“Towards a New Narrative”: Symposium on Scottish Sacred Music


Well, I’m now preparing for the forthcoming Symposium on Scottish Sacred Music at Pluscarden Abbey, near Inverness, Scotland.

Over 150 people are expected to come to this Benedictine Abbey for the three-day event, which will include talks and recitals of sacred music from Scotland.
Day 1: Tuesday 1 September 2009: Mediaeval & Renaissance Scottish Sacred Music up to 1560
My own paper will be on other renaissance polyphony from 16th-century Scotland (i.e. not music by Robert Carvor/Carver, whose work will be dealt with by Jamie Reid-Baxter), especially music from the Wode Partbooks and the Dunkeld Music Book , including music by David Peebles. Some of this will draw on my MMus dissertation (University of Surrey, 1998) and my article “Musick fyne” (first appeared in Church Music Quarterly, June 2005).

Other papers that day will be given by Warwick Edwards (“Mediaeval Chant Manuscripts from St. Andrews Cathedral and Inchcolm Priory”) and John Harper (“The Bridge between Chant and Polyphony”).

The evening concert will feature some of the music from these manuscripts.

Day 2: Wednesday 2 September 2009: the period from 1560 to the early 20th century
Speakers include Douglas Galbraith, Elmslie Nimmo and Frances Wilkins

Day 3: Thursday 3 September 2009: the Modern Era
Speakers include John Bell, Graeme Hair and James MacMillan.

Further information
More details about the Symposium can be found on the Pluscarden Abbey website.

In case you can’t get to the Symposium (or wish to read up a bit about the music first), a very readable account of Scotland’s Music can be found in this excellent book by John Purser, offering a very readable history of the traditional and classical music of Scotland from early times to the present day.

As usual, your comments are welcome!

Magic stories from Earthsea revisited


Just re-reading the ‘Earthsea’ novels by Urula Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu). Fabulous, beautiful stories, even parables.

I first read the trilogy in the 70s and it is a delight to have come across them again. (The fourth story in this volume was added some 15 years later, following a shift in Le Guin’s philosophical outlook, and moves the focus away somewhat from the main character, Ged the Sparrowhawk.)

The storylines in these tales from Earthsea are quite excellent, but I think the real magic is in the poetry of Le Guin’s writing style, which almost demands to be read aloud.

For example, from the ending of ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’:

And he began to see the truth, that Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole : a man : who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any other power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark.

In the Creation of Ea which is the oldest song, it is said

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

Although the only response to this is silence, I can begin to feel a musical setting forming!

(I see from Amazon that Le Guin has also written stories called ‘Four Ways to Forgiveness’. Excellent reviews. That’s something for my birthday list!)

As usual, your comments are welcome!

Four Ways to Forgiveness: Stories

Dare to think differently!


Found this on “Hit the Back Button“. I think it speaks for itself. (Of course what you get out of it may depend where you’re coming from!) Enjoy 8 minutes of wisdom!

Reminds me a bit of the BBC’s New Year message from, I think, 2001, where a chap had had to register his child’s birth and death on the same day; reflecting on the care that he and his wife were shown had led him to become more tolerant of people’s weaknesses and considerably more intolerant of people’s willful ignorance. His story touched me deeply.

As usual, your comments are welcome!

Workflow interrupted


Well, my laptop is being diagnosed for hardware faults, and has been since last Thursday. I knew there was a problem with one of the memory modules and I replaced that, but I was still getting Blue Screens of Death – WinXP SP3 – so decided it needed some serious looking at. Whatever happens I will give it a clean re-install of Windows (I’ve been tempted for ages to give Linux a try, but depend too much on Dreamweaver and Photoshop, although they might run OK with WINE).

Fortunately cloud computing means that I can still access and write emails, and having previously moved my data files to a 500Mb external hard drive means that I can still get quite a lot of work done. But… not having a number of programmes installed on the secondary laptop means that my workflow is interrrupted – or at least much more complicated.

As usual, your comments are welcome!