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Here at HMS.scot you can find the details of over 200 Scottish printed sources of fiddle music from before 1850, with images and indexes of 22 books from the University of Glasgow and Perth's A K Bell Library. Browse the collection, search for tunes and composers, and play the tunes!
This resource was created as part of the AHRC-funded project Bass Culture in Scottish Musical Traditions. The project’s principal aim was to encourage musicians in traditional music to draw further on historical sources in their repertoire, their teaching, and in their understanding of the music’s history, with a particular focus on the musical practices which underpinned the tunes: the structural and accompaniment traditions.
Because of this focus, the database does not include songs or airs, and it features only sources which contain basslines. Most of these sources are substantial printed collections, but also included are some of the hundreds of surviving single-sheet publications. We excluded manuscript sources to keep the project to a manageable and practical size.
The Resources section provides links to other materials produced by the team, including papers, recordings and presentations about the music, and information on how we prepared and built the database and website. Under References there is a full bibliography for secondary sources referred to in the notes, and a list of the library sigla showing the locations of all known copies of the primary sources in the UK and Ireland.
The boundaries of ‘Scottish fiddle music’ are porous and difficult to define: one early finding from our research was that early Scottish fiddlers were familiar with a more diverse repertoire than our present-day conception of Scottish fiddle music might suggest. ‘Scottishness’ in music can also be a problematic concept in a period when the notion of a national culture was in its early stages of development and negotiation, and even identifying simple tune types such as strathspey, reel and jig is sometimes far from straightforward in the 18th-century material. The notes on the music given here for each source include:
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Principal Investigator, project management and editor: David McGuinness
Researcher (post-doctoral), music bibliography & cataloguing: Karen McAulay
Systems Developer, web implementation: Luca Guariento
Co-Investigators, oversight and advice: John Butt, Susan Rankin
PhD student, project development: Barnaby Brown
Research Administrator, School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow: Jeanette Berrie
withSystems Developers, systems design: Zoltán Kömives, Neil McDermott
initial publication: October 2015
minor corrections: February 2016, May 2017
minor additions: April 2020
minor corrections and addition of the 'resources' page: June 2020
The material on HMS.scot is available for all non-commercial use. When reproducing or republishing, please credit HMS.scot and the library which holds the original, and provide a link to the HMS.scot page.
HMS.scot provides a shining example of how thoughtful digitization can produce resources that reach beyond the classroom to influence the performance practice of professionals and enthusiasts alike.
HMS.scot is my new favourite website! I would never have time to find and research all this music and I feel very lucky that someone has done this for me. Thank you very much!
HMS.scot is a helpful and overdue tool both for researchers and working musicians. Having easy access to tune facsimiles has saved time and led to some interesting discoveries, and the accompanying commentary from the research team yields helpful insights. It's also saved me at the library — some books are catalogued by hms.scot but not by the host library itself!