Music blog

87 posts categorized "Music"

06 October 2021

Lithography and the satirical song sheet

Alongside the religious and art music published during the 19th century, there was a substantial market for printed popular songs. The music of the London theatres and pleasure gardens had cultivated a steady demand for engraved song sheets throughout the 18th century, but the invention of lithography by Alois Senefelder (c.1797) injected a new graphic vitality into the genre. In a flurry of editorial experimentation brought about by lithography, printers played with the combination of music and image through the production of satirical song sheets. These were typically musical scores which featured a title page image as well as humorous caricatures that surrounded the notation adding a visual accompaniment to the musical narrative.

Title page of Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses' A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses  A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses' A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses'

Figures 1-4: Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses’. British Library H.1652.bb.(1.)

Lithography offered a number of benefits over the engraving and etching that dominated music printing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead of engraving images onto metal plates with punches and burins, artists could use familiar materials such as crayons and pencils. It was even possible for the artist to work directly onto paper (with a special greasy ink) and for the printer to then transfer the image onto the absorbent stone used for making impressions. Drawing on a stone could be done ‘in the same way as one would execute a drawing on paper with ink or common chalk.’[1] This made it easier to reproduce maps, topographical plans, landscape drawings, portraits, and other works and, as Senefelder put it, ‘it has been generally observed that drawings of the less excellent artists, appear to greater advantage on stone, than on copper.’[2]

The precision of etching and engraving meant that it remained the dominant method for printing music in the 19th century, but the graphic flexibility and accessibility of lithography encouraged non-musical printers to experiment with music notation. Printers who specialised in graphic prints, keen to show off the capabilities of the new technology, jumped at the chance to apply lithographic techniques to printed music. One such publisher was William Hawkes Smith (1786-1840) of Birmingham. Smith was primarily an author and draughtsman who notably produced a set of illustrations for Robert Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer.[3] In 1821 he published QUADRILLING; A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘REJECTED ADDRESSES.’ [Figures 1-4] The edition was designed to show off Smith’s lithographic skills as the title page boasts, ‘Decorations designed and executed by WILLIAM HAWKES SMITH,’ and explicitly advertises the work as ‘printed by the Lithographic process.’

The song satirises the quadrille, a popular contemporary square dance for four couples. The title page features images of four respectable-looking couples standing in formation preparing to dance, setting up for the cacophony of humorous imagery on the following pages. The score contains just three lines of music overwhelmed by images that visualise the musical comedy: surrounding the stave and song text are depictions of different social classes attempting the dance.  Courtiers and citizens dance together, a man is pickpocketed as he falls over, Terpsichore (Greek muse) dances amongst men holding her lyre, and baronets, moneylenders, brokers, lawyers, and scullery maids are all made fun of in the commotion.

Although the combined novelty of a song sheet and a satirical cartoon must have impressed contemporary print- and music-buying audiences, this edition reveals a technology in its infancy. The smudging, inconsistent thickness of the text and the almost illegible publisher information at the foot of the title page [Figure 1] suggest that Smith had not yet mastered the new printing technique. Teething issues like these slowed down the uptake of lithography in the early 19th century, but technical treatises were published outlining solutions to the problems faced by those new to lithography.

Raucourt's A Manual of Lithography (1832) addressed some of the issues Smith faced. It explained in some detail what the printer should do if ‘the impressions are pale’, ‘The impressions are uneven’, ‘A part of the impression is wanting’ with over 100 other pieces of advice on mixing ink, cleaning and polishing the stones, etching drawings, imitating woodblocks etc. To fix the uneven impressions in this edition (most noticeable on the third line of notation (figure 2 and at the top of figure 3), for example, Smith would have had to ‘Increase the pressure of the scraper until it [took] up all the ink.’

Part of the image is missing at the top of the second page [Figure 3]. The manual suggested that this meant 'The stone, or the scraper, is not level: if this accident proceeds from the stone, some paper must be pasted on the leather of the box.' A later copy of Quadrilling (held at the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection) suggests that these problems persisted throughout the process with faded and incomplete sections appearing in different parts of the score as the publisher worked to correct the mistakes. In the later copy Smith has also omitted the illegible text from the title page of the previous edition.

Manuals like this one helped to improve the quality of lithography in Britain and by the mid-1820s Smith seems to have perfected the process. In 1825, Smith published Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather [Figures 5-8]. The song was a popular ballad that made fun of a wife’s temperament on washing days. Clearly more confident in his abilities Smith was now trading as ‘the Lithographic Press.’ The title page of Washing Day attests to his technical improvement: the precise lines and contrasting textures of the text and image show a fluency not apparent in the comparatively clumsy printing of Quadrilling.

Title page of W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather

A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather

Figures 5-8: W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather. British Library H.1652.n.(21.).

Inside the score, we also see a printer more confident in his experiments. Rather than the images following the stave, the music physically bends around Smith’s cartoons and the lines of the stave become part of the graphic comedy. The notation yields to the windy weather depicted on the title page as it is literally blown out of shape by cherubs (top right of figure 6) and as the husband is told ‘with a frowning look, To get out of [his wife’s] way,’ the staves also move to avoid her. Women were often satirised in 19th-century popular songs and here the visual and musical comedy combine to reinforce the sharply defined gender roles of Victorian society.

The printed music collections at the British Library are particularly rich in this kind of visual material but satirical song sheets are currently difficult to find. They are usually catalogued as ordinary song sheets (with the first line of the song used for the catalogue title) and the graphic elements of the scores are seldom included in catalogue record. Satirical song sheets have thus received little scholarly attention, but each of these editions provides a unique insight into the creative responses of publishers to new printing technologies and help us to understand the interplay between the print and music trades during the 19th-century.

References

[1] Colonel Raucourt, A manual of lithography, or memoir on the lithographical experiments made in Paris, at the Royal School of the Roads and Bridges ... Translated from the French, by C. Hullmandel., ed. Charles Joseph Hullmandel, Third edition corrected. ed. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman, 1832), 86-7.

[2] Johann Nepomuk Franz Aloys Senefelder, A complete course of lithography ... accompanied by illustrative specimens of drawings. To which is prefixed a History of Lithography ... With a preface by F. von Schlichtegroll. Translated from the German by A. S[chlichtegroll] (London : Printed for R. Ackermann, 1819. (W. Clowes [printer]). 1819).

[3] Robert Southey, Essays in design drawn and etched by W. H. Smith, ... illustrative of the poem of Thalaba the Destroyer, by R. Southey, ed. William Hawkes Smith (Birmingham, 1818).

Dominic Bridge, Collaborative PhD student, University of Liverpool and British Library

01 September 2021

Digitised music manuscripts update

Following our recent blog post about newly digitised material from the Royal Music Library, we thought it might be useful to provide an updated list of all the digitised music manuscripts now available online, which you can download via this link: Download British-library-digitised-music-manuscripts-online September 2021

Over the years we have digitised high-profile treasures such as music manuscripts from the Stefan Zweig collection, 97 volumes of Handel autographs, and many by other famous names such as Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. There are also many other early sources for instrumental and vocal music to explore, digitised either as part of research projects or for preservation purposes. These include some key 16th- and 17th-century sources of keyboard music, such as the Mulliner book (Add MS 30513), the ‘Cosyn’ (R.M.23.l.4) and ‘Forster’ (R.M.24.d.3) virginal books, as well as that of Elizabeth Rogers (Add MS 10337). 

Table of contents from the virginal book of Elizabeth Rogers
The table of contents from the virginal book of Elizabeth Rogers, dated February 27 1656. British Library, Add MS 10337, f. 1v.

The most recent images to have be published on Digitised Manuscripts include a number of vocal partbooks that formed part of the Tudor Partbooks project. These six sets of partbooks (Royal Appendix MS 12-16; Royal Appendix MS 17-22; Royal Appendix MS 23-25; Royal Appendix MS 26-30; Royal Appendix MS 31-35; and Royal Appendix MS 49-54) join other partbooks of a similar period, such as those known by the names of previous owners: ‘Hamond’ (Add MS 30480-4), ‘Gyffard’ (Add MS 17802-5) and ‘Lumley’ (Royal Appendix MS 74-76). Images and more detailed information about these can also be found on the DIAMM website (Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music) website.

The last owner’s name mentioned above, John (Lord) Lumley (c. 1533-1609), also owned the six sets of partbooks now available online, as we can see from the ownership marks inside.

Ownership mark of Lord Lumley
The ownership mark of Lord Lumley in Royal Appendix MS 13, f. iv-r

Lumley is perhaps now best known for his immense collection of books, the largest private library in England at the time. A lot of it came from the collection formed by his father-in-law, Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel. The Earl of Arundel was a prominent Catholic figure in England through much of the Tudor age, having held influential positions at the courts of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and, for a time, Elizabeth I. His collection contained some notable music manuscripts and publications, including works dedicated to him and pieces collected on his travels around mainland Europe. Accounts also survive of music making at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey, which had been sold to the Earl of Arundel by Mary I. Lavish court entertainments are the most vividly described events, but the Palace’s chapel will have been the site of more regular music making, perhaps using the partbooks described above.

A page from the cantus part of ‘Christus factus est’ from a set of partbooks associated with the Flemish composer Derick Gerarde
Cantus part of ‘Christus factus est’ from a set of partbooks associated with the Flemish composer Derick Gerarde. Royal Appendix MS 31, f. 1r

Some of these sets of partbooks are especially interesting because they preserve repertoire from a particularly turbulent period of religious change. Royal Appendix MS 12-16, for example, contain polyphonic liturgical music from pre-Reformation England, while Royal Appendix MS 74-76 (the ‘Lumley’ partbooks) are among the earliest sources for church music of the Reformation itself. For various reasons – be it deliberate destruction or perceived obsolescence – relatively few comparable examples survive. The ‘Lumley’ partbooks show us one reason why some things may have been kept even after their original use became superseded: at some point the books of sacred music were repurposed as instrumental parts for secular pieces.

Instrumental parts for an ‘Allemand d’amour’, at the back of a triplex part book.
Instrumental parts for an ‘Allemand d’amour’, at the back of a triplex part book. Royal Appendix MS 74, f. 44r.

After Lord Lumley’s death in 1609 his collection entered the Royal library (see http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/TourRoyalStuart.asp for more information), which eventually became part of the British Museum’s collections when it was presented to the nation by George II in 1757. It is perhaps worth pointing out that, slightly confusingly, this Royal library is a separate one to the Royal Music Library that was given to the British Museum in 1957, having been on loan for several decades before that (see https://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/royal-music-library for more information).

Of the other digitised material to have been recently published, there are also various treatises including some of those from the collection of John Hawkins (Add MS 4920; Add MS 4922); more sources of 16th- and 17th-century music – including keyboard pieces by Frescobaldi (Add MS 40080), tunes and dances arranged for lute (Egerton MS 2046); violin and bass music by William Lawes (Add MS 17798) and, continuing the royal theme, a book of instrumental fantasias by Giovanni Coperario/John Cooper, music master to the children of James I (Add MS 23779). 

References:

Charles W. Warren: ‘The Music of Royal Appendix 12-16’, Music & Letters, vol. 51, no. 4 (October 1970), pp. 357-372.

Charles W. Warren: ‘Music at Nonesuch’, The Musical Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 1 (January 1968), pp. 47-57.

Judith Blezzard: ‘The Lumley Books: A Collection of Tudor Church Music’, The Musical Times, vol.112, no. 1536 (February 1971), pp. 128-130.

John Milsom: ‘The Nonsuch Music Library’ in Sundry Sorts of Music Books: Essays on the British Library Collections Presented to O. W. Neighbour on his 70th Birthday, edited by Chris Banks, Arthur Searle, and Malcolm Turner (London: The British Library, 1993), pp. 146-82. 

Chris Scobie, Lead Curator, Music Manuscripts

25 August 2021

Important information for email subscribers

Unfortunately, the third-party platform that the British Library uses for email notifications for our blogs is making changes to its infrastructure. This means that from August 2021 we anticipate that email notifications will no longer be sent to subscribers (although the provider has been unable to specify when exactly these will cease).

To find out when new blog posts are published we recommend following us on Twitter @BL_Music_Colls or checking the Music Blog homepage on the British Library website where all our blogs are listed.

We want to assure you that we are actively looking into this issue and working to implement a solution which will continue your email notifications. However, we do not know whether you will continue to receive notifications about new posts before we are able to implement this. We promise to update the blog with further information as soon as we have it. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we resolve this matter.

We appreciate this is inconvenient and know many people are not on social media and have no intention of being so. Many rely on email notifications and may miss out without them. As soon as we have been able to implement a new solution we will post about it here. Thank you for bearing with us.

04 August 2021

Digitised Manuscripts from the Royal Music Library

In the last year we digitised nearly 40 manuscript volumes from the Royal Music Library, including autographs by Agostino Steffani, J.C. Bach, Alessandro Scarlatti, and other composers.

Among the manuscripts digitised are 24 volumes with works by Agostino Steffani (1654-1728), who served as Kapellmeister and diplomat at the court of Duke Ernst August of Hanover from 1688 until 1703. The manuscripts in the Royal Music Library, some of which are in his own hand, are thought to have been brought from Hanover to England by King George I. They include numerous volumes with Steffani's chamber duets and operas, which survive in their original bindings.

The binding of volume X of Agostino Steffani’s 13-volume set of vocal duets The opening of the duet ‘Gia tu parti’ in Steffani’s own hand

The original leather binding of volume X of Agostino Steffani’s 13-volume set of vocal duets, and folio 59r with the opening of the duet ‘Gia tu parti’ in Steffani’s own hand. British Library R.M.23.k.18.

Original binding of Agostino Steffani’s opera La superbia d’Alessandro
The volume with the 1st Act of Agostino Steffani’s opera La superbia d’Alessandro (1691) in its original leather binding. British Library R.M.23.f.12.

All surviving volumes of Steffani’s 13-volume set of vocal duets at R.M.23.k.13-20 have now been digitised, with volumes R.M.23.k.16-20 available to view via our Archives and Manuscripts catalogue and Universal Viewer. The operas by Steffani that have been digitised include the Hanoverian operas La Superbia d’Alessandro, Orlando Generoso and Henrico Leone (the latter is available to view on our Digitised Manuscripts portal).

Other manuscripts that were digitised include autographs by Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), music master to Queen Charlotte from 1763 to 1782, including his 3-act opera Artaserse from 1761 (R.M.22.a.18-20), and two Te Deum in D major (R.M.22.a.14, R.M.22.a.15) and Magnificat in C major  (R.M.22.a.11 and R.M.22.a.13).

Opening page of J.C. Bach’s Magnificat in C major in the composer’s hand
Opening page of J.C. Bach’s Magnificat in C major in the composer’s hand. British Library R.M.22.a.13, f.1v.

Also digitised is a volume with 12 autograph symphonies by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) (R.M.21.b.14).

Opening page of Alessandro Scarlatti’s Sinfonia Prima
Opening page of Alessandro Scarlatti’s Sinfonia Prima & Concerto grosso con due flauti. British Library R.M.21.b.14, f.1r.

Other highlights include autographs by Francesco Bianchi (1752-1810), and François Hippolyte Barthélémon (1741-1808), the opera Semiramide by Francesco Araja (1709-1770), and volumes with operatic arias and duets by Steffani, Pietro Torri (1650-1737), and Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739).

Title page of Francesco Araja’s opera Semiramide riconosciuta
Title page of Francesco Araja’s opera Semiramide riconosciuta stating his position as 'Maestro di Capella' at the court of Empress Anna Iovanovna at St. Petersburg in 1737.
The volume is preserved in its original velvet binding and with the note ‘this volume belongs to the Queen 1788’ on the flyleaf which we find marked on a number of volumes in the Royal Music Library that belonged to Queen Charlotte. British Library R.M.22.a.6.

Alongside the digitised autograph Handel manuscripts in the Royal Music Library, the digitisation of these volumes is helping to highlight examples of well-represented composers in this collection and their autograph manuscripts, and also preserve manuscripts that survive in their original, and quite often fragile bindings.

19 April 2021

Introducing the Internet of Musical Events: a project to capture the history of live performance

The British Library is delighted to be part of an innovative new project that seeks to develop digital tools and methodologies to help capture the history of live performance.

The Internet of Musical Events: Digital Scholarship, Community, and the Archiving of Performances (InterMusE) is a two-year project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council UK as part of the UK-US New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions programme. Led by Professor Rachel Cowgill, from the University of York’s Department of Music, it brings together an interdisciplinary team of musicologists, archivists, computer scientists, and performance providers from the University of York, the Borthwick Institute for Archives, Computational Foundry at Swansea University, the British Library, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The project arises from longstanding recognition of the challenges associated with the documentation of, and access to, collections of performance ephemera, for which the British Library is a key repository in the UK. Live musical events play a vital role in community life across the globe, yet they often leave only faint traces on the historical record, even in modern times. Sources can be tantalisingly incomplete, confusingly inconsistent, and often scattered between different archives and collections, if preserved at all. While some ensembles, venues and music societies have documented their histories (the Proms Performance Archive being one notable example), the picture is fragmented with no common standards of description or connection between related online resources, or efforts to archive data.

InterMusE will make possible new ways of capturing and, crucially, linking different forms of data around musical events to form a dynamic, open-access digital archive. The research team will work with a diverse range of concert materials including programmes, posters and other ephemera held at the British Library, the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Linen Hall Library (Belfast), the Royal College of Music, and three former chapters of the British Music Society (BMS): Huddersfield Music Society, the British Music Society of York, and Belfast Music Society. The richness of the resulting data will offer unprecedented opportunities to collect, analyse, and visualise information about musical events and how they have shaped and been shaped by community life over the past century. The digitised data will be used to create a series of online, open-access portals that can be linked with existing collections, resulting in a widely accessible digital archive of musical events.

Huddersfield Music Club programme for concert given by the Amadeus String Quartet on 12 October 1953
Huddersfield Music Club: Programme for concert given by the Amadeus String Quartet on 12 October 1953.

Central to the project is the ambition to equip performing arts organisations and their communities with tools to help promote and enhance their own musical histories and traditions. This is particularly significant as communities begin to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the project’s Lead Researcher, Professor Rachel Cowgill states:

'The experience of living through a global pandemic has, for many, greatly increased the value of music at precisely the time the ‘live event’ has fallen victim to strictures on social distancing and lockdown. InterMusE addresses some of the key challenges emerging for the arts and humanities in post-Covid times, investigating the mutually sustaining relationships between live music and communities and harnessing the capacity of digital technologies to enable collaboration and engagement with members of the public.'

InterMusE will combine computational digital-archiving methods with more accessible, community-focussed approaches such as oral-history interviews, audience reminiscences, and citizen research. This will not only facilitate engagement between particular musical societies and their audiences, but also create a new layer of evidential material for studying the impact and community significance of performance events in the 20th and 21st centuries. As Hilary Norcliffe (Archivist of the Huddesfield Music Society) commented, “Concert attendees are often keen to express their views about what they have heard and experienced but currently there is no means of recording these thoughts. This project offers the means for members of the society to add personal comments, views, reminiscences and materials, whilst also following their own lines of inquiry, thus enriching the archive.”

For more information, see the project website: https://intermuse.datatodata.org/

AHRC logo       InterMusE logo

11 March 2021

Publishing Patriotism: the Napoleonic wars in musical print

At the turn of the 19th century, British perceptions of revolutionary France and the Napoleonic wars were tied to myriad graphic, literary, and musical expressions. Between soldiers returning home, parading volunteer regiments, and theatrical renditions of war, the multiplicity of these imaginings were transformed and transported through print at a remarkable speed. After appearing in the London gazette, official news from the continent would go on a multimedia journey: passing through detailed (though often inaccurate) accounts in national and provincial newspapers; enduring the scrutiny of pamphlets and journals; being subjected to judgement in sermons; and set in public memory through the mockery of satirical cartoons.

Printed music was better placed than other media to incorporate military images because the large format of music publications meant that there was ample space on the title page for additional decoration. Taking advantage of the fashion for all things military, music publishers rushed to produce commemorative editions of battle music. In the months following The Battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797) Music publishers Joseph Dale, Longman & Broderip, and Corri, Dussek & Co. produced commemorative works celebrating the victory. They used the textual and graphic elements of the score to shape them into military souvenirs.

The cheaper editions (selling for between 1s 6d and 2s 6d), such as Joseph Dale’s, featured a standard unadorned title page. As was the practice with most editions of battle music, Dale fashioned the score into a commemorative object by including a date on the title page. This set these editions apart from other printed music of the period as publication dates were usually omitted to prevent later reprints seeming old or out of fashion. This shows that publishers considered the publication date to be part of the commercial appeal of these editions, so they were not concerned by the ephemerality this imposed on the printed object.

Unadorned title page of Joseph Dale’s publication commemorating The Battle of Camperdown
British Library g.138.(11.)

Longman & Broderip’s edition of Britannia by Daniel Steibelt (1765 - 1823) dresses the title in British imperial iconography, with a laurel wreath crossed with flags of the British empire. The naval scene at the foot of the title page captures the moment when the British flagship Venerable inflicts the final blow on the Dutch flagship Vryhied. Camperdown saw Duncan celebrated for his bravery and leadership, having taken his flagship into the heart of the action and in difficult waters. By using this moment at the battle’s climax, the score immortalises Duncan’s bravery and Britain’s naval dominance.

Title page of Longman & Broderip's edition of Daniel Steibelt's Britannia depicting a naval scene inspired by the Battle of Camperdown
British Library g.138.(3.)

The celebration of Duncan was not only due to his perceived courage but also the sheer extent of his victory. Within three hours of the start of the battle, Duncan was not only able to report a British victory but also the capture of eleven Dutch ships. Music publishers Corri, Dussek & Co. chose to show this side of the battle in their commemoration, avoiding the engagement itself and focusing on the outcome. Their chosen image emphasised the ‘Total Defeat’ of the Dutch fleet by showing their captured ships in tatters, being towed back to Britain, the punctured sails and post victory setting reminiscent of Thomas Whitcombe’s painting of the battle (1797).

Title page of Corri, Dussek & Co.'s edition commemorating the The Battle of Camperdown depicting the defeat of the Dutch fleet
British Library g.138.(13.)

The commercial opportunities that arose around the Napoleonic wars were not limited to events happening abroad, but also covered celebrations at home. In 1798 Corri, Dussek & Co. published the descriptive piece A Complete & exact delineation Of the Ceremony from St. James’s to St. Pauls: … to return thanks for the several Naval Victories obtained by the British Fleet over those of France, Spain, & Holland. The naval thanksgiving (1797) enlisted the full theatricality of public spectacle, involving the monarchy, government, members of the army and navy, and ordinary Britons lining the streets accompanied by bespoke music written by J. L. Dussek (1760-1812). The score provided an audio-visual reproduction of the event: it contained music written for the procession and church service and captured the visuality of the occasion through an ‘elegant Frontispiece’, which is unfortunately now lost. 

George III conceived the event to rival the civic ceremonies of revolutionary France in an attempt to promote a sense of national unity in Britain. This impact, however, was limited to those who lived near enough to London to attend the ceremony. The success of the occasion relied heavily on newspapers and periodicals circulating accounts to other parts of the country, but Corri, Dussek & Co.’s musical edition was unique in its capacity to deliver both the visual and audial spectacle to those who had not witnessed the event. This edition gave people who did not live in London the opportunity to experience and take part in the patriotic symbolism of the ceremony from afar.

The hype surrounding military victories provided a market for commemorative print in the short term, capitalising on spikes in patriotic sentiment and the celebrations linked to the events. In this context music scores became collectable objects alongside commemorative pottery, porcelain, and medals, together projecting idealised images of war and victory. They helped to facilitate celebration by reminding purchasers of important dates in the national calendar and providing the music with which to celebrate them. The graphic and textual additions to printed music meant that scores had commercial value beyond their musical content and appealed to the conspicuous consumption of print buying audiences, the visually idealised militarism of the title pages allowing Britons to fulfil their patriotic duty through purchasing the score.

Dominic Bridge, Collaborative PhD student, University of Liverpool and British Library

02 February 2021

Update on Music E-resources

We are pleased to announce a number of new subscriptions to our Music e-resources offer this year, as well as changes to remote access for some of our existing subscriptions:

Remote access to RILM and RIPM (full text)

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text contains more than 200 full-text journals, many of which are not available anywhere else online, with content spanning 50 countries and 40 languages. The full-text content encompasses all disciplines related to music including: Ethnomusicology; Jazz studies; Musicology; Pedagogy; Performance; Popular music and Theory. It also covers interdisciplinary subjects, such as: Archaeology; Dance studies; Dramatic arts; Literature; Philosophy; Psychology; Therapy.

Thanks to a kind offer by RILM we are pleased to offer this resource to our users until 30 September 2021.

The resource is available in all reading rooms (please note our reading rooms are currently closed) as well as via remote access to registered readers, and can be accessed via Explore.

RIPM Preservation Series: European & North American Music Periodicals (Full Text)

This new RIPM series is a collection of unique and rare full-text music titles, which complements RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals, which the Library also subscribes to. The resource includes over 100 titles of music periodicals published in Europe and North America ranging from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.

This is a new subscription which is available in all reading rooms. The resource is also available via remote access to registered readers until 30 September 2021, and can be accessed via Explore.

An example of content on the RIPM Preservation Series: European & North American Music Periodicals (Full Text) database on the EBSCO platform

BabelScores

This is a new subscription which offers access to an online Library of contemporary music. The BabelScores catalogue contains music in full score by composers of the last 40 years and includes audio and video content for some of the music scores, and also short composer biographies and work descriptions.

This resource is currently only available in our readings rooms but we are working towards making it available remotely in the future.

BabelScores homepage

Our existing subscriptions to the Index of Printed Music and Music Index are now also available remotely to registered readers.

For any enquiries on how to search and use these e-resources please contact our Music Reference Team.

25 January 2021

Finding Beethoven: recent work in the catalogue

Beethoven's monument in Bonn
Beethoven's monument in Bonn. Illustration in Erinnerung an L. van Beethoven und die Feier der Enthüllung seines Monumentes zu Bonn am 10., 11. und 12. August 1845. General Reference Collection DRT Digital Store 785.h.31.

In Spring 2020, music cataloguers working from home were temporarily without access to the British Library catalogue. Our Collection Metadata colleagues were able to supply us with some exported files of catalogue records to work on, and we chose to have sets of records with Ludwig van Beethoven as composer. While our normal work of cataloguing new acquisitions was suspended, due to the closure of the Library site, we set to work improving the quality of these Beethoven records, as a way of working productively at home, and also of celebrating Beethoven's anniversary year in a practical way. The work  complements other departmental activities to mark the anniversary such as the online Beethoven exhibition on Discovering Music, which was launched last month.

About 2000 amended records have now been loaded back into the catalogue. Although there is more work to do, this is a big step towards improving our representation of Beethoven's works.

Authority control

The work we did was in the area of Authority Control. This is the practice of giving an entity (for example a person, work or subject) a formal, standardised identity in the form of a text string, which is used to draw together all occurrences of the same entity.

For the Beethoven records we improved these identities for work titles. For example, in this basic ‘legacy’ catalogue record the uniform title was updated:  

Example of a Beethoven record on Explore

The publisher's title appears at the top of the record. Further down is the "uniform title" (or "preferred title"), constructed by a cataloguer. This is the authority-controlled version of the title, which in this case also holds the secret of exactly where in Beethoven's opera this piece of music comes from. It also identifies it with all the other editions and arrangements of this excerpt, not only in the British Library, but in any other institution using the same international (NACO) standard. It does this in the traditional library way, by being a left-anchored text string, located in a background alphabetical index. The title elements are presented in a conventional order and form. The NACO conventions are essentially those laid down in the mid- to late-20th century Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. However, the principle of bringing works together under a standardised title goes back a long way, and can be seen in older, printed catalogues.

Historic headings

Printed catalogue entry example

Printed catalogue entry example
Images from The catalogue of printed music in the British Library to 1980. London: K.G. Saur, 1981-1987.


The Catalogue of Printed Music (1981-1987) was based on older catalogues dating back to the 1840s. When the printed volumes of the Catalogue of Printed Music were converted to machine-readable cataloguing, its headings were imported into the records as uniform titles. Over the years, as records for new acquisitions were created and imported, a variety of different "uniform" titles for the same work have proliferated in the catalogue, complicating the process of searching for a particular work. Aligning all these with the NACO standard is an ongoing task, and this is the work we were continuing in the case of Beethoven.

Catalogue entry in Explore

What does this mean in practice?

The major outcome is that, if a user now locates and searches on a standard NACO uniform title, all instances of the work will be retrieved, because we have replaced the variants which formerly would have confused the search.

For example, the standard title "Concertos, piano, orchestra, no. 1, op. 15, C major" will now retrieve all the publications of the work, having replaced variants such as:

"Piano Concerto No. 1. Op. 15"

"Concerto, piano, orchestra, no. 1, op. 15, C major"

"Concertos. Piano. No. 1"

Similarly, "Bagatelles, piano, WoO 59, A minor" has replaced variants such as:

"Bagatelle, Wo0 59"

"Für Elise. K.-H. 59"

"Für Elise".

The future of uniform titles

Our current cataloguing standard, RDA (Resource Description and Access), allows for traditional uniform titles, but prefers a different, linked data approach. The online environment in which library catalogues now operate requires more sophisticated manipulation of data elements than can be provided by uniform title text strings, which were designed for printed and card catalogues. Also, the implication that there is a single, universally "correct" way of expressing the title of a work, with other versions treated as variants, is something which RDA, as an international standard, encourages us to move away from.

Future library systems will be able to present works and their relationships in a way that is both clearer and more nuanced. Making our data as consistent as possible now will help enormously with this future development. In the meantime, we hope that anyone looking for the works of Beethoven in the British Library's catalogue will find their search a much better experience.

Caroline Shaw, Printed & Manuscript Music Processing & Cataloguing Team Manager

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