The Foyle Special Collections Library houses some 170,000 printed works, as well as maps, slides, sound recordings and manuscript material. The library owns a copy of an 18th century collection of Indian music by William Hamilton Bird called The Oriental Miscellany, which was first published in Calcutta in 1789 and was the first collection of Indian vocal music transcribed in western notation. This collection of airs (song-like vocal or instrumental compositions), described as a cross-section of art, culture and music and dance performance, was the starting point for Jane Chapman’s exploration of early musical encounters between the Indian sub-continent and the West.
During her residency Jane worked in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Music, notably Dr Katherine Butler Schofield, a specialist in South Asian music, and King's India Institute. Jane presented her findings via concerts, study days and recordings, which reinterpreted Hamilton Bird's The Oriental Miscellany for a 21st century audience. More information about Jane’s CD recording of The Oriental Miscellany is available here.
The Oriental Miscellany was the first collection of Hindustani airs transcribed from live performance into Western notation and adapted for harpsichord and is regarded by musicologists as an important historical source of Indian music. An air is a song-like vocal or instrumental composition and by the 18th century, composers wrote airs for instrumental ensembles without voice. These were song-like, lyrical pieces, often movements in a larger composition.
Hindustani airs were particularly in vogue at the end of the 18th century and were collected mainly by Western women, most notably Margaret Fowke and Sophia Plowden, both accomplished harpsichordists. Hamilton Bird formed part of Plowden’s musical circle and is often mentioned in her diaries. He was an active member of the British community in Calcutta, directing and organising western classical concerts, and was able to attract an illustrious list of over 250 subscribers to The Oriental Miscellany, including Sophia Plowden.
Hamilton Bird’s work contains fewer than half that number, but the same works are written for both harpsichord and guitar and he also includes compositions of his own: a sonata for violin or flute, followed by a ‘minuetto’ and ‘jigg’. In his introduction to The Oriental Miscellany, Hamilton Bird lists a variety of genres and summarises their characteristics ('tuppahs', for example, are ‘wild, but pleasing when understood’). Hamilton Bird's introduction does not include lyrics or indicate how he collected the songs, but titles in Farsi script are listed in the index.
The copy of The Oriental Miscellany held in the Foyle Special Collections Library forms part of what is probably the most important musical collection held by King’s, the library of Thurston Dart (1921–71), musicologist, harpsichordist and professor of Music at both Cambridge and King’s. The library holds an extensive collection of 17th and 18th century scores, numbering several hundred volumes and contains many rare pieces.
To launch the residency, Jane performed alongside baroque flautist Yu-Wei Hu in an evening of musical recitals on 28 October 2011 as part of King's Arts & Humanities Festival, whose overarching theme was The power of stories. The programme explored some rare publications from the Foyle Special Collections Library and featured pieces for harpsichord and flute (or violin), including airs from The Oriental Miscellany and the opera Rinaldo by George Handel (1711), based on the poem Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso (1575).
The concert was illustrated with pictures from publications in the Library, including two from Letters written in a Mahratta camp during the year 1809 by Thomas Duer Broughton (1818), one showing a girl dancing the Kuharwa, with accompanying musicians, and the other depicting the Junum-ushtoomee, a Hindu religious ceremony featuring music and dancing.
A new work Envoi by Tom Armstrong, inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, and commissioned by Jane, set the scene for the composition workshop for students from the Department of Music which followed the concert. This collaboration resulted in a recital of new works for solo harpsichord, some of which involved electronics, entitled The King's Miscellany which took place on 26 March 2012 in King's Council Room. Influenced by Indian ragas, baroque dance forms, Hindi film music, unmeasured preludes, Spanish flamenco, the santoor, Moravian folk song and more, this diverse collection reflected contemporary trends in composition, with an innovative approach to writing for the harpsichord today. Jane also performed A Thousand Golden Bells In The Breeze by Silvina Milstein and Manoeuvring and Finessing by Rob Keeley.
The Library also held a lecture-recital in collaboration with the Department of Music and India Institute on 15 November 2011. Dr Katherine Butler Schofield gave an illustrated talk, putting European and Indian sources together, to tell the story of the original songs and singers behind the Hindustani airs that were so popular among Anglo-Indian audiences in late 18th century British-India. In her talk, Katherine paid particular attention to the Indian experience of this cross-cultural encounter and the perspective of the North Indian singers whose repertoire was transformed into airs.
Jane performed airs from various sources on the harpsichord, including The Oriental Miscellany, accompanied again by Yu-Wei Hu. This event formed part of the India Institute’s series of seminars and events.
An evening recital took place on 18 May 2012 in the College Chapel recreating some of the original Indian vocal music from The Oriental Miscellany using Persian and Urdu texts, accompanied by sarangi, tabla and tambura, with arrangements for harpsichord and baroque flute.
- Yusuf Mahmoud - voice
- Jane Chapman - harpsichord
- Surgeet Singh Aulakh - sarangi
- Yu-Wei Hu - baroque flute
- Amardeep Singh Sari - tabla
- Katherine Butler Schofield - tambura
The concert was accompanied that same day by a symposium held in the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, which took Hamilton Bird's The Oriental Miscellany as the starting point for an examination of art, culture and music and dance performance practice in late 18th and early 19th century India. Introducing the Hindustani air as a locus of Enlightenment thinking, it explored the genre's meaning as an embodiment of contemporary political, philosophical and anthropological attitudes.
The symposium programme included:
- Symbol of the enlightenment: the Hindustani air as politics, philosophy and anthropology with Professor Bennett Zon, Professor in the Department of Music, University of Durham.
- The origins of Vajid - 'Ali Shah's music and dance conservatoire, the Parikhanah with Dr Saqib Baburi, Teaching Fellow in the Department of Religions and Philosophies, School of Oriental and African Studies.
- Time and tune in Hindoostan, circa 1800 with Professor James Kippen, Professor in Ethnomusicology, University of Toronto.
- Wounding eyelashes and wanton smiles: recreating women's dance practice from 18th and 19th century North India with Dr Margaret Walker, Associate Professor in Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Queen's University.
- Fairies, cypresses and cupbearers: the Persian and Urdu texts in Sophia Plowden's album with Dr Katherine Butler Schofield, senior lecturer in the Department of Music, King's College London.
- The Oriental Miscellany: notation and beyond – interpretation and performance with Jane Chapman and Yusuf Mahmoud.
Listen to Jane speak about the concert and symposium below:
Described in the Wall Street Journal as 'one of Britain's most distinguished classical harpsichordists’, Jane Chapman is equally passionate about baroque and contemporary music, premiering over 200 solo, chamber and electro-acoustic works worldwide. She is involved in cutting edge collaborations with ground-breaking musicians and visual artists, exploring innovative approaches to performance.
Her CDs of 18th century English music, The lady's banquet, and of the 17th century French Bauyn manuscript, offered the first extensive overviews of important sources previously unexplored on disc. Recent recordings include Berio's Rounds (Mode), New York Times pick of the year, and Three windows (DEM), with electric guitarist Mark Wingfield and saxophonist Iain Ballamy. Her latest CD - WIRED (NMC) - features new works with electronics by leading British composers.
Jane is an Honorary Fellow of Dartington College of Arts, and an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music, where she is Professor of Harpsichord.
Strand lives day, 8 May 2012
Strand lives day was part of the Strandlines Digital Communities project, which explored one of London's most famous streets, the Strand, and its inhabitants, past and present. This one-day conference, held in King's Council Room, included short talks and musical performances.
Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections, gave a short introduction to the symposium and the presentations gave a glimpse into 18th century domestic music-making, including works from two collections held by the Foyle Special Collections Library, Aires from the opera curiously set and Airs for the seasons by James Oswald.
Jane Chapman and Yu-Wei Hu gave a harpsichord and flute recital titled The lady's entertainment: music publishing on the Strand.
Performance and creativity: harpsichord as cultural microcosm, 28 May 2012
This seminar was held at the Chancellor's Hall, Senate House, University of London, and featured speakers who specialise in performance, the study of performance, or both and presented some of the most advanced work taking place in the field of musical performance studies.
As part of the seminar series, Jane examined the harpsichord as a source of inspiration for a new body of innovative work and performance techniques, drawing on and confronting its historical associations and redefining its position today through solo performance and wider artistic collaboration. The presentation explored the creative process as partnership between performer and composer, illustrated by key works that have been written for her.
She investigated ideas of performance practice, authenticity and interpretation when applied to the appropriation of musical ideas and inspiration from the 'other', in particular the challenges of reconstructing and contextualising The Oriental Miscellany.
Grove forum series: keyboard music(s), 28 June 2012
A lecture held at RCM Museum, Royal College of Music, followed by a harpsichord recital by Jane with flautist Yu-Wei Hu.
The lecture Included a selection of material from the holdings of The Foyle Special Collections Library: Hindustani airs, Sonata by William Hamilton Bird with 'select passages from the airs', Scotch songs, 'Opera aiires' from The lady's banquet and Sonata by JC Bach.