-minute opportunity, but not so last-minute as my session at the Academic Music Librarians’ Seminar which preceded the Conference.  I decided to raise the question of ‘Performing the Collections’ – getting the library readers to explore and interact with rarer items in our libraries, and I cited examples of glee-singing in Trinity Laban, the Library Choir at the University of St Andrews, and the Bodleian Library’s Resident Artist, Dr. Menaka PP Bora, who interprets Indian dance.

That session also saw talks by other librarians about how they engage students in user education sessions. The giant snakes and ladders board used at RNCM was the zaniest idea, but certainly seems to have caught on.  (Can I see myself adopting it?  I’m not sure I have the guts!)

The following Saturday saw me shoogling up to Kingussie in the Highlands to accompany a couple of Schubert’s Ossian Lieder, which used German translations of the historic James Macpherson’s so-called Ossian tales. I’m hoping to do a public engagement library seminar in Inverness with a lecturer from the University of the Highlands and Islands, later this year, so this was a great opportunity to meet her and start the conversation. (Networking, it’s all about networking!)

And then this last weekend, I delivered my Ghosts of Borrowers Past paper again at Musica Scotica, in Stirling.  This time, I was a co-organiser, but my main role was as communications and marketing officer – by the time I got there I was exhausted, as I’d been managing the two email accounts and social media postings leading up to the conference, answering queries about bookings and amenities and forwarding scheduling queries to mye co-organisers.  Nonetheless, all went well, as my Storify story reveals.

And now I have to put my teaching artist hat back on, to think again about the teaching sessions I gave before Christmas! – is it really that long ago?

As it happens, on a personal note, I’ve been working with our youngest son to help him organise his studies and exam revision, because his ASD poses problems that his older brothers just didn’t encounter.  I have considerable admiration for special needs teachers, considering how hard I can see things are for someone at the high-function end of the spectrum.  It makes me realise how much structure has to be in place before learning can happen – not to mention how hard it is to keep someone else’s attention from wandering!