Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Right Mr Wright? Oh, Mr Wighton!

We had a Bass Culture research trip to the Wighton Collection in Dundee Central Library today.  Looking at Andrew Wighton's collected Scottish music books, we got to the very bottom of our list - a book of fiddle tunes believed to have been published by Daniel Wright.

I say, believed to have been, because the book has no cover, and appears to be the sole surviving copy of - well, whatever it is!

Things got worse when I realised that although the pages were numbered in one sequence, the TUNES were numbered in two sequences, with slightly different font used for the tune titles in "Collection A" compared to "Collection B".  Each sheet of paper had an A, and a B side, not necessarily in the same order throughout the book.  

I thought I detected a slight difference in repertoire between the two sequences, too.  Oh, Mr Wighton, if only you'd felt able to be a bit more specific about what the book is.  There's a note inside the volume from an expert in Ireland.  And that points to an old encyclopedia, which in turn quotes an old Irish book ... BUT, the book they're talking about is a different size and shape to the one we saw today.  If Wighton's is a pirated copy, then it's pirated from TWO books, not one.  

So is Mr Wright my "Mr Right"?  Watch this space.  The book referred to by the Irish expert is very old indeed.  And the one we saw?  Drat, I forgot to look to see if there was a watermark!  I still need convincing as to whether Wighton's un-named book is as old as that.  Hopefully, I'll blog about it on our Bass Culture blog as soon as I am sure I've got my facts Wright - sorry, right!

MEANWHILE, back at the ranch, I see there is another researcher interested in my ghostly friend, Mr John Callander.  This is exceptionally interesting news, and I really look forward to hearing more from him.  (The researcher, I mean.  I know that the ghostly Mr Callander will be there at my shoulder next time I go to Edinburgh, and quite possibly if I ever go near Stirling ...)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Evidence of a Tidy Mind

The National Archives people ask how we keep our research ... well, this is my physical storage system.

Then there are all the files on my computer, the shared projects shared on Wordcloud, and my Mendeley bibliography.  Which is not my sole bibliography, actually.  I also have extensive Diigo links accessible by all my e-devices.

* and yes, that IS a bagpipe chanter, top right.  A whim, which I didn't carry through - I bought it when I was writing up my doctoral thesis.  Not good timing.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

True, Imaginary and Cyber Friends ... and Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford

Suddenly, this blog has attracted more traffic.  (I wonder if anyone found me after I spoke at the Vitae Part-Time Researchers' conference in Glasgow yesterday morning?  I spoke about embracing the challenge of part-time research.  If you thought my subtitle was rather Gothic, you're about to find out why!)

Welcome to my personal research blog.  It's called 'True Imaginary Friends' because I started it while I was working on turning my doctoral thesis into a book.  I had a mug which I only used when I was writing - it bore the slogan, 'Writer's block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you'.  And that was it - my blog was born.  My thesis, and subsequent book, are on the subject of historic Scottish song collecting.  The topic lent itself to a chronological treatment, and I grew to know those song collectors very well.  So well that I couldn't go to Edinburgh without feeling as though half my Victorian friends were hanging around on street corners and tailing behind me close on my heels.  Not just imaginary friends, then.  Real, true imaginary friends.

Callander and Campbell

Mr Callander was a particularly persistent ghost, and Alexander Campbell has dragged me all over the place, including to the church where he used to be organist.  (It isn't even a church now, but it's been renovated to a staggeringly high standard inside, notwithstanding.  It's far too good to be 'just' financial services offices, and I hope the office-workers appreciate their good fortune!)

I digress.  If you've found me here because you share my interests in Scottish songs, Scottish cultural history, book history, or arts research methodology, then welcome!  I'd call you a 'cyber friend', but that sounds somewhat sinister.  I'm a scholar-librarian and musicologist, and not in the least scary, I can assure you.

Sir Walter Scott

Walter Scott deserves a mention today, too.  I went to Abbotsford last Saturday, with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.  It was a bit drizzly and damp, but we had a great day, with erudite commentary on the bus there, and the curator of Abbotsford as our guide when we got there.  I've wanted to go there for a few years now, but it has been closed for a couple of years for renovation.  I'm glad I had to wait - as time has passed, I kept on coming across references to Scott, and I've taken particular interest in his Border ballads; his poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel';, and his novel, The Antiquary.  
Scott also gave poems to Alexander Campbell, to be set to music in Campbell's two-volume Albyn's Anthology, and was very friendly with Margaret and Anna Maclean-Clephane, and their mother Marianne; I've written about this Mull family quite extensively, most recently in the International Review of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music (Vol.44 no.1).

But most importantly, I'm interested in any aspect of the contemporary arguments about authenticity versus fakery or forgery.  And - you heard it first here - Scott's home, Abbotsford, is a perfect metaphor for the attitudes of his age.  Was this bit of panelling real, or fake? Was this glass stained, or painted?  Was this artefact old, or merely a pretence at something old?  That was exactly what antiquarians and literary people argued about in the 1810s and 1820s.  

So, I had a lovely day at Abbotsford.  It was a bit like my visit to the Robert Burns museum a couple of months ago, though.  I had to remember that I am a mature adult, and remind myself it would be wholly inappropriate to sit cross-legged on the floor, refusing to leave until I'd absorbed every last drop of atmosphere!  The ghost of Sir Walter Scott smiled benignly.  I think he was pleased that I had made the intellectual connection between his house and the ballads and songs that he and his circle 'collected' so assiduously.  Or did they collect them?!!

Do come back and visit my blog again!  Thank you for your interest.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Bards and Minstrels, Custodians of Oral History

I have an encyclopedia entry to write this month.  So I need to devote some time to planning what I want to say, and take steps to make it just a little less Anglo-Scottish centric.

But tonight is a glorious sunny evening!  I think I can just about justify sitting outside with Walter Scott's The Lay of the Last Minstrel.  Interestingly, this 'last minstrel' is a different one from the Welsh 18th century 'last bard' who was the subject of the English Thomas Gray's poem, The Bard, and different again from James Beattie's Scottish The Minstrel (1771-4) or the rebellious anti-English minstrel that we find in late 18th and early 19th century Ireland, immortalised in song by Thomas Moore.  This I find absolutely fascinating.  

I'd dearly love to read for a Masters in Gothic and nineteenth century literature, but it's not going to happen in the near or medium future!  I'd like a Masters in creative writing, too, but having self-financed a part-time PhD between 2004-2009, I think maybe I should be content that I am, finally, a Doctor, and leave other degree study plans for my distant retirement!  After all, further study in such different directions would drain any time I have for pursuing the subject in which I've already gained expertise - the collecting of Scottish song and fiddle tunes.

I'm sure you'll agree, meanwhile, that Sir Walter Scott is a more than worthy addition to my gallery of ghosts - along with my minstrel gallery!  So we'll see where this avenue leads, and I'll make sure I've read it before my trip to Abbotsford with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in a couple of weeks' time.

Post Script: Oh dear me, I've just stumbled across William Blake's watercolours for the poems of Thomas Gray, with a beautiful bard picture!  I just may have to get a copy!  And those wicked people at Amazon have just tempted me with posters from the Bridgeman image library, too.  Oh dear!