Musica Scotica 2013

This Saturday past (27th April) was the date of the eighth annual Musica Scotica conference, hosted this year by the Open University at Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh’s West End. Fifteen papers were presented in the course of the day, mostly running in two parallel sessions, and the event attracted thirty-three delegates representing eleven institutions.

The papers covered a wide range of topics: from seventeenth-century sources of harp music (Karen Marshalsay) to an recent oral history project run by the National Piping Centre (James Beaton); an eighteenth-century ballad opera (John Purser – paper delivered in absentia by Elizabeth Ford) to the compositional technique of Sally Beamish; the songs of Burns (Emily Lyle with Lucy MacRae) to the Latin correspondence of John Clark of Penicuik (Andrew Wooley). Indeed, the variety of periods, perspectives, and research methodologies is one of the conference’s strengths, incorporating as it does musical analysis, source studies, historiography, and social and cultural studies in examinations of music from the Early Scottish Church through to that of the present day.

As part of the programme, there was a book launch: Karen McAulay’s ‘Our Ancient and National Airs’ is published by Ashgate and is part of the ‘Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain’ series. Based on her PhD thesis (University of Glasgow, 2009), the monograph examines the many collections of Scottish songs published between 1760 and 1890, providing the cultural context required for a fuller understanding of their contents.

This is the first Musica Scotica conference I have attended, and I found the experience to be overwhelmingly positive. From the encouragement I received in response to my paper (on the Scottish dance tune, Tullochgorum) to the professional contacts forged over lunch and coffee, I found it to be a very welcoming and friendly body of musicologists, composers, and performers. As with all conferences (or at least the vast majority) timings were very flexible, with sessions starting behind schedule and speakers liberally interpreting precisely how long a twenty-minute paper should last (!) but such liberality tends to breed a relaxed informality which can enhance the proceedings.

Musica Scotica 2014 Flyer

Arrangements are already well under way for the ninth annual conference, to be held in Aberdeen next 26th to 27th April jointly by the Department of Music and Elphinstone Institute. Preferential accommodation rates are being negotiated for delegates and there is ample parking space available on campus. There will also be a conference dinner and an evening concert. All in all, it promises to be a stellar weekend. Look out for the cfp in September!

Musica Scotica was founded by the pre-eminent musicologist, Dr Kenneth Elliott (1929-2011), as an outlet for research on Scottish music via publications, performances, recordings, and conferences. The organisation’s website gives details of available and forthcoming publications: http://www.musicascotica.org.uk/index.shtml.

Ronnie Gibson (29th April 2013)

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