Dunkeld Music Book (or Douglas-Fisher Partbooks) GB-EdU MS64


The State of Research

During the course of the twentieth century there has been a remarkable increase in knowledge and understanding of music from Medieval and Renaissance Scotland, culminating in a thirty-part BBC radio series by Dr John Purser in 1991 entitled Scotland's Music, an ever-growing discography, and the recent launch of an edition dedicated to early Scottish Music.

Until the beginning of the century very little was known. Although there are a number of liturgical books and fragments remaining from the 9th to the 16th centuries (McRoberts, 1952b, p. 49f), of all the music composed during this era there are now only a few manuscripts extant, the majority of these being in Edinburgh, in the National Library of Scotland and in the University Library, with others dispersed in Dublin, Washington, London, and other parts of England.

Consideration of music in this northern kingdom has been somewhat fragmentary, owing to the destruction of much of her fine arts through political, religious and social upheaval, 'the hazards of warfare and the reforming zeal of the mid-[16th] century' (Elliott, 1960b, p. 2).

J.A. Fuller Maitland brought about the performance of some early Scottish music at Westminster Cathedral, having published an edition of Carver's 19-voice motet O bone Jesu in the 1920s. Sir Richard Terry, responsible for the extraordinary development of choral music at Westminster, researched in the British Museum (and elsewhere) by day, bringing the results of his work to the Cathedral by night, thus seeing the first performances for centuries in this country of many works. Among these was arguably the reformed liturgy's Scottish Psalter of 1635 edited with prefatory material by Dr Neil Livingston in 1864 and revised by Terry some seventy years later.

Dr Henry George Farmer's article 'Music in Medieval Scotland' [PRMA, LVI (1930), pp. 69-90] and book A History of Music in Scotland (London, 1947) brought Scottish music some important attention. Although these writings were a breakthrough at the time, more work was needed.

Research continued with John McQuaid's studies of Scottish musicians (1949) and their relationship with the Establishment (1952). The same year saw articles by David McRoberts on 16th-century Scottish breviaries and their use in the liturgy (1952a), a catalogue of liturgical books and fragments (1952b), with more work five years later on how surviving documents portray the medieval liturgy (1957).

It is with the work of Kenneth Elliott and Isobel Woods (later Preece), however, that research into Scottish music truly came into its own.

The initial work on 'Musick fyne', the name generally given in sixteenth-century Scotland for polyphony, was part of a research project entitled Musica Scotica, specifically that of 1500-1700. This project, which dates from the autumn of 1952, was led by Thurston Dart (secretary of the Musica Britannica series from 1950 to 1965) and Helena Minnie Shire. A projected volume of early Scottish music for Musica Britannica was determined in 1953 and a year later they were joined by Kenneth Elliott, whose doctoral studies at Glasgow were being supervised by Shire (Elliott, 1960b, p. iv). In 1953 Thurston Dart had recognised the missing Quintus part of the Wode Partbooks at Trinity College, Dublin (Elliott, 1960b, p. ix), later drawing up the 'Master Music-Index of Musica Scotica' (Elliott 1960b, p. vii). Elliott's dissertation (Glasgow, 1960) consisted of two volumes: description and transcription of a number of manuscripts, including the Carver Choirbook, the Wode Partbooks and the Dunkeld Music Book. The second volume was published in 1957, with revisions in 1964 and 1975, as Music of Scotland (volume XV of Musica Britannica series).

In 1996 a series of Early Scottish Music was launched by Elliott with the project's original title Musica Scotica (perhaps to correct the perceived Anglo-centric bias of Musica Britannica), beginning with the complete works of Robert Carver and two other works which Elliott attributes to Carver and sixteenth-century Scots songs for voice and lute with other volumes in preparation. Another PhD dissertation, by Judson Maynard (Indiana, 1961), surveys 'The Airt of Musick collecit out of all ancient doctouris', (hereafter referred to as The Art of Music), otherwise known as Scottish Anonymous, an incomplete treatise dealing with, amongst other matters, the use of faburden.

Isobel Woods, until her untimely death in 1997, made a sizeable contribution to the state of research into early Scottish music. Her doctoral dissertation (Princeton, 1984) was on the Carvor [sic.] Choirbook, whilst other studies include the claim for a unique Scottish Use, but which was actually the Sarum Rite with a few local variants as used in Scotland, and The Art of Music treatise, in which she considers that Scottish Anonymous is either Andrew Buchan, Master of the Edinburgh Song School when it reopened in 1579, or at least someone very close to him (1989, p. 38).

A PhD dissertation (Exeter, 1988) by Glynn Jenkins looks at Latin polyphony in Scotland for the first 60 years of the 16th century together with a discussion of the analytical techniques required for music of this period.

Stephen Allenson draws our attention to the Inverness Fragments of the mid-16th century, which appear to come from the parish school where they were probably used in the training of boys in the practice of the chant and faburden using material concordant with The Art of Music. The manuscript shows that the Sarum Rite was still in use in that part of Scotland shortly before the Reformation, albeit with the possibility of local adaptation (Allenson 1989, p. 14f.).

An interesting, if somewhat flowery, account of the historical context for Scotland's music can be found in Musick Fyne: Robert Carver and the Art of Music in Sixteenth-Century Scotland by James Ross (Edinburgh, 1993); the book also gives some description of the music.

Accompanying Purser's radio series is an excellent book, Scotland's Music (Edinburgh & London, 1992), unfortunately now out of print.

> Chapter 1: Historical and liturgical context


Contact Alistair Warwick at:
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