Ever since I began my PhD, back in 2007, and finally graduated in 2015, December and January have proved to be busy times not only for research, but also for writing and conferences. So it has proved to be this year. Why the darkest time of the year is the busiest, I have no idea. Nevertheless, here is an outline of current papers, publications and research for 2017.
January the 21st will find me at the University of Durham where I will be giving a paper at the conference: A Great Divide or a Longer Nineteenth Century? Music, Britain and the First World War. This paper is based on research carried out for the Royal Northern College of Music’s project Making Music in Manchester during World War One. The paper will argue that the repertoire played in Manchester’s Public Parks during the conflict reinforced a Victorian ideal of nation and patriotism. The abstract is shown below:
Conference theme number four: In what ways did popular music—whether repertoire, performers, or the industry—change because of the war? In what ways did it carry on Edwardian and Victorian traditions?
Brass Band Music, Contests and Entertainment in Manchester’s Public Parks in World War One: Reinventing Repertoire, Patriotism and Tradition?
Manchester was the gathering point for brass bands in the industrial regions surrounding Manchester. From the 1840s the growth of brass bands in the region was rapid. In spite of being a national movement, by 1914, the British Bandsman stated that ‘it could not be denied that the cradle of the brass band was on the slopes of the Pennine Chain.’ During the war years Manchester was significant for bands because the British ‘Open’ Contest at Belle Vue Gardens was the only large contest that kept going. In addition, bands played regularly in Manchester’s public parks.
1913 was a watershed year for the brass band movement. Labour and Love, Percy Fletcher’s tone poem, was performed at the Crystal Palace Contest. Labour and Love was significant as it was composed music of some substance that was available to all bands. It was the first test piece that was composed for the standardised brass band line-up and that the sources can account for fully. Composers such as Elgar and Bliss would soon follow.
In spite of the brass band movement moving away from its standard repertoire I will show that not only did older working-class traditions of music-making reinforce Victorian and Edwardian values in the public space, but also that public performance encouraged patriotism by reinventing patriotic themes found throughout British history.
. British Bandsman (18 April, 1914), p. 349.
 Jack L. Scott, The Evolution of the Brass Band and its Repertoire in Northern England (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, 1970), p. 267.
 Paul Hindmarsh,’Building a Repertoire: Original Compositions for the British Brass Band, 1913-1998’, in, Trevor Herbert (Ed.), The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford,2000), p. 248.
February will be publication time and I have a piece coming out in the respected journal Northern History.
The article, Southern Pennine Brass Bands and the Creation of Northern Identity, c. 1840-1914: Musical Constructions of Space, Place and Region examines the ‘northernness’ of brass bands as as constructed metonym in popular culture.
In spite of being a national form of music-making the brass band movement is accepted -almost without question in the popular imagination – as working class and northern. Hence, writing The Times, in 1974, Peter Hennessy described a band contest at the Albert Hall:
A roll call of the bands is like an evocation of industrial history. From Wingates Temperance and Black Dyke Mills to more modern conglomerates […]. Grown men, old bandsmen say, have been known to cry at the beauty of it all […]. Of all the manifestations of working-class culture, nothing is more certain than a brass band to bring on an attack of the George Orwells. Even the most hardened bourgeois cannot resist romanticizing the proletariat a little when faced with one.
This stereotype, which emerged in the nineteenth century, generated the following questions about northern identity: What elements in the brass band movement created this reportage of northern bandsmen and how did bands, which thrived in large numbers in the Southern Pennines, emerge as a musical and cultural metonym of the industrial landscape? This article explores notions of music-making and the creation of a musical space, place and region through the reporting of brass bands c. 1840-1914.
Ongoing research for 2017 includes women in brass and military bands, masculinity and militarism in the brass band, and a biography of a well-known Victorian singing teacher. I am also being drawn towards local rock music, and an exploration of discos in the 1980s.
So, for someone without a full-time position, it feels full-time. Keeping in the loop, that’s the key to moving forwards in academia, I think.