Music blog

2 posts from March 2016

22 March 2016

Handel's Messiah

An illustrated talk by John Butt, Musical Director of the Dunedin Consort, British Library, Saturday 14 May

Handel’s Messiah is one of the most familiar works in the choral repertory, a moving and varied celebration of Christ’s divinity using texts specially selected from the Bible. Yet its huge popularity doesn’t automatically mean that we know it as well as we think we do. Following its premiere in Dublin in 1742, Handel himself performed the piece many times in London in the 1740s and ’50s, and on each occasion made extensions, cuts and voice reassignments to suit the performing circumstances on hand, with the result that most Messiah performances we hear today are composites mixing and matching those various different versions.


Handel’s original score for the Dublin premiere of Messiah is held by the British Library, and the morning after conducting the Dunedin Consort in a performance of it at St John’s Smith Square as the opening concert of the 2016 London Festival of Baroque Music, Professor John Butt comes to the Library to give a talk on the significance of original texts, and what Handel’s manuscripts have to tell us about his oratorios. The talk – which takes place in the Foyle Suite on Saturday 14 May at 11.00am – will include a chance to view Handel scores and performance material from the British Library's collection. Tickets cost £15 and are available from the St John’s Smith Square box office.

This event forms part of the 2016 London Festival of Baroque Music, with its theme of ‘The Word’ exploring the intimate relationship between music and language. Running from 13-19 May, the Festival will also include a performance in Westminster Abbey of Handel’s other scriptural oratorio, Israel in Egypt, a staging of Monteverdi’s mini-drama Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, 17th-century Hebrew psalm-settings, song recitals by Iestyn Davies, Roberta Invernizzi and Olivia Chaney, and instrumental programmes by harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and cornettist Bruce Dickey.

For more details of Festival concerts, visit



07 March 2016

Once upon a time in Bengal....

TuT- Invitation Card (4)

On the 7th March 2016 ‘Time upon Time’, an exhibition of field recordings from Bengal curated by The Travelling Archive, opens at the Nandan Gallery in  Santiniketan. The exhibition focuses on the work of the ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake (British Library collection C52), and includes materials from the archives of the British Library, alongside materials from the University of Leiden, ARCE, Rabindra Bhavan, Visva Bharati and the private collections and field recordings of The Travelling Archive. 

Moushumi Bhowmik describes the exhibition in this guest blog:

In the early twentieth century, a time when the discipline of ethnomusicology was still in its infancy, Arnold Bake (1899-1963) was among the first of the researcher-collectors who found their way to South Asia. Trained in Sanskrit and Indology at the Dutch universities of Leiden and Utrecht, Bake took up residency at Santiniketan in 1925 in order to study Damodar Misra’sSangitadarpana for his doctoral research. In addition, his love for folk music led him to making recordings of the folk music of Bengal, of which the baul and kirtan traditions in particular appealed to him. Furthermore, Bake worked closely with Rabindranath Tagore, in an attempt to study, collect, preserve, and distribute his songs and poetry. Between 1925 and 1956, Bake lived for extended periods of time in the Indian sub-continent, the first decade mostly in and around Bengal; he also travelled widely and made extensive recordings of music and dance from across many other parts India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Bake’s work very much constitutes the creation of an archive. The Travelling Archive, a project created by singer and writer Moushumi Bhowmik and sound recordist Sukanta Majumdar involving field recording in Bengal and its dissemination, first encountered Arnold Bake’s recordings in the archives of the British Library in 2003, and have remained connected to his work ever since. ‘Time upon Time’, an exhibition of field recordings from Bengal, explores the nature and depth of this connection. There are large overlaps between Arnold Bake and The Travelling Archive’s areas of work, both from a topographical and an archival perspective. This exhibition is an attempt to unravel the threads of archival material to demonstrate how past, present and future are intertwined.

The exhibition also draws attention to the future of archiving by commenting on the very concept of the archive. With support of the IFA through their Archival and Museum Fellowship, and a Scaliger Fellowship from Leiden University, the exhibition explores resources from several archives within India and abroad, including British Library, ARCE-AIIS, SOAS and Rabindra Bhavan. In so doing, the exhibition strives to layer archive upon archive as a way to examine the way archives are constructed. Furthermore, by employing the language of art, this exhibition is also a venture into some of the ways in which archival material can be used and interpreted. Finally, this exhibition is not only about Arnold Bake but also about the time in which he lived, people who surrounded him, their sounds, and silences, too. It is also about this present time when we are trying to listen to him and, in him, listen to the ‘future of our past’.

Thus, ‘Time upon Time’ is meant to be an interactive experience of a work in progress. The Travelling Archive is interested in studying sound and image as historical material. Seeing and listening can trigger memory and thus lead to the further unravelling of history. Therefore, visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to contribute their own memories and experiences to The Travelling Archive. Words, voices, sounds, images, and other contributions will be recorded on site by The Travelling Archive in their ‘studio’ set up within the space of the exhibition.

7-15 March 2016. Nandan gallery, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan. (Closed on Wednesday and Thursday)

The event opens with a presentation by Tagore singer Chitralekha Chowwhdury, recorded by Arnold Bake in 1956.

 Bake recording of Chitra Choudhury's Tagore song

Recording reference: C52/NEP/70

For further information please visit: www.travelling