A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Royal Musical Association

The following paper was given at the Royal Musical Association’s annual conference, 16 July 2010.

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Harrison Birtwistle Interview

In December I travelled to Wiltshire to interview Harrison Birtwistle.

I began by asking some specific questions about serialism and whether or not it was a concept that was ‘vetoed’ as Anthony Gilbert had suggested to me that it had been. (The interview with Gilbert will be posted soon.) Not gaining much of a response beyond  ‘I don’t know’ I outlined something of the level of detail I knew about the events, filling in space much as I am as I write this, hoping for a topic that most piqued his interest. It seems that Birtwistle is good at forgetting, which, as this week’s obituary for Alexander Piatigorsky reminded me, is ‘essential’. Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the issues that is raised by making information publicly available through this medium is that of copyright. I earlier posted tangentially about copyright, when I made reference to Chris Anderson and suggested that one of the topics that this blog will explore is that of scholarly publishing. This blog is not in the typical sense peer reviewed, though each post has room for comments to be left by any who care to do so. For the most recent interviews I have made the presence of the blog known to the interviewee, who, if they are so desirous, can peruse the contents of the blog and comment as they wish. I have posted on Bayan Northcott’s engagement with this blog immediate before our interview, and the effect that it had on the subsequent discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Comments by Bayan Northcott on the 1965 WCSS

Speaking with Bayan Northcott uncovered a wealth of information about the WCSSs and the period in which they occurred. This post draws together some clips from the interview. The interview progressed with Northcott going through his diary.

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Bayan Northcott

When I first made contact with Bayan Northcott I gave him the address of this blog. On the morning of our meeting (19 November 2009) I noticed a sharp increase in the traffic of this site, and I suspected that perhaps Northcott was the cause. When I arrived at his flat he showed me through to his kitchen where on the table was a laptop, with this blog open. His first words were ‘I think I can fill in some of Hugh Wood’s gaps in memory’ and ‘please record this if you wish’. He had read by post about Hugh Wood and my questions about the ethics of this research methodology. A number of times during the interview he said ‘I am going to have to trust you [not to make public every comment I make]’. Clearly this trust arose in no small part from the contents of my previous posts. It is heartening to see that the methodology is proceeding as might be predicted, and that the potential for this open way of working to form the trust of a community of interrelated people was, at least for this one interview, being realized.

This stage of trust typically arises in response to previously published work, either in the form of other studies made by the researcher that establish a reputation, or in direct response to the research at hand, in the form of a post-publication revisiting.

There is also another, potentially less positive, side to this situation, since Northcott’s first words (that gaps as exposed in the blog can be filled) shapes the information that he gives. In this regard I am fortunate that Northcott had kept a diary for the duration of the WCSSs and that the interview followed his entries alongside the concert programmes. This focussed the interview as an interaction designed to give me as complete a picture as possible of the events as they unfolded. I am also grateful for the generous time that Northcott devoted to the discussion, which meant that a whole range of subjects could be covered, in some cases for multiple times (each with new information and ideas). In any case, the shaping of new information due to past research is one of the primary ideas charted by the methodology of this blog.

Northcott’s diary is clearly an excellent resource, which enabled him to provide unprecedented detail of the WCSSs. It is a document of which I have no copy:

(LS100049, 16’09”)

Filed under: Interviews, Methodology,

RAM talk, or methodology v

I gave the following talk at the RAM’s seminar on Friday 6 November 2009. This is the text used. The line in the middle indicates the place where I spoke about my other methodology, which was drawn from my earlier posts here about methodology.

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Hugh Wood

On Thursday, 29th October I visited Hugh Wood at his London home, to speak with him about his experience and memory of the WCSSs. I recorded, with permission, the interview. Meeting Wood was thoroughly enjoyable and he lived up to his reputation as charming, intelligent and thoughtful. His memories will enlighten my research, and over the coming months more details of the events will be posted. This post, like the initial post regarding Michael Hall, will focus on the ethics of recording and publishing the interview.

At the outset I asked if it would be alright to record, and Wood agreed.

Late in the conversation I mentioned that there were ethical issues with me making a recording. His response was ‘oh that’s nice of you to say’. Then the following took place:

(LS100045; from 35’55”)

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Michael Hall

I had a meeting with Michael Hall at his house in Exeter on Monday, 26th October. It was particularly worthwhile. Firstly because my recorder functioned perfectly. Secondly because of the wealth of useful information that Hall provided. He also gave me an excerpt from the book he is working on at the moment, which details Birtwistle’s theatre music and its genesis at Cranborne Chase. Future posts will deal with this, though for the details you will have to wait for the book to be published.

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blind but not deaf: methodology iv

I have organized a series of interviews over the next few weeks and so needed some new equipment for documenting these. Much has changed since the last time I bought a portable recording device, including the prevalence of very portable high quality video and audio equipment and the dissolution of low end and professional quality gear (see, for example, the Tascam DR-100). In the end the decision was based on what I didn’t want to record. My worry with this project is that I will accumulate too much data that I have neither the time nor expertise to adequately process, leading to a situation where I fall back on old habits, clichéd categorisations and the like. With a project based on events that occurred more than forty years ago, the accuracy of memory of those who attended is going to be a major factor, and one that I am keen to construct as a positive part of the research process, such that the study informs a broader understanding of a cultural memory for these events. The blog so far has detailed what exists in written publications and the questions that I am formulating for the forthcoming interviews are based on the extent of those documents. To an extent about which I cannot be precise, loss of memory of details and the unmemorability of the events are entangled. Read the rest of this entry »

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More methodology

Part of the theoretical basis for deciding to undertake this research by way of the medium of a blog was to explore the potentially-collaborative, connective nature of the medium as a way of disseminating ideas about these events, of placing the scarcity of published writing about the events at the fore of the research, of positioning my lack of knowledge as a potentially positive aspect of the research, and of embedding the research within a critical discourse wherein aside from the mode of research my be naïve, misguided, progressive, or experimental, as many of its aspects as possible are available for comment. The specific forms of this medium allows easy tracking of such comments, implicit or explicit, with alerts extending to, for example, linkbacks. The extent to which the basis for choosing this medium is complicated by what I sense to be some reluctance to make overt, public criticism is becoming more apparent, and therefore it’s appropriate and useful to add this post. As much as I am curious about the events that took place at Wardour Castle I am curious as to why they have received little published attention. I am interested in the impact that the hegemonies operating within scholarly publishing, promotion in the music industry, and such have in shaping the access to materials about these events and the people who were participants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Methodology II

This blog seeks to incorporate diverse materials from published and unpublished sources, alongside opinion, anecdote, analysis, and music to ‘compose’ an account of the WCSSs. My understanding of this notion of ‘composition’ derives from two sources. Firstly (and my first encounter with it as an idea that made sense), from an (unpublished) interview between Michael Hall and David Lumsdaine in which Lumsdaine used the term to describe what the listener does in making sense of a performance, drawing ‘resonances’ of other moments in the music, other musics, and much else besides.

Secondly, from Christopher Kelty’s collaborative article, ‘Collaboration, Coordination, and Composition: Fieldwork after the Internet’ (click for the full text of this chapter): Read the rest of this entry »

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Like all the post here, this is provisional, subject to editing, deletion, reworking, expansion and contraction. It will be developed throughout the project in posts tagged with same category.

The core activities of this research includes working with living composers, performers and audiences, conducting interviews and bringing together the existing literature on the Wardour Castle Summer Schools. The existing literature exists in various forms, including recordings of oral history, and for this reason it is necessary to work within methodological frameworks that can incorporate both existing artifacts and the new materials generated directly from my research.

One of the most important reasons for conducting this research on this blog is that it will be a form that is familiar to most of those who I will be interviewing. It will also be familiar to those whose knowledge of these events are outside the existing literature and about whom I know nothing: this particular blog is locatable through the most familiar contemporary search methods and its ability to connect simply and easily with diverse sites will enable the participation of those outside my network of known contacts.

With one of the objectives of the project to increase the public accessibility of materials resulting from this research, the use of internationally recognized, fully documented procedures allows for the transparent flow of information between all those who have an interest in the discourse and research. Read the rest of this entry »

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