THIS WEDNESDAY: Dr. Elizabeth Ford, ‘Instruments of Status: The flute in eighteenth century Scotland’, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music, St. Aldates

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THIS WEDNESDAY: Douglas MacMillan and Isobel Clarke, ‘Instruments of Love: The recorder as an instrument of love’, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music, St. Aldates

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Review of our second ‘Instruments of the Eighteenth Century’ seminar

Review: Instruments of the Eighteenth Century, seminar 2

Our next seminar takes place on Wednesday 15th November, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection on St Aldates, and features Douglas MacMillan and Isobel Clarke speaking to the title ‘Instruments of Love’, with live musical examples using recorders in the Collection.

Wednesday 8 November was the second in the lunchtime seminar series, held at the Bate Collection, and organised by Alice Little, for RECSO.

We were privileged to hear an erudite and entertaining talk from Francis Knights, a harpsichordist, musicologist and editor, from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. The talk was titled ‘Instruments of emancipation: the changing uses and roles of keyboards in the 18th Century’. Dealing as it did with ‘indoor’ music entertainment, this provided a good contrast with last week’s talk on the louder, outdoor, martial music.

Francis Knights covered several aspects in discussing the changing roles of these instruments, including larger developments in society, as well as smaller social changes. He began by reminding us of the role of Empire for English instrument-makers, giving rise to access to rare woods and ivory for creating clavichords and harpsichords. This could be clearly seen in the elegant Bate Collection clavichord, which had ornate diamond ivory inlay in the keys.

He moved on to linking the growth in instrument production to the rise of the middle classes, and describing how developments in printing could cater to a wider market for music making, making available cheaper copies for this expanding market. Of course we all think of those Jane Austin adaptations, where the daughters were expected to have ‘accomplishments’, including playing a keyboard and singing. But who knew that there was a whole area of music publishing aimed at this very audience: the ‘Damen Sonaten’, composed by such as C.P.E. Bach. This repertoire was not technically less demanding than a normal sonata, and was as emotionally deep, so the question was raised, what was so different about these pieces? Perhaps it was only a marketing gimmick, in a world where for the first time composers could make a living composing pieces for and selling them to the expanding middle classes (or ‘middling sorts’ as we historians say) and thus do away with the need for an aristocratic patron.

The rise of printing led to advertisements, both for instruments, and for the new public concerts; our very own Holywell Music Room is a good example of an early public concert space.

Knights also touched on the rise of the celebrity teacher, which led to the professionalisation of music teaching, with the teacher going around to the private houses of those young ladies in need of music lessons.

Finally some interesting asides: did you know the young Verdi learnt to play on a harpsichord? Or that Beethoven stated that his early sonatas, up until 1803, could be played on either harpsichord or piano? Or that the fact that Miss Tox, in Dickens’ Dombey and Son, was playing the harpsichord in the 1830s signified her old-fashioned outlook?

The talk was interspersed with several expert performances, finishing with a very convincing interpretation of a Haydn sonata movement played on the harpsichord rather than the usual piano.

Anna Brunton

DPhil Literature and Arts, Kellogg College

Posted in Events, RECSO, Seminars

THIS WEDNESDAY: Francis Knights, ‘Instruments of Emancipation: The changing uses and roles of keyboards in the eighteenth century’, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music, St. Aldates

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Review of our first ‘Instruments of the Eighteenth Century’ seminar

The next seminar in this series will take place on Wednesday 8th November, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection (St Aldates, Oxford), and will see Francis Knights (Director of Music, Fitzwillam College, Cambridge) speaking about keyboard instruments under the title ‘Instruments of Emancipation’.

Wednesday 1 November 2021 saw the first of a new lunchtime series of seminars entitled ‘Instruments of the Eighteenth Century’. Held in Oxford University’s Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, the seminar series seeks to explore the role of music during the long eighteenth century in different contexts, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the period as a whole.

The series started on a martial note with a talk entitled ‘Instruments of War’, in which Eamonn O’Keeffe discussed some of the findings of his research concerning military music in the British army during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Considering that the importance of military music has hitherto often been overlooked, O’Keeffe argued that we should instead view it as an integral part of British culture and martial success during the Napoleonic period. Drawing on a wide variety of contemporary evidence, O’Keeffe demonstrated the variety of functions performed by martial music. On the one hand, as a morale-booster and symbol of regimental pride, military music was central to the life of serving soldiers. On the other, music also played an important role in the army’s relations with wider society, either as a tool for recruitment or, through the use of concerts, as a means of fostering good relations with local civilian populations. As such, O’Keeffe suggested that the British army played a vital role not only in bringing music to an increasingly broad audience, but also acted as a means of cultural transmission across Britain’s diverse imperial possessions.

Following O’Keeffe’s fascinating talk came what is certain to be one of the highlights of the seminar series as a whole: the opportunity to handle original instruments of the period. In this case, the audience was treated to the chance to look more closely at a variety of fifes, a drum and even a “serpent” that was played at the Battle of Waterloo.

In sum, the highly entertaining and informative ‘Instruments of War’ provided an auspicious start for what promises to be an excellent seminar series. Not only should ‘Instruments of the Eighteenth Century’ serve to showcase the important role played by music during the long eighteenth century, but it will also undoubtedly raise awareness of the value of the Bate Collection’s excellent holdings.

Richard Manning
DPhil History, Merton College

Posted in Events, RECSO, Seminars, Uncategorized

THIS WEDNESDAY: Eamonn O’Keeffe, ‘Instruments of War’, 1-2pm at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music, St. Aldates

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TONIGHT: RECSO Poster Evening

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THIS THURSDAY: Join us for the RECSO Poster Evening (7-9pm, Colin Matthew Room, Radcliffe Humanities)

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Enlightened Princesses: Britain and Europe, 1700-1820 Symposium

Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, and the Tower of London, 29–31 October 2017

Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737), Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (1719–1772), and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), three Protestant German princesses, became variously Princess of Wales, Queen Consort, and Princess Dowager of Great Britain. Recent research has explored how in fulfilling these roles they made major contributions to the arts, the development of new models of philanthropy and social welfare, the promotion and support of advances in science and medicine, as well as trade and industry, and the furthering of imperial ambition. While local contexts may have conditioned the forms such initiatives took, their objectives were rooted in a European tradition of elite female empowerment.

This symposium, Enlightened Princesses: Britain and Europe, 1700–1820, will bring together eminent academicians and museum scholars to investigate the role played by royal women-electresses, princesses, queens consort, reigning queens, and empresses—in the shaping of court culture and politics in Europe of the long eighteenth century.

Papers will explore the following themes:
• Royal women as political agents
• Royal women: networks and conversations
• Royal women as patrons of art and architecture
• Royal women and the crafting of image
• Royal women: engaging with nature and technology

The symposium will take place 29–31 October 2017 at Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, and the Tower of London. The programme will include special tours of the Enlightened Princesses exhibition at Kensington Palace, followed by two full days of lectures, themed panels, and discussions at Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.

The fee for attending the conference is £100. Reduction are available for a limited number of students on application to the symposium organiser. The symposium organiser can be contacted at [email protected].

Tickets can be booked here

Co-organised by Historic Royal Palaces, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, in association the exhibition Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, on view at Kensington Palaces, 22 June – 12 November 2017.


Posted in Conferences

Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 Bursary

Last year, the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 offered its first ever bursary to an early career researcher, independent scholar or PhD student who was a member of the Group to  “support research in any aspect of women’s studies in the period 1558-1837”.  The bursary was very popular, we had many applications and so this year we are pleased to be able to offer it again, but this time to make two awards, the first of £500 and the second of £250.  The money will be paid on presentation of receipts and the winners will be expected to give a paper at a WSG seminar the following year, or, if based abroad, write a report for the WSG website.

The grant may be awarded for a new or continuing interdisciplinary or single-discipline project.  For further information about the bursary, and to apply, please download the application form, which is available on the website.  The deadline for applications is November 30th 2017.  Applicants will be notified of the outcome by January 2018.

Please consider applying!
Posted in Opportunities, Scholarships/Awards