Tag Archives: Research

Claimed from Stationers’ Hall: ‘Trifling’ Books of ‘Mere Amusement’


My research project has a name! If it looks rather obvious, then I’m pleased: I wanted it to be reasonably unambiguous. Since the whole point of legal deposit is to give a handful of long-established libraries gratuitous copies of everything published, I toyed with the idea of incorporating ‘free music’ in the name of the project, but decided against it – there were just too many ways this might be misconstrued!

Stationers Hall croppedMy initial focus is on the music claimed under copyright from Stationers’ Hall by the University of St Andrews between 1710-1836.  In the early nineteenth century, publishers were beginning to object to the university libraries’ claiming everything published, arguing that they were even claiming children’s books, novels and music. ‘Trifling’ material indeed, for institutions dedicated to learning law, philosophy and science!  Nonetheless, music was collected, and that’s the subject of my research.  Besides getting a thorough understanding of the collection’s history, I want to find out exactly what’s in it now, and to think about ways of encouraging reader engagement with this kind of material. Building upon research that was done in the pre-digital era, I hope also to be able to compare the present-day collection with comparable collections elsewhere.

My To-Do list got quite long when I started the project last Wednesday.  I now have lists of names and contacts, publications to read, and a new folder in my beloved Mendeley account – a cloud-based bibliographical tool in which I keep all my references.

‘TITLE FOR PROJECT’ was marked as URGENT.  Done!  I started a project page here on this blog, but because of the way WordPress pages work, I’ll blog ongoing research activities and discoveries here on the blog homepage, keeping the project page for building up a fairly logical story. (When there are changes to that page, I’ll flag it up here, so you only need to follow this blog and you won’t miss anything!)

Reputation is all Relative (“Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”)

So here I am, a revalidated Fellow of CILIP, and ostensibly at the top of my tree (though it’s rather stunted, considering my static career trajectory).  This is great – I feel validated.

But then I look at ResearchGate and find this:-

ResearchGate score July 2015

I suppose I must take comfort in the fact that I am barely in the bottom third of ResearchGate members?  This doesn’t much please me!  Of course, the truth of the matter is that I have been a librarian for 31 years, but have had my doctorate – and hence my standing as a musicological scholar – for only six years.  Taken in that context, to be crawling my way out of the bottom third of ResearchGate researchers doesn’t seem quite so bad, but maybe I should spend more leisure time continuing to do serious research!  How else will I improve that accursed percentile?

Researchgate score JulyEnd 2015UPDATE – My score has marginally, marginally increased.  But I’m still in the same percentile. Now, how can that be?!

My Obsession with Musical Repertoires

I was just mentioning to someone earlier this evening, that my research has always been about repertoires.  My Masters at Exeter was in English plainsong repertoires.  My first doctoral studies foundered due to miscalculations of timescale on my part, but I did examine a lot of fifteenth century English cantus firmus settings before admitting to myself that I hadn’t left enough time to get the thing written up and submitted.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and my interest in research was rekindled by the discovery of three early nineteenth century flute manuscripts from Dundee.  What did I do?  Listed the repertoire, researched the books, and wrote an article for the RMA Chronicle about it.

That was enough to convince me that I really did want a PhD, and this time I completed it part-time, on time.  My subject was on late eighteenth and nineteenth century Scottish song collecting.  This fitted my interests as well as my occupation as Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where we offer degrees in Scottish music amongst many others.  Moreover, having experienced the difficulties of visiting distant manuscripts in the pre-internet days, I now wanted to be sure that if there were physical items that I simply had to see, I had a good chance of them being within easy reach for my part-time research existence.

I’m currently seconded part-time to postdoctoral research on an AHRC-funded project into Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions – the accompaniments and basslines of Scottish fiddle collections.  More repertoire studies?  You bet!

That project ends in mid-October 2015, and after that I’m conducting a shorter piece of research into early copyright music collections.  I’m looking forward to exploring the collections in St Andrew’s University Library Special Collections, and I’m hoping by the end of it I may have devised a larger-scale project to take this research further.  However, one thing at a time – I have to finish the massive, somewhat daunting database for the present project first!  The spreadsheet is all there – we’re at the editing stage now, before it is turned into a website for all to see.  A bit like the Hilaire Belloc verse, “it makes one gape and stretch one’s eyes”.  But it’ll be fantastic once it’s up and running.

Reflective Journal Time

Carry On Researching:

Gazing into My Crystal Ball

Crystal ball - a gift from my colleagues!

With less than a year left to go in my present part-time postdoctoral research project secondment, now seems a good time to do some serious reflection about what I’ve done, and what I could do next.  This doesn’t feel like something I should necessarily put in a public blog – at least, not straight away.  Very soon, I shall hear how our institution fared in the latest REF research assessment, and that in itself might shade future plans.  I have ideas, but not necessarily the means to see them through to fruition.

Furthermore, I’ve got a couple of writing commitments to be done in the next fortnight; another week at work; Christmas preparations at home; church music to rehearse in Bearsden; and every chance of catching my own version of the man-flu that has flattened our youngest son!  My intention, therefore, is to carve out half a day, perhaps after Christmas, when I shall take myself somewhere else to sit and reflect about my career path.  However I manage it, my New Year’s Resolution is to keep researching!

Too Tired to Type?

Today, I’ve admitted to myself I’m overtired, something I very seldom admit to.  I should explain that in the past fortnight I’ve given a paper and two quickfire sessions at the IAML (UK and Ireland) music librarians’ annual study weekend in Cambridge; attended my first IAML Exec meeting at the British Library in London (also fitting in a trip to the Tate, for the RuinLust exhibition); and given a scholarly paper at Musica Scotica in Aberdeen, finishing up with playing at a church dedication service this morning.  Oh, and I’ve spent a few days at work in both my library and research capacities too.  So finally, on Sunday evening, I find I can’t think straight – not a good time to tackle the Teaching Artist backlog of reading.

Karen has met the new Tate Britain

However, I have been reflecting about giving research papers.  In March I gave a talk, with absolutely minimal notes, at an RMA (Royal Musical Society) Colloquium. I was pleased with it, and peer comments were very favourable.  And yet yesterday’s talk, written a full three months earlier and revised this week, was so densely packed with facts and figures that there was no way I’d be able to stand and just “speak” the paper. I was talking about a number of 18th century music books, precise dates (down to the day and the month), and commentary from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – it was very detailed!  I looked up at different areas of the audience, a lot. But I freely admit I “read” much of it.  I’d marked it with highlighter pen, gone over it several times – but I didn’t have time to reduce it to skeletal form, which is the only way I’d have stood a chance of a freer, less constrained delivery.

This Teaching Artist course has made me much more aware of good pedagogical practice.  I suppose it’s fair to point out that giving a research paper at a conference is NOT teaching in the conventionally accepted way.  Sharing research findings is a different activity from preparing to teach a class, involving them, getting feedback and monitoring whether they’ve learned what you set out to teach them.  But I’m now rather perturbed.  Because my delivery of yesterday’s paper, which my research Principal Investigator says was good, and which received favourable comments from several delegates, leaves me feeling flat and disappointed.  There was nothing wrong with the content, or the structure of what I said.  But I was deeply envious of a colleague who just stood, and delivered, seemingly without notes at all.  What is WRONG with me?!

I wondered if perhaps the answer was that the paper would have been better as a publication – something that might yet happen – and maybe I need to produce something more discursive for research presentations.  At the same time, what do scientists do?  They quite possibly have even more detailed, fact-and-figure-heavy findings than my own.  And what about mathematicians, or statisticians?