Category Archives: Music, Research

Practise What You Preach: Research Impact

If we researchers want to have impact, then we have to get out there and make it happen.  Today, I played at a concert in Dundee City Library’s Steps Theatre.  The Friends of Wighton, of which I’m honorary librarian, held an afternoon concert because it’s Voluntary Arts Week, and at the same time to commemorate Jimmy Shand, because we’ve now got some of his old music scores.

Several music tutors led spots for their classes – fiddles, whistles, singing, and a youth trad music group.  And a couple more of us played solo.  Most of us tried to use tunes out of Jimmy Shand’s collection as part or all of our contribution.

I wasn’t directly working with community groups like the music tutors, but as it happened, I chose to play early 19th century piano variations based on EXACTLY the tune that the fiddlers commenced the afternoon with!  How’s that for serendipity?  Their tutor had spotted Isaac Cooper’s tune, ‘Miss Forbes’s Farewell to Banff’, copied into one of the antiquarian music manuscripts that the Friends of Wighton recently bought at auction.  Meanwhile, I had found Schetky’s piano rondo on the tune in a different book, also from the Jimmy Shand collection.  Schetky was a German musician who moved to London and then Edinburgh.  His piano rondo is really rather nice.  We’ve got the only traceable copy in the world, apart from the copy that Schetky’s daughter took to the USA, which has ended up in a sizeable collection of her music now in the Library of Congress.

Even if I hadn’t been working with an amateur group, I did take the opportunity to talk just a little bit about the music I was playing, so it gave me the opportunity to expose the music to a different audience and to explain why I thought it was important.

I recently ordered a book for the library – Mark S. Reed’s, The Research Impact Handbook, because it’s plainly vital to ensure that research doesn’t get locked ‘in the ivory tower’, but shared more widely – particularly with something as suitable for sharing, as Scottish songs and dance music.  Right now, it’s on my desk to read quickly before I release it onto the library shelves!

Regency Wednesdays

My 9-5 working week consists of two days’ librarianship, one day’s postdoctoral musicology, and then two more days of librarianship.  In principle, my evenings are my own, but I’m currently doing a PGCert (Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education), so if I’m going to work in my evenings, it should be towards that.  It doesn’t always work that way, though.  Life has a habit of getting in the way, and sometimes I have writing to do in connection with research.

Tonight, however, I’m enjoying a hiatus.  I am shortly due to submit my ethical approval forms for the PGCert project, and I can’t actually do much until I get approval. The interventions are recorded.  I wasn’t going to turn the questionnaire into a Survey Monkey online one, but I’m having second thoughts now, wondering whether I ought to do so.  I shall seek advice, and then there should be time to create an online survey if I decide to do it.houses-1014074_640

Meanwhile, I’m sitting with an open research notebook and 68 pages of data; last Wednesday I calculated I was two-thirds of the way through transferring it into an Excel spreadsheet.  I’ve reached the end of George IV’s reign, on the cusp of the data for William IV’s, and by the end of tomorrow I should be into the Victorian era.  Can I resist an hour or so this evening, pushing on with the task in hand?  I don’t think so!  It has taken such a long time to get this far, and I really want to start producing interesting graphs – I can’t get started until the whole spreadsheet is completed.

 

Writing about my multi-faceted role

My line-manager suggested I might consider writing an article for SCONUL Focus (a journal published by the Society of College, National and University Libraries*), since a forthcoming issue is focusing on supporting research. There was a call for writing by librarians who combine research with librarianship – and that’s me to a “T”.
I wrote my piece over the past few days, but felt that something was missing; eventually, I realised that I needed to write about my current pedagogical activities as well as my librarianship and ongoing research. I submitted it late last night; now I need to wait to see if it is what the editors were looking for!

Update: Claimed From Stationers Hall, Music Research

I’ve just written a summary, partly as a record for myself and my department, but also as a progress report for all the researchers and librarians that I’ve been talking to about my latest research project.  One year on, it felt like a good time to write a short summary of progress so far.  Read it here. (It’s on a separate page on this blog – see the tabs above.)

North to St Andrews?!

It would appear that the lady cataloguer who listed St Andrews University Library’s legal deposit music, was actually English!  (I’m not about to spill the beans yet, though.) I’ve had great fun finding what she borrowed – books as well as music – and I’ve even tracked down her immediate family.  But BEST of all, this morning, was finding another brother.  I just knew there had to be one.

And another surprise this morning was finding that, far from my initial perception that students didn’t borrow music, some borrowed an absolute mountain of music.  An incredible amount!  (Which means I’ll need to check whether they went on borrowing it after 1814, ho-hum.  Just when I thought I only needed to investigate the professors and their friends…)

Eventually, I will have a very full picture of what the staff and students at St Andrews thought of their music collection, in the early 19th century.  You’re in for a surprise!

Seashells and Horticulture – the Lady Cataloguer

Wednesdays are my research days, so yesterday saw me getting up at 5.30 am to go to St Andrews on a (musicologically speaking) field-trip.  I discovered that, way back in 1826, the lady cataloguer of the Copyright Music Collection had what we would now call her own library account!  (Well, a professor borrowed on her behalf, but she had a page in one of the books.)

My interest is in the music and the use made of it, but I must admit it was quite exciting to get a glimpse into what interested this woman when she wasn’t writing up the music catalogue!

(LATER, MONTHS LATER)

I’m astonished that this was my most popular posting! I now know so much more about this lady cataloguer. She borrowed a lot of books, especially on her favourite subjects. She identified shells, was cited in books, married in middle-age and died at a ripe old age in Islington.  And … wait for this – she and I were born in the same parish in Lancaster. Quite a remarkable coincidence!

Facts, Figures and Femininity

Thinking about a recent Call for Papers, I had an idea of a new angle from which to view my current research.  I’ve already been looking at late Georgian music composed by women, but what if I analysed which books were used by women actually learning music?

Now, I do happen to have many pages of data, which I can interrogate in different ways.    There is nothing more satisfying than – having spent hours gathering what looks like the most insignificant data – getting back home and carefully tabulating it to answer specific questions.  I’ve spent days transcribing minutiae, asking myself if it’s the best use of fieldtrip time, and always concluding that yes, I do need to do this – it’s the only way to get the data that I can then interrogate, so it’s totally justified.  Detailed data is what I do.  I must, however, get back to St Andrews to continue capturing more data before I can see the whole picture. And I can’t go for another eleven days – so tantalising!

But to get back to the new idea … By the end of yesterday evening I had produced a new document, sorted out quite a bit of data, and there are some clear results emerging.

I probably have enough to submit an abstract, but I won’t rush into it – I’d rather sleep on it.

Confirmed speakers include:-

Different Spheres? Thinking about Women and Song

While taking a few days leave, I finally finished a great book about 18th century women composers of songs, by Leslie Ritchie.

There’s loads of fascinating information there, most particularly about the literary side of song-writing.  I think it’s fair to say that the author’s strength is on the literary, “song-writing”, rather than the musical composition of songs.  My interest in literary matters has been lifelong, but my own academic background is from a musicology discipline rather than literature, so I devoured the book enthusiastically, but didn’t gain as much from the music point of view.  I didn’t always agree with the interpretation of the analysis (though the harmonic analysis itself wasn’t faulty) – and I’m off to inspect a copy of Ann [Anne] Young’s Elements of Music this afternoon because I don’t think the “songs” about or by women were actually songs at all. They look like dance tunes to me.  And I rather suspect that when the former owner of the British Library’s later edition marked one item as “a woman” and another as “a man”, she might just have been noting someone connected with the dance,  or someone she heard play it, rather than whoever wrote it.  Either way, dedicating a dance-tune to a woman or calling it “Lady Whatsit’s Favourite”, has no real significance. You named tunes after people to pay them a compliment.

But enough of my nitpicking. The other interesting idea appeared early on in Ritchie’s book, and that was an attempt to unpack the idea of “separate spheres of influence”.  To understand that, I had to read the introduction and first article in another book, No more separate spheres! : a next wave American studies reader, edited by Davidson and Hatcher (2002).  There I learned that the idea arose in 19th century America, thanks to a writer named Alexis deTocqueville (Democracy in America, 1840).

Suffice to say here that we would be wrong to declare that all women moved in the domestic sphere, and all men in the public, commercial sphere, for two or even three reasons: firstly, there is a continuum. It’s not one or the other. Secondly, if we continue to think along these lines, we’re continuing a concept that is now very outdated. And thirdly, although we say “all women”, in this context there’s the tendency to mean fairly well-educated white, middle-class women … but their “sphere” or area of influence was very different from women of other classes and ethnicities.

Having said all that, I’m left with one observation.  Who used the songs in the University of St Andrews’ early music legal deposit collection? Notwithstanding all these very valuable and thought-provoking observations, I put it to you thus: even if they just sang the songs, they were people who could read, and whoever played the piano/harp part could also read music.  They borrowed the music by the kind offices of the university professors.  White, middle-class, educated women borrowing music?  In Georgian times, in St Andrews? In all probability, yes.

Unashamedly Research

Not a blogpost about teaching and learning, or even about librarianship – just an update.

October 2012 – October 2015 I was seconded as 40% postdoctoral researcher to the AHRC-funded Bass Culture project, which resulted in the Historical Music of Scotland database at hms.scot

October 2015 – April 2016 my secondment continued to enable me to start a new research project of my own, Claimed from Stationers’ Hall, in which I’m investigating the post-deposit history of historic legal deposit music.

This was effectively a part-time sabbatical, and it’s been great – I have really got my teeth into this new area of research, visiting the collection at the University of St Andrews once a week and giving a paper about it at the IAML (UK and Ireland) Annual Study Weekend in Manchester a couple of weeks ago.  (I’m repeating it at Musica Scotica 2016, and I have more engagements lined up in St Andrews to share the story of their collection with anyone who’ll listen!)

April 2016 – July 2018.  My secondment has been extended, now for one day a week over 28 months.  I’m ecstatic! I really do feel this endorses me as a researcher, and I’m obviously going to keep working on grant applications, as well as delving more deeply into the St Andrews material now that I have more time in which to do it.  Not to mention other collections!

My name is Karen and I am a researcher …

 

A Long, Long Time Ago – a Library

I’m quite interested in the early history of Scottish libraries. My own current part-time sabbatical is concerned with the published music that legal deposit libraries (the University of St Andrews in particular) claimed from Stationers’ Hall in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and I’m particularly curious to know what happened to the music, and how much it was actually borrowed from the university libraries who received it.

Now, St Andrews isn’t that far from Dundee – or Innerpeffray, come to that – so I was interested to see a link to a new blog from the University of Dundee’s Centre for Scottish Culture.  PhD student Jill Dye is studying this historic library, and posted an informative blog entry a couple of weeks ago.  You can read it here:-

Beginning “Books and their Borrowers” at Innerpeffray Library

This might be about a different kind of library, and books rather than music, but I’m still interested in this important part of Scottish library history.  We both touch on book history, though mine is a story of books containing music, more than books containing words.  Indeed, the books about learning music were also preserved carefully at St Andrews University Library.  I wonder how much overlap there might be of that particularly niche repertoire?!