Paper Session
Nov 21, 2021 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211121T1600 20211121T1650 America/Chicago The Work of Songs AMS 2021
‘“The desires of their hearts… are on the Green Isle of the Mist’: Gaelic Song and Political Reform in the Wake of the Highland Clearances”
Individual Paper 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/21 22:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/21 22:50:00 UTC

            Between 1750 and 1860, over 100,000 Gaelic people were displaced or evicted from their homes in the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides. These evictions, most of which were sanctioned by wealthy Scottish landowners, removed Gaelic tenants to make way for lucrative agricultural ventures such as the enclosure of open fields for livestock and the development of hunting estates. In her song "Eilean A' Cheo [The Misty Isle]," Màiri Nic-a'-Phearsain (1821–1898), one of the most well respected composers and performers of nineteenth-century Gaelic-language song, addressed the marginalization and violent mistreatment of Gaelic people on the Isle of Skye by lamenting, "Who has ears,/ Or a heart which beats with life/ Who will not sing this song with me/ About the hardship which has befallen us?/ The thousands who were cleared/ Deprived of their belongings and their rights,/ The desires of their hearts and their thoughts/ Are on the 'Green Isle of the Mist.'"

            In this paper, I will explore the ways Scottish Gaelic composers and performers used song to inspire public sympathy and political reform in the wake of the Highland Clearances (1750–1860) and subsequent Land Agitation movement (1860–1912). These songs are a powerful record of the experiences of Gaelic people in a culture where singers and songwriters acted, and still act, as historians and public advocates for the concerns of their communities. The outpouring of public sympathy largely inspired by these songs led to the implementation of land reform policies across Scotland at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite these historic changes, Scotland still maintains one of the most inequitable patterns of land ownership in the Western world. This fact has fueled recent discussions of Scottish national independence. As British political tensions rise in the discourse surrounding Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to examine the history of land reform within Scotland, as well as the central role Gaelic song has played in that history. This project helps inform the historic roots of these political acts as an ethno-cultural issue with a long history grounded in colonial discourse.

Rachel Bani
Florida State University
Specimens of Style and the Colonial, 1750-1810
Individual Paper 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/21 22:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/21 22:50:00 UTC

In 1789, William Hamilton Bird, an Irish musician living in Calcutta, published _The Oriental Miscellany_, a collection of "Hindustani airs" -- a European keyboard genre based on Persian and Hindustani _nautch_ songs, popular in the 1780s and 90s in British colonial society in North India and across the British Empire. The _Miscellany_ included thirty transcribed and harmonized songs arranged for solo keyboard, plus a sonata by Bird himself, based on melodic fragments from the songs. The colonial epistemic violence and extractive logic of Bird's _Miscellany_ is most obvious in its later reception: many of Bird's examples were reproduced in ­_Specimens of Various Styles of Music_ (1807-10) -- a widely circulated multivolume anthology compiled by English composer and teacher William Crotch. As the term "specimen" implies, Crotch scoured the newly populous landscape of printed music in search of "every kind of excellence," with the aim of presenting a taxonomized display-case of exemplary stylistic specimens, in order to educate the general public in matters of musical discrimination.

 As Rachel Mundy (2014) has argued, the nineteenth-century concept of musical style is inseparable from colonial taxonomies of nature and culture and imperial projects of racial categorization. This paper, however, proposes that Bird's _Miscellany_ represents a moment prior to the systematically racializing projects of the nineteenth-century cultural imagination. In the eighteenth century, as Dror Wahrman (2004) and others have shown, "race" was as much an expression of climate, environment, and "culture" as the inevitable result of a newly theorized human biological history. Bird's translations, transcriptions, and transductions of Hindustani musics, I show, bear witness to a distinctively eighteenth-century materialism, described in postcolonial literary studies by scholars such as Monique Allewaert (2014) and Amanda Goldstein (2017). This vibrational, inherently musical materialism furnishes a concept of style that was yet to embark on its familiar nineteenth-century trajectory -- an entanglement of expressive surfaces, bodily gestures, and techniques and technologies of inscription. Bird's _Miscellany_, I argue, has much to teach us about how the style concept is not only a suspect artefact of colonial methods of organizing knowledge, but also a way to unsettle them.

Virginia Georgallas
University Of California, Berkeley
Florida State University
University of California, Berkeley
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