Poussette, Promenade … and Paratext (again)

I’ve been looking at some of the dance music published by James Kerr and Mozart Allan, to see how much instruction they gave either to the musician, or to the dancers.

Having diligently tabulated my findings onto a spreadsheet – after all, that’s just what I do! – it dawned on me that I’ve been at it again – ignoring the tunes, I’ve homed in on the paratext. In a sense, they were still obsessing about ‘getting it right’ and authenticity, just the same as the song and tune collectors a century earlier.

Just think how much fun I’ll have when I get Mozart Allan’s actual published dancing manual. It’s on its way from the USA at the moment.


I’m speaking at the second Pondering Paratext seminar next Wednesday afternoon between 2.30 and 4 pm. There will also be a talk by Dr Hazel Wilkinson.

My talk is entitled ‘Scottish Songs and Dances ‘Preserved in their Native Simplicity’ and ‘Humbly Dedicated’: Paratext in Improbable Places’. Amongst other delights, I’ll be sharing some of my recent findings about subscription lists to Scottish fiddle tunebooks.

You can book to attend the seminar by clicking this Eventbrite link here – and find out more about the Eighteenth Century Paratext Research Network – by clicking this link.

(Musicologists of this kind of music – do take a closer look at the tune pictured above. The book it comes from is riddled with errors in the basslines – I know this for a fact. So, the first bar and the third bar here are actually very similar, and I’m tempted to play the first bar with the bassline that the third bar uses. I promise not to talk such heresy in my talk, of course, when I shall focus on the paratext rather than the notes themselves!)

18th Century Paratext Network Talks

Two interesting seminars coming up! (I’m speaking at the second.) The schedule is as follows:

24 February, Wednesday 2.30-4pm (GMT)

Dr Dennis Duncan and Dr Kathleen Keown

17 March, Wednesday 2.30-4pm (GMT)

Dr Hazel Wilkinson and Dr Karen McAulay (The Gow fiddle collections are likely to feature in the latter talk!)

For full details, please click here.

New Network! Eighteenth Century Paratext

In collaboration with Corrina Readioff (University of Liverpool), I’m one of the founder members of the Eighteenth Century Paratext Research Network.  Corrina has been doing most of the hard graft in setting up this network!  Do take a look, and if you’re interested in any aspect of paratextual research (Corrina researches epigraphs, illustration and chapter headings, whilst mine is musicological research into music of the same era – and other members’ interest span a wide range of topics) – do get in touch.  The more the merrier!

First up – a call for papers for a forthcoming eighteenth-century conference.  A panel will be convened ….


A Flurry of Paratext!

Sorting through the late Jimmy Shand’s accordion music, I came across some curious pieces amongst the more predictable repertoire. One was William D. Hamilton’s Song of Arran with Strathspey (With Tonic Sol-fah). Mr Hamilton lived at Ailsa House, Adrossan – so Arran’s not that far away.

And you know how I love paratext? Well, I haven’t strayed into the twentieth century very much in my paratextual explorations, but this piece is positively DRIPPING with it!


To MACKENZIE MURDOCH, Violinist and Composer, whose modest and kindly, yet transcendent genius has so notably enriched in abundant melody, fantasia, and arrangement, Scotia’s great Repertoire of National Music, and through him to his illustrious brother Celts of the Arran Society, Guardian Conservators of one of Scotland’s most noble possessions – the peerless Isle of Arran.”

Now, the tune was “written and composed by Wm. D. Hamilton”, but his friend Mackenzie Murdoch arranged the Accompaniment & Strathspey. Mr Murdoch apparently lived at 270 Great Western Road, Glasgow. (Imagine the raised eyebrows if the title page gave the composer’s full address nowadays, unless it was self-published! Data protection, dear chap!)

It would appear that Wm. D. Hamilton had a house in Ardrossan but traded from 59 Bath Street in Glasgow, whence he published this sheet-music in 1922.

Anyway, the tune appears first as a song and then as a dance-tune – a strathspey. And then, at the end, we find another chunk of paratext. Be still, my beating heart! This is an advertisement for another, larger piece by Mackenzie Murdoch. How often have we read allegations that Britain has no wworthwhile national music? Or that England is deficient in this regard? It’s less common to find someone refuting the suggestion that Scotland somehow falls short. But then, my investigations have mainly been into Scottish ‘national airs’, whereas this is about more serious composers. Interesting!

I’d llike to know more about Mr Murdoch!

“RIZZIO (composed by Mackenzie Murdoch). – An Orchestral Prelude of outstanding beauty and excellence, which from the broad opening movement descriptive of Holyrood Palace and surroundings to Finale of the swaggering braggadocio of the Conspirators, faithfully portrays in graphic intervals and rhythm, the great tragedy of Rizzio’s murder, in the presence of Scotland’s tragic and beautiful Queen. It contains a dainty festive Minuet, which will bear favourable comparison with the best work of the classic composers, an unrivalled and plaintive death song of Rizzio, and a passionate prayer of the Queen which will live as long as the great Ave Marias.

This work debuts the slander that Scotland has no worthy Composers, and confirms the suspicion that those who make such assertions are “looking for what they don’t want to find”.

No musician and particularly no musical Scot, should fail to possess and study this beautiful work. Although scored for full symphony orchestra, it can be obtained suitable for pianoforte or trio …”


My thanks to Stuart Eydmann for alerting me to this mention of William Mackenzie Murdoch on the Rare Tunes website, where you can read more about him AND hear his fiddle playing – ‘The Drunken Piper’.  What a great resource!  https://raretunes.org/william-mackenzie-murdoch/

Teaching About Musical Paratext

A few years ago, I published an article in a librarianship journal, about librarians teaching, and the question of teaching music students about paratext in early national song collections.

Let me state here and now, my approach to article titles has changed, and I would never again try to be ‘clever’ or controversial in this regard.  A perfectly acceptable article was made to look flippant, or even worse, by my woeful enjoyment of puns and double-entendres.

Nonetheless, because I’d like to share the article, I’ll endure the embarrassment of sharing the title with you.  This is a pre-publication version, which I’ll also upload to our institutional repository in the near future:-

‘Sexy’ bibliography (and revealing paratext)

bluebells-1429817_960_720Engaging with students in teaching bibliographic citation, and demonstrating the significance of paratext in historical national song collections.

General information


Niel and Nathaniel Gow’s Controlling Influence? | Bass Culture in Scottish musical traditions

Paratext jacket
Paratext jacket – harps and flowers

In connection with my continuing interest in paratextual matter in national song and dance music, I’m sharing some postings I wrote whilst I was a postdoctoral researcher on the Bass Culture project. (See hms.scot for the web outcomes of that project).

Shared link no.2:-


Italian Style | Bass Culture in Scottish musical traditions

Paratext jacket
Paratext jacket – harps and flowers

In connection with my continuing interest in paratextual matter in national song and dance music, I’m sharing some postings I wrote whilst I was a postdoctoral researcher on the Bass Culture project. (See hms.scot for the web outcomes of that project).

Shared link no.1:-