A Flurry of Activity

The Bass Culture team has adopted a serious, studious demeanour as the project rolls towards its October web-launch. Not that we weren’t serious and studious before, but we’re even more so now, which goes some way to explaining why there are fewer blogposts these days.

David and Karen are editing the spreadsheet (consistency is our middle name, and qualitative judgements are very carefully weighed up, if they’re allowed to remain at all!).  Luca is building the website.

It’s all the extra things that Karen’s afraid of forgetting!  There is going to be a bibliography of key sources: the following are some of them, but we’ll provide the full bibliographic details on the website itself!

  • Baptie’s Musical Scotland
  • The British Union-Catalogue of early music printed before the year 1801 : a record of the holdings of over one hundred libraries throughout the British Isles (in our database, abbreviated as BUCEM)
  • Douglas, Sheila – The Atholl Collection catalogue: 300 years of Scottish music and poetry (Perth, UK: Perth & Kinross Libraries, 1999)
  • Glen, John – The Glen collection of Scottish dance music : strathspeys, reels, and jigs, selected from the earliest printed sources, or from the composer’s works [2 vols, 1891 and 1895](In our database, in the format: Glen, Collection of Scottish Dance Music)
  • Gore, Charles – Scottish Music Index http://www.scottishmusicindex.org/
  • Johnson, David – Music and Society
  • Kidson, Frank – British music publishers, printers and engravers : London, provincial, Scottish and Irish. From Queen Elizabeth’s reign to George the Fourth’s, with select bibliographical lists of musical works printed and published within that period (1900) (In our database, in the format, Kidson, British Music Publishers
  • National Library of Scotland, Digital Gallery
  • Oxford Music
  •  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • RISM (Repertoire Internationale des Sources Musicales)
  • Scottish Book Trade Index (In our database, SBTI)
  • Smith and Humphries’ Music Publishing in the British Isles

All the information is there in Karen’s Mendeley and Diigo accounts, but it still needs to be collated and double, treble-checked!

Hold onto your hats, folks – it’s going to be quite a ride!

all coded out

Here in Glasgow we’ve had a visit from Andrew Hankinson of the SIMSSA project at McGill University in Montréal. He’s been helping us implement search functionality and MEI into our web resource, which will live at www.hms.scot. So Luca and he were coding away behind me for days here in the bass culture office. In fact, it was difficult to get them to stop. On Friday night while we ate dinner, Andrew’s computer was running a script to convert to MEI nearly 2000 Sibelius files of tune incipits that had been carefully transcribed by Karens Marshalsay & McAulay, and this was the scene even outside the pub on Saturday night …

L-R: David McGuinness, Luca Guariento, Andrew Hankinson

L-R: David McGuinness, Luca Guariento, Andrew Hankinson

Here is a sneak preview of our website’s logo, as designed by Ewan MacPherson.

But Who Were They? Bass Culture Goes Biographical

We’ll be giving some biographical information about “our” fiddle tune composers and compilers, but we’re not biographers per se.  Therefore, we’re just noting where our information was drawn from.  It’s mainly from some very obvious places!  Here’s the beginning of a list …

  • Baptie, David, Musical Scotland: Past and Present (1894)
  • Bulloch, John Malcolm, William Marshall: the Scots composer, 1748-1833 (1933)
  • Cowie, Moyra, William Marshall : the Scots composer, 1748-1833 (1999)
  • The Glen Collection of Scottish Dance Music (1891 and 1895 volumes)
  • Gore, Charles, The Scottish Fiddle Music Index (1994)
  • Gore, Charles, The Scottish Music Index [digitized reissue of the above] http://www.scottishmusicindex.org/
  • Murdoch, A, The fiddle in Scotland: comprising sketches of Scotch fiddlers and fiddle makers (1888)
  • Oxford Music Online oxfordmusiconline.com/


The Devil is in the Detail (or, A Rose by any other Name …)

At last week’s Bass Culture get-together, we got down to the minutiae of data entry – the mind-numbing but crucial detail determining how the website will ultimately look.  If James Aird is entered as “Aird, James” once, then all names will always be entered in indirect order.  “Jas. Aird” becomes an alternative in another column, and “N.Stewart” must be looked up to double-check if he’s “Neil” or “Niel”.

Enter the Scottish Book Trade Index – one of Karen’s favourite websites, hosted by the National Library of Scotland.  It’s fantastic for checking names and addresses of anyone connected with the Scottish Book Trade up to 1850 – ideal for our project.  It simply must feature in our website bibliography page!

New Year’s Resolutions in Bass Culture Territory

For the first couple of years of the project, we worked on a huge spreadsheet of all our fiddle tune-books.  It seemed a bit unmanageable at times, but compared to the new MEI-enabled spreadsheet, it was merely a tiny little table!  The photo in our last blogpost shows just TWO sample entries of the hundreds that will end up being entered there.  Comparing the preliminary and MEI spreadsheets is like comparing a house with a high-rise block of flats.

So here we are in the new year: 2015, and with the end of the project looming on the horizon.  Entering source details inevitably raises questions about things that really looked very straightforward at the time.  DID that bound volume contain all three publications by the author?  Oh, here’s a second edition. (That makes it a new source, but categorically NOT a new work …)  Such basic details have to be sorted out now.  And then there are the details we’ll have to remember before the website goes live.  And the tiny questions that require answers, but can’t be answered until the donkey-work of data entry is further along the line, or we’ll never get the donkey-work done!

  1. Luca and Karen agreed that we need a “legend” – a list of words where there are different spellings, so that the computer search can take into account such “synonyms” when encountered.  If a user searches for MacGlashan, for example, then the system has to retrieve McGlashan – our preferred spelling.  Similarly, if a tune title includes archaic spellings, or just plain misspellings of words, then the user may enter a modern or correct spelling but we need to be sure they’ll also retrieve the item with its original published spelling.
  2. Consistency in the finer details.  Pagination is entered thus:- 31 p (not 31p, 31 pp, or 31 pp.)  Check COPAC, and you’ll catch different libraries adopting different styles.  We have to adopt one standard and stick to it – the user may not even notice, but it does look better!
  3. We need to define terminology.  For example, we know what Murkys are (broken octaves in quavers), but we can’t predict what terminology will be familiar to someone searching the database at a later date.
  4. We need to flag the “questions for later”, so that we can address them if there’s time.
  5. We’ve listed our published outputs and conference papers on a separate research database, but we’ll need to include a bibliography on the Bass Culture website, too.
  6. Only a day later, and we’ve thought of another important requirement for our website – a tab for listing key online info that we’ve found useful.  (Karen has been saving things to her Diigo bookmarking account.)  First up – the Scottish Book Trade Index at the National Library of Scotland.  Invaluable!

Enough for now!  It’s not so much “fiddling while Rome burns”, as “Blogging while Fiddle sources are to be entered up!”