Women In Music – Forgotten Female Composers

Looking at the historical copyright music collections, certain categories do leap out … theatrical music, single songs, instructional material, instrumental music, Napoleonic-era music … and music by women.  Now, there are various websites detailing women composers, and it would be rash (indeed, unnecessary) to create another one, but for the purposes of the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network, what we need is a list of the women composers represented in and around the Georgian era – say, from 1760-1840.

I found all the women’s names in the “Authors” index of Michael Kassler’s Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall, 1710-1818 (Routledge, 2004), and then added in some extra names that appeared in St Andrews’ University Library Copyright Music Collection – specifically, in the volumes that have been catalogued online, from Vol.130 to Vol.385.  (Kassler also lists writers of lyrics, performers, and dedicatees, in separate indices – I have not included these.)  The resultant list can be found here:- Women Composers of the Georgian Era. (List compiled by Karen E McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 07/2018).

A WORD OF CAUTION! Researchers should cross-refer between Kassler and Copac, to ensure that works post-1818 are also represented, and to eliminate any names which may have other than strictly authorial responsibility for the works cited.

Kassler’s book is one I consult almost daily.  It’s available in a number of university libraries, both as hardback and e-book.  Recommended!

I tweeted about this earlier today, and I’ll reiterate it here – please do share any links to Pastoral scene ladiesuseful lists of historical names!  If your list has both “ancient and modern”, I’ll still be happy to include the link.  However, to keep it relevant, let’s not add lists of women composers from the 20th century onwards.  The Claimed from Stationers’ Hall network is about predominantly Georgian music, published in Britain and legally deposited in British libraries – that’s the network’s remit, and that’s what the research funding is enabling!

Useful Books


RISM’s Updated Catalogue

RISM and Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek announcement – new version of RISM online catalogue

This was noted in social media recently – a makeover for the Repertoire Internationale des Sources Musicales, the database which logs early printed and manuscript music in many countries.  The link came with a full announcement and a YouTube video, which we share with you here:-


Echoes From the Vault, Re-echoed

2016-03-09 16.25.31
Playfair Terrace, referenced in blogpost

Writing my paper for the IAML Congress which takes place in Leipzig later this month, I decided to reference a recording that I made with Dr Jane Pettegree for my blogpost on St Andrews’ Special Collections blog, Echoes From the Vault.  I can hardly believe it’s two years since I wrote it!  However, it was my research into the Copyright Music Collection at St Andrews, that led ultimately to the AHRC-funded research network that I’m currently leading.

So, maybe it’s not inappropriate to revisit the blogpost here, today?

Summertime at Stationers’ Hall

BenchI’m currently taking annual leave, and although I’m covertly pushing ahead with a couple of queries I’ve set myself, strictly speaking there should be a silence whilst I’m on holiday!

Polite Request

However, if any followers of this blog were to feel inspired to author a blogpost in some way connected with historical Georgian legal deposit music, or indeed, on any aspect of music legal deposit, then please do email me at the Royal Conservatoire of  Scotland.  I’m glancing at my emails intermittently, and I won’t be able to resist an intriguing subject heading!

Thanks in advance ….

Song Collections in Sydney: Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland explains

Last year, colleague and researcher Brianna Robertson-Kirkland made a visit to Sydney Living Museums to explore their historical collection of bound nineteenth-century songs.  A short video was made about her visit and what she discovered.  It’s such a lovely video that I thought you’d appreciate watching it, so I’ll share the link here:-

Colonial Caledonian: Research Early Scottish Music at Sydney Living Museums March 2017

Private bound collections of songs are, of course, slightly different from the library-bound collections of legal deposit music, although they do share similarities: someone decided what to collate in each volume.  But whereas a young lady might only have a few bound volumes of her personal repertoire, the libraries were dealing with a constant flow of scores registered at Stationers’ Hall, and had to make sense of them all, deciding what to include – or what to leave out.  So – you could say the Sydney bound volumes are like, but not like!  I’d still love to see them one day, though.  Who knows …

Students but not at University?

Stationers Hall to Scottish Students

Although, as we’ve seen, some Georgian legal deposit libraries didn’t actually want to retain music – after all, it wasn’t yet a university subject – the pattern of retention was varied to say the least.  The University of St Andrews kept quite a bit of music.  Meanwhile, the University of Edinburgh retained some but certainly not all that was on offer.  However, there’s one category of musical material that seems to have been deemed worth keeping, and that was pedagogical material.  I had already noticed quite a bit of it at the University of St Andrews, and I did a bit of research into who borrowed what kind of material.  Bear in mind that an ability to play the piano was quite desirable for the well-bred young Georgian miss.  When I started looking at the Edinburgh collection more recently, I was interested to see that music teaching books were popular there, too.   I wonder if the Edinburgh professors ever borrowed music for their daughters and friends in the same way the St Andrews chaps did?

I plan to see what I can identify on the Edinburgh spreadsheets, and see how it maps across with the St Andrews collections, just to see if there’s much overlap.  It’ll be a bit hit-or-miss, but a quick survey will tell me if there is an interesting story to be uncovered.  Coincidentally, I did once wonder if any students at my workplace might be interested in the history of piano pedagogy.  Little did I realise that I might eventually be the one getting interested in much earlier material in a research capacity!

If I got interested in all of the pedagogical material published between 1780 and 1840, it would be a bit like Alice disappearing down a rabbit-hole, so I’m inclined to focus on one category in particular: the teaching of “thorough bass” (aka “figured bass”) and harmony – in other words, on theory, more than instrumental technique.  And if I were to find a few observations about teaching music theory to girls and women, then that would be an added bonus, wouldn’t it?  You wouldn’t expect the approach to be different, but it would be interesting to notice any remarks made specifically to them.

Here’s a thought, to start with.  After his opening preface, Latour’s thorough bass tutor is heavy on musical examples and light on text, which is a little disappointing given my predeliction for paratext.  Nonetheless, in that opening preface, we learn that he aimed to teach “what a young Lady ought to know, viz: to be able to accompany the Voice with propriety, to play from a figured Bass, and to compose her own Preludes, Variations, &c.”  From this, we can tell that the “young Lady” was not expected merely to be a performer, but to compose (or improvise?) as well.  And the pages of examples that follow provide a good introduction to generating variations – perhaps on popular songs, such as the many sets of variations on national and operatic airs that abounded in the early nineteenth century.

If one instructional treatise tells us this much, how much more might the others reveal?!

The wonders of the Spanish Legal Deposit, or: what can theatrical and musical plays tell us about cultural attitudes to the phonograph?

El Fonografo ambulante - Eva blogpost
Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Today, we share with you something completely different.  Dr Eva Moreda Rodriguez, Music Lecturer at the University of Glasgow,  writes for us about Spanish legal deposit and its value in terms of historical sound recordings. It underlines the importance of legal deposit in a much wider variety of contexts than one would at first imagine.


Shortly after Claimed from Stationers’ Hall was set up, I had the opportunity to experience first-hand how the requirement to submit copies of every printed work to a library can, if satisfied, change our understanding of music and musical cultures of the past in radical ways. Indeed, when I started to research the arrival of recording technologies in Spain from 1878 onwards and the responses of Spaniards to them, I was faced with the issue of a lack of sources. I did indeed have newspaper and magazine articles – but these were often brief announcements or texts intended for scientific dissemination which did shed little light on how the average Spaniard would have reacted upon hearing a phonograph for the first time. References to the phonograph in Spanish literature were surprisingly scarce, and memoirs and journals did not shed much light on the issue either. Discovering, at the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica (BDH), a zarzuela by successful composer Ruperto Chapí named El fonógrafo ambulante (The travelling phonograph) and dated 1899 prompted the question: did any other theatrical and musical plays of the time feature phonographs and gramophones, and if so, can they shed any light on cultural attitudes towards recording technologies at the time?A search at the BDH website, as well as at The Internet Archive and at the premises of the Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE) revealed that at least fifteen plays were premiered in Spain between 1885 and 1914 which featured a phonograph or gramophone in a significant role. Most of those works (libretti and, on some occasions the music) arrived at the BNE through the legal deposit mechanism. This, in itself, tells us a lot about both legal deposit in Spain and the significance of theatrical genres in the late 19th and early 20th century. Indeed, some sort of legal deposit requirement (privilegio real) had existed in Spain from 1716, but a full, comprehensive legal deposit norm was not introduced until 1957. In practice, this meant that, through the 19th century and early 20th century, legal deposit requirements were often met haphazardly, and not all authors deposited copies of their works at the BNE, then the only legal deposit library in Spain.

Boletin Fonografico y Fotografico - Eva blogpost
Source: Biblioteca Valenciana


Theatrical authors, though, had an incentive to do so. Theatre-going was, at the time, one of the preferred pastimes of Spaniards of all social classes, particularly in urban areas. A number of popular theatre genres, combining music with the spoken word to different extents (sainete, zarzuela, revista, invento, pasillo), flourished in an ever-growing number of theatres. Intended for consumption and entertainment, many of these plays were replaced after a few runs, forcing the authors to constantly come up with new ideas: there was, indeed, money to be made, but the environment was competitive. In this climate, one of the few weapons authors had in order to protect themselves from unscrupulous impresarios who might stage their works without compensating them financially was to deposit copies of their works at the BNE so that authorship could be conclusively proven in case of legal disputes.

A happy consequence of this practice is that works that might not have survived otherwise – because they were generally ephemeral, inconsequential and often of limited artistic merit – have made it to our days, providing us with a fascinating corpus to study both theatrical culture in Restoration Spain and broader social and cultural issues during this period. These plays were written primarily to entertain, and as such they satirized certain aspects of contemporary politics and society – but they never decisively challenged the status quo and ultimately celebrated the Spanish pueblo as a community of individuals happy to live by traditional, conservative values: for example, a number of these plays may feature fiery, memorable female characters, but at the same time the genre mocked the nascent first-wave feminist movement relentlessly.

In my research, I have been working under the hypothesis that these plays would have presented ideas and discourses around recording technologies that would have resonated with their audiences – always within the generally conservative, paternalistic framework I have described above. For example, several of the plays develop the idea of the phonograph being able to reproduce reality with the utmost fidelity – by recording in private, by accident, statements that individuals would not have dared making in public – and then playing them back. Wives are found out not to love their husbands, and vice-versa, and politicians are found out to lie to their electorate in pursuit of votes. Such episodes, however, were developed purely for comic effect, and one never finds even the slightest suggestion that technological modernity – which was generally seen as critical to the advancement of Spain – should be coupled up with social or political modernity. This is too the case with El fonógrafo ambulante, to which I have referred earlier: the travelling phonograph that arrives in a remote Andalusian village at first threatens to destabilize the social order by making the heroine, Araceli, consider breaking her engagement to the town’s mayor and instead marrying Antero, the phonograph operator, instead. However, once it is established that both Araceli and Antero are true representatives of the Spanish pueblo, young and resourceful but ultimately attached to traditional values, the phonograph, which has brought them together, becomes a guarantee for social order, and the play ends with all villagers gathered around the device and listening in fascination.