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Special Collections

Jane Chapman: artist in residence at the Foyle Special Collections Library

The Foyle Special Collections Library was delighted to host harpsichordist Jane Chapman as artist in residence from October 2011 to October 2012.

Title page of The oriental miscellany (Calcutta, 1789)Our copy of a remarkable 18th century collection of Indian music, William Hamilton Bird’s Oriental miscellany (Calcutta, 1789), was the starting point for Jane Chapman’s exploration of early musical encounters between the Indian sub-continent and the West. Working in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Music (notably Dr Katherine Butler Schofield, a specialist in South Asian music) and the India Institute, Jane presented her findings via concerts, study days and recordings, which reinterpreted The oriental miscellany for a 21st century audience.

Jane Chapman’s residency at the Foyle Special Collections Library was supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

About the project

The oriental miscellany and what it can tell us

The oriental miscellany was the first publication of Indian music written in staff notation for performance on Western instruments. Complied by William Hamilton Bird and published by subscription in Calcutta in 1789, it is regarded by musicologists as an important historical source of Indian music.

Rekhtah from The oriental miscellany (Calcutta, 1789)Hindustani airs were much in vogue at the end of the 18thcentury, and were collected mainly by Western women, most notably Margaret Fowke and Sophia Plowden, both accomplished harpsichordists. William 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. The publication is dedicated to the first Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, himself a subscriber.

The nautch (a form of Indian dance) performed in the court at Lucknow, became one of the main forms of Indian entertainment for Europeans. Plowden's diary contains many references to nautch parties, to meeting famous singers at court and to her own experience of assimilating this music. It is probable that most of the songs that appear in The oriental miscellany were collected in Lucknow at the same time as Sophia Plowden was compiling her own unpublished collection of 1786 (now held in the manuscript department of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), and close comparison of The oriental miscellany with the Plowden manuscript will form an important element of Jane Chapman’s research. 

Plowden’s collection contains 77 songs, transcribed by John Braganza. 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 Bird lists a variety of genres and summarises their characteristics Tuppah from The oriental miscellany (Calcutta, 1789)(tuppahs, for example, are ‘wild, but pleasing when understood’), and pays homage to two famous singers, Chanam and Dillsook. Bird does not include lyrics or indicate how he collected the songs, but titles in Farsi script are listed in the index. Plowden’s collection, on the other hand, contains couplets of Persian poetry and superb illustrations of Indian musicians and instruments. Her 'arrangements' of the airs are much more straightforward and less sophisticated in terms of Western harmonisation, and in this respect are perhaps closer to the originals.   

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 College London, the library of Thurston Dart (1921-71), musicologist, harpsichordist and Professor of Music at both Cambridge and King’s. As the first holder of the Chair at King’s, Dart was responsible for laying the foundations of excellence which the Music Department at King’s now enjoys and his extensive library of 17th and 18th century scores, numbering several hundred volumes, contains many rarities.

Past events

Grove Forum Series: 'Keyboard Music(s)'

Thursday 28 June 2012
The Museum, Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS

The oriental miscellany: 'Wild but pleasing when understood'
Jane Chapman and Andrew Woolley (Leverhulme Fellow in Music, University of Edinburgh)

Hindustani airs: transcription and adaptation of Indian vocal music for harpsichord in the late 18th century. A European perspective, and the reconciliation of musical cultures

Lecture followed by a harpsichord recital with Yu-Wei Hu (baroque flute). 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.

Performance and creativity: harpsichord as cultural microcosm

Monday 28 May 2012
17.00 - 18.30
Chancellor's Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1

CMPCP/IMR Performance/Research Seminars

This seminar series features speakers who specialise in performance, the study of performance, or both. Intended to present some of the most advanced work taking place in the field of musical performance studies.

Performance and creativity: harpsichord as cultural microcosm

Jane Chapman (Royal College of Music, Artist in Residence King's College London)

'There came a moment of madness when the feeling harpsichord thought that it was the only harpsichord in the world, and that the whole harmony of the universe resided in it.' Diderot (1769)

Jane Chapman 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. This 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 first publication of Indian music written in staff notation for performance on Western instruments, namely The Oriental Miscellany; being a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the harpsichord, &c. by William Hamilton Bird (Calcutta, 1789).

'Wild but pleasing when understood': Hindustani airs and cultural translation. Friday 18 May 2012

The Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus

This symposium took William Hamilton Bird's Oriental miscellany (1789) - the first published collection of Indian music transcribed from live performance into Western notation and adapted for harpsichord - 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.

Symposium programme

  • Symbol of the Enlightenment: the Hindustani air as politics, philosophy and anthropology. Professor Bennett Zon (University of Durham) 
  • The origins of Vajid-'Ali Shah's music and dance conservatoire, the Parikhanah. Dr Saqib Baburi (School of Oriental and African Studies) 
  • Time and tune in Hindoostan, circa 1800. Professor James Kippen (University of Toronto) 
  • Wounding eyelashes and wanton smiles:  recreating women's dance practice from 18th and 19th century North India. Dr Margaret Walker (Queen's University)
  • Photograph of Yusuf MahmoudFairies, cypresses and cupbearers: the Persian and Urdu texts in Sophia Plowden's album. Dr Katherine Butler Schofield (King's College London) 
  • The oriental miscellany: notation and beyond - interpretation and performance. Jane Chapman and Yusuf Mahmoud (pictured).
The oriental miscellanyFriday 18 May 2012

Photograph of musicians (Yusuf Mahmoud, Surgeet Singh Aulakh, Amardeep Singh Sari and Katherine Butler Schofield) performing at recitalThe Chapel, King's College London, Strand Campus

An evening recital 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 (Hindustani airs) 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.

An audio clip from the recital is available below:


Photograph of musicians performing at the recital in the College Chapel 

Strand Lives Day: Tuesday 8 May 2012

Title page from 'Airs for the winter' by James OswaldThe Council Room, Strand Campus

Strand Lives Day is part of the Strandlines Digital Community project, which explores one of London's most famous streets, the Strand, and its inhabitants, past and present. This one-day conference included short talks and musical performances.

Jane Chapman and Yu-Wei Hu gave a harpsichord and flute recital: 

'The lady's entertainment: music publishing on the Strand’

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. Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections, gave a short introduction.

The King's miscellany: Monday 26 March 2012

Inspired by The oriental miscellany, young composers from the Department of Music at King’s devised a set of eight miniature works for harpsichordist Jane Chapman. 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. 

Miniatures by: Jean Beers, Christoforos Eleftheriadis, James Fogarty, Patrick Jones, Epifanios Koufteros, Naomi Lewis, Michaela Polakova and Matthew Sheeran.

Hindustani airs through the looking-glass: the tale of Khanum Jan, Tuesday 15 November 2011

Four Persian musicians from ‘A second journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, between the years 1810 and 1816’ by James Justinian Morier (1818) To launch Jane Chapman’s residency, we held a lecture-recital in collaboration with the College’s Department of Music and India Institute. Dr Katherine Butler Schofield (Department of Music) 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 she paid particular attention to the Indian experience of this cross-cultural encounter, the perspective of the North Indian singers whose repertoire was transformed into 'Hindustani airs'. Photograph of Yu-Wei HuFortuitously, she explained, there are several contemporary sources in Persian and Urdu that reflect North Indian views of European transcription enterprises and other involvements in local music-making, including biographies, music treatises, poetry, and songs. These suggest that, rather than the 'Hindustani airs' episode being solely an act of appropriation by politically dominant outsiders that generated no reciprocity in the local music culture, North Indian musicians used the encounter with European music-making to transform their own musical discourse and practice.

Jane performed airs from various sources, including The oriental miscellany, accompanied by baroque flautist Yu-Wei Hu (pictured). This event formed part of the India Institute’s series of seminars and events.

A girl dancing the Kuharwa, from 'Letters written in a Mahratta camp during the year 1809' by Thomas Duer Broughton (1818).Musical treasures from the Foyle Special Collections Library: East meets West, Friday 28 October 2011

Jane Chapman - harpsichord
Yu-Wei Hu - baroque flute

This programme explored some rare publications from the Foyle Special Collections Library and featured pieces for harpsichord and flute (or violin). The concert formed part of the College’s 2011 Humanities Festival (24-29 October 201), whose overarching theme was 'The power of stories', and text and vocal transcription thus formed an interesting starting point for the recital, and in particular the airs from The oriental miscellany and the opera Rinaldo by Handel, based on the poem Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso (1575).  Premiered 300 years ago at the Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London, Rinaldo was also performed in Calcutta, at a concert/production promoted by William Hamilton Bird in 1789, the year in which The oriental miscellany was published.

Title page of 'XXIV overtures fitted to the harpsicord or spinnet' composed by Handel.The Library holds many publications of Handel's music including a large volume containing four sets of overtures, many of which were arranged for harpsichord by William Babell (1690-1723). The adagio which comes from a set of 24 overtures, illustrates the improvisatory and flamboyant keyboard style which was reputed to have been adopted by Handel as he directed the opera from the harpsichord. The famous aria Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep), was compared with the airs from The oriental miscellany, one of which, Kia kam keera dil ne?, was played by baroque flautist Yu-Wei Hu. This tappa popular with the British in India has a strong refrain translated from the Urdu by John Gilchrist (1759-1851): ‘What made you cherish this passion, O! my soul; but, alas! how can I reason with a distracted mind?’. The sonata by William Hamilton Bird contains many of the original airs found earlier in the volume, and are referred to in the score. This typical keyboard sonata with instrumental accompaniment can be seen as one of the first works of East / West fusion.

Title page of 'Six sonates or lessons for the harpsicord' composed by Mondonville (ca 1753)Other sonatas with flute from the Library include a collection by G iacobbe Cervetto (1682-1783) from Harrison's New German flute magazine, no.28, published ca 1787. This baroque sonata with thorough bass, has figures indicating the harmonic structure of the piece, acting as instructions to the harpsichordist on which chords to use when improvising an accompaniment. In contrast, Jean-Joseph Mondonville's Six sonatas, or, Lessons for the harpsichord which may be accompanied with a violin or German flute, published in London by John Walsh ca 1753,  has a fully realised harpsichord part similar to The oriental miscellany.

A group dancing, Junum-ushtoomee, from 'Letters written in a Mahratta camp during the year 1809' by Thomas Duer Broughton (1818).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.

Another work Envoi , inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses by Tom Armstrong and commissioned by Jane Chapman, set the scene for the composition workshop for students from the Music Department which followed the concert. This collaboration resulted in a recital of new works for solo harpsichordentitled The King's Miscellany which took place on 26 March, 2012  in the Council Room, Strand Campus.

Jane Chapman

Photograph of Jane ChapmanDescribed 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.

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