Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Regency Reunion

... and Gale's Pocket Companion Conundrum


Last night I was looking at old song collections in connection with a BBC query. I had a wonderful evening! It was so nice to look at the subjects of my doctoral research with fresh eyes, in a different context. And there they all were, sitting waiting to greet me -  the nice old Scottish gents that they were.

There was the ghost of poet and songwriter Allan Ramsay (father of the famous portrait painter), sitting shyly on the edge of the circle, then James Johnson, Robert Burns, Robert Archibald Smith - even the grumpy old northern English Joseph Ritson was pleased to see me.

So this morning, when I was compiling thumbnail sketch biographies of all our fiddle tunebook compilers, imagine my surprise and delight to find Smith, one of my special favourites, linked to a collection of flute tunes in Glasgow University Library. It's probably just a mundane collection, and if it has no basslines or accompaniments then it isn't any more use for my postdoc project than it would have been for the song-collecting research. However, if R A Smith is connected with it, then it's more interesting than I would otherwise have thought.

I went across to the Uni library this afternoon, to look at an old book about Scottish fiddlers, so I took the opportunity to call up the Glasgow-published Gales Pocket Companion while I was there.  I do have photocopies of the contents pages of all Smith's Scotish Minstrel books - and the Irish Minstrel - so I can at least check.  If this doesn't yield the answer, my next stop will be Dundee (good thing we're going there before the end of the month), to look at vol.2 of Gale's, in the vain hope that there might be something incriminating Smith in that book, if not this one!

Sadly, there was not a trace of Robert Archibald Smith to be found - at least, not on the face of it.  However, a cataloguer evidently once thought there was a link, so now I want to know what it was!  To begin with, I've taken a photo of the index page.  It doesn't look particularly Smith-ian to me, but I do have the photocopied indices of all his Scotish Minstrel books, and the single Irish Minstrel, so I have a reasonable chance of spotting any clear connection.  Or not.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pirates Run Aground

Once upon a time ... no, that's not a scholarly way to begin a blogpost.  Quick change of voice, here.

I've blogged several times about the eighteenth century publishers Walsh and Wright, in recent weeks.  (Both are known to have pirated other people's work - it's certainly not the case that one was always wronged, and the other guilty of the wrongdoing.  Nor that it was a straightforward borrowing between just two publishers!)  However, I realise that I haven't mentioned them since I went to Edinburgh to inspect Mr Wright's Aria di Camera.  (I'm surprised that Wright didn't know the plural of 'Aria', but it's a bit late to quibble, nearly two centuries after the event...)

Wright's early eighteenth century compilation was supposed to provide evidence that an untitled collection in Dundee was also published by him. I'm not convinced.  I'm waiting for a copy of a collection in the British Library which will enable me to make further comments in this regard, but I'll bide my time until I can make my pronouncements with more certainty.

So, in that regard, my pirates have run aground - I can't do any more until I get those scans.  However, with a colleague's assistance, I identified the flute tutor published at the beginning of Wright's Aria.  Yes - it was pirated.  A pirated translation, itself arguably pirated from a famous French original.

I also discovered that there's a modern edition of the Aria da Camera - which is very satisfying, especially since the editorial commentary is well-researched and presented.  Furthermore, there are some really lovely tunes in that collection.  So, even though it's a flute collection, with no bassline, I see scope for indulging in a little musical arranging.  I've recently been arranging music for saxophone choir.  They've got a good bit to be going on with, so maybe I could arrange some of Wright's flute tunes for flute quartet.  It's a tempting thought ...