Category Archives: Writing and Publications

Spoken Paper Becomes Footnoted Article

I gave a paper about my most recent researches into St Andrews’ historical legal deposit music at the Musica Scotica conference, a couple of weeks ago.  I was subsequently asked by another organisation if I would write a paper for a journal.  Luckily, the Musica Scotica spoken paper had been typed out in full, complete with reasonably good footnotes, so with the approval of the committee, I worked it up into a proper paper for submission, and now I await a decision.  It would be good to see it published.

Pending decision:- ‘A Music Library for St Andrews: Use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’

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!

2015 Retrospective

If I were a young American academic, I’d be writing frantically in my efforts to secure tenure.  But I’m neither young nor American, and I identify both as a librarian and an academic: I sit on the fence between music librarianship and musicology.

Despite all this, I feel it’s good for my academic profile to get as much published as possible, so with that in mind, and the fact that only 40% of my work-life is spent on research, here’s my 2015 retrospective.  To put it in context, October saw the end of my Bass Culture postdoc secondment, so I was busy finishing off that, and writing/speaking was often centred on the project and its resultant website.  Public engagement seems to be a regularly recurring theme, which pleases me.  There’s no point in doing research if it stays locked up in an ivory tower.


  • ‘Wynds, Vennels and Dual Carriageways: the Changing Nature of Scottish Music’, chapter in forthcoming book edited by Gary West and Simon McKerrell, Understanding Scotland Musically (pending)
  • Scottish Musical Review (pending) ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’
  • Box & Fiddle Magazine 39.1 (Sept 2015), 7, ‘Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions’
  • Post-Lib (CILIP Retired Members Guild) no.76 (1 June 2015), 3-4, ‘From Where I Sit’
  • Reference Reviews (pending), ‘Show me a Strathspey: Taking Steps to Digitize Tune Collections’
  • Fontes Artis Musicae Vol.62.1 (2015), 17-25, ‘Following the Bass: a New Digitisation Project for Scottish Fiddle Tune Resources
  • Library Review Vol.64, Iss.1/2, (2015), 154-161, ‘Sexy Bibliography (and Revealing Paratext)’
  • Reference Reviews, Vol.29 no.3 (2015) 41, Review of Nardolillo, Jo, illustrated by T. M. Larsen and edited by David Daniels, All Things Strings: an Illustrated Dictionary (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
  • Reference Reviews, Vol. 29 no.1 (2015) 47-49, Review of Collins, Irma H., Dictionary of Music Education (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2013), DOI
  • Times Higher Education. What are you reading? 9 contributions to this column since 2012.


  • Scots Fiddle Festival, Edinburgh, ‘Fiddle books by the dozen’ (Nov 2015)
  • Edinburgh Central Library, ‘An Entertainment Altogether New: a celebration of Edinburgh’s First Musical Festival’ [Bicentenary of the first Edinburgh Musical Festival held between 30th October and 05th November 1815] (Oct 2015)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Exchange Talk: ‘Common Threads: From Sacred to Secular, Ancient to (nearly) Modern’ (Oct 2015)
  • Dundee Central Library, Speaker at Friends of Wighton series of Cappuccino Concerts: ‘The Importance of the Wighton and Jimmy Shand Collections’ (Sept 2015)
  • University of Glasgow, Speaker at Robert Burns Song Project Symposium (September 2015)

I’ve been Cited! Excited …

Rather to my surprise, my book has been cited by the author of an article in Oral Tradition.  I thought I’d better note this somewhere!

Flemming G. Andersen. “Voices from Kilbarchan: Two versions of “The Cruel Mother” from South-West Scotland, 1825.” Oral Tradition 29.1 (2014). Project MUSE. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <;.

Not only, but also …

I am also cited in the Keats-Shelley Journal, a journal about literature of the romantic era.  “The annual bibliography of the Keats-Shelley Journal catalogues recent scholarship related to British Romanticism, with emphasis on second-generation writers—particularly John Keats, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, and William Hazlitt.” Here:-

Ben P. Robertson. “Annual Bibliography for 2013.” Keats-Shelley Journal 63.1 (2014): 159-209. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <;.

And a book review in Notes Vol.71 no.4:-

Frances Wilkins. “Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era by Karen McAulay (review).” Notes 71.4 (2015): 714-716. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <;.


On Vacation – Hooray!

Even a stay-cation is still vacation.  In the interests of relaxation, I’ll try to keep social media postings on a slow simmer rather than a fast boil!  After all, I’ll go back to the final push on the Bass Culture project, which ends mid-October.  I Bass Culture at Musica Scoticaattended the Music in Nineteenth Century Britain conference at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland last week, but I didn’t submit an abstract for that reason.  There isn’t time to sit writing conference papers when there’s a massive spreadsheet to revise prior to HMS.Scot going live.

And I do have three speaking engagements lined up for late October and November already, so at some stage I may take a bit more vacation to get started on writing those: one celebrating the bicentenary of Edinburgh’s first Musical Festival; one for our own research community; and one for the Scots Fiddle Festival.

So … now I need to chill.  Here’s hoping for fine weather …Johnson brothers big teapot

Taking Stock – A Bit of Writing

It’s hard to know whether you’re publishing enough, when you’re a part-time postdoc!  But sitting and taking stock of recent writing activity, I think I’m probably on track.

  • A journal article about our research project (basically a smartened up version of a paper I gave in Antwerp, Summer 2014) – pending publication.
  • An article I wrote for a librarianship magazine – more of a personal opinion piece than scholarly writing – pending publication.
  • A peer-reviewed, and quite significantly revised version of a paper I gave in Aberdeen, Spring 2014 – submitted and pending response.
  • A completely different article about the research project – peer-reviewed and resubmitted – pending response.
  • 3 encyclopedia articles uploaded but as yet uncommented upon – pending.

When I’m not in the mood for writing in my spare time, I tend to indulge my creativity arranging music, sewing, or writing blogposts like this one.  There’s been quite a bit of creativity in between article revisions of late!  However, my wardrobe is now bulging, and I have a backlog of tune arrangements that are in score, uploaded to Dropbox, but need separate parts for each instrument.  I really should knuckle down!

However, I’m quite looking forward to tomorrow, because the church choir that I’m responsible for, will be singing one of my own compositions – not an arrangement of a pre-existing tune, for once! – at the end of the service.  They’ve practiced hard, and so have I.  I do hope the congregation sits still long enough to actually hear it!  If there’s a hubbub of people talking and getting up to leave while we’re still performing (yes, this happens), I shall come home very dejected.  I shouldn’t mind, because it happens so regularly and regardless of what we’re singing, but … well, I hope it doesn’t happen tomorrow, all the same!


If I could characterise the past couple of months in a couple of words, it would be this:-

Peer Review

I got an article returned to me, accepted pending revisions, a few weeks ago.  One review was fair and balanced.  The other one was harsh but fair … until the end.  Getting into their stride, the reviewer declared I was ignorant of a language (because of the way I’d referenced something), and wrote like a newspaper journalist.  Owch.  I put the reviews to one side and did nothing.  No response, and no revisions.  Finally I was ready to summon the courage to re-read the reviews, write a grateful, gracious but assertive response, and schedule some time to start revising.  (I’d intended to begin this evening, but the time got eaten into in other ways, so … well, maybe tomorrow.)

Then I was asked to review a book proposal.  This came as a bit of a bolt out of the blue,  but I was delighted to have the opportunity to read about this particular subject.  I did the review on a long train journey, and the time really flew by.

Yesterday, I had a request to comment on a peer-reviewed article.  It wasn’t a big ask, so I dealt with it straight away.  And then this evening, I had another of my own articles accepted, pending revisions.  What a difference!  Rather than the demolition job I’d received from the earlier critic, these reviewers were fair and kind.  Certainly, there are slight revisions to make, but they were couched in a way to which no-one could take offence.

It set me wondering why peer-reviewers can’t all be like that?  I have no problem with constructive criticism.  The readers have kindly given their time to read our work and write a response to it, and if they’ve noticed a flaw or omission that I haven’t considered, then I’m grateful to have this pointed out to me.  I want my ultimate articles to be as good as possible.  But why would a reviewer want to be unneccessarily damning?  Is it because they feel superior, or do they feel threatened?

I once had a reviewer wonder whether I knew anything about music.  Clearly I hadn’t allowed my three music degrees to shine through!  This time my linguistic ability is questioned.  It was only a careless slip in following referencing style guidelines.  And then there’s the journalistic jibe.  Do you know what?  That’s a compliment, as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve published in all sorts of places, and before I had our three sons, I published thirty odd short stories and a serial into the bargain.  When one of my doctoral examiners said I made the individuals I was writing about “really come alive”, I reflected privately that my fiction-writing had clearly had a positive effect when it came to writing hard facts, too.

At the age of sixteen or seventeen, I wanted to be a journalist.  Three things make me happy above all others, all creative: writing, arranging music, or sewing.  To have been a music critic would have been a dream come true, but things didn’t turn out quite that way.  I do still write about music, though!  And in these days where public engagement is a vital part of the academic life, having an approachable style is surely an asset rather than something to be ashamed of.

Whoops!  I began a sentence with “And” just then.  As Bloody Mary sang in South Pacific, “Well, ain’t that too damn bad?!”  It’s artistic licence.  If Vaughan Williams and Sibelius can get away with consecutive fifths and octaves in their harmonic writing, then I feel no compunction about a provocative conjunction in my written English!