Music blog

2 posts from February 2018

15 February 2018

PhD research placement opportunity! - Exploring music archives of 20th-century British composers

Are you a PhD student with an interest in contemporary British music? Would you like experience of working behind the scenes at the British Library? If so, then make sure to apply for this opportunity in the Library’s PhD research placement scheme. The deadline for applications is Monday 19 February, 4pm - so fast approaching!


You will join a small team of curators in the British Library’s Music department with responsibility for the collections of music manuscripts (ca. 100,000 items) and printed music (ca. 1.6 million items). Our work is primarily concerned with developing, conserving, and promoting access to these collections for the benefit of music scholars and the wider public.

The placement will involve helping us to improve access to our holdings of 20th-century British composer/musician archives through input into one particular uncatalogued collection, the content of which could range from notated scores and sketch material through to correspondence and other personal papers. The specific focus is open to discussion between the student and placement supervisor, depending on experience.

More information about the placement scheme and how to apply can be found here.


Note on Funding

The British Library PhD research placement scheme has been developed in consultation with UK Research Funders, universities and Doctoral Training Partnerships.

The research placements offered through the scheme are opportunities for current PhD students to apply and enhance research skills and expertise outside of Higher Education as part of their wider research training and professional development. They are training and development opportunities to be undertaken within this specific context – and are therefore different to the paid internships or other fixed-term posts that the Library may occasionally make available. See the Application Guidelines for further details and background.

Please note that – unlike for an internship or a fixed-term post – the British Library is unable to provide stipends or payment to PhD placement students. It is therefore essential that applicants to the placement scheme obtain the support of their PhD supervisor and Graduate Tutor (or someone in an equivalent senior academic management role) in advance and that, as part of their process, they consult their HEI to ascertain what funding is available to support them.

After the interview stage, students who have been offered a placement and are not able to cover the costs through funding from their university or other sources may apply to the Library’s PhD Placement Travel Fund to request help to cover day-to-day commuting expenses or one-off relocation travel costs only. Please note that this Fund is limited and the success of an application to it cannot be guaranteed.

To support self-funded and part-time students, most placements can be done on a part-time basis, with some remote working also sometimes possible – see the individual projects for details.

Any questions?

Contact [email protected] for all queries or to be added to our placement scheme mailing list.

01 February 2018

A 'new' Tippett symphony

Some music manuscripts in the British Library collections have made an important contribution to tonight's concert by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at City Halls in Glasgow (also broadcast live on BBC Radio 3). On the programme is the first performance in over 80 years of Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat. The piece was withdrawn by the composer and never published, but a new edition has been prepared (with the permission of the Tippett estate) from the only surviving sources here at the British Library – one recently catalogued score in Tippett’s own hand (MS Mus. 1757/2) and one prepared by a copyist in 1934 (Add MS 72010).

Tippett symphony

Title and dedication for Michael Tippett's unpublished Symphony in B-Flat. British Library, MS Mus. 1757/2


Tippett composed the symphony in 1933 shortly after studies with R.O. Morris and commentators have previously noted the strong influence of Sibelius in the structure and style of the piece. The composition also coincided with the Tippett’s work at Morley College, leading a course for unemployed professional musicians - some former ‘pit’ players from theatres and cinemas that no longer needed them. The orchestra formed from that course - the South London Orchestra - performed the symphony with Tippett conducting in 1934, after which it was revised. Ultimately Tippett became unhappy with it, considering it immature in comparison to his rapidly developing style. As a result the symphony was rejected and his next piece in that genre, completed in 1945, is the one he labelled his ‘no. 1’.

The autograph manuscript for this Symphony in B-flat was purchased by the British Library from the Michael Tippett Foundation in 2004 and joins a large collection of manuscripts relating to the composer here. The contents of these are listed in our online catalogue, but the links below will allow you to browse volume by volume.


Tippett collection part I (Add MS 61748-61804). 57 volumes, purchased 1980

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1934-1977

Tippett collection part II (Add MS 63820-63840). 21 volumes, purchased 1986

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1977-1983

Tippett collection part III (Add MS 71099-71103). 5 volumes, purchased 1992

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1988-1991

Tippett collection part IV (Add MS 72001-72065). 65 volumes, purchased 1994

Manuscripts and notebooks of Sir Michael Tippett, covering ca. 1923-1994

Tippett collection part V (Add MS 72066-72071). 6 volumes, purchased 1994

Early works, supplementing the collection above

MS Mus. 289-292. 4 volumes

Music manuscripts and correspondence of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1939-[1990]

MS Mus. 1757. 6 volumes

Misc. manuscript material