Tag Archives: Scottish music

So, What Do You Teach?

By the end of last week, I was getting quite good at explaining that teaching is only part of my role!  It was a fairly natural thing to be asked, considering I was at the International Society for Music Education biennial conference.  I was beginning to think maybe I could do with a new job title, something like “Teaching Researching Librarian”.  It’s important to ‘own’ your practice, and to be able to rationalise why you do what you do.  I’m beginning to feel that teaching is genuinely part of my practice, which is an interesting development, considering I had no intention of teaching when I chose instead to become a librarian several decades ago!

Monday was mostly spent at the conference. Tuesday in the Library. Wednesday a research day in St Andrews.  Thursday was split between the Library and the conference, and Friday, mainly at the conference.

Scottish Music Educati0n in Recent Years

I attended Charles Byrne’s symposium, Transformations and cultural change in Scottish musical education: historical perspectives and contemporary solutions. He reminded us of the emergence of traditional music as a strong component in music education, with people like Hamish Henderson and filmmaker Alan Lomax igniting a new interest in grassroots culture, ceilidhs and other iterations of traditional music.  This was mirrored by a blurring of the boundaries between formal and informal learning, and the growth of the Feis movement.

Simultaneously, there was a swing towards student-centred learning, and new thinking took centre stage: creativity, inclusion, diversity and equality. In schools, the new Standard Grade showed different emphases to earlier exams, based on all-round musicianship, multi-genre and more focus on the integrated curriculum.

There was now a move towards the professional development of traditional music tutors, and the principles of learning and teaching were summarised in a memorable acronym: PREPARE.  (Participation, Resources, Ecological (music within the community), Performance, Activist, Reflective and Ethical.

Charles’ paper was subsequently responded to by Marie McCarthy, Martin [check surname], Jane Southcott and Josh Dickson. Charles’ themes were recalled and elaborated upon, particularly with regard to more emphasis on ‘meaningful engagement’ as opposed to an over-emphasis on assessment; on community and traditional music. Martin is contributing to a forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Community Music, due to be published in 2017 (edited by Lee Higgins and Brydie-Leigh Bartlett – I haven’t found reference to it on the OUP website yet).  Josh spoke about a new approach to assessment in pre-honours years at RCS, and also alluded to Lori Watson’s comments about elitism, defending elite artistry in both innovation and continuation of tradition.  Our traditional music students develop their own identity as a musician, as well as authenticity and integrity, in their journey as aspirational performers.

Being ‘Real’

How does all this fit into my own practice? As someone who generally delivers one lecture or seminar at a time, it can be difficult to relate the bigger philosophical arguments to my own context, but it is still important to understand how what I teach sits alongside what the students are learning in other parts of their course.  I’d like to know how the concept of ‘authenticity’ for today’s traditional musicians sits alongside the issues of authenticity that I research and talk about in an 18th-19th century context. Do we actually mean the same thing? Authenticity in an individual’s own performance practice, isn’t quite the same as the insistence on authenticity for individual tunes and accompaniments, but being ‘authentic’ is clearly a thread that has been interwoven through traditional music for a very long time indeed.

Symposium on Assessment

Five presentations were given.  Even though the speakers often worked in the context of school rather than university, the practical suggestions meant that there would have been much food for thought for everyone.  Since we have been encouraged in our own PGCert studies to consider how we assess learning to have been acquired by our students, I took copious notes.  I’ll reflect on these in my next posting.

 

Mind the Gap! One Project Ends and Another Begins

Teetering on the Brink …

I was sitting checking hyperlinks today – not the most riveting of activities, I must admit – when it dawned on me that my next research day is the last scheduled day that I’ll be working on the Bass Culture project that has occupied me for the past three years.  (Every week, I’ve been working three days as a librarian and two as a postdoctoral researcher.)  When I go to the research room on Tuesday, it will be to finish checking links for the database that will become a searchable website.  Even though I’m sitting at a desk in my own institution, I’ve been part of a small research team for the length of the project.

But when I go to the research room on Wednesday, it will be to start setting things in train for the new project, investigating the historic Copyright Music Collection held at the University of St Andrews. The days I’ll be at my research desk won’t change, but there won’t be a team – just me.  And while I’m getting stuck into the new project, I’ll also be thinking about how I can extend it, both in terms of scope, and the practicalities of making it happen.

Whilst I’ll still be in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – my natural habitat, it seems! – my focus will change, too.  On Tuesday, I’ll be dealing with Scottish fiddle tunes that would have been performed by Scottish (and sometimes English) fiddlers for dancing, or keyboard players just for pleasure.  On Wednesday, I’ll be starting to contemplate predominantly English publications imported to Scotland under copyright legislation. Indeed, when the University authorities went through their legal deposit acquisitions, I’ll wager they were rather stymied as to what to do with this musical stuff.  Hardly the stuff for philosophers, theologians or mathematicians!

So my research topic is still in Scotland, but in a rather different context!

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PS  Exchange Talk at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at 6 pm, 12th October. 

Bonny Scot Returns to Scotland

Today’s anthem was sung by a quartet of voices rather than the choir – just for a change.  The piece started life as an 18th century flute tune before I set to work on it!  I don’t think the congregation had ever heard a harpsichord effect, on the Clavinova before – I thought it was remarkably effective for accompanying four singers in a tune from that era.  So, what we had was an Anglo-Scottish flute tune called ‘The Bonny Scot’, first published in London in the early 1700s, turned into a sacred anthem by an Englishwoman for performance in Scotland.  Work that one out!

Someone asked me afterwards what the piece was.  I summarised by explaining that the soprano sang the original flute tune, the alto and baritones sang my accompaniment, and the words were taken straight from another hymn with a suitable meter!

A Weekend Full of Surprises

St Mungo's Centre conference (2) St Mungo's Centre windows (2)So, the Musica Scotica conference is behind us.  It was declared a resounding success. The St Mungo Museum was a  delightful venue – I’m sharing some pictures of the room we met in, and the view out in the courtyard.

St Mungo's Centre courtyard (2)Besides a host of interesting papers, there was the unveiling of Elizabeth Ford’s reproduction Crathes flute – she got an instrument maker to reconstruct a flute the likes of which has never been seen anywhere else but on the ceiling at Crathes, and then played it to Crathes flute by Elizabeth Ford (2)us. We heard John Maxwell Geddes talk about his compositional inspirations, and went to St Bride’s Episcopal Church to hear his latest commission.  And we heard Pete Stewart talking about early representations and references to bagpipes.  Yes, he played several sets of bagpipes, too.

IGlasgow brooch coat of arms (2) certainly didn’t expect to be presented with a gorgeous Glasgow brooch at the end of the conference, but it is so lovely that I thought I’d share it here too – a final surprise for me!

Do You Research Scottish Music? Here’s the Musica Scotica CFP!

Musica Scotica – Tenth Annual Conference

Sat 25th – Sun 26th April 2015

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art

2 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0RH

Call for Papers

Papers, 20 minutes in length, are invited on any aspect of Scottish music. Topics presented in previous years have included chant, Gaelic song, fiddle and bagpipe music, manuscript sources, music publishing, the Scottish diaspora, opera performance, cultural organisations, music education, sectarianism, George Thomson and Haydn, Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, Learmont Drysdale, Hamish MacCunn, James MacMillan and Sally Beamish.

There will additionally be a special session dedicated to papers relating to the history of the McEwen Memorial Concerts of Scottish Chamber Music:-

McEwen Paper Session

We invite submissions for a paper session featuring topics that in some way relate to the history of the McEwen Memorial Concerts of Scottish Chamber Music. The McEwen Commission has supported the commissioning and performance of contemporary art music in Scotland since 1955. A commission is awarded annually to a composer of Scottish birth, descent or residency. Early recipients of the commission include Ian Whyte, Cedric Thorpe Davie, Robert Crawford, and Thea Musgrave. More recently, works have been commissioned from John Maxwell Geddes, James MacMillan, Judith Weir, and David Fennessy. The McEwen bequest has yielded a substantial body of chamber pieces since the first award in 1955, and this collection continues to grow. A list of previously commissioned pieces dating back to 1955, as well as further information about the concerts can be found at www.gla.ac.uk/mcewen

We are interested in papers that in some way relate to the history of the McEwen Chamber Music concerts. Papers may focus either on specific pieces that were commissioned, or on the work more generally of composers who have befitted from the McEwen Bequest over the years. Most importantly, we are interested in papers that aim to stimulate interest in and discussion around contemporary music in Scotland.

Please submit an abstract (250 words) as a Word document or rtf file by Saturday 28th February 2015 (specifying if you wish specifically to give a paper for the McEwen session), to:-

Dr Karen McAulay museumconference2015@musicascotica.org.uk

You will be notified by mid-March 2015 if your abstract has been accepted.

A poster session may be included; delegates are invited to indicate whether they would be interested in availing themselves of this opportunity.

Proposed conference fees

  • Full rate £40 for single day attendance, £75 for two day attendance,
  • Students and unwaged £30 for single day, £55 for two day attendance,
  • £15 as the default half-day without lunch, for any category of delegate.

The registration form will be available in due course on the MusicaScotica website.
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Publication of proceedings

Musica Scotica will publish papers from this conference along with a selection of papers from previous conferences.

Scottish versus English, Folk versus National, Tradition versus Revival …

I’m enjoying Maud Karpeles’s biography of Cecil Sharp.  It’s interesting reading about his folk song collecting, and how he was determined to get folk song back into the school curriculum so that children would get acquainted with their heritage.  He also got involved with Morris and folk dancing, and got quite hot under the collar about well-meaning people who were happy to get the dances DANCED, without being too concerned about the niceties of accuracy.  By all accounts he was an astonishingly dedicated and hard-working individual.

His definition of ‘folk’?  Something passed through the oral tradition, perhaps modified as it was transmitted, but certainly not a “national song” published in a book and henceforth preserved in aspic.  Something more fluid in form, then.

I began thinking about Miss Milligan, who did similar work with Scottish dancing for what became the Royal Scottish Dancing Society.  She, too, decided ‘how it should be’, and tried to set standards and codify steps and dance-movements. (My mother-in-law was her first pianist at Jordanhill Teacher Training College, as it happens.)

Does it not seem that both Cecil Sharp and Miss Milligan, having collected something that they feared would perish if it weren’t revived, then proceeded to try to pin down and ‘fix’ the very traditions that they were saving?  It’s as though each was saying, ‘this is what I consider the purest form of THIS song, THIS dance, and THIS is how it should be from henceforth.’  Indeed, my mother-in-law, a longstanding and loyal member of the RSCDS, later earned a scroll of recognition of her ‘outstanding service and loyalty … maintaining the aims of preserving the standards and traditions of Scottish Country Dancing …’  There it is again – preserving standards and traditions.

But!  This laudable attempt to keep something pure and unchanged is at the same time at variance to the idea of a fluid folk tradition.  Saying, ‘we do it this way, this is the best way, and this is how it must be done’, is a rather risky way of encouraging the next generation to adopt traditions and make them their own.  (We could say the same about churches clinging to metrical psalms, I guess, but I’m not blogging about that just now!)

My thesis touched on some of these arguments in earlier times.  Sharp and Miss Milligan were positively modernists compared to my research into Scottish song collecting from 1760-1888, and I really want to read more before I leap into old arguments with my size three wellies on and upset everyone who knows more about the early 20th century collectors.  More anon, then.  Until then, I must be restrained and willing to be corrected!

Wynds, Vennels and Dual Carriageways: the Changing Nature of Scottish Music

I’m writing what I hope will be a controversial conference paper for the forthcoming Understanding Scotland Musically AHRC-funded two-day conference in Newcastle, 20th-21st October.  I’ll be making the point that pinning down what Scottish music actually IS, is pretty much like going to look for the place where your ancestors come from, and wondering why it doesn’t look the same.  You can’t compare what people thought Scottish music was, 200 years ago, with what people think it is now.  Indeed, if you try to compare what I think Scottish music is, with what you think Scottish music is, or what my son, or your granny, think Scottish music is, you’ll get as many different answers. 

WherGreenock Dalrymple Street Car parke do the wynds, vennels and dual carriageways come into it?  Ah, that would be telling! Though I can tell you that if you see a small, middle-aged personage taking photographs in the middle of a roundabout in Greenock with a perplexed look on her furrowed brow, then you can be fairly sure that’ll be me.

The abstract for my paper can be found under the “Musicologist” tab on this blog.

Online Reflective Journal Summary

Throughout the course I have maintained an online reflective journal on my Teaching Artist blog: https://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/

Reflective Journal
Reflective Journal

The blog homepage is the reflective journal itself.  Additional pages accommodate my e-portfolio and other relevant information about the various aspects of my professional practice, thus:-

  •  E-Portfolio
  • Feedback – I have few opportunities for requesting feedback, but it is important to me that learner’s comments are gathered together to inform my future practice.
  • Music Librarian – ‘user education’ includes introducing readers to the library catalogue and relevant e-resources as well as encouraging good research and bibliographic skills appropriate to the individual reader’s context and level of study.
  • Musicologist – I give occasional lectures and seminars both within and without the Conservatoire in my capacity as a postdoctoral researcher.
  • Organist/Choir Trainer – the practical, artistic aspect of my profile.
  • PDP – my Professional Development Plan as a Teaching Artist
  • Personal CV – my scholarly writing and presenting are all part of my professional profile. (Besides keeping my CV up to date with recent papers and presentations, I also maintain an Academia.edu presence; and upload what I can to Research Gate, which is a good discussion forum.)
  • Resources – an almost inevitable outcome of my librarian/musicologist existence (not to mention a key focus of my present postdoctoral research) is that I have honed my bibliographic skills to a high level. The Resources page details my professional reading for the duration of the Teaching Artist course, with occasional annotations. Annotated bibliography is an art in itself; for day-to-day purposes, I only annotate occasional entries .

One of my main objectives in undertaking the Teaching Artist short course was to equip myself with more knowledge and understanding of good contemporary pedagogy. Starting this blog was part of our digital ‘orientation’, both to facilitate our own reflection and to enable us to share comments with our course-leaders and fellow creative artists. This latter activity thus constitutes peer-review, offering each of us the opportunity to make constructive observations about our colleagues’ practice.

As an experienced blogger, reflecting upon various aspects of my work is relatively second-nature to me, but the present subject matter – being a teaching artist and practitioner – was completely new. The 29 posts that I have made include the course assignments (lesson plan, theoretical account, contextual study, theoretical appraisal of my teaching and learning methods, and self-assessment of online discussion), and a few lighter postings when multi-tasking my daily existence threatened to get on top of me; but there are still a good number of postings about my course studies.

In general, the blog represents a series of reflections on recommended course readings; and on my own practice. I have sought to reflect upon ways in which the theoretical readings can be applied to my professional teaching practice. (There was a period of adjustment as I realised that my usual third-person, objective research mode of writing needed to be adapted to suit first-person reflection in this new ‘social sciences’ discipline.)   I have had opportunity to reflect before, during and after teaching or presenting experiences, and hope to continue in this practice in the months to come, in order to build upon positive and lessen negative outcomes in the future.

Of all the readings that I have done, constructive alignment theory resonated the most with me, and I read various recommended articles by John Biggs before I wrote my blogpost about it on 2 April 2014:-

https://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/constructive-alignment-a-logical-teaching-theory/

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction were also particularly interesting, occasioning reflective posts of their own on 4 April 2014:-

https://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/more-reading-blooms-taxonomy/

https://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/gagnes-9-events-of-instruction/

I had already read Salman Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse (2012) before attending the Teaching Artist course, so I have some familiarity with the concept of ‘flipping the classroom’. Even if Khan’s practice is primarily in the digital world, the idea that students make their own meaning in their studies by being more practically involved in them, is just as much applicable to face-to-face teaching. Many of my readings, but most particularly those by Biggs, made me begin to realise that I needed to make my teaching much more interactive, and my lesson-plan for a session on postgraduate research and bibliographic skills has been designed to take this into account.  Once I had shared the lesson plan in our collaborative space, Steph gave me helpful feedback, reassuring me that I was thinking along the right lines:-

“Hi Karen, I like how precise and to the point your lesson plan is. Everything is described in a clear fashion that makes it easy to understand each activity. Do you find that 60 minutes is a suitable amount of time to teach the students what they need to know? The learning outcomes here would make this a very useful session to include at the beginning of a Higher education course, when research and bibliographic skills are expected to be used on a regular basis. I certainly felt/feel intimidated and unsure about the correct way to document references and resources, so it would have helped me!”

Steph continued,

“It certainly sounds that you have quite a challenge on your hands delivering the amount required into the time you are given, and I think you utilise you materials and resources very well by exercises such as the emails beforehand and follow-up that you offer. Don’t worry about being a pain …”

Another problem that my reflections continually came back to, was the lack of context and continuity in the kind of teaching that I’m required to do. Again, with the abovementioned lesson-plan, I’ve tried to create context by contacting students in advance of the session (see the invitation HERE), and also sought instant feedback at the end of the session.  The lesson took place today (19 May 2014), and I intend to follow up with an email to all students and their course-leader a couple of days later, once I’ve transcribed and summarised the feedback forms.

Reading about deep, surface and tactical learning was informative, and reinforced my long-held belief that students do not always see the relevance of information skills to their courses in a conservatoire. If learning how to access a particular database or format a bibliography are not directly relevant to, for example, learning the harpsichord, and moreover are not even assessed, then they are reluctant to engage fully – even tactical learning will not take place. I need to continue to work on ways of helping students see the connection between information literacy and academic success, and the major benefits for their future careers whenever information is needed for a programme note or other piece of written work, whether creative or perhaps linked to a business proposal.

Indeed, I can draw certain parallels between my information skills teaching and the sessions I have led on the Scottish music BA course. When I’m talking about historical Scottish song collections, my subject matter is at least pertinent to the degree course. However, my research was effectively a combination of musicology and cultural history, whilst student on the Scottish music course are primarily motivated by performing, composing and improvising it. My material is informative, and there certainly is the expectation that these students will have a thorough grounding in the history of their subject, but I have to accept that 18th – 19th century Scottish musical and cultural history may not have as much appeal as a series of gigs or a recording session. Again, I must continue to seek ‘hooks’ to draw them into my historical world, and find ways of demonstrating the relevance of the subject that I am teaching. This is definitely an area that I would like to continue to read and reflect upon, and I should like this to evolve into a more scholarly article in due course.

THE TASK ASSIGNED:-

“Having kept a journal for the duration of the course, you are required to summarise your key learning points from the course and post your summary to your ePortfolio. In your summary, highlight what/who has informed your learning and identify any changes you have started to make to your teaching practice. Where changes have been implemented, summarise the impact this is having on your students’ learning experience. Again, in your summary make reference to literature and dialogue with colleagues, peers and your students that are informing your learning and prfessional development . In your summary identify key areas, issues or opportunities you wish to develop following the course.

You should make regular entries into your Online Journal from 5 March to 5 May 2014. Your journal summary should be completed and uploaded to your e-Portfolio by 19 May 2014.”