Spring 2007

NEWSLETTER Vol. 3, No. 1
Coverage of the British Library crisis, reviews and more


Table of Contents


Send your news, review requests, and article suggestions to Kendra Leonard, Newsletter Editor, at caennen@gmail.com

Services Threatened at the British Library
by Eric Saylor

Despite achieving savings of £40 million ($80 million US) and shedding 15 percent of its workforce since 2001, the British Library has found itself facing additional reductions in its operating costs from Whitehall. According to estimates from HM Treasury’s Public Sector Spending Review, the BL’s budget could be cut by up to 7% in the upcoming fiscal year, approximately £7 million ($14,000,000 US). Should this occur, the Library would be forced to take drastic measures to survive; most notably for scholars, the institution would have to charge admission fees to researchers for the first time. Other potential service limitations include the following:

  • Accessibility hours could be cut by up to one-third.
  • Public galleries and exhibitions would close, and educational access programs would be discontinued.
  • The newspaper archive at Colindale would be closed to the public.
  • The permanent collection, which retains a copy of every publication printed in the United Kingdom, would have to be reduced by 15%.

Library officials acknowledge that this is a worst-case scenario, and are working closely with the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport to lobby their cause to HM Treasury and avoid the most draconian cuts. Many governmental and public figures have fiercely decried the Treasury’ s proposal, widely assumed to be part of an effort to find ways to pay for London’ s hosting of the 2012 Olympics. Nonetheless, in an open letter posted on the BL’ s website, Chief Executive Lynne Brindley indicated that “ this will be a tight spending review,” and the impact of cuts on the Library would be “ grave.”

Library officials acknowledge that this is a worst-case scenario, and are working closely with the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport to lobby their cause to HM Treasury and avoid the most draconian cuts. Many governmental and public figures have fiercely decried the Treasury’s proposal, widely assumed to be part of an effort to find ways to pay for London’s hosting of the 2012 Olympics. Nonetheless, in an open letter posted on the BL’s website, Chief Executive Lynne Brindley indicated that “this will be a tight spending review,” and the impact of cuts on the Library would be “grave.”

The British Library is actively soliciting letters of support from patrons in order to help make their case to the Treasury. NABMSA president Nicholas Temperley has already sent a letter on the organization’s behalf to Secretary of State for Culture Tessa Jowell at the DMCS, and many members have sent letters to Ms. Brindley. If you wish to contribute a letter of support, you may e-mail supporters_forum@bl.uk or write to Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB.

Related links:

Lynne Brindley’s open letter on the Public Sector Spending Review:


Music Collections at the British Library:


British press coverage:




Europe, Empire and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century British Music. Edited by Julian Rushton and Rachel Cowgill. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Reviewed by Nicholas Temperley

This is an excellent addition to the growing corpus of symposia about musical life in 19th-century Britain. Most of these books share a strong emphasis on public, secular music-making. Several have grown out of the biennial conferences on the subject. The present volume is no exception, though the editors say that it is not merely the “proceedings” of the fourth conference, held at Leeds in 2003. They point out that three of its eighteen chapters are not based on papers delivered at that event.

The colorful title reflects the book’s division into three sections, which the editors admit is “to some extent . . . arbitrary.” If there is any prevailing emphasis it is on what is known as reception history, with chapters on the British treatment of music by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Liszt, Italian opera, Indian music, and blackface minstrelsy, and another on the reception of British music in Canada. This type of study offers valuable raw material from which a new and sometimes surprising picture of British musical life is gradually taking shape and becoming known in the scholarly world. Some of these chapters, though not all, supply thoughtful explanations and generalizations about the phenomena they describe.

Another group of essays explores how British composers reacted to particular stimuli or circumstances beyond their everyday experience: Attwood to political tensions with Wales, Bishop to oriental librettos, Frederick Bridge to the 1902 coronation, Elgar to the Delhi Durbar of 1911. The last is a deeply personal analysis of Elgar’s psyche as revealed in the The Crown of India, matched by a study of Stanford’s based on the Fourth Irish Rhapsody. There are analytical chapters on Pierson’s Shakespearean music and Hamish McCunn’s output; these are particularly welcome, because the recent revival of interest in Victorian musical life has not, on the whole, centred on music created by the many neglected British composers of the era. Chapters that defy classification are about, respectively, Frederick Nieck’s biography of Liszt and the use of music in a melodrama by Henry Irving. The latter is supplemented by a CD containing a synthetically produced version of the orchestral

The standard of research and writing is generally though not uniformly high. The editors, who have each contributed an outstanding essay, strive to provide some unifying ideas in their Introduction. They conclude with a persuasive discussion of Britain’s place in the musical world of the 19th century, asserting that the British approach to music was neither insular nor wholly mercenary.

A tendency found in a few of the essays is one with which I have little sympathy. I call it the “Gotcha” technique, and it involves searching for breaches of moral precepts that are held today but were not part of the mores of the time. We can all agree that Victorians in positions of power tended to oppress or look down on women, factory workers, domestic servants, homosexuals, non-white races, and several other classes of people. To search for a hidden presence of such generally held attitudes in the work of individual artists of the period seems to me an unprofitable exercise. It provokes the question “What did you expect?”

The volume lacks a bibliography, but we can be grateful for the presence of footnotes rather than endnotes. It is well documented and produced, and it is yet another gratifying example of Ashgate’s strong support of British music studies.


Phyllis Weliver, ed., The Figure of Music in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005.

Reviewed by Juliette Wells

Phyllis Weliver’s collection, new to Ashgate’s “Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain” series, deserves praise for its breadth, balance, and depth. Its essays, which are uniformly of a high caliber, treat topics related to music’s appearance in Romantic, Victorian, and fin-de-siècle poetry, as well as a few cases of nineteenth-century composers’ reworkings of poetic texts. Contributors to the volume include both literary scholars and musicologists, many of whom are expanding imaginatively on previous projects. Weliver, of course, is the author of Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860-1900: Representations of Music, Science and Gender in the Leisured Home.

The book’s usefulness begins with its exceptionally thorough introduction, in which Weliver substantially treats the state of interdisciplinary study of music and poetry. In particular, she argues that it is essential to examine nineteenth-century versions of the “idea of music” and the “idea of poetry” in conjunction with each other, since both concepts were in flux during this period, and were even considered “exchangeable or reversible.”

All of the essays are meticulously researched and carefully argued. Several are to be commended in particular for their lucidity and readability. John Hughes’s treatment of William Blake attends to how this famously visionary poet invoked musical experience as “both a means and a dramatic equivalent of individuality, and the redemptive kinds of inspiration and innocence with which it is linked.” Ruth A. Solie examines George Eliot’s poem “The Legend of Jubal,” which imagines the birth of music in a manner that, as Solie demonstrates with her customary lively touch, fits in both with Eliot’s characteristic beliefs about music’s power and with the wider Victorian discourse about music and morality. Essays by Michael Allis and Yopie Prins examine musical settings of poems that deal with music, settings that—as Allis puts it—allow “music to represent itself.” Allis looks closely at settings of Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters” by Parry and Elgar, showing how each composer participates through his chosen musical language in the longstanding debate about the relative appeal with which Tennyson invests Lotosland on the one hand and the workaday world on the other. Prins applies her previous work on Victorians’ constructions of Sappho to the song cycle Sappho: Prelude and Nine Fragments by Granville Bantock (libretto by Helen Bantock). This musical evocation of Sappho, she concludes, “give[s] form to the unrealizable sound of a song that can never exist, by performing the continual rise and fall of Sapphic voice.” Abundant musical examples enrich both Allis’s and Prins’s essays.

Scientific and medical discourses inform several essays. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Alastor is the focus of Kimiyo Ogawa’s investigation of how eighteenth-century medical discourse—particularly terms such as “vibration” and “the chord”—can be seen to inform poetic representations of sensation. In her essay on Robert Burns’s and Thomas Moore’s approaches to the “‘national’ air,” Celeste Langan makes a yet bolder link, between musical airs and Joseph Priestley’s chemical descriptions of airs and gases. Susan Bernstein takes up the familiar Romantic trope of the Aeolian harp from a theoretically-informed perspective that emphasizes the instrument’s capacity to invoke impressions of unity and separation. Fourier’s wave terminology, she demonstrates, illuminates readings of such well-known Aeolian harps as those of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and Coleridge’s “The Eolian Harp.” At the heart of Emma Sutton’s exploration of music and sexuality in fin-de-siècle poetry are the associations drawn by contemporary sexologists between musical sensibility or responsiveness and homosexuality. Sutton considers poems by Oscar Wilde, Arthur Symons, Michael Field, and Aubrey Beardsley in which erotic experiences figure as musical ones.

Other essayists concern themselves with how poets invoke, and can be seen to be affected by, particular musical ideas such as “voice,” “song” and “sequence.” Christina Rossetti’s sonnet sequence “Monna Innominata,” contends Yeo Wei Wei, acknowledges “her debt to great and esteemed male voices within [literary history] even as she seeks to sing over and above them.” Yeo attends in particular to Rossetti’s handling of her debt to Dante. D.G. Rossetti’s sonnet sequence “The House of Life,” argues Phyllis Weliver, invokes but frustrates the Victorian attraction to artifacts, offering instead an essentially aesthetic approach to music for its own sake.

It is to be regretted that the authors’ broad range of reference is not summed up in a comprehensive bibliography. However, this is a minor detraction from a stimulating and solid volume. Those with an interest in nineteenth-century British music, or connections between music and literature, will find much to ponder here.


Roz Southey, Music-Making in North-East England During the Eighteenth Century. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

Reviewed by Jane Girdham

Southey's title reflects part of what she is trying to achieve in her book: a social history of music-making in one region of 18th-century Britain. This type of local history research in music has grown over the last decade or two. It offers a view of music history that is not centered on London, acknowledging that for people in the north-east (or elsewhere) the center of their musical activity was local, whether at a concert on race week in Newcastle, or in Durham Cathedral at a Sunday service. Southey does draw connections with London how soon a particular opera was heard in the north-east (The Beggar's Opera was seen in two separate productions in Newcastle only four months after its London premiere), or how the London fashion for early music did not catch on but her narrative is firmly based in north-east England.

Southey's other purpose the more important one, she states in the preface is to place Charles Avison, composer, organist, and author, in the context of his and other musicians' lives in and around his home town of Newcastle. In the words of the Charles Avison Society's publicity brochure (yes, there is one), Avison was "the most important English concerto composer of the 18th century." Four CDs currently available devoted entirely to concertos by Avison are evidence of his ongoing importance. He was also the author of a book on musical aesthetics, Essay on Musical Expression, currently available in an edition by Pierre Dubois (Ashgate Press, 2004), which Southey suggests as a complement to her book.

Southey's focus on Avison is helpful in several ways. First, there is more information available about Avison than many of the other musicians in the area, so there is more flesh on his bones than some who remain mere names. Second, Southey certainly puts the lie to the common view that, from a London-centric perspective, Avison was a lone voice in the wilderness. Third, understanding regional musical activities helps the reader understand why Avison's opinions are forward-looking while some aspects of his compositional style are old-fashioned and modest in their technical demands. Her comparison of Avison's views with those of his colleague John Brown, vicar of Newcastle and author of A Dissertation on the Rise, Union, and Power, the Progressions, Separations and Corruptions of Poetry and Music, are insightful.

Southey discusses all the local types of public music-making, in concert, theatre, outdoor entertainment, and church, as well as less public venues such as musical societies. She also addresses the musicians themselves, both professional full-time and part-time and gentlemen amateurs, and the various ways they made a living.

They were almost entirely male. Yet children and women played too, and music was often an important part of their day. There may be little documentation of domestic music making in this particular region (diaries are the most useful evidence) but its existence needs iteration and rounds out the picture of music-making. Just as a London focus ignores a huge amount of provincial music, so does a study of public musical activity ignore much domestic music making. Southey's work downplays this aspect of musical life.

Southey's research involved labor-intensive trawling through local newspapers, local authority records (where they have not been destroyed), and other archives for morsels of information that can be pieced together into a coherent story. Occasionally the incompleteness of the resulting narrative is tantalizing. There is a danger too, that the reporting of minutia can lead to a dry read and a loss of a sense of the whole picture. This does sometimes happen here, but Southey's focus on Avison usually pulls the reader back in.

This is a thoroughly researched book, bringing together materials that show the patterns of musical life in the north-east albeit, inevitably, incompletely. A map would have been helpful (I had to make my own).


Member News

Amanda Eubanks Winkler recently published O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006). Eubanks Winkler's book focuses on the various ways that theatrical music represented disorderly subjects-those who presented either a direct or metaphorical threat to the health of the English kingdom in 17th-century England. Using theater music to examine narratives of social history, Eubanks Winkler demonstrates how music reinscribed and often resisted conservative, political, religious, gender, and social ideologies. Research for her book was supported by a Folger Shakespeare Library long-term fellowship, funded by the NEH. She also received a publication subvention from the College of Arts and Sciences, Syracuse University. Eubanks Winkler also published "Enthusiasm and Its Discontents: Religion, Prophecy, and Madness in Sophonisba and The Island Princess," Journal of Musicology 23, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 307-330, an examination of the portrayal of religious fanaticism in Restoration-era musical entertainments. Ilias Chrissochoidis has published "A Handel Relative in Britain? (also Cutting through the 1759 Fence in Handel Studies)," The Musical Times, vol. 148, no. 1898 (Spring 2007): 49-58 and "A Chubby Orpheus: Handel's Corpulence as a Prerogative of Genius," in Consuming Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century: Narratives of Consumption, 1700-1900, ed. Tamara S. Wagner and Narin Hassan (Lanham, MD, 2007), 193-204. Kendra Leonard has published The Conservatoire Américain: a History (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2007) and has articles forth coming in Women and Music and Women in French Studies. She is now at work on a book titled Shakespeare, Music and Madness: Scoring Insanity in Shakespearean Film.


Upcoming Events

The Organ in England to the Death of Elizabeth I: Music, technology, and the wider role will be hosted by the University of Oxford and the British Institute of Organ Studies at the University of Oxford, April 12-15, 2007. The conference will be centred around the Early English Organs, reconstructions of two early sixteenth-century organs based on fragments found in recent years in Suffolk. www.music.ox.ac.uk/organconference

The American Handel Festival, and meeting of the American Handel Society will take place at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, April 19-21, 2007. Festival concerts will include a semi-staged performance of Handel's Hercules and a chamber concert organized around the theme of "Handel's London". www.americanhandelsociety.org/mhf/mhf.htm

The Thirty-First Annual Midwest Victorian Studies Association meeting will be held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, April 20-22, 2007. The theme is “ Entertainment and the Marketplace:  How the Victorians were Amused.” Panels will include discussions of music, art, entertainment for the public crowd, and entertainment in the press, Women and Dance in the Nineteenth Century and on Technologies of Amusement. www2.ic.edu/MVSA/

The Proms and British Musical Life: International Conference will be held at the British Library, London, April 23-25, 2007. The conference includes an introductory lecture by Lord Asa Briggs, plenary lectures, panels, interviews, demonstrations and sessions of papers, as well as a concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and an exhibition at the British Library devoted to the history of the Promenade Concerts since their foundation. The events culminate in the launch of the 2007 BBC Proms. www.bbc.co.uk/proms/conference2007

Words and Notes in the Nineteenth Century will be held at Senate House, University of London, July 2-3, 2007. Focusing on a century that fostered a growth industry in musical writing of many kinds (musical novels, programme notes, musical poetry, music appreciation texts, journalism, scientific treatises, biography, etc.), this conference seeks to address three main questions. How is music conceptualized in various textual situations/locations between c.1789 and 1914? How can we best approach the relationships between music and texts? In what ways might comparative study of different languages, genres or cultural contexts help us explore the workings of word–music relationships? www.music.sas.ac.uk

The Sixth Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain Conference will take place at the University of Birmingham, July 5-8, 2007, and will include papers on music, class and politics; music, industry and technology; cContinental musicians in Britain; music in the regions; music and empire; music and/as text; and music and image. www.music.bham.ac.uk/mncb

Ivor Gurney: Poetry and Music will be held in Cambridge, September 9-10, 2007. The program will include papers and performances. For further information, contact the conference organizers directly: Trudi Tate, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, England: tt206@cam.ac.uk and Kate Kennedy, Queens' College, University of Cambridge, England: kma23@cam.ac.uk.

Calls for Papers

John Rich and the Eighteenth-Century London Stage: Commerce, Magic and Management, London, UK, January 25-27, 2008. This conference will focus on impact of John Rich (1692-1761) on London's theatrical industry as a performer, manager and author. The proceedings will include a private viewing of the renowned theatrical portrait collection housed at the Garrick Club. The published proceedings will constitute the first modern monograph on John Rich. Papers for formal sessions should last no more than thirty minutes. The conference also welcomes 20-minute papers for panel discussions, and 10-minute position papers for roundtable discussions. Candidates may apply jointly as constituted panels, or individuals may submit abstracts indicating their wish to participate in panels or roundtables proposed on the website. Abstracts of up to 500 words should be sent to: www.johnrich2008.com by September 30, 2007.

Organs in Art / Organs as Art, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, October 15-17, 2008. Proposals for papers on topics such as the following are invited: organs in Art; organs in non-Western images; depictions of organs in Antiquity and early Middle Ages; organs and pipes as symbols of intellect (e.g., Athanasius Kircher); portative organs in Memlinck and Raphael; organs in Dutch baroque paintings; technical illustrations of organs (e.g., Dom Bedos); organ case preparatory sketches; satirical impressions of organs in 19th- and 20th-century iconography; organs in advertising and comics; organs in film (e.g., Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and horror films); organs as Art; and more. Abstracts of 200-300 words must be submitted before February 1, 2008 to: Dr. Zdravko Blazekovic, Research Center for Music Iconography; The City University of New York Graduate Center; 365 Fifth Avenue; New York, NY 10016-4309, USA or Zblazekovic@gc.cuny.edu

Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction, 1900-2000 (Crosscurrents: Wechselwirkungen zwischen amerikanischer und europäischer Musik, 1900-2000): An international conference in two parts: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, October 30- November 1, 2008; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, May 7-9, 2009. Recognizing the extraordinary degree of interaction between North American and European music and musicians during the twentieth century, we invite papers exploring this cultural exchange and its historiographical implications. Possible topics include: exile and emigration; pedagogical networks; institutional exchanges (for example concert tours, festivals, societies); the role of technology in the dissemination and composition of music; convergence and divergence of musical languages; differing cultural hierarchies and their interactions (high and low, U und E); cultural politics (diplomacy, propaganda, state-sponsored initiatives). We anticipate being able to cover travel expenses. Participants will be expected to publish their papers in the conference report. Conference languages are English and German. You may indicate a preference for presenting in Cambridge, MA, or in Munich, should your paper be accepted; however, we reserve the right to allocate topics to the appropriate session and location. Please send an abstract of not more than 250 words as well as a short (maximum 50-word) biography to currents@fas.harvard.edu or to the postal address "Crosscurrents" c/o Department of Music, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA no later that June 1, 2007.


Recent Publications

Bennett, William Sterndale, Lectures on Musical Life.  Edited by Nicholas Temperley with the assistance of Yunchung Yang. New York: Boydell & Brewer, 2006.

Carley, Lionel. Edvard Grieg in England. Suffolk, UK and Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2006.

Chrissochoidis, Ilias. “A Handel Relative in Britain? (also Cutting through the 1759 Fence in Handel Studies).” Musical Times 148/1898 (Spring 2007): 49-58.

Elliott, Graham. Benjamin Britten: The Spiritual Dimension. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Europe, Empire and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century British Music. Edited by Julian Rushton and Rachel Cowgill. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

Greene, Joshua. Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Haddon, Elizabeth. Making Music in Britain: Interviews with those Behind the Notes. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

Halstead, Jill. Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism and Difference in English Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

Herissone, Rebecca. ‘To fill, forbear, or adorne’: The Organ Accompaniment of Restoration Sacred Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

Newsome, Roy. The Modern Brass Band: From the 1930s to the New Millennium. Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

Parsons, Laurel. “‘Time Management with Twele-Tone Lizzie’: Metric, Dramatic Design in a Scene from Elisabeth Lutyens’s ‘The Numbered’.” Theory and Practice (2006): 153-80.

Roger North’s The Musicall Grammarian: 1728. Cambridge, MA and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Russell, J.P. The Beatles Complete Discography. New York: Universe, 2006.

Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger. Edited by Malcolm Gillies, David Pear, and Mark Carroll. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Southey, Roz. Music-Making in North-East England during the Eighteenth Century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

‘Speak to Me’: The Legacy of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Edited by Russell Reising. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

Turbet, Richard. William Byrd: A Guide to Research. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Weber, William. “Redefining the Status of Opera: London and Leipzig, 1800-1848.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 46 (2006), 507-532.

Weliver, Phyllis. The Musical Crowd in English Fiction, 1840-1910: Class, Culture and Nation. Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture. Gordonsville, VA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.