May 2017: Networking Application Success!  I’m delighted to report that my application for an AHRC funded networking grant was successful.  When the networking begins, there will be a new blog in its honour – this page won’t be flexible enough.  In order to keep the project title for the new blog, this page is renamed in the interim: Postdoctoral Progress.

I was a part-time postdoctoral researcher on the Bass Culture project with the Universities of Glasgow and Oxford between 2012-15, researching historic Scottish fiddle tune collections.  I remained an academic music librarian for the rest of my working week, and  continue the same way.  The only difference is that my job title has changed: I’m now a Performing Arts Librarian, only divulging my specialism when an enquiry demands it. I still look after the music stock, selecting, cataloguing and curating it, but the change reflects a more collaborative approach.

On Wednesdays, I’m a postdoctoral researcher, and a musicologist.  Since October 2015, I have been exploring the bound volumes of sheet music claimed by the University of St Andrews from Stationers’ Hall between 1710-1836.  Whilst publishers objected to the ‘gratuitous delivery’ of even ‘trifling’ novels and sheet music to the legal deposit libraries, the universities were keen to get their entitlement.  Former St Andrews lecturer Elizabeth Ann Frame wrote an informative article for the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions in 1985; I’m now trying to unpack what was in the copyright music collection; how it was used; and if possible – now we have online catalogues and databases – how the St Andrews story compares with similar collections elsewhere.  More than that, I am thinking about how we can get more reader engagement with this kind of material.

Review of Research, November 2016

Having spent a year of part-time research, I thought I’d stop to look at what I’ve achieved so far.  I’ve explored archival documentation, examining a 2-volume handwritten catalogue made in 1826 by the niece of one of the professors; looking at the university Senate records, lists of books registered at and received from Stationers’ Hall, and records of expenditure. The music collection of over 400 bound volumes, has been partially catalogued online using grant funding in the early years of this century, but music pre-dating 1800, and some of the later volumes, remain uncatalogued.  The card catalogue, and the lists prepared by Frame just before online retrospective cataloguing of rarer materials began to take off, are now missing.  So, too, are a few odd bound volumes.  This means that, although I’ve got a spreadsheet of all the online-catalogued music copyright collection dating from circa 1800, Miss Lambert’s 1826 catalogues are all I have to go on, as regards what the earlier books contained, unless I want to list it all myself – a task which would take a long time.  In 1801, a mass binding exercise was started; the first 100 or so bound volumes contain the earlier material.  So, I have to make do with these handwritten lists, which offer a vast amount of information, but also a few errors and inconsistencies, and some abbreviated entries where several parts of a title or numbers in a series are described as, effectively, one item in one single handwritten line.

Some interesting, and unexpected offshoots have arisen. For example, Vol.40 contains a large number of songs by women AND a lot of Napoleonic War-themed songs (three of them by the aforementioned women).  Someone plainly made the decision to bind it all together.  I’ve done two lecture-recitals featuring the best of the women’s music, and read a few books on the subject of women in music.  On a different occasion, I’ve also mentioned the courageous deserted young mother, Sophia Dussek, who supported herself by composition and teaching harp and piano, before eventually remarrying.  Much of her published harp music can be found in the St Andrews collection.

Miss Lambert herself was a most interesting woman, too, and her family background has turned out to be fascinating.  (She was only 12 when Vol.40 was bound, so whoever arranged that book for binding, it probably wasn’t her!  She certainly does seem to have “arranged” some music for binding in her adult years – how much, I cannot tell.

It’s interesting to note what people in this particularly remote university town were borrowing.  For several weeks, I carefully transcribed details of every single music loan in the borrowing records. I’ve looked at the usage of instructional material, both by the professors and by their male and female friends, over thirty or so years. More unmarried women borrowed instructional music in the first couple of decades of the nineteenth century – then more married women and men, and some retired military men.  I have yet to finish transcribing these loans onto a rather complex spreadsheet, before I can think about further analysis on a larger scale.  So far, I’ve done the study on instructional music, and looked at a few national collections which I realised were borrowed particularly frequently.  Even allowing for the “Sammelband” nature of most volumes, the data still affords many interesting insights.  St Andrews could be the only institution holding such information – I haven’t made comparisons with archival data elsewhere, yet. I’m very keen to establish where loan records survive, and how easy it is to find music loans.  (In St Andrews, they stand out like a sore thumb, so although it’s time-consuming, I am fairly sure I’ve captured all the data.)

From the point of view of social/cultural history, I’ve looked at the diaries of two of Principal Playfair’s daughters, to see what I could discern about their music-making. There are more diaries than I’ve actually consulted, but there are limits to what can be achieved in one day a week. (I’ve also looked at what the various members of his family borrowed at different times, using the loan records.)

Earlier this year, I authored a blogpost for St Andrews Special Collections blog, Echoes from the Vault: you can read it here:-

My AHRC Networking application was submitted in January.  Having one research day a week, I have to share my time between research, writing and grant-writing, whilst also trying to tweet about my research activities from time to time.   This means it has taken me longer than I’d have hoped, to work on the grant-writing.  What I want to do is to establish a network, and hopefully organise a study day for people interested in the repertoire, the copyright music collections nationwide, and what we could do using big data analysis.  We need to know what data survives, where; and what music was retained by the libraries -if they collected it at all; as well as compiling a comprehensive bibliography of archival and published data and commentary.  And we need to raise the profile of these collections.  Whilst the idea that Britain was a “land with no music” is frustratingly pervasive, I’ve learned that Hans Gal characterised the first quarter of the nineteenth century as an era of mediocre music, everywhere! This is far too sweeping a statement. Moreover, these volumes tell us what people borrowed – and were presumably playing.  Rather than making audaciously generalised judgements, we should acknowledge what was popular, and perhaps revive some of this music by less-well known names, that still has some value.

TALKS SINCE 2015 (grey type – unrelated to copyright music collections)

  • University of Oxford, Cultures of Collecting workshop coordinated by Alice Little. My paper: Towards a Taxonomy of Collecting? (17 February 2017)
  • Royal Musical Association Scottish Chapter, University of Glasgow (lecture recital): ‘From Stationers’ Hall to St Andrews: late Georgian music and ladies of leisure’ (16 Nov 2016)
  • Edinburgh Bibliographical Society: ‘The legal deposit music at St Andrews: Scottish Airs, Irish and Hebrew Melodies, and other late Georgian favourites’ (20 Oct 2016)
  • St Andrews Music Talk (lecture recital): ‘From Stationers’ Hall to St Andrews: late Georgian music and ladies of leisure’ (12 Oct 2016)
  • St Andrews University Rare Books: Show and Tell session:‘Claimed from Stationers’ Hall: the Surprising Popularity of St Andrews’ Copyright Music Collection in the Late Georgian Era’ (28 Sept 2016)
  • Exchange Talk, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: ‘Meanwhile, in 1808 …’ (16 Sept 2016)
  • Women and Education in the Long Eighteenth Century (WELEC) Workshop: ‘Instructions, Introductions, Treatises and Tutors: Music for the Regency Miss’ (8 Sept 2016)
  • ISME, Glasgow, ‘A historical approach to studying traditional music: valuing older collections’ (Jul 2016)
  • Book History Research Network, London, ‘Ghosts of Borrowers Past: Music Claimed from Stationers’ Hall’ (June 2016)
  • Musica Scotica Conference, Stirling, ‘‘Ghosts of Borrowers Past’ (April 2016)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, two seminars to students on the BMus in Traditional Music course: 1st years: Historic examples of tradition in performance; 2nd years: Nationalism in Traditional Music (historical examples/ perspectives)
  • 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)

Editorial Note:- I have two choices with this Wordpress page: either to post new information at the bottom of the page where you’ll have to scroll down to find it; or to present new material at the top and let the introduction disappear. Since the blog homepage presents the most recent posting first. I’ll exploit this by blogging research activities and new discoveries as postings on the homepage, keeping this page as a more logical progression telling a coherent story. The blogposts will alert readers to page updates.

You may like to read my blogpost (18 May 2016) about the idea that women and men existed in separate spheres in the late 18th/19th century.


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Musicologist and Pedagogue trapped in a librarian's body. I'm qualified in music, librarianship and education. I began this blog when I was studying for my PGCert in Learning & Teaching in Higher Arts Education, and I'm now using it for CPD. I'm a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Midweek I am continuing the research I commenced as PI for an AHRC-funded research network @ClaimedStatHall – early legal deposit music. Off-duty I'm hard-wired into my sewing machine!

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