Interdisciplinary Research, Anyone?

When I graduated with my PhD in 2009, there was a flurry of interest in me as a ‘mature’ postgraduate, and my ‘portfolio career’. There’s only one problem – it isn’t a portfolio career! I work in one place, full-time, on a full-time salary. I’m not self-employed, nor do I do a little bit of this and that for different employers. It’s correct that I spend 0.7 of my time as an academic librarian, and 0.3 of my time as a researcher. If I had any aspirations at the start of my librarianship career, it was to be a scholar librarian of some kind, and as you see, that IS where I’ve ended up. I don’t claim that it exactly reflects who I am now – in my head, I’m more scholar than librarian.

So, if I don’t consider myself a good example of a portfolio career, then here’s another conundrum: do I do interdisciplinary research? If at some times I’m writing about librarianship, and at other times I’m writing about nineteenth to twentieth-century music publishing, does that make my research interdisciplinary? I guess it probably does, even if the librarianship and the music publishing seldom meet! I’m often contemplating the social context of whatever I’m researching. And just occasionally – like my recent article about Clarinda Webster – I manage to mention librarianship, music publishing AND social history in one fell swoop.

At other times, my research finds its way into the librarianship quite naturally. This week, the RCS Library is having a series of events throwing a Spotlight on Diversity. I’ve written a short blogpost about Scottish Women Composers as one of my contributions. The names I’ve suggested are just a start – and I haven’t attempted to include every Scottish woman who wrote a tune, because I’m assuming our students are basically looking for recital repertoire. My research has led me to several more women who made their own unique contribution, but they’ll get a mention in the book I’m currently writing. Their pieces aren’t necessarily recital repertoire, or even easily sourced today.

See my Scottish Women Composers in the Spotlight library blogpost.

Am Writing: New Book Contract

Yes, folks, there really is going to be another book. Following on from my first one, date-wise, but with more social history, more about publishers, and more about amateur music making between 1880-1950.

Exciting? You bet!

Provisional Title

A Social History of Amateur Music-Making and Scottish National Identity: Scotland’s Printed Music, 1880-1950

First publication of 2022 – a chapter

I have just catalogued a book containing my chapter on music subscribers to published strathspey and reel collections in the late 18th to early 19th centuries.  (Not every author gets to catalogue what they contributed to! Still, it means it’s now available in the library at RCS.

 Here it is:-

Chapter 10. ‘Strathspeys, Reels, and Instrumental Airs: A National Product’

And the book itself:

 Music by subscription : composers and their networks in the British music-publishing trade, 1676-1820 / edited by Simon D.I. Fleming, Martin Perkins.  (Routledge, 2022)

When Less is More (Blog to Book)

Returning visitors to these pages may find the content thinner than it used to be. Now that I’m working on my next book, I want my best content to be honed to perfection and triple-checked before I commit it to print. Rather than leave extended writings – which I posted as ‘work in progress’ – sitting on the internet, I’ve pruned what is here. In general, I continue to research the topics I posted here (Scottish music publishers James Kerr, Mozart Allan and many others, and interrogations of cultural issues), and any new details or dates which I didn’t know at the time of blogging, could potentially change what I originally wrote. And also, of course, I want readers of the book to be surprised and delighted by new insights that no-one knew before!

I shall continue to blog, of course. How could I not? I have so many ideas buzzing round my head that it’s hard keeping them all to myself!

Spread Too Thin?

This is another of my cross-posts from the Facebook Glasgow Music Publishers page. But I’ve updated the update!

Apologies for the silence here. In recent weeks, I’ve given two conference papers (one on Stationers’ Hall music, and one on old Scots songs and a Lowland pipe tune); I gave another talk (about Scottish song-collector Alexander Campbell) last Sunday late afternoon. Was I happy with my talk? Yes, until I had given it! This self-doubt is really quite a handicap.

I have just had the luxury of a long weekend, but – well, it hasn’t been luxurious. As well as the Sunday talk, there was the usual domesticity and the church organist duties. We expected the roofer to start work today, too, but it rained – and you don’t remove a VERY large skylight in the rain! Not to worry – I turned one of my conference papers into a journal article and submitted it this evening. I’ve just realised I’m a coward. I submitted an article to a journal I’ve not submitted to before, and now I’m struggling NOT to judge it too harshly, probably before the editor has even checked their email inbox!

I really do have to get back to work on a book chapter – although neither it nor the rest of this frenetic activity has been about Glasgow music publishers! (I just hope their ghosts aren’t feeling neglected, or heaven help me come Hallowe’en!)

Bruce, Clements and Co.

This is another posting that I put on the Facebook Glasgow Music Publishers page a couple of days ago. I wonder if anyone can provide any pointers to this firm, currently a bit of a mystery to me?!


My study of historical Glasgow music publishers may need to embrace other Scottish music publishers too. (A metaphorical, socially distanced embrace, obviously.)

So. The first question is, who WERE Bruce, Clements & Co, who traded in Edinburgh circa 1921-1937, published quite a bit by W. B. Moonie and a significant work – Dirge for Cuthullin – by Cedric Thorpe Davie? I’ve only looked at Jisc Library Hub Discover and the British Newspaper Archive so far, but although I can find out what they published, I don’t know who they were – sometimes they called themselves Bruce Clements & Co., and other times Bruce, [COMMA!] Clements & Co. – though I do know they traded from 30 Rutland Square.

W. B. Moonie – YouTube of “Perthshire Echoes” played by pianist P. Sear

I don’t have access to Post Office Directories in Libraries – and they’re too “modern” to be in the National Library of Scotland Digital Gallery – though appropriate directories might yet tell me more about Mr Bruce or Mr Clements! At the moment, it’s just a question arising from my insatiable curiosity, but I should still like to know, because you never know what connections firms had with other firms or individuals.

I have had a couple of responses – Jack Campin tells me that Davie’s son was Tony Davie, computer scientist at the University of St Andrews.  And I am sure there will be plenty of material about Cedric Thorpe Davie himself at St Andrews’ research repository, so that could be an interesting angle to pursue.

Meanwhile, another respondent pointed me in the direction of a couple of directories available via the Internet Archive, so I now have their address, (You’d be surprised how many firms I’ve traced at Rutland Square, which plainly housed more than one company at a time. The Boy Scouts Association were there, for starters. But I digress!

Interestingly, Thorpe Davie’s choral work, Dirge for Cuthullin, published in 1937 and admired by Vaughan Williams (four letters survive at, was subsequently taken over by Oxford University Press in 1946. (See notes on manuscripts at St Andrews University Library.) I have a feeling Bruce, Clements and Co published very little, if anything else, by Thorpe Davie, and I believe the firm fizzled out in the very early 1940s. (I’d still like to know who they were!)

Book History: Scottish Airs in London Dress

Before establishing the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network, I was a postdoctoral researcher on the Bass Culture project, which looked at Scottish fiddle tune collections largely from the Georgian era.  In that context, I read a paper at Musica Scotica in Spring 2014, about a couple of London-published music collections.  It has finally been published in Scottish Music Review Vol.5 (2019), 75-87, this week.

Sometimes when we look back at earlier work, we wonder if we’d have written it differently today, but I’m still pretty happy with this article.  If anything, I think it justifies my claim that the history of this kind of collection does indeed deserve to count as “book history”, even if it is music rather than literature. So, here it is for your enjoyment:-

Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two Eighteenth-Century London Collections

And … Send!

2019-08-08 10.06.13That’s it, folks.  Martin and I have given the Brio “Special Issue” proofs the final thumbs up, and they’ve gone off to the printer.  No going back now … your special issues are well and truly on their way.  (They look slightly different to those pictured here, but I won’t spoil the surprise!)

I Wrote a Grant Application …

Of course, it’s a highly competitive world out there. I can’t attempt to rate my chances. But I rewarded myself for getting it written and submitted on time, by ordering a wee Victorian Glaswegian souvenir jug. And we’ll see what unfolds!

Where are they now?

Meanwhile, I have amused myself by checking out some old Glasgow music publishers’ addresses. I wasn’t sure where they all were. And although the streets are still on the map, it was a strange feeling to see that places where businesses once thrived, have generally been replaced or kind of left behind by the passing of time. Only three addresses seem generally unchanged. Another – just a green patch of land – is on my morning bus-route, right beside an old public library.   (Physical and cultural landscapes have one big thing in common – they do change as the years go by!)









Book Reviews

Network members are enthusiastically typing away at the moment, as the deadline for our Brio special issue looms closer!  I’ve done a couple of book reviews, and have one more to tackle.  Today, I was thinking about matters as apparently disparate as copyright, romanticism, bootlegging and modern recording techniques.  Does that sound weird or intriguing to you?  I thought it was an excellent book – but you’ll have to wait until the next issue of Brio to read my review!!