Music blog

5 posts from September 2012

28 September 2012

British Library Journal: 38 music articles now available online

The British Library Journal began its life in 1975, shortly after the establishment of the British Library, to continue the tradition of the British Museum Quarterly. Since 2002 the British Library Journal has been published exclusively online, with PDF downloads of articles freely available at It is a pleasure to report that scanned files of the 25 volumes of the printed journal have now been added to the website.

Music has always featured prominently in the journal, and this post provides a list of all the music-related articles that have appeared over the last 37 years. Design for a revolving reading deskThey range from discussions of medieval music theory to Adorno, from core collections including the Handel manuscripts in the Royal Music Library to more obscure names such as the organist John Watts. Contributors include several of the leading musicologists of today, and several articles by present or former members of staff.

The eBLJ continues to welcome scholarly research into the contents and history of the British Library and its collections. All articles are peer-reviewed, and the editor, Dr Barry Taylor, welcomes submissions: see

A collection of German religious songs of the mid-sixteenth century
David Paisey
Some occasional aspects of Johann Hermann Schein
David Paisey
Notes: An unknown Mendelssohn autograph
Oliver Neighbour

The Ayrton Papers: music in London, 1786-1858
Pamela Willetts
Vignettes in early nineteenth-century London editions of Mozart's operas
Alec Hyatt King
Paul Hirsch and his music library
Alec Hyatt King

The library of the Royal Philharmonic Society
Alec Hyatt King
The Elgar sketch-books
Pamela Willetts
Alban Berg and the BBC
Nick Chadwick
The Curzon collection
Oliver Neighbour
Julian Marshall and the British Museum: music collecting in the later nineteenth century
Arthur Searle

Recent acquisitions: Department of Printed Books: notable acquisitions 1964-1985: music library
Oliver Neighbour
A friend of the Clementis
C. J. Wright

Thomas Tudway and the Harleian Collection of 'Ancient' church music
William Weber

Recent acquisitions: music: a monument of the ancient music
Graham Pont

Working with Vaughan Williams: some newly discovered manuscripts
Roy Douglas

The 'Tregian' manuscripts: a study of their compilation
Ruby Reid Thompson

Alec Hyatt King (1911-1995)
P. R. Harris and O. W. Neighbour

A new English keyboard manuscript of the seventeenth century: autograph music by Draghi and Purcell
Christopher Hogwood

An early eighteenth-century manuscript of harpsichord music: William Babell and Handel's 'Vo' far guerra'
Graham Pont

A book of cantatas and arias bought in Florence, 1723
Reinhard Strohm

'The art of dancing, demonstrated by characters and figures': French and English sources for court and theatre dance, 1700-1750
Moira Goff

John Field: the 'hidden manuscripts' and other sources in the British Library
Robin Langley

From Purcell to Wardour Street: a brief account of music manuscripts from the Library of Vincent Novello now in the British Library
Chris Banks

Mátyás Seiber's collaboration in Adorno's jazz project, 1936
Nick Chadwick

Music Library: notable acquisitions 1985-1994
Malcolm Turner

The dating of Seiber/Adorno papers held by the British Library
Evelyn Wilcock

The Tyson Collection
Oliver Neighbour

A Late Renaissance Music Manuscript Unmasked
Richard Charteris

Who was Mozart's Laura? Abendempfindung and the Editors
David Paisey

A Wesleyan Musical Legacy
Graham Pont

Guy of Saint-Denis and the Compilation of Texts about Music in London, British Library, Harl. MS. 281
Constant J. Mews, Catherine Jeffreys, Leigh McKinnon, Carol Williams, and John N. Crossley

The Royal Music Library and its Handel Collection
Donald Burrows

The First British Performances of Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony: The Philharmonic Society and Sir George Smart
Arthur Searle


1793: A Song of the Natives of New South Wales
Keith Vincent Smith



Cornelius Cardew’s Music for Moving Images: Some Preliminary Observations

Clemens Gresser


A Place for Music: John Nash, Regent Street and the Philharmonic Society of London

Leanne Langley



A Donizetti Manuscript in the Zweig Collection

Christopher Scobie

27 September 2012

Delius Weekend at the British Library

The following is a guest post by Megan Russ.

The British Library recently contributed to the 150th anniversary celebrations of the birth of the composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934) by hosting Delius in 2012: an International Celebration. The Delius Society assembled an illustrious panel of speakers, which included leading scholars from around the world. The weekend also saw recitals by winners of the 2011 Delius Prize and the winner of the inaugural Frederick Delius International Composition Prize. Delius panel discussion

A theme of the weekend was the promotion of a composer who is unduly neglected in the contemporary classical music world. Part of the reason for this, the speakers reiterated, was that Delius defies every convention and label. Born in Bradford of German parents, he lived in Florida (USA) and spent most of his adult life in France. He is usually labelled a British composer though his music was rarely performed here during his lifetime. Delius’s unique compositional voice was also praised. Paul Guinery (Pianist and Broadcaster) and Digby Fairweather (Jazz Trumpeter and Composer) highlighted the many jazz elements which Delius foreshadowed in his music. Jeremy Dibble (Durham University) further emphasised Delius’s rich and unusual harmonic treatments in ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’. Nora Sirbaugh (College of New Jersey, USA) considered Delius’s nuanced treatment of texts, particularly in translations of his songs.

Song before Sunrise

Other contributors spoke about the state of Delius research and his music in the UK and abroad. Richard Chesser (British Library) gave an illuminating talk on the Delius manuscripts in the BL and uncovered several areas for further research. Lionel Carley (The Delius Society) reported a wealth of events happening during this anniversary year and Jérôme Rossi (University of Nantes) gave a report on Delius in France today.

The conference was enriched by a wealth of musical content. Two excellent recitals were presented.Natalie Hyde, Robert Markham, and Dominika Fehér Dominika Fehér (violin), Natalie Hyde (soprano) and Robert Markham (pianist) gave an all-Delius programme which, by a turn of luck, included many pieces that had been spoken about earlier in the day. Michael Djupstrom’s prize-winning new work ‘Walimai’ (2011) was greeted with enthusiasm. He and Ayane Kozasa (viola) also included a delightful performance of Delius’ Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (adapted for the viola by Lionel Tertis, 1932). Bo Holten (Composer and Conductor), a renowned Delius interpreter, gave a welcome practical view of Delius interpretation for modern performers, including many examples from classic and contemporary recordings—the conductors remaining anonymous.

Ayane Kozasa and Michael Djupstrom

The weekend was rounded off with a screening on Sunday afternoon of John Bridcut’s recent BBC film, Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma. The conference was by all accounts a success and everyone clearly enjoyed spending an entire weekend talking about nothing but Delius!

Sketch for On hearing the first cuckoo in spring

26 September 2012

Music lending collection re-opens

Earlier this month the British Library’s music lending collection at Boston Spa re-opened, after a 2-year closure due to a major programme of asbestos removal and management.  The collection is an important resource for music librarians in public, academic and other kinds of libraries as well as independent BL Boston Sparesearchers.  Its main strengths include collected editions, scholarly series and facsimile reprints (rarely available for loan from any other source) but also scores by contemporary composers and  new performing editions of older chamber, instrumental and vocal music, as well as a large collection of popular songs in both piano/vocal/guitar and guitar tab editions.   

For enquiries please use the following contact details:

Customer Services        [email protected]        (tel. 01937 546060)

Catalogue data             [email protected]

Selection                      [email protected]           


21 September 2012

SHO-ZYG at Goldsmiths

Today sees the launch of a week-long exhibition and events programme of experimental sound installations at Goldsmiths, University of London. The exhibition takes its inspiration from some of the invented instruments of Hugh Davies, who established the Electronic Music Studio at Goldsmiths College in 1967 as the first facility of its kind at any British institution.

Hugh Davies died in 2005, and much of his archive is now held at the British Library: his correspondence and research papers chart the history of electronic music from its birth, while his own compositions are now comprehensively listed on our Sound and Moving Image Catalogue. Some of his invented instruments are on display at the Science Museum, and this exhibition allows us to see several more.

Shozyg I (1969)
Hugh Davies: Shozyg I (1969)
Hugh Davies's most famous instrument, the Shozyg, was first made from the dismembered binding of the final volume of an old encyclopedia, covering entries for SHO-ZYG. Later Shozygs used the remains of different books, and the creation on display in the exhibition was a special version originally included in an edition of the French poet Henri Chopin's OU Magazine.

The Shozyg uses a combination of household objects and electronic pickups to create a wide range of extraordinary sounds. The display includes a film of Hugh Davies in 1991, from which this excerpt is taken, culminating in a virtuosic performance on a cheese-slicer:

Hugh Davies occupies only one room of the SHO-ZYG exhibition, which seeks to explore the rich tapestry of sound practice at Goldsmiths, both past and present, with selected works from over 50 artists from the 1950s to the present day. A varied programme of related events accompanies the exhibition, which runs until 27 September at the newly-renovated gallery in St James's Hatcham Church, New Cross, London SE14 6AD.


10 September 2012

Milton, Dancing and the ‘Passion of Love’

The following is a guest post by Moira Goff, Curator of Printed Historical Sources (1501-1800).

Habit of ComusResearch can lead in curious directions, for example from the repertoire of a once-famous dancer in eighteenth-century London, to a masque by a great English poet and a score by a now underrated English composer. The Library’s music collections, as well as its early printed materials, proved a treasure trove for one particular line of enquiry.

On 4th March 1738, the new production at the Drury Lane Theatre was Comus, described as ‘Never Acted before. Alter’d from Milton’s Masque perform’d (upwards of a Hundred Years since) at Ludlow-Castle, and now adapted to the Stage’. The antiquarian details in the advertisement were accurate, for Milton’s Maske with its central character Comus had received its sole performance at Ludlow Castle in 1634 and been first published in 1637. The new adaptation of Comus was such a success that it continued to be The Dances in Comusplayed in London’s theatres throughout the eighteenth century. This was due as much to the new score by Thomas Arne as to the additional entertainments provided by singers John Beard, Kitty Clive and Cecilia Arne and the dancer George Desnoyer (who was probably also the choreographer) alongside other dancers from the Drury Lane company. The Library holds not only copies of the text of the new adaptation published in 1738 and The Musick in the Masque of Comus published around 1740, but also a late eighteenth-century manuscript score.

Dancing was as much a feature of entertainments on the eighteenth-century stage as it had been of the court masques of the early seventeenth century. The importance of dancing in the new version of Comus is shown by the regular mention of dances and dancers in newspaper advertisements. Although there had been dances in the original Maske, those provided for the 1738 production were quite different. They come in act 3, when the virtuous Lady (the heroine of the piece) has been immobilised by the magic of Comus and he tries to seduce her. With a wave of his wand Comus summons Naiads who ‘dance a slow Dance … expressive of the Passion of Love’. Later Euphrosyne calls for Fauns and Dryads who enter ‘And in various Measures shew Love’s various Sport’ in a tambourin (a lively dance). Later advertisements suggest that there were as many as twelve dancers, six men and six women, led by Desnoyer and his new dancing partner Mlle Chateauneuf.

The TambourineWhere seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dance tunes are concerned, it is always difficult to reconcile scores and libretti. Were there more dances than those included in the printed and manuscript scores for Comus? The Library’s rich collections of music and early printed materials provide plenty of opportunities to investigate.