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.)
Who used St Andrews University Library Regency Copyright Music Collection? What did they borrow, and how much? (And what do I have in common with the first lady music cataloguer?) All to be revealed to the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society on Thursday 20th October!
Yesterday, I saw on my Twitter feed that University of South Wales librarian Sue House (whom I don’t know, apart from following her on Twitter!) was attending a conference about student induction, in York, run by a company called Shared Thinking.
When I realised she was sharing lots of references to names I’d never heard of, about things that might be relevant to my teaching practice, I decided I’d need to keep a note of them. After all, she mentioned buzzwords like experiential learning, and student engagement and so on.
- My project is on student engagement in library-led training.
- I’m giving a paper at the forthcoming ISME (the International Society for Music Education) conference in Glasgow. In it, I’m mentioning experiential learning. And I shall certainly allude to student engagement, even if it’s not in the student induction sense.
I decided I needed to hoover up as many relevant tweets from that conference as possible. I don’t know if others there were tweeting, but I think I have enough information to be going on with! Bits of paper get lost, even saved Word documents can be forgotten. So this time I saved the whole thing to Storify and can go back to it relatively easily, as well as sharing with other people. (I also looked up most of Sue’s citations and posted links to them. Might save time for me or someone else later on!) Here it is:-
(I might add that this actually validates much of my social media activity, because I am often thinking about quite serious professional issues as I tweet or react to tweets!)
It has been a busy weekend! I’ve arranged three late 18th/early 19th century tunes about the Napoleonic Wars, for flute trio. I’ve thought about and interrogated data for a possible paper later this year. I’ve attended a Musica Scotica Board meeting. Played at church. Done the domesticity stuff. And spent about five hours revising a paper for a workshop on Friday. It was a perfectly good paper, but I felt that I needed to go over it, highlighting keywords etc. Somehow, some bits got rearranged in the process.
The flute trio was a bit of an indulgence, in one sense, but I’m giving a paper at the ISME music education conference in July, and my arrangement demonstrates that you can find unexpected gems in old music sources, not only finding nice pieces to perform, but also informing yourself about many aspects of cultural history into the bargain. That’s the subject of my paper, so why not arrange some music to prove my point?!
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:-
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
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.