James Oswald (1710-1769) and Highland music: Context and legacy

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Abstract

James Oswald’s later books from the Caledonian Pocket Companion contain a number of items which are clearly of Highland provenance, both in title and style. Amongst these is the first appearance in publication or manuscript of the tune for a Hebridean waulking song, and early examples of music drawn from the clàrsach and bagpipe repertoires. Os-wald is also credited with settings of passages from James MacPherson’s Selma, which survive in a unique copy in the Wighton Collection, Dundee, in which it is claimed that Oswald took them down from MacPherson’s own singing.

This chapter explores potential routes of transmission for such material, and con-siders the significance of these examples within the context of post-Jacobean cultural sensitivities. Many of the prevailing attitudes to such ‘exotic’ repertoire are reflected in evolving images of relevant musicians. This evolution – from Hogarth to Runciman, de Loutherbourg, and Ingres to choose but four – will be seen to parallel an evolution in the acceptability of the musical material.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusica Scotica
EditorsM J Grant
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherMusica Scotica Trust
Chapter4
Pages37-52
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)0-9548865-9-3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

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