THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Music blog

3 posts from July 2017

28 July 2017

Digitised Music Manuscripts Summer 2017

Since our post last spring summarising digitised materials from our music manuscripts collection, we’ve been busy adding to this content.

From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.

At the time of writing, you can view no fewer than 335 music manuscripts on the site. Additional content is added regularly.

Our last digitised manuscript, published just a few days ago, was Lansdowne MS 763. Dating from the fifteenth century and written on vellum, this is a collection of music treatises by various authors.

Lansdowne MS 763

For a full list of what is currently available, please see this file: Download PDF of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.

This is also available in the form of a spreadsheet (although this format cannot be downloaded on all web browsers): Download spreadsheet of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.

 

24 July 2017

Sir Malcolm Sargent: A Life in Music

This evening’s concert at the BBC Proms is a recreation of a programme conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent on 23 July 1966 – it was in fact the 500th promenade concert he had conducted since (literally) taking over the baton as chief conductor of the annual music festival in 1948. Sadly that 1966 season was to be his last. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Sargent's death in 1967.

9Sep_Malcolm_Sargent
 

Regular readers of this blog might remember posts in 2012 and 2013 about cataloguing the Malcolm Sargent Collection here at the British Library. With work on the rich and varied archive well under way we thought this year would be a perfect time to celebrate Sargent and his life and work with one of our regular study day events.

Sir Malcolm Sargent: A Life in Music will introduce the Sargent archive as well as offering the chance to hear from people who worked with the conductor: his secretary Sylvia Darley OBE, clarinettist Colin Bradbury and timpanist Pat Brady. We will also take the opportunity to reassess his recorded legacy with record producer Andrew Keener and conductors David Lloyd-Jones and Sian Edwards. Musicologist Donald Burrows will present on Sargent's interpretations of Handel, while David Kidger will focus on the Courtauld-Sargent and Robert Mayer children's concerts. Richard Aldous, whose 2001 biography of Sargent drew on source material from the archive, will be interviewed by Tom Service.   

The study day also coincides with the Last Night of the Proms, an event which in many ways helped make Sargent a household name. In fact it was at the Last Night in 1967 that Sargent made his final public appearance – footage of his surprise appearance onstage at the end of that concert will also feature in the study day.

The event will be held at the British Library's Knowledge Centre, 9 September 09.30-17.30. Tickets can be booked via the British Library box office.

 

06 July 2017

Cardew in Kassel

Some music manuscripts from the British Library’s collections have recently taken a trip to Kassel for this year's Documenta exhibition – the 14th of the quinquennial series that started in 1955. Displays of international contemporary art have been brought together by the artistic director (this year Adam Szymczyk ) and team of curators in venues around the city. This time a parallel exhibition is also taking place in Athens – with a spectacular ‘parthenon of books’ in Kassel bringing something of the Greek capital to Germany, in a striking visualisation of the overarching theme: ‘Learning from Athens’.  

 

The Parthenon of Books

The Parthenon of Books (2017), by Marta Minujín (under construction). Friedrichsplatz, Kassel. Photograph by Lesley Thomas.

 

The manuscripts on temporary loan are all scores by Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981). Cardew’s music evolved from a post-war modernist style conveyed through detailed notational intricacies, to something that leaves open decisions about interpretation of signs on the page to performers – as in his iconic 193-page graphic score, Treatise.

Treatise p47

Cornelius Cardew, Treatise, p.47 ( ©1967 ). Used by kind permission of Peters Edition Limited, London.

 

The Great Learning, another of Cardew’s celebrated pieces, arose from the experimental music class he taught at Morley College and the ensemble connected with it, the Scratch Orchestra. With performers from a range of backgrounds and musical abilities, this communal and democratic ‘coming together’ was reflected in the instructional nature of the score; consisting of a mixture of written words, traditional notation and illustrative diagrams.

Documenta 14 features other examples of scores that represent sound (or perhaps the actions that create sound – something suggested by John Cage) in a wide variety of ways. These often have a very immediate visual appeal too and blur the boundaries between art, music, sound, poetry and other modes of performance, as in the work of Katalin Ladik .  

As well as published scores, books and articles, the British Library has three main manuscript collections relating to Cardew. The first, acquired in 1991 (Add MS 70727-70774 ), consists mostly of autograph scores. In 2010 the Library also acquired a large collection of Cardew’s papers (MS Mus. 1817) and scores - notably his annotated copy of Treatise used in early performances. In 2011 the British Library was also presented with a series of Cardew’s notebooks with sketches, jottings and writings dating from 1958-1980 (MS Mus. 1741). Complementing all of this are recordings of oral history interviews  with people who knew Cardew (C1430) and, of course, recordings of performances of the pieces themselves - searchable in our Sound & Moving Image catalogue.

 

Chris Scobie, Curator of Music Manuscripts. British Library.