Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, 11 December 2015

What IS traditional? And what was 'traditional' in times past?

Talking about 'tradition' fast leads you into philosophical arguments about whose tradition it
Image from Wikipedia
is, and which era's traditions you mean!  A non-musical example would be the tradition of putting up Christmas trees.  Did we always do it?  Not before Victorian times!

Back to music, though - the best way to find out about what was traditional in days gone by, is to look at historical resources.   These are some useful ones for students involved with traditional Scottish music:-

William Tytler of Woodhouselee was an antiquarian who wrote about Scottish music. He wrote a very famous essay, A Dissertation on the Scottish Music (1779 and republished in later books) – find it on here.  We have commented on the Dissertation on this blog before - see here.

And here are some particularly interesting early collections to look at - we have them all in the Whittaker Library.  Karen 'liberated' them for a couple of very lively seminars with our first and second years this morning, but all the books are back in the library again now.  Look at the paratext (prefaces, footnotes, indices etc) as well as the musical text - it's often very informative:-

  • Joseph MacDonald – Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe (c.1760) 
  • Patrick McDonald A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs [“The Patrick McDonald Collection”] (1784)     
  • Joseph Ritson – Scotish Song Vols.1-2 (1794)
  • William Dauney – Ancient Scotish Melodies   (1838)
  • George Farquhar Graham - Songs of Scotland Vols 1-3  (1848-9)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven – Collected Edition 11/1
  • George Thomson – A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice   
  • The Language of Folk Vols 1&2 (Faber, 2013)  
  • Marjory Kennedy Fraser’s collections

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