The creation of “ancient” Scottish music history, 1720-1838

Clements, Joanna (2013) The creation of “ancient” Scottish music history, 1720-1838. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the writing of Scottish music history from the 1720s to 1838. It concludes that the Scottish music histories written over this period were fundamentally shaped by the interaction of ideas about universal historical progress with ideas specific to the Scottish context of the work. Ramsay’s pioneering claims that Scots songs were ancient were supported by parallels between the features of song – simplicity, pastorality and naturalness - and ideas about the nature of the past held more widely. The contrasts he drew with Italian music and English verse further supported his claims in ways specific to the Scottish context. In the later eighteenth century the Enlightenment model of universal historical progress – simple and pastoral societies developed into complex and commercial ones over time - came to underpin the continued perception that Scots songs were ancient. This same universal model underpinned narratives of scalic development, and narratives of preservation. Contemporary perceptions of the place of the Scottish Highlands and rural societies in the universal model of historical progress resulted in the collection of more purportedly historic song from Highlanders and the rural poor of the Lowlands and Borders. These same perceptions also seem to have resulted in the differing use of written sources to create a picture of a gradually evolving Lowland/Border music history and a static Highland music history. Specifically Scottish destructive events were used to explain the lack of other forms of evidence of purportedly ancient songs in the past: the Reformation, defeudalisation, and the modernisation of the countryside form turning points in many of the narratives. Writers’ reasons for writing Scottish music history similarly reveal twin concerns with the universal and the particularly Scottish.

In foregrounding the social and cultural factors which underpinned the construction of Scottish music history in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this study challenges the continued inclusion of elements of the present-day received view. In addition, in demonstrating the parallels between music-historical and historical writings more broadly this thesis enriches our understanding of Enlightenment historical thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Scotland, music, history, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, Scots songs, The Tea-Table Miscellany, stadial theory, progress, Allan Ramsay, David Herd, John Pinkerton, Joseph Ritson, Walter Scott, Richard Hartley Cromek, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Patrick McDonald, William Dauney, William Motherwell, John Leyden, Highlands
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Edwards, Dr. Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Ms Joanna Clements
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4699
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2013 09:17
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2014 15:22

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