9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Scots song in the later eighteenth-century: philosophical attitudes, performance practice and dissemination

Claire Nelson

Throughout the eighteenth-century, the attitude of members of every strata of Scottish society towards their native song culture was extremely positive. Songs were as much a part of daily life in the drawing rooms and concert rooms of the upper classes as in fields and rural celebrations of the peasant population, and no-one was exempt from participation in their performance. The discussion of traditional songs in the philosophical discourses of James Beattie and John Gregory, literary discussions of Alexander Campbell and William Tytler and other writings from Hugo Arnot's History of Edinburgh to Edward Topham's Letters from Edinburgh, is therefore informed by practical experience as well as critical observation.

Encompassing elements of the Scottish Enlightenment's primitivist theories, these writers establish a new justification for the performance of native music, thus paving the way for the incorporation of Scots song into the newly composed art music of the latter part of the century. Their descriptions of the performances of Scots songs by the Italian castrato Tenducci, as well as other native Scottish singers, provide today's performers with clear indications of the appropriate performance practices, and also indicate routes for the dissemination of this music to a British, rather than merely Scots, audience. This paper will therefore aim to demonstrate the profound effect of Scotland's intellectual culture on both the performance practice and reception history of Scots song, through the musical discourse of the latter half of the eighteenth-century.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita