THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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12 posts categorized "Popular music"

22 February 2017

Introducing British Library Music Collections

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Earlier this month, British Library staff held a special open day aimed at doctoral music students

The programme included presentations on printed music, music manuscripts and sound recordings. There was also a chance to chat to curators and to see items from the British Library's collections.

Music Doctoral Open Day 2017 manuscripts show and tell

Attendees at the 2017 music open day browsing music manuscripts with Head of Music Collections, Richard Chesser

If you're a doctoral music student and missed the open day, or if you are new to music research at the British Library, help is still at hand. Our presentations on digital research support at the British Library and on digital musicology can be accessed below.

In addition, there's a wealth of information on the various music sources available at the British Library on our music subject page. You can also ask the music enquiries team or browse the library experts page for further advice.

 

13 February 2017

British Library Music Cataloguing Vacancy

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A vacancy has arisen for a Music Cataloguer in the Content and Metadata Processing Team at the British Library, St Pancras.  Please visit www.bl.uk/careers for further information and to apply. The closing date is midnight on 26 February 2017.

The post holder will join a small team responsible for cataloguing printed and manuscript music materials. Tasks will include creating and deriving catalogue records for printed music using RDA and MARC21, supporting Legal Deposit claiming, and interpreting and implementing professional cataloguing standards.

The post holder will be an experienced cataloguer with excellent communication skills and an analytical and flexible approach to problem solving. You will have the ability to concentrate on abstract concepts and make sound and timely cataloguing decisions. You will be able to work successfully in a team environment.

The role gives scope for the post holder to help to strengthen C&MP South as a centre of excellence for cataloguing, to contribute to the formulation and development of British Library cataloguing policy, and to develop personal professional expertise and knowledge in relation to changes in bibliographic standards, in particular RDA development. You will work with the BL's important music collections, with the opportunity to contribute to the music outreach and events programme within your own specialism as required.

03 June 2016

Peter Kennedy Archive

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As part of an AHRC Cultural Engagement project grant awarded to City University and partially funded by the National Folk Music Fund, ethnomusicologist Andrew Pace, has engaged in a project to catalogue thousands of paper and photographic files from Peter Kennedy’s collection of British and Irish folk music held at the British Library.

This month we have launched a unique website - www.peterkennedyarchive.org - in which listeners can retrace the chronology and geographical routes of Kennedy's extensive field recording activity. In the text below, Andrew describes the project and walks us through the website's main features.

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Peter Kennedy interviewing Edgar Button. Thebburton, Suffolk, 1956 [PR0925]

Peter Kennedy was one of the most prolific collectors of British and Irish folk music and customs from the 1950s up until his death in 2006. Working closely with other collectors of his generation, such as Alan Lomax, Sean O’Boyle and Hamish Henderson, he recorded hundreds of traditional performers ‘in the field’, including Margaret Barry, Fred Jordan, Paddy Tunney, Harry Cox, Frank and Francis McPeake and Jack Armstrong. In 2008 his collection came under the care of the World and Traditional Music section of the British Library.

I’ve been working on Peter’s sizeable collection periodically since 2010, cataloguing thousands of audio tapes and photographs of traditional performers and uploading some of this material to Sounds. In fact, just this month an additional 500 photographs and 70 audio recordings from Peter’s collection have been added to the existing collection available online. 

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Bob Copper, John Copper, Ron Copper and Jim Cooper photographed by Peter Kennedy in Rottingdean, Sussex, 1950s [025I-MSMUS1771X1X-0201A0]

However, Peter’s paper files, comprising song texts, scores, contracts, draft manuscripts and a large amount of correspondence between himself and performers, collectors, institutions and enquirers, hadn’t been catalogued. This is the task that I’ve been undertaking since January. All of these papers will be uploaded to the Library’s catalogue in due course.

Amongst these papers I discovered 31 reports written by Peter for the BBC’s ‘Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme’, a project on which he was working during the 1950s. Across 180 typewritten pages, Peter describes his daily itinerary recording traditional performers around the UK and Ireland between 1952 and 1962. Full of anecdotes and insightful information about the musicians he recorded - including confirmation of when and where he recorded them - these documents reveal a great deal about Peter’s fieldwork during this period.

I decided to use these reports as the basis for a new website which brings these narratives together with all of the audio recordings and photographs from Peter’s collection that have been digitised so far: www.peterkennedyarchive.org.

These reports feature ‘hotspots’ placed over the names of the more than 650 musicians that Peter recorded during these trips. Clicking on the name of a performer reveals any sound recordings or photographs taken of them by Peter on that particular day that are available to view and listen to on Sounds. Additionally, links to entries in the British Library’s catalogue are provided for any related material that hasn’t yet been digitised, such as Peter’s tapes or BBC transcription discs.

What makes this website unique is the way it contextualises recordings and photographs of performers with Peter’s own notes about them. Whilst the British Library’s catalogue is useful as a search tool, it doesn’t reveal how a collection was formed and developed – and it doesn’t tell us very much about who created it. This new website gives us a better idea of what’s in this collection by refocusing attention on Peter as a recordist and reconstituting his material into a form that better resembles how he created it.

I hope www.peterkennedyarchive.org will prove useful to researchers and musicians alike and encourage more people to explore Peter’s collection at the British Library. As more of his field recordings are digitised and attached to the site, it should become an increasingly valuable resource

- Andrew Pace

Find out more about the work of the British Libary's Sound Archive and the new Save our Sounds programme online.

Follow the British Library Sound Archive @soundarchive and the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities @BL_WorldTrad on Twitter.

 

01 July 2015

The British Library at WOMAD

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The British Library is celebrating 30 years of collaboration with WOMAD.

British Library team member at WOMAD

The British Library’s relationship with WOMAD is nearly as long as the festival's existence. Since 1985, missing only 3 years, we have been present at WOMAD's major annual summer event in the UK. Each year a small team of staff from the Library has spent an enjoyable weekend making documentary recordings of as many of the performances as possible. We try to cover all the stages and often record artists several times as they deliver different performances, including workshops and interviews, over the weekend. The concentration in one place of so many diverse and talented musicians allows us to document musical traditions from around the world right here on our doorstep. And it's not just a case of keeping a record of each performance for listening at the archive, but also a way of documenting for the long term a significant event on the ‘world music’ scene.

The British Library now has recordings of a significant number of early UK appearances by artists who, since their appearance at WOMAD, have made great inroads on the international music scene; artists such as Baaba Maal (first recorded by the British Library at WOMAD in 1991), Thomas Mapfumo (1990) and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1985), to cite only a few.

Our first WOMAD recording (on 20 July 1985 at Mersea Island, near Colchester) was of the Chinese sheng and flute players, the Guo Brothers, who had recently arrived in London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and were just beginning to create a name for themselves in this country.

In total we hold over 2000 hours of music recorded at WOMAD, backed up digitally for preservation and onsite access.

WOMAD is the only music festival that has this incredible relationship with the British Library, and to celebrate we are collaborating to offer one lucky winner a pair of tickets to this year’s festival at Charlton Park (24th-26th July) and an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the British Library Sound Archive in London for four people. For more information click here.

Open air stage Dhol Foundation 2
Dhol Foundation recorded by British Library at WOMAD 2004

Find out more about the work of the British Libary's Sound Archive and our new Save our Sounds programme

Follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

Follow the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities on Twitter via @BL_WorldTrad

 

06 February 2015

Directory of UK Music Sound Collections

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Sound_types
The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections is one of the first steps in our Save our Sounds programme launched on 12th January 2015 as one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future.

The purpose of the directory project is to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a directory of sound collections in the UK. By telling us what you have, we can help plan for their preservation, for future generations.

Our aim is to be comprehensive; to search out sounds that exist in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, schools and colleges, charities, societies, businesses and in your homes.  And we’re not just interested in large collections: a single item might be just as important as a whole archive.

So far we have collected information about almost 200 collections amounting to roughly 250,000 items across a range of formats and subjects: oral history; wildlife, mechanical and environmental sounds; drama and literature; language and dialect; radio and popular, classical, jazz and world and traditional music.

A summary list of music collections includes:

  1. Mozart GLASS Collection: former Greater London Audio Specialisation Scheme (GLASS Collection retained by Westminster Music Library
  2. Some commercial music recordings included alongside collection of music scores and news cuttings relating to the life and career of Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
  3. A large collection of communist period vinyl records from Romania, and smaller collections from Bulgaria, Ex-Yugoslavia and Hungary
  4. Recordings made by many contributors of traditional song, music and drama; dialect speech; calendar customs; cultural traditions; children's games and songs (University of Sheffield Library)
  5. Sound recordings made by ethnomusicologist Jean Jenkins in Africa, India and the Middle East
  6. Recordings of songs by Plymouth artists (with paper transcripts) and photographs of Union Street Project, Plymouth
  7. The Erich Wolfgang Korngold Archive: Interviews, archival performances, acetates, 78rpm discs, broadcast tapes, private recordings, vinyl and CDs covering the life and work of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
  8. organ  and morning service recordings from St Andrew's, Plymouth
  9. gramophone records of Princess Elizabeth's visit to Plymouth, recorded by RGA Sound Services, 21 Cobourg St, Plymouth
  10. 2 troubadour and 10 trouvère songs sung by Francesco Carapezza; 13 troubadour songs in spoken performance by Gérard Gouiran,  from the University of Warwick
  11. Music on LP and some wax cylinders, from Brent Museum and Archives
  12. A comprehensive, primarily classical, recorded music collection from Exeter Library
  13. Scottish Music Centre: Recordings of music by Scottish composers and performers (and associated spoken-word material), mostly dating from late 1960s to present. Over 12,000 items of which over 11,000 catalogued online (as at January 2015)
  14. 3,000 commercial recordings from the 78rpm shellac era, including some rarities and radio transcriptions (Radio Luxemburg, ENSA, BBC), as well as unusual/rare labels of non-jazz content
  15. 12,000 UK 78rpm records, 1920-1945, concentrating on British Dance Bands & personalities of the period
  16. 100 shellac discs of early jazz recordings
  17. Evensong half hour, recorded at Hunstanton parish church and broadcast by the BBC on 19th August 1951
  18. Cassettes of church organ accompanied by a choir boy
  19. Private recordings made on open reel tape of classical music performances
  20. Recordings of Scottish, English, Irish and other folk musicians, made mostly in Edinburgh from the late 1960s to mid-1970s
  21. Recordings of the Broughton Tin Can Band and Winster Guisers
  22. Private folk music recordings made on open reel tape
  23. Music by Derbyshire musicians.

Although this is a good selection across the musical genres, we feel there are many, many more music collections out there.

The census is live now and will run until the end of March 2015.  You can read more about the project, and send us information about your collections here: www.bl.uk/projects/uk-sound-directory.

You can follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

13 November 2014

Calling all PhD students with a music-related topic!

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The British Library's Music Open Day for Doctoral Students will take place on 30 January 2015.

Starting your PhD? Our Doctoral Open Days are a chance to discover the British Library's unique collections. Meet our curators and network with researchers in your field

These Open Days allow students to learn about our collections of printed and manuscript music and sound recordings (including classical, pop, world and traditional music), to find out how to access them, and to meet our curatorial staff as well as other researchers in their field. In addition to an understanding of the Library’s collections, students gain a wider introduction to the information landscape in their field, and research opportunities opening up in the digital information environment.

This event is aimed at new PhD students, as well as Masters students who are planning to continue their research at doctoral level.  Numbers are limited and, as these events are very popular, we do encourage early booking. Places cost £5.00 and this includes lunch.

Book directly using this link or see our website for details of all events taking place at the British Library.   

The Institute of Musical Research will provide discretionary travel bursaries, up to £20, for students coming from outside London – further details will be provided nearer the time.

10 July 2014

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today...

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July 10th marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ third LP, A Hard Day’s Night. The LP was conceived as a soundtrack to the film of the same name, directed by Richard Lester, which had its UK premiere on July 6th and featured the first seven songs from the album in full.

The success of both the film and the album cemented the band’s status as a transatlantic, if not global, phenomenon. A Hard Day’s Night was the first Beatles LP to consist entirely of self-penned songs and many consider it (and the title track in particular) to mark the beginning of the band’s most productive and exciting period of creativity.

A hard day's night 7" single
The BL’s copy of the single is a rare pre-release demonstration copy.

July 10th 1964 also saw the release of the title track as a seven-inch single, with Things We Said Today appearing as the B-side. The song A Hard Day’s Night is famous both for its memorable opening chord and for its unusual title. The phrase ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was believed to have come from an exhausted Ringo Starr, following a long day of filming on March 19th 1964 whereas, in fact, John Lennon had previously used it in his book, John Lennon In His Own Write. Lennon is said to have regarded this as a coincidence, affectionately referring to Starr’s utterance as a ‘Ringoism’. The phrase became popular within the group and Lester adopted it as the title of his film in mid-April, thus sparking off a friendly competition between Lennon and Paul McCartney as to who could come up with the title song.

On this occasion it was Lennon who got there first. He wrote the song very quickly; scribbling the lyrics on the back of his son’s birthday card (Julian Lennon had turned one the previous week). This birthday card has been on loan to the British Library for some time and is on display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at The British Library. The fact that the lyrics were written on the back of a birthday card is significant, for it suggests that the words came to Lennon so quickly that he wrote them down on whatever happened to be close to hand.

A hard day's night birthday card
John Lennon’s lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night are handwritten on the back of this birthday card on display at the British Library.

For those who study them, handwritten first drafts of song lyrics or poems have a special quality, in that they appear to record for posterity the instances of those initial creative sparks. Moreover, it could be argued that the more ephemeral the item on which the lines have been written, the closer the item seems to be to that now long-gone moment of inspiration. When we study the handwritten lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night, it is easy to imagine Lennon scribbling them down so as not to forget them.

Visitors to the British Library will notice that Lennon made an important revision to this initial draft. On the morning of April 16th (the day the song was recorded), Maureen Cleave, Evening Standard journalist and friend of The Beatles, picked Lennon up in a taxi and took him to the Abbey Road studios. Cleave recalls suggesting that Lennon reconsider the line ‘I find my tiredness is through’. Lennon, borrowing Cleave’s pen, crossed out the line and wrote ‘I find the things that you do’ in its place.

As has been the case with so many Beatles songs, A Hard Day’s Night has spawned an astonishing range of cover versions including, famously, Peter Sellers’s version from 1965 in which the actor and comedian recites the lyrics while impersonating Lawrence Olivier’s performance of William Shakespeare’s Richard III.

A hard day's night LP
The album A Hard Day’s Night was the first Beatles album where all the songs were composed by Lennon and McCartney

A Hard Day’s Night was the third Beatles single to go straight to Number One in the charts one week after release and by July 23rd had sold 800,000 before going on to become the group’s fourth million-selling single in the UK. The album entered the album chart at Number One and sold 600,000 copies in Britain by the end of the year.

Andy Linehan & David Fitzpatrick

03 April 2014

Keeping Tracks - a one day symposium on music and archives in the digital age

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Since October 2013 the British Library has been engaged in a six-month project investigating ways in which we can work with the fast-moving digital music supply chain, improve its relationship with the music industry and to help develop a Library-wide transition to acquisition of digital materials as part of its long-term Content Strategy. As part of this work a one-day symposium took place.

Keeping Tracks Poster

Keeping Tracks was devised as an opportunity for the British Library to talk about its collections and how we collect, preserve, conserve and give access to them, be they a 100-year-old wax cylinder or a newly minted digital file. It was also a great chance to gather different sectors of the industry – tech, labels, metadata, and archives – in one room to talk about an area that usually gets overlooked in traditional music industry conferences.

In the early spring sunshine of Friday 21 March delegates gathered from all corners of the globe and descended into the Conference Centre auditorium to be greeted by Curator of Popular Music, Andy Linehan. Andy set the scene and offered some historical context about where the British Library’s archives of recorded material had come from and handed over to colleagues Adam Tovell and Alex Wilson to talk about where they are going.

Andy Linehan - Introduction

 

AV scoping analyst Adam Tovell proceeded to discuss the study he has been engaged with for the last 12 months. Tovell and his team have been counting, quantifying and assessing the collections, analysing international standards and devising schedules to define best practice in the long-term audio-visual preservation of the Library’s 1.5 million recordings – before it’s too late.  The recording of his fascinating address can be found below

Adam Tovell - On shelves and clouds

 

Alex Wilson - Download into the BL

 

From the preservation of acetate and shellac, CDR and cassette to the collecting of digital sound and music Alex Wilson, Curator of Digital Music Recordings soon took to the lectern amidst a riot of noise and national anthems. This cacophonic audio clip was designed to illustrate the uphill challenge the British Library faces in 2014. Online sound and music is everywhere. It is the Library’s job as guardians of the nation’s audio memory to make sense of this. Wilson proceeded to show the first stages of a new collaboration that will improve the way we collect born-digital music and highlight other projects being investigated. The Q&A included some interesting questions surrounding Legal Deposit for recorded music and concerns of metadata ownership. Views from the floor regretted that this valuable material was without the benefits of statutory archiving and preservation that other material enjoyed.

 

Beggars Group

Keeping Tracks then opened its doors to the working music industry during a perceptive Q&A with Lesley Bleakley of the Beggars Group and Rory Gibb of music magazine, The Quietus. With over twenty years of experience in the music industry and representing a record label that is regarded as a leading light in digital delivery and archiving, Lesley Bleakley was perfectly placed to offer a fascinating insight. Moreover, she touched on the burgeoning relationship between Beggars and British Library Sound and Vision itself; the last year for instance has witnessed a mutual sharing of advice and guidance and music culminating in the delivery of the entire Beggars digital back catalogue in early 2014.

Lesley Bleakley and Rory Gibb - Beggars Archive

 

Post-lunch the discussion became truly international in scope as we invited representatives from peer organisation the National Library of Norway to take the stage. Whilst Norway shares many of the same archiving principles with British Library Sound and Vision it is differentiated in one crucial respect. Norway’s legalisation declares that all music recordings must be legally deposited at its National Library. Lars Gaustad and Trond Valberg discussed this and showed the auditorium their innovative new donation portal allowing users to deposit recordings online.

Trond Valberg and Lars Gaustad - Norway

 

Keeping Tracks then hosted a dynamic presentation from another peer institution. Creative Director at BBC Future Media, Sacha Sedriks shared his understanding of the guiding principles around music and metadata, the semantic web and the ecosystem that underlies their nascent BBC Playlister service. Through absorbing statistics and images Sedriks shone light on a pioneering new platform that only hints at how the truly immersive and interactive BBC Radio and Television offering of tomorrow will look like. 

Sacha Sedriks - BBC Playlister



Metadata underpins much of what we do here at British Library Sound and Vision and was a recurrent theme across the Keeping Tracks day. Hence it seemed only right to ask a leading music metadata supplier to the stand. Decibel Music Systems served up a talk in three parts: metadata from a market, data and technical perspective. Metadata is the glue that binds many systems together across the industry. As a result the Decibel presentation was followed by a lively and passionate Q&A which showed how important data is to making things (and people) click.

Decibel Music Systems - Dataphile

 

Whilst refreshments were guzzled, the auditorium was being tuned to a trans-Atlantic frequency. For the most ambitious strand of the Keeping Tracks we had invited UK based Music Tech Fest to share their keynote panel live via Skype from Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge, MA, USA. The subject: developers, APIs and the music archive. Watched through the Skype-fuzz an energetic session ensued, moderated by Music Tech Fest head Andrew Dubber in the States and former Soundcloud man Dave Haynes here in the UK. Particular note should go to Microsoft researcher Jonathan Sterne who delivered an impassioned reflection on the nature of archiving and the internet which drew a round of applause in the London space.

Posterity Hacking

Music Tech Fest - Posterity Hacking

 

Lost Records

The end was nearly upon us. The final official session of Keeping Tracks was a panel chaired by Jennifer Lucy Allan of the WIRE magazine, stimulating discussion amongst a trio of label owners who specialise in lost music, records and reissues. Jonny Trunk (Trunk Records), Roger Armstrong (Ace Records) and Spencer Hickman (Death Waltz Recordings) proceeded to entertain the delegates with an informal, humorous, inspiring and sobering account in the wonderful art of releasing beautiful old music. Anecdotes, asides, controversies and reflections filled the hour and one suspects we could have talked well into the night.

Panel Discussion - Archives and music

Before the close of the day we invited respected author, journalist and Goldsmiths lecturer Mark Fisher to deliver his own personal take on what had gone before. Whilst it may have polarised some of the audience, Fisher’s lucid account of the 2014 digital space, music, memory, innovation and consumption sounded a stark clarion call to ring us toward the close.

Mark Fisher - Closing Words

 

The British Library would like to thank all those who presented, spoke, attended and asked questions at this inaugural Keeping Tracks symposium. We have been delighted with the feedback so far and would welcome any further suggestions, recommendations and donations for the future. If nothing else Keeping Tracks felt like a genuinely unique event (up) lifting the lid on a usually ignored, diverse set of issues and investigations about music and archiving in the 21st century. Long may these discussions continue...

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All full presentations streaming here

All presentation slides displayed here

A follow up interview by Digital Music Trends is here