Since Spring 2020, when it wasn’t possible to meet in groups, Edinburgh’s Adult Education courses have been offered online. One of the courses on offer was titled History and Culture through a Scottish House. Janette a member of the Libraries’ Digital Team attended the course and thought that the story of the studied house – Newhailes, just outside of Musselburgh – would make a good addition to our History of the House series here on Tales of One City.
Newhailes was built in 1686 by Scottish architect James Smith for his own use and was named Whitehill. Due to financial difficulties Smith was forced to sell the house to the Bellendens of Broughton and it became known as Broughton House.
In 1709 it was sold again and became the home of Sir David Dalrymple, 1st Baronet of Hailes and his wife. It was renamed Newhailes and was to become the home of the Dalrymple family for the next 300 years.
The Dalrymples of Newhailes were a dynasty of lawyers and statesmen descended from Sir James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair.
In 1717 work began to build a library wing to hold Sir David’s vast collection of books, pamphlets, broadsheets, prints, maps, and music books.
Sir David died in 1721 and was succeeded by his son James as second baronet. Sir James completed the library and began work on the new State Apartment. This was eventually completed in the 1730s/1740s. Sir James died in 1751 and was succeeded by his eldest son David who was later to become the judge and scholar, Lord Hailes.
When Lord Hailes died in 1792 without having a son, his daughter Christian inherited the estate and the title of Baronet was passed on to her cousin, James Dalrymple who became 4th Baronet of Hailes. Miss Dalrymple never married, and the estate of Newhailes and the Lordship and Baronetcy of Hailes was passed on to her nephew Sir Charles Dalrymple Fergusson of Kilkerran. Sir Charles’s younger son, also called Charles, succeeded Newhailes in 1849. He was a leading Conservative MP and was created 1st Baronet of Newhailes in 1887.
Searching Find my past and the census of 1861 we can tell that Newhailes was a considerable property with 13 servants ranging from a Butler, Footmen, Kitchen Maids, and a Dairy Maid.
The last family inhabitant of Newhailes was Lady Antonia Dalrymple who had married the 3rd Baronet of Newhailes Sir Mark Dalrymple in 1946.
The Second World War had reinforced the need for more inexpensive and stricter ways of living, which were essential for maintaining a large house with little help and little income. Lady Antonia came to Newhailes at its lowest ebb and, especially after Sir Mark’s death in 1971, she had to work hard to keep things in good order.
In 1976 Lord Hailes’s papers and books consisting of around seven thousand volumes were removed to the National Library of Scotland in lieu of death duties following the death of Sir Mark at the age of 56.
They had no children and when Mark died the Baronetcy became extinct. Lady Antonia continued to live in Newhailes until 1997 when it was given to The National Trust for Scotland because the cost of upkeep was becoming impossible. It has been allowed to grow old gracefully through a conservation policy which does as much as necessary, but as little as possible to keep the house in good order without disturbing its untouched atmosphere.
We are grateful to Mark from Adult Education for allowing us to share a brief history of Newhailes House here and would thoroughly recommend the History and Culture through a Scottish House course for anyone wanting to learn more about uncovering the past through the history of your home. You can browse and enrol on the Adult Education Programme courses online.
Oliver Knussen the composer/conductor died aged 62 in 2018. Knussen was a much sought-after conductor and interpreter of the 20th century repertoire, especially of the works of Benjamin Britten. As a composer, he was perhaps best known for his work with the writer and artist Maurice Sendak, producing two operas based on Sendak’s books, ‘Where the wild things are’, and ‘Higglety Pigglety Pop!’
Knussen lived most of his adult life in London or in his beloved Snape in Suffolk. It might therefore be wrong of us to try and claim one of the world’s foremost composer/conductors as a Scot, but Oliver Knussen was born in Glasgow, to Jane Alexander and Stuart Knussen, so Scottish he was.
Knussen, it is said by those who knew him, would have scoffed at the idea of him being a child prodigy, but he did start to write music from the age of six, and had his first symphony played by the LSO, London Symphony Orchestra, at the age of fifteen, a performance which he conducted himself.
Having a father, Stuart Knussen, as Principal Double Bassist with the LSO, gave the young Knussen remarkable access and insight in to the workings of the symphony orchestra. The first performance of this commissioned, youthful, 1st symphony was to have been by the LSO’s principal conductor Istvan Kertesz, due to his illness, the baton was taken up by the 15-year-old Knussen. The composer has since withdrawn this symphony from his list of works.
Knussen’s father Stuart, also played for the English Opera Group and the English Chamber Orchestra, so was involved in first and early performances of the works of Benjamin Britten. In an article in the Guardian in 2013 entitled Oliver Knussen: ‘Britten pointed me on the right path in the simplest, kindest way’, Knussen recounts how he met and was encouraged by the great English composer. In one amusing anecdote, Britten asked who Knussen’s composition teacher was, to which Knussen replied “John Lambert, who was a pupil of Nadia Boulanger”. At this, Knussen says that Britten didn’t say anything rude about Boulanger, which seemingly he normally did.
Teacher and composer Julien Anderson said of Knussen’s 2nd Symphony, written and performed in 1970/71, with this work, “Oliver Knussen’s compositional personality abruptly appeared fully formed”. A phrase, more than once attached to descriptions of Knussen’s works, is, its crystalline concision, complexity and richness. Knussen was not a prolific composer, Thomas Ades, the British Composer, when writing in tribute of Oliver Knussen said “Olly Knussen taught me that a work takes as long as it takes. He worked only to his own timescale and it was like a diamond forming”. His output then was periodic and sometimes short. He seemed to work on a principal, why take ten minutes to say something when you can say it in less, sometimes much less. A modernist expressionist composer, his works are difficult but very approachable. Knussen was a fiercely intelligent council to his colleagues, friends, and fellow composers, with a formidable knowledge of 20th and 21st century music and music-makers. His “crystalline concision” as a composer was mentioned earlier, but this attention to detail and precision was also expected as a conductor of his orchestras. His ability to hear detail is mentioned by many. Hearing things that he didn’t want to in the fore of a recording, or the opposite, not hearing a detail he felt should stand out. Knussen’s extraordinary ear/hearing is often mentioned and made him an exacting musician to work with.
Knussen married Sue Freedland in 1972. Before her marriage to Knussen she had been a freelance horn player, and worked as assistant to Leonard Bernstein, preparing the Unanswered Question Lectures, after coming to Britain, Sue worked for both the BBC and Channel Four as a Music Producer. The couple had unfortunately separated in the period before her untimely death at the age of 53 in 2003. Knussen completed his Requiem: Songs for Sue in 2006, and described the work concisely: ‘It’s not a huge work… but it’s a big piece emotionally’.
Although not prolific Knussen has a formidable list of works including two operas, three symphonies, many chamber works for small groups in many differing formations. His recorded output is extensive, not only of his own work, but that of others, and a long list of teaching, conducting and performance appointments, this is just a few in no order at all –
Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival 1983 – 1998 Head of Contemporary Music at The Tanglewood Music Centre 1986 – 1993 Principal Guest Conductor Hague Residence Orchestra 1993 – 1997 Musical Director of the London Sinfonietta 1998 – 2002 Artist-in-Association BBC Symphony Orchestra 2009 – 2014 Knussen co-founded the composition course at the Britten Pears School of Music in 1992 In 2014 Knussen was the inaugural Richard Rodney Bennet Professor of Music in the Royal Academy of Music, School of Composition and Contempory Music.
We have created three short playlists containing some examples of Knussen’s Opera and Orchestral Work, and a small selection of Knussen as conductor. There are many more at edinburghcitylib.naxosmusiclibrary.com
We are all on differing timetables for our routes out of lockdown but one thing is clear, that this year, as last, most of the music making will be online with musicians round the country and the world, finding imaginative ways of using the internet and social media platforms to make a contribution to Make Music Day. The website of Make Music Day has a section about how you can be involved, from Doorstep Gigs to Window serenades, Global Folk Challenges and Drum Battles but perhaps most importantly is singing your version of this year’s Make Music Day anthem, Stand By Me. If you are moved to dust off your Tambourine and join the likes of Ben E. King, Mohammad Ali and the Kingdom Choir amongst a plethora of others, and give your rendition of Ben E. King’s classic then go to the get involved page of the Make Music Day website.
Stockbridge Library with Alan Govan, will be hosting a Trash Music Workshop, where you can take part in recording your own track using any household object you have to hand. To book a free place and find out more, visit Eventbrite. For further information on the event, contact Carol at Stockbridge Library: email@example.com.
Central Library will be presenting a short programme of music on our social media platforms including performances from Rolling Hills Chorus, Sangstream amongst others.
Please decide to take part in Make Music Day in some way and we hope you join us at Central Library for part of your day. We hope you have a great experience, making music.
The earlier images are engravings and drawings with the first photographic image a salted paper print of the construction of the Scott Monument by pioneer photographers David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson dated 1847.
Most of the places you will still recognise today, while others no longer exist. Some, like Whitehorse Close and Ramsay Gardens, look quite different to how they look now.
As the decades move forward, we see Edinburgh recovering from two World Wars and beginning to emerge as the vibrant city it is now. Traditional tenement housing in disrepair at the end of the 50s was replaced by high rise flats and estates on the city outskirts.
Edinburgh was soon becoming the host to major events. As well as the internationally acclaimed festivals and Tattoo, sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games and Tall Ships Race have been hosted in our city.
We’ve reached J in our Musical Alphabet and what could be better than to turn our attention to jazz! Jazz music has grown into such a huge, diverse genre, having stemmed from its roots in ragtime and blues and originating over 100 years ago in the African-American communities of New Orleans. With such a wealth of music to explore, some of our colleagues share a few of their favourites and recommendations:
Bronwen from the Art & Design and Music team recommends Abudullah Ibrahim’s work: I was lucky enough to see Abdullah Ibrahim performing at the Queen’s Hall in the 1990s. I love the vibrancy of the music from his native South Africa which Abdullah Ibrahim fuses with influences from the American jazz music of New Orleans and the music of Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington. Pianist and composer, Ibrahim’s music is calming and meditative – I describe it as rolling round and round as it improvises and switches between tempos with ease.
Naxos Jazz has much to choose from – I think my favourite piece is Soweto which is on the Cape Town Revisited album.
Eamonn from the Digital Team enjoys Water from Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane’s 1973 album The Elements:
Spiritually minded cosmic jazz from Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane, in a rare role as a side musician.
I’m a big fan of Alice Coltrane and her impact can be felt throughout this record. I’m also a sucker for minimalist drone music like Tony Conrad’s Outside the Dream Syndicate and the hillbilly minimalism of Henry Flynt, so this record really appeals to me.
The music is an unusual assemblage of hypnotic drones, desert funk and open-ended blowing, with a heavy emphasis on sounds and scales from North Africa, the Middle East and India.
Water, in particular is stunning – heavily processed in the studio, the live interplay is treated and spliced with all manner of electronic dubwise effects. No-holds-barred World Music before the term was used (and subsequently over-used).
Fumiko, who’s normally based at Morningside Library but has been working with the Central team for the past few months, is a huge jazz fan and wants to share this love with you!
Iain from the Edinburgh & Scottish and Reference team shares a mixture of old and new suggestions with Andrew Wasylyk and Charles Mingus:
For a modern jazz track I would pick Last Sunbeams of Childhood by Andrew Wasylyk. The Dundee based flautist who releases his stuff on Edinburgh record label ‘Athens of the North’. It’s not on Naxos but can be found on bandcamp.
For something more traditional I would choose Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from my favourite jazz album ever Mingus Ah Um from 1959 available via Naxos.
Janette from the Digital Team loves to listen to The Manhattan Transfer:
My pick of Jazz artists would be The Manhattan Transfer. Most people will know them from Chanson D’Amour which was a big hit for them in the mid 70s. The tracks I have picked are from three of The Transfer’s albums available on Naxos Jazz.
You Can Depend on Me – Louis Armstrong first recorded this in 1931 but this sounds very different, their four part harmonies and solos giving another slant to the song. From the self titled album, The Manhattan Transfer.
Until I Met You (Corner Pocket) – Count Basie made a well known recording of this on his 1957 album April in Paris and here the group add vocals and brings it to life superbly. From the album Mecca for Moderns.
Birdland – originally on the album Extensions but featured on The Very Best of on Naxos. The song gives celebration to the famous New York Jazz club Birdland. A remake of the Weather Report song, again The Transfer added vocals and is regarded the signature tune of the group.
Jeanette from the Art & Design and Music team dances along to Billie Holiday:
Billie Holiday has so many wonderful songs but Them There Eyesis such a joy to listen to. It’s one I go back to again and again. Holiday has several different recordings of this song, my favourite being the 1949 recording with Sy Oliver and his Orchestra. It has a big swing sound, is upbeat and catchy and has her voice weaving in and out of the trumpets. The song builds and has a fabulous call and response part between her and the band. Great to play whilst cooking the tea after a tiring day at work. Be prepared to kick off your shoes and transform your kitchen into a dancefloor!
Jen from the Art & Design and Music team is a great fan of Nina Simone:
I just love Nina Simone… her voice, her piano-work; it gets me every time. Feeling Good is a firm favourite, especially with coffee in the morning, but having a look through Naxos Jazz I’ve just discovered a lovely version of Hush Little Baby I never knew she did that I’m excited to play my hooligan toddler – with the hope I can soften his soul a bit. And another one I want to play him is It Don’t Mean a Thing; written by Duke Ellington, the lyrics by Irving Mills; doo-wah doo-wah oh yeah…
Natasha from the Art & Design and Music team relaxes listening to Fergus McCreadie:
A hugely talented pianist and composer, Fergus McCreadie hails from Clackmannanshire. I first came across his music when his debut album with his trio, Turas, was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year in 2019. I was intrigued by the snippets I’d heard so I managed to get tickets to see the Fergus McCreadie Trio live. McCreadie’s work is inspired by both the Scottish landscape and traditional Scottish music and there was something so magical about listening to his music in such an intimate setting on a dark, cold, autumnal Edinburgh evening. I could close my eyes and instantly imagine myself by lochs, at a harbour or nestled in the Highlands, at the break of a day or in a creeping dusk. David Bowden on bass and Stephen Henderson behind the drums complete the trio and the three compliment each other beautifully. Cairn, the trio’s second album, was released earlier this year and I’m certain it shall be the soundtrack to many lazy summer evenings to come.
Writing a great tune is only one part of completing your master work, your symphony, overture or tone poem. Harmony, counterpoint, form, structure but perhaps most importantly, orchestration. What instrument plays that great tune and how they play it, is key. Choosing whether to have your tune played by a muted trumpet offstage or muted strings on stage, or unmuted strings plucking the strings.
Strings, collectively bowed and plucked instruments, woodwind, brass or together blown instruments and struck instruments or percussion. All the different instruments that make up the four sections of the orchestra, can be played in different ways to produce a variety of tones or timbres. All of which are available to the orchestrator to colour your master work.
Jeremy Seipmann, 1942 – 2016, was born and educated in America, on completion of his studies he was persuaded to come to London by Sir Malcom Sargent, where after a career at the London University he became a broadcaster, writing and producing music programming for the BBC World Service.
Siepmann’s The Instruments of the Orchestra is a wonderful lecture on all the possibilities capable by the members of a musical ensemble. In the string section the narrator introduces all the instruments and goes through them, allowing them to demonstrate to us all the tones they can produce. Open strings, muted strings, plucked strings or pizzicato, playing rhythmically with the back of the bow on the string, known as Col Legno.
The narrator goes through all the sections of the orchestra likewise asking them to demonstrate the techniques available to them – the woodwind, brass and percussion. Also Jeremy Seipmann asks the members of the orchestra to demonstrate pieces of music where the techniques displayed are used by composers to evoke mood and texture in an orchestration.
Apart from a few opening statements which date this CD in another time when attitudes were different, it is a thorough and thoughtful introduction to all the options available to the composer, orchestrator arranger. Two other series of CDs by Jeremy Seipmann are available to stream on Naxos, Classics Explained, where he, bar by bar talks us through some of the great classics. Life and Works, as the title suggests, Siepmann takes us through the composer’s life highlighting their greatest works along the way.
This introduction to the Instruments of the Orchestra is narrated by David Randolph, 1914 – 2010, an American conductor, Music Educator and Radio Host. Drier, and not as informative as Siepmann’s Instruments of the Orchestra but the CD available from Naxos is a worthwhile listen.
This CD also contains a performance of Benjamin Britten’s wonderful Young Persons guide to the Orchestra originally written in 1945 for a British educational documentary “Instruments of the Orchestra”. This work introduces all the instruments in a similar way to the CDs we have looked at, but in a musical setting of theme and variations ending with a fugue and grand replaying of the theme.
In a version on Medici TV, The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra is conducted and narrated by the wonderful Marin Alsop, she gives us the original script, written by Eric Crozier which is now rarely performed.
There is one more CD at Naxos to mention –
Yehudi Menuhin, taking us through all the instruments of the Orchestra, in a very similar way to the previous CDs mentioned, except his narration is all in German, so for those German language learners also wishing to acquaint themselves with the instruments of the orchestra, this CD is for you.
These CDs, available to stream on Naxos, pretty much comprehensively layout all the instruments and their capabilities, of the western orchestra.
Unfortunately, as one travels around the world there are no CDs similar to introduce us to the instruments of the Chinese Orchestra or the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra or a Turkish Orchestra.
All over the world, ensembles fall into familiar families of instruments, plucked strings, bowed strings, blown instruments and struck instruments or percussion. The instruments contained within these sections are in some cases vastly different from, but are relatives of, the instruments we are perhaps more familiar with.
There are, thankfully, CDs at Naxos and documentaries and concerts at Medici.tv which contain works which amply demonstrate the depth and beauty of music played by some of these ensembles.
Kamran Ince’s work, Concerto for Orchestra, Turkish Instruments and Voices, is scored for the conventional western orchestra with the addition of Kurnaz, an Oboe-like instrument strident and not known for subtlety. A ney, an elegant and beautiful end-blown flute and a kemance, a sort of bowed fiddle shaped like a mountain dulcimer.
Russian folk music orchestras contain the balalaika, domra, bayan, garmon and svirel, to name just a few.
Central Broadcasting Folk Orchestra and the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, two ensembles available to stream on Naxos, play Chinese and western classical music on traditional Chinese instruments erhu, pipa, dizi and the sheng.
Formed in 2000, by legendary cellist Yo Yo Ma, The Silkroad Ensemble eclectic ensemble brings together the finest musicians from many different lands. Originally formed with the question “what happens when strangers meet”. You can enjoy their performance at the Tanglewood Music Festival on Medici.tv.
We have prepared a playlist on Naxos for you to explore containing these CDs and more.
One of the great things about Edinburgh Collected is that everyone can add images themselves. Many associations have uploaded photographs from their own collections. One of them, The Living Memory Association has provided us with many hundreds of photographs and have created scrapbooks each telling their own stories.
One scrapbook features the Walker family and Bell’s Mill in the Dean Village around the late 1800s and early 1900s and shows different aspects of life at the mill.
Bell’s Mill was run by Gideon Walker at that time and he appears in some of the images. The mill had originally been used to grind corn and flour, but by the late 19th century it was used to grind sawdust into wood flour which was used to make everything from bus tickets to linoleum.
It was while the mill was being used to provide this product that it was destroyed by a blast in 1971.
Nowadays, the site of Bell’s Mill is occupied by modern apartments, but some of the old mill still exists if you look close enough.
2021 marks the centenary of the birth of Joan Eardley, one of Scotland’s finest and best loved artists of the twentieth century. To mark this, the ‘Eardley 100’ celebrations, a series of exhibitions and events are taking place nationwide.
As a painter Joan Eardley was bold, uncompromising and fiercely dedicated to her art. She divided her time between a small studio in the Townhead area of Glasgow, and one in Catterline, a small fishing village on the North East coast. Drawing and painting what she saw around her, these two contrasting locations became the lifelong focus of her work.
At Townhead, a slum earmarked for demolition, she painted the densely populated and crumbling tenements and streets and became known to the poverty stricken families who lived there. Befriended by the children, they would frequent her studio, posing in exchange for sweets. Eardley produced thousands of artworks at Townhead, ranging from the sensitive pastel sketch on sandpaper, ‘Sleeping Boy’ (1962), to the evocative oil on canvas, ‘Glasgow Tenement Blue Sky’ (1956), capturing both place and people with an unflinching eye and fearless honesty.
At Catterline, Eardley became a familiar figure to locals as she immersed herself in the panoramic views outside. She could often be seen painting the leaden skies and ferocious seas during storms, her board and easel tied down to the beach with ropes and boulders. She began to work on an impressive scale, swapping her canvases for large boards and painting in fast, expressive strokes. Here, she evoked the exposed, rugged coast in powerful and monumental paintings such as ‘Salmon Nets and the Sea’ (1960), ‘The Wave’ (1961) and perhaps her most famous work, ‘Catterline in Winter’ (1963). At age 49, she died of cancer, cutting her life tragically short and ending a blazing artistic career too soon.
At Townhead and Catterline, Eardley found her voice. Her unique ability to capture their essence singles her out as an important and outstanding painter of both urban and rural Scottish identity. To quote Lachlan Goudie, who describes her as “one of the greatest painters in Scottish art history” and has long been an outspoken champion of her art, “No artist has painted Glasgow’s inner city the way Eardley did and very few have matched her visionary approach to painting the coastline of Scotland”.
Leading the centenary celebrations throughout 2021-22 is the Scottish Women in the Arts Research Network (SWARN) which brings together a range of cultural organisations across the country. Included are Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, Paisley and Arran where exhibitions, events and spotlight displays are taking place via a range of platforms both online and in real-time.
Here in Edinburgh, we are in for a treat. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has some of her most iconic paintings on show in their ‘Eardley and Catterline’ exhibition. The Fine Art Society is exhibiting Oscar Marzoli’s photographs of the artist alongside her work, and fine art auctioneers, Lyon and Turnbull, plan ‘A Century of Joan Eardley’, an auction focus that will bring her uniquely expressive work to the fore.
The Scottish Gallery has a major exhibition planned to coincide with the Edinburgh Festival. It will also be showing a series of online events, films, tours and talks. Dovecot Studios, who are working in partnership with the gallery, are creating a new tapestry based on her painting, ‘July Fields’ (1959) which will be unveiled at The Scottish Gallery.
We, at the Art & Design library, love Joan Eardley, and we applaud these moves to commemorate and shine a light on this remarkable artist. Learn more about Eardley’s life, art, and why her legacy is so important by reading from the range of books on the artist in our collection. Although the Art and Design Library is not yet open to the public, books can be borrowed through a request service. To request books, please specify the titles you wish to borrow or the general subject area, your borrower number, contact details and when you would like to pick up your books. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will have your request ready to pick up from the front hall of Central Library.
We hope you will visit one or more of the exciting shows on offer, or watch and listen online, and perhaps raise a glass as the nation gives due praise to one of our best and most beloved. Happy 100th Birthday Joan Eardley! Let the celebrations begin!
Focusing on H in our Musical Alphabet, Natasha from the Music Library looks at the revered Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi.
If you’ve ever watched a film by Hayao Miyazaki, one of the co-founders of the Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, you’ll no doubt have been swept away in the emotive storytelling, the wonderful character design, and the gorgeous, lush scenery. I’m sure you’ll have also been struck by the beauty of the music, composed by Joe Hisaishi, an almost constant in Miyazaki films.
Born in Nakano, Nagano, Japan in 1950, Hisaishi’s birth name is actually Mamoru Fujisawa. As his work became increasingly more well known, Fujisawa decided to create an alias for himself. Inspired by the prolific musician, composer, and producer, Quincy Jones, Fujisawa took this name and transcribed it into Japanese: ‘Hisaishi’ can be written using the same kanji as ‘Kuishi’, the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Quincy’; ‘Joe’ originates from ‘Jones’.
At the age of four, Hisaishi began to learn to play violin using the method developed by Suzuki Shinichi. He and his father also began watching 300 films a year, the two events shaping Hisaishi’s future. In 1969, Hisaishi studied music composition at the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, developing his passion for minimalist music, a genre associated with composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley. The minimalists and Japanese electronic musicians such as the group Yellow Magic Orchestra certainly inspired Hisaishi and he released his first album in 1981, MKWAJU, forming the MKWAJU Ensemble with, amongst others, acclaimed percussionist Midori Takada. The album explored ‘Ma’, the Japanese concept of negative space. His second album, Information, was released a year later.
Hisaishi had already scored for anime series in the 1970s but 1983 would become a real cornerstone for Hisaishi’s career. Tokuma, the publishing company which had distributed Information, recommended Hisaishi to produce an image album for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an animated feature-film adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s manga series of the same name. An image album is intended to give an indication of a character’s personality, and Miyazaki played Hisaishi’s effort frequently during production. The film’s producer – another of Studio Ghibli’s co-founders, Isao Takahata – recommended that Hisaishi compose the soundtrack. This started an enduring partnership and great friendship between Miyazaki and Hisaishi, leading to comparisons with Steven Spielberg and John Williams; Hisaishi has scored all but one of Miyazaki’s works with Studio Ghibli, which was released prior to Nausicaä. Some of the scores Hisaishi has written for Studio Ghibli films have developed into a family affair: his daughter, Mai Fujisawa, sang the requiem at the end of Nausicaä at the age of four, and performed on the image album for Ponyo.
Piano scores are a prominent feature of Hisaishi’s cinematic work. A key example of this is his most famous piece, One Summer’s Day from the Spirited Away soundtrack. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Spirited Away enjoyed huge commercial and critical success; until last year, it was the highest-grossing film ever in Japan and won, amongst many other awards, the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2003. Hisaishi’s music plays a huge part in the success of the Studio Ghibli films, the scores so emotive and warm, reflecting the breathtaking animation on screen. Miyazaki often asked Hisaishi to write parts of each film’s score early on in production to allow the music to influence the writing and direction of the project.
The work with Hayao Miyazaki is not the only successful collaboration Joe Hisaishi has enjoyed. He has composed for several films by ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, who may be more familiar to some as the titular character in the gameshow Takeshi’s Castle. Kitano’s films often depict the yakuza, and Hisaishi’s soundtrack for his film Sonatine won the Japanese Academy Award in 1993. The track Summer from another of Kitano’s films, Kikujiro, is another of Hisaishi’s most recognisable pieces. In total, Hisaishi has won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Music seven times, and even won against himself with his score for Ponyo in 2009, triumphing over his work for the film Departures (which was the first Japanese film to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar that same year). Hisaishi was presented with a Medal of Honour with a purple ribbon by the Government of Japan in 2009, the purple ribbon indicating academic and artistic contributions and accomplishments. In 2013, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended a membership invitation to Hisaishi, with members needing to have “demonstrated exceptional achievement in the field of theatrical motion pictures”.
Taking inspiration from various sources, including both Japanese and European classical styles, as well his passion for minimalism and electronic music, Hisaishi has created a sound that is unmistakably his own. There is a real humanity to Hisaishi’s work, a prolific career with over 100 scores and albums to his name. Particularly when I think of his work with Studio Ghibli, no matter how fantastical the scene, Hisaishi’s music evokes a sense of nostalgia and belonging from the audience. There is a timeless quality which enamours the listener to Hisaishi’s music; I defy anyone familiar with the main theme to My Neighbor Totoro to not feel the same glee as they did when they first heard it. We can only hope there is more to come from this remarkable composer and musician.
You can listen to some of Joe Hisaishi’s work through our Naxos Classical Catalogue, which you can access using your library card.
Over the past year with restrictions due to Covid 19 in place, many people have been taking their daily exercise through some of the city’s cemeteries.
The latest story addition to Our Town Stories features a few cemeteries you may know, and some you might not have heard of.
You will discover where in 1911 one of the highest paid entertainers of his time was buried after a tragic performance went wrong.
And do you know where you will find the only monument to the American Civil War outside the U.S.? And perhaps the most unusual one of all, where a husband and wife who succumbed to the plague of 1645 are buried.
Mental Health Awareness Week runs 10-16 May and this year’s theme is nature. During the Covid pandemic many of us have turned to nature as never before enjoying our local green spaces for exercise, for sustenance and to meet friends outside in a socially distanced way. Research on the mental health impacts of lockdown have shown that going for walks has been one of our top coping strategies.
Edinburgh has many greenspaces with a wide variety of both managed and natural heritage environments to enjoy. Connecting with nature is central to our emotional and psychological wellbeing and we want to inspire you with some of our favourite greenspaces managed by the City of Edinburgh Council to get out and open yourself up to connecting with nature.
Where can I go?
What’s your favourite park in Edinburgh? Are you looking for new ideas of where to go? Search the directory of parks and greenspaces to find a space or just trawl through the A to Z of records. It’s amazing the variety of size, shape and location of places to visit. Below are some of our favourites.
Princes Street Gardens
Don’t we all just love Princes Street Gardens? Nestling in a valley between the Old and the New Town this beautifully manicured garden with floral clock, welcome benches and gentle slopes for sitting out on, shaded with trees, provides welcome respite from the usual hustle and bustle of the city centre and plenty of space for friends and family to meet and walk. Admire the floral clock – did you know it was first planted in 1903 and each year the planting scheme commemorates a special anniversary? You can enjoy the gardens from home by looking at the Libraries’ collection of images on our online Capital Collections Princes Street Gardens exhibition.
Saughton Park and Gardens
Situated in Balgreen in the south west of Edinburgh, Saughton Park and Gardens is a hidden gem of a park. Saughton Park combines formal classical gardens featuring Edinburgh’s largest herbaceous border, flower and heather beds and a Scottish Physic garden with playing fields, an athletics track and the biggest skateboard park in Scotland. There really is something for everyone! If you want to get more involved in the park, join the Friends of Saughton Park and Gardens.
Situated in the north of the city, Leith Links provides a large open space with tree-lined avenues and walkways well used by families, joggers, dog walkers and the whole community besides! Leith Links is steeped in history as the site of the Siege of Leith in 1560 and during the 17th and 18th centuries was a premier place to play golf. Leith Links became formalised as a public park in 1888 and today is very much a central park for the local community with the Edinburgh Mela and Leith Festival sited there. Enjoy the community orchard, tennis courts, play area or just take a seat and watch the world go by. Search for images of Leith Links on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery.
Water of Leith
If you’re looking for a walkway taking through different areas of Edinburgh explore the Water of Leith Walkway. Starting in Balerno at Bridge Road, the walkway winds its way to Leith passing through Balerno, Currie and Juniper Green before reaching Colinton and Craiglockhart Dell. The Dell is a wooded gorge and haven for wildlife. Beyond the Dell the river passes the Water of Leith Conservation Trust before hitting Gorgie, Saughton, the Dean Bridge, Stockbridge and onto Leith. There are plenty of access points to the Walkway along the path of the river. A place of history the river once powered 90 water mills providing paper, snuff, linen and flour and the remnants of these activities can be seen in the weirs and buildings along the river. Explore on foot and find images of the Walkway illustrating its history on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery.
From Joppa to South Queensferry there are many places along the Firth of Forth to enjoy coastal walks and breathe in the sea air. Cramond Foreshore accessed from Cramond Glebe Road takes you down to the shoreline where you can look across to Fife and across to Berwick Law. There’s a café, toilets, an outdoor gym and seating but you can walk along the shoreline or out to Cramond Island at low tide. Cramond is one of Edinburgh’s oldest villages and longest known period of human settlement. Back from the shore you can also explore the more secluded Crammond Walled Garden where you’ll find seating and play equipment for both toddlers and teenagers. Enjoy the exhibition of some 100 photographs illustrating the history of Cramond during the 19th and 20th centuries on Edinburgh Libraries Capital Collections image library.
Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve
Not far from Crammond is the natural heritage site Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve on the western fringes of the city. Cammo is a large estate with woodlands, mature trees, open grassland, a walled garden and ruins of buildings that once formed part of the Estate. There’s a lot of interest in terms of both wildlife and fauna with plenty of space for people to spread out and for dogs to enjoy running about. Cammo House has an interesting history: bequeathed to the National Trust in in 1975 following the death Percival Maitland-Tennant, the last occupier of Cammo House. In 1977 the house was partly destroyed by two separate fires which left only the chimney stack and outside walls standing. The house was considered unsafe and partially demolished. The National Trust feud the estate to the City of Edinburgh Council. Read more about the history of Cammo House and its owners on Edinburgh Libraries Tales of One City blog.
There is much to do at Cammo with a permanent orienteering course, a QR trail, seating to stop and admire the views and designated walks.
One tip for enjoying a deeper connection with nature, try taking your shoes and socks off and feel the grass or the sand underneath your feet. Walk about barefoot. This practice of earthing connects us to the Earth’s surface electrons transferring energy from the ground to a body. How good does sand feel beneath your feet and to walk barefoot along the sea shore?
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” So wrote Henry David Thoreau in his book Walden; or, life in the woods published in 1854.
The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week running 10-16 May 2021 is nature focusing on the importance of nature to our psychological and emotional wellbeing. Research has shown that even small contacts with nature can be effective in helping to protect our mental health.
Staff and readers from Edinburgh Libraries like many have been enjoying nature both by getting outdoors ourselves but also by reading about nature. We’ve put together some of our resources that we hope will inspire you to connect with nature especially as this beautiful Spring of 2021 unfolds its transcendent beauty. Thanks to Fiona, Zoe, Bronwen and Ruth for your contributions.
We may not all have a garden but most of us have a windowsill where we can place a few pot plants or create a small kitchen garden of herbs for cooking. Surrounding ourselves indoors with plants and the act of touching the soil either outdoors or inside within a plant pot can be rejuvenating as we connect with the natural world and take enjoyment from watching a plant grow before our eyes.
Be inspired by our wide range of gardening emagazines available to read from Edinburgh Libraries including the very popular BBC Gardener’s World .
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is available as an ebook and in hardcopy
Walden, or, life in the woods was first published in 1854 yet resonates with contemporary audiences. Thoreau, the American Transcendentalist writer, reflects upon simple living in natural surroundings. Thoreau lived in a cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts for around two years and Walden is an account of this experience along with his scientific observations of the world around him. The book is part memoir and part spiritual quest. Walden encourages the reader to focus on the joys and satisfactions of a simple life, the goodness of humanity and what we can learn from nature.
Raynor Winn’s book The Salt Path is available as both an ebook and eaudiobook.
Raynor Winn and her husband Moth start their journey walking the 630-mile South West Coast Path after they have lost their home and learnt some devastating news regarding Moth’s health. At the mercy of the elements Ray and Moth walk through some breath taking and dramatic scenery from Somerset to Dorset via Devon and Cornwall and experience the redemptive power of nature as they are strengthened both physically and mentally and ultimately become enabled to find solutions to their personal challenges. Just a warning from our library reader – Ray and Moth take a short cut in packing too light a sleeping bag, don’t read this at night as you’ll worry about them being out at night in the cold!
Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun is available as audiobook.
Wild swimming has become really popular over the past year with many people seeking out their local lochs, rivers and beaches for a dip, even through the winter months. Cold immersion can soothe aching muscles, relieve depression and boost the immune system. Amy Liptrot’s memoir traces her recovery from addiction as she returns from London to her native Orkney and immerses herself in the therapeutic qualities of nature. Amy spends early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea observing the wildlife around her and becoming re-attuned to the seasonal life around her. This is an inspiring book which shows the healing power of the sea, the land and yes, the wind to restore and heal.
Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk is available as an ebook
Helen Macdonald’s memoir H is for Hawk is a perfect example of how the natural world can help us to heal, to process loss and overcome grief.
The book charts Macdonald’s challenge to herself, a few months after her father’s sudden death, to train one of the most difficult of raptors, a goshawk she names Mabel. This honest and gripping account intertwines with author T. H. White’s own memoir of training a goshawk through a lonely and difficult time.
The story is a very personal record of Macdonald’s bereavement, but it is uplifting, as it also describes her eventual recovery; a journey which takes place alongside her tumultuous conquest of the goshawk.
What stands out for me is the feeling of love and awe Macdonald has for nature and wildness, from her early obsession with falconry to the memories of standing in forests with her photographer father, learning lessons of patience and observation. She paints a picture of our wilderness as a place that can heal a person in a way that human society cannot.
Many of us know Chris Packham from his amazing work presenting nature programmes like Springwatch on TV. You get a sense watching of how important nature is to him – Fingers in the Sparkle Jar explains how this came about.
Although the book says it is a memoir of his childhood, it’s not simply that. It explains how his connection to the natural world helped him to cope with how different he was from others and how isolated he sometimes felt. Interspersed with his memories are conversations with his therapist and you get a real sense of his struggles to make a place for himself in a world which he didn’t quite fit into. It’s beautifully written and I must admit I had tears in my eyes more than once.
Library reader Ruth from Trinity shares Kathleen Jamie’s collections of essays Sightlines connecting us with nature. Sightlines is available to download.
Kathleen Jamie is a Scottish poet and writer who digs deep into the natural landscape. In her book of essays ‘Sightlines’ (2012) she takes us from the discovery of a ringed storm petrel bird on a beach on Rona to her formative experiences on an archaeological dig and to the return of the light to her garden in February.
Each essay explores a topic which many of us might take for granted, such as a windy day on Hirta, and examines it with the forensic detail of a poet. In ‘Pathologies’, Jamie literally takes to the microscope – under the guidance of a friendly pathologist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee – to look at the ‘ecology’ of the human body, describing healthy tissue as ‘an ordered, if unusual land’ and a cancerous tumour as ‘dark dots that seem too busy for comfort’.
Jamie is clearly drawn to explore and write about windswept and remote locations, both in Scotland and beyond, and yet she almost always draws her attention back to human interaction with the natural world, both past and present. In ‘Voyager, Chief’ she explores our fascination with whalebones, whales, and the whaling industry. Many of us will have wandered under the jawbones arch of two baleen whales in the Meadows in Edinburgh, but it wasn’t until I read this essay that I learned that they arrived in Edinburgh from the Shetlands in 1886 to form the structure for a stall demonstrating knitting techniques in Shetland and Fair Isle in the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry.
Perhaps my favourite moments in ‘Sightlines’—and, indeed, in Jamie’s more recent book of essays ‘Surfacing’ (2019)—are when she weaves together landscape and human experience. As she watches gannets raising their chicks, she thinks of her own growing children and laughs; for her, ‘nappy buckets and trails of milky vomit’ are over. In this way, Jamie is a deeply comforting read. Her essays are like standing on the top of a mountain and looking at the vista. On the one hand our lives—just like the gannets—are a deeply significant part of the natural order of life. On the other hand, like the passage of the eclipse over the moon, life’s joys and struggles are ephemeral. As she concludes: ‘The wind and sea. Everything else is provisional. A wing’s beat and it’s gone.’
Borrow Sightlines as an ebook. If you want to read more of Kathleen Jamie’s writing, Surfacing is available in print copy.
All the way through lockdown, we’ve all been getting out for walks and exploring our local areas much more. It’s been wonderful to connect to the nature on our doorstops and see things that perhaps we’ve passed every day but never noticed. For many of us getting out for a walk has been a real lifeline.
Now we can explore further afield but it becomes more difficult to know where to walk and what we might encounter. We are a bit anxious now about going to new places and seeing new things.
That’s where our amazing collection of walking guidebooks comes in. There are walks for every ability and every area. You can find out what to look out for in terms of nature and history, check out how far it is and how difficult the terrain is and, if you’ve got a dog, whether it’s a suitable walk for them too. You can borrow an Ordnance Survey map to help plan even more.
Edinburgh Libraries continue to bring awareness of diversity and inclusion in the public arena by teaming up with Trellis for Mental Health Awareness Week whose theme this year is nature. Trellis the place to go for know-how about therapeutic gardening and the art of using gardening to help people take care of their physical, emotional and social well being. To get to know more about Trellis visit: www.trellisscotland.org.uk
Today, we hand over to Trellis to tell us how to connect with nature.
“You probably know that feeling that comes when you’ve been in a garden for a little while: a subtle slowing of your heart rate, a moment when you notice all is quiet inside your head – the anxious, irritated thoughts from earlier, now gone, and your breathing, fallen into an even, easy rhythm. You may find you’ve lost track of time, the knot in your shoulders has loosened up. These are the feel-good effects offered by gardens or parks, for free, any time you care to wander out and let them have a few minutes to do their thing.
Trellis is the charity that promotes and supports therapeutic gardening all across Scotland. That means harnessing these feel-good effects and deliberately using them to help people feel better and improve their quality of life. Gardening is used to help people manage or recover from depression, stroke or trauma. It can be a way to build strength after an accident and a step towards getting back into work. Garden programmes help people build confidence, gain qualifications and surprise themselves and others with their achievements. They help people stay fit or manage chronic pain. No matter the circumstances, we offer guidance on adapting gardening so its benefits are within reach for everyone.
Did you know just being near a plant can reduce your blood pressure, slow your heart rate and decrease feelings of pain, stress and fear? There are some fascinating Japanese and Korean studies that have measured such changes taking place, though the precise mechanisms remain somewhat mysterious. We don’t know quite how gardening works its magic on us, simply that it does.
Gardens restore us in so many ways, coaxing us into a better mood or getting us moving when we don’t feel like it, or, when a beautiful blossom opens, gently distracting us from nagging worries. It’s no wonder then, that each week skilled practitioners at 480 therapeutic gardening projects harness these benefits, helping over 12,000 people feel better. For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, why not try out the feel-good effects of gardening for yourself with some easy tips coming your way.
Lots of people can relate to the idea of gardening being therapeutic, but there’s lots more to find out about the amazing therapeutic gardening projects quietly tending corners of neighbourhoods across the country. What is a Therapeutic Garden?
A tender and tasty treat that is easy to grow and perfectly suited to our cool northern climate, why not try your hand at raising a crop of broad beans this year? How to Grow Broad Beans
Everyone loves a fairy tale – and you can create your own beautiful, enchanted world in a small corner, even if you don’t have an outdoor space. Fairy Gardens
Peas are possibly the nation’s favourite vegetable and easy-peasy to grow, producing a feast for the eyes as a bonus with their gorgeous, scented flowers. They’re the perfect take away food – no washing or preparation required. Early Peas
Watching wildlife from your window or doorstep is a great way to switch off for a moment and allow your mind some breathing space. Here’s a cheap and simple way to welcome the birds to your place. Cheery Cheerio Ring Bird Feeder“
Unfairly Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofé – Ferde Grofé is perhaps only known for two things Rhapsody in Blue which he didn’t write and the Grand Canyon Suite which he did.
Ferde as he became known was born in 1892 in New York to a highly musical, German immigrant family. Emil, his father, was an opera singer mostly known for singing operetta and Elsa, his mother a cellist and teacher. Elsa’s father and brother were both established orchestral musicians based in New York and Los Angeles.
Ferde’s mother was his first music teacher and she started him on the piano and violin. Shortly after the sad death of his father in 1899 his mother took him to Europe, to Leipzig to study viola and composition. Over the next few years he became proficient in many instruments and on his return to America went through a succession of jobs before leaving home and joining the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a viola player.
From 1909 to about 1919 his day job as violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic was supplemented by jobs with local dance bands and jazz orchestras. In 1920 he joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra initially as pianist but he soon became Paul Whiteman’s chief arranger responsible with his arrangements for the Whiteman sound.
In 1924, Paul Whiteman had approached George Gershwin to produce a Jazz Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. The story, according to Ira Gershwin, George’s brother, was that George forgot about the commission and it was not until 5 weeks before the premier that George Gershwin started work on the Concerto. He handed over his sketches to Ferde Grofé for him to produce the orchestral score which Grofé did brilliantly but Gershwin hadn’t completed the piano part so during the first performance the piano part was played from memory by Gershwin himself.
Grofé, later in 1942, made an arrangement of the work for full orchestra and it is in this version that we best know Rhapsody in Blue.
In 1929 Grofé started work on a piece initially titled Five Picture of the Grand Canyon. This evocative tone poems was to become the work we know as the Grand Canyon Suite. This suite would take the next two years to complete having its premiere in 1931.
This was a relatively short period of time for Grofé to work on a piece but an emerging pattern painted from these two works show how the composer/arranger could work. On some things quickly, efficiently and on others a long painful artistic process with many of his works unfinished on his death, not receiving a first performance till long after his passing, taking ten, twenty or more years to be finished.
The Grand Canyon Suite was premiered on the 22nd November 1931 in the Studebaker Theatre, Chicago, by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and has remained a staple in the orchestral repertoire ever since.
The work was used as the soundtrack to a 1958 Walt Disney film called Grand Canyon. Its opening shot states “a pictorial interpretation of Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite”. Rather in the manner of Fantasia, this Disney short has no dialogue and no plot.
Ferde Grofé died in 1972 leaving behind a large body of work including film scores, large orchestral works, choral works, concertos and chamber works. Only a very small percentage of this catalogue has been recorded.
We have collected a few of Grofé’s works on to playlists in Naxos Jazz and Classical streaming services.
Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool famous for its Art Deco design, large diving boards, artificial waves and chilly water was one of Portobello’s main attractions for over 40 years. Opening in 1936, it was the largest outdoor pool of its kind in Europe.
The pool was enormous, 330 ft long by 150 ft wide. The one and a half million gallons of water required to fill the pool was filtered from the sea and heated by steam from the adjacent power station.
One of the main attractions was the wave making machine which was the first to be installed in an outdoor pool in the UK and could generate waves up to 3ft high.
The pool closed for six years during the Second World War and had to be camouflaged to stop it being used as a landmark for enemy planes.
By the end of the 60s Portobello’s popularity waned as cheap package holidays became readily available. The pool fell into decline and with the closure of the power station in 1978, removing what little heat there was for the water. The 1979 season was to be its last and the pool was finally demolished in 1988.
We have just published images on Capital Collections recording the pool’s construction. See these fascinating images in our new exhibition on Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool.
Deaf Awareness Week runs from 3-9 May 2021, with this year’s theme being ‘Coming Through it Together’ – you can find more information on the UK Council on Deafness website.
At the end of May, the Oscar-winnng and BAFTA-winning film Sound of Metal will be released in the UK, starring Riz Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. These two events have inspired Douglas and Natasha from the Music Library to take a look at some composers and performers who have experienced hearing loss. You may notice that Ludwig van Beethoven is not present on this list, but that’s because Douglas has already written a fascinating blog about Beethoven and his deafness.
Dame Ethel Smyth 1858-1944
In 1934 the country gathered together to celebrate the 75th birthday of one of Britain’s favourite composers, Dame Ethel Smyth. Over a few spring months, concerts and radio broadcasts of Smyth’s works were organised, leading to the festival’s final concert in the Royal Albert Hall. The composer sat beside Queen Mary and watched Sir Thomas Beecham conduct a performance of her Mass in D to a packed Albert Hall, by this point almost completely deaf she could not hear the music, the adulation, and the recognition of her lifetime’s achievement in music.
Smyth was closely involved with the suffragette movement, and her popular “The March of Women” was adopted by the Women’s Social and Political Union.
With the outbreak of the World War One, Smyth went to France and trained as a radiologist. She worked as a radiologist in Vichy from 1915 to 1918, difficult years in which she became increasingly deaf. On her return to England, she concentrated on her writing, producing in 1919 the first of 8 volumes of memoirs, Impressions that Remained.
In this period of her life Smyth focused on writing memoirs, she was made a Dame in 1922, but composed little, the outstanding work of this late period was a large-scale vocal symphony The Prison, described as dialogue between a wrongly convicted prisoner and his soul. Smyth wrote this work in 1929/30 and she herself, despite her major hearing loss, conducted the premiere of the work in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on the 19th February 1931.
Ralph Vaughan Williams 1872-1958
Sir Gerald Kelly’s portrait of Ralph Vaughan Williams depicts the composer during his final days. Completed after his death, the painting shows Vaughan Williams seated, a musical score in front of him, conductor’s baton in his right hand, and a hearing aid in his left ear.
Before the outbreak of World War One, Vaughan Williams had already composed some of his most famous works, including The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; these two works have just been voted 1st and 3rd respectively in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame 2021. He volunteered for military service in 1914, despite being forty-two at the time. He served in France and Salonika (Thessaloniki), having joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and the 2/4th London Field Ambulance. The prolonged exposure to loud, continuous gunfire in the trenches caused Vaughan Williams to experience hearing loss, which worsened to severe deafness in later years. According to the biographer James Day, Vaughan Williams possessed a large number of hearing aids, “the largest of which he referred to as his ‘coffee pot’”.
Vaughan Williams continued to compose after his time spent in the military, right up until his death in 1958. Following the premiere of his Fifth Symphony in 1943, for which he was the conductor, many took the serene nature of the piece to be the seventy-year-old Vaughan William’s farewell piece. This could not have been further from the truth, with Vaughan Williams composing many more pieces before his final work, Symphony No. 9, which premiered four months before his death. Day also noted in his book, The Master Musicians: Vaughan Williams, that the composer’s hearing loss did impede his ability to enjoy performances by larger ensembles but he continued to attend concerts throughout his life, including works by Gustav Holst with whom Vaughan Williams was great friends.
Bedřich Smetana 1824-1882
Best known perhaps for the symphonic poems Má vlast and his opera, The Bartered Bride.
In the summer of 1874 Smetana became ill with a rash, a throat infection, and a blockage to his ears. By October of that year he had lost all the hearing on one side and most on the other, Smetana remained hopeful that his hearing might return but it never did.
This final decade of Smetana’s life was a fruitful one producing the earlier mentioned Má vlast and three operas. One of Smetana’s final works was his String Quartet in E minor which is also titled From My Life and is described as a musical autobiographical work with, in the final movement, a high open harmonic E on the violin said to represent the now constant ringing in his ear.
Asteroid 2047 Smetana was named after the composer in 1971.
Dame Evelyn Glennie 1965-
Noted as being the first person to maintain a full-time career as a solo percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie began to lose her hearing aged 8 and has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.
Born in Aberdeenshire, she initially learnt to play the piano and clarinet before switching to percussion as her hearing deteriorated. Glennie attended the Royal Academy of Music in London, though she was initially denied a place as she describes the institution stated they “[didn’t have] a clue of the future of a so-called deaf musician”. Glennie challenged the decision and auditioned again, being accepted the second time. Glennie advocates the act of listening with the whole body as opposed to simply by hearing, and as such does not refer to herself as a deaf musician but instead as a musician with a hearing impairment. With the aid of Ron Forbes, her percussion teacher at her secondary school, Glennie learnt how to tune timpani using vibrations she could feel with her hands flat against a wall, before finding ways to harness the vibrations created to further her musicianship, such as performing barefoot.
Glennie played the first percussion concerto ever in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and has commissioned over 200 new pieces for solo percussion. Her own composition, A Little Prayer, which she wrote when she was thirteen, has become one of her most famous pieces. A multi-award winner, including Grammy Awards and the Polar Music Prize, Glennie was named Chancellor of Robert Gordon University in April 2021. Many will have seen her perform at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, leading one thousand drummers as well as performing on an aluphone, which was an entirely new instrument at the time.
William Boyce 1711-1779
William Boyce was made Master of the King’s Music, succeeding composer and his teacher Maurice Greene on his death in 1755. It is said that one of the first things Boyce did was to refuse to write a new setting of Zadok the Priest as Handel’s was “unsurpassable”. By 1758 Boyce’s deafness had become such that he was forced to retire his teaching and organist roles and returned to Kensington to devote the rest of his life to editing and copying works left to him by others. He completed Maurice Greene’s Cathedral Music, which Greene had left unfinished on his death, and is still used today in the Anglican Church. Boyce and his works are largely forgotten and rarely played with the exception of a short-lived revival in the 1920s by composer Constant Lambert and works in the afore mentioned Cathedral Music.
Brian Wilson 1942-
Often considered one of the important songwriters ever and referred to as “a genius”, Brian Wilson is best known for his work with the Beach Boys, which he co-founded. Wilson has been almost completely deaf in his right ear since he was a child. There are differing theories as to the cause of his hearing loss but, in his 2016 book I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir written with Ben Greenman, Wilson states that another child hit him in the head with a lead pipe whilst they were playing out in Wilson’s neighbourhood. He states that the following day he noticed he could no longer hear out of his right ear, and that the doctor who examined him noted that “the eighth nerve in [his] head was severed”. This not only impacted Wilson’s hearing but the way that he spoke, as he had a tendency to speak out of the opposite side of his mouth.
Wilson’s musicianship has been apparent from a very early age, as he was able to learn music by ear on the keyboard. The first instrument he learnt how to play was a toy accordion before turning to piano and bass guitar, the latter of which he was taught how to play by his younger brother, Carl. Wilson also taught himself music theory. His work with the Beach Boys is regarded as hugely innovative, noted for the use of harmonies, jazz chords, weak tonal centres, and chord inversions, to name a few techniques Wilson employed.
Wilson is also considered one of the most influential figures in music production, achieving many firsts in the field. Amongst other things, he is noted as one of the first rock producers to use the studio as its own instrument and, with the song Surfer Girl, was the first pop artist to be credited with writing, producing, arranging, and performing his own material.
Gabriel Fauré 1845-1924
Fauré had effectively retired from public life by 1920 due to his now complete deafness and his increasing ill health.
During his life he had steadfastly refused to write a string quartet, saying that it was the genre that all those who were not Beethoven should be terrified of. Despite that statement and in the twilight of his life he commenced work on his string quartet, a work he was destined never to hear. He completed the quartet in September 1924 but declined the opportunity to hear it performed for him in a private performance, his hearing had become such that high and slow sounds distorted terribly. Fauré died in November 1924, his string quartet was given its first performance in June of 1925.
Danny Elfman 1953-
Before becoming an Oscar-nominated film composer, Danny Elfman’s musical career started as the frontman in the new wave band, Oingo Boingo (originating from the group The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, formed by Elfman’s older brother Richard), who achieved their height of fame during the 1980s. Sixteen years performing with the band left Elfman with significant hearing loss and tinnitus. This, coupled with his film career achieving new heights, led Elfman to disband Oingo Boingo in 1995 in order to preserve his hearing. Elfman’s career change to composition was thanks to his enduring creative partnership with Tim Burton, his first score having been written for Burton’s first feature film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. By the time he left Oingo Boingo, Elfman had already scored several big films, including Batman for which he won a Grammy for the film’s now iconic main theme. Elfman has now scored over 100 feature films, as well as musical works for television and the concert hall, including his violin concerto Eleven Eleven which received its UK premiere at the Usher Hall in November 2019.
Despite discounting a full Oingo Boingo reunion due to his hearing loss, Elfman has been drawn back to live performance within the last few years. He has appeared at various performances of his work, including reprising his role as the singing voice of Jack Skellington in live performances of The Nightmare Before Christmas. In 2013, at the concert Danny Elfman’s music from the films of Tim Burton at the Royal Albert Hall, Elfman performed live onstage for the first time in 18 years. He noted to the audience that evening that he had thought “why not?”* when asked to return to performing. Alongside some of the original voice actors, he has since been part of live performances of the entirety of The Nightmare Before Christmas; with Steve Bartek, who acts as orchestrator on Elfman’s film scores, the two delighted fans at a Hollywood Bowl performance with an encore of Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party. Elfman was due to perform at the Coachella festival in 2020, though this was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he is about to release a solo rock album in June.
*I was lucky enough to be present at this concert and, though Elfman’s language was a little stronger, the sentiment was the same!
Danny Lane is a profoundly deaf musician and pianist, CEO of the charity Music and the Deaf, based in Yorkshire. Danny was inspired by his primary school teacher to be a part of all the music making in his school. This led to him studying for a joint Music and French Degree at Keele University. He left Keele with a 2:1 and immediately went to train as a workshop leader with the organisation which he now leads: Music and The Deaf.
You can listen to pieces and performances by these individuals and more on the Naxos Music Library Classical and Naxos Jazz catalogues, including through the playlists function on Naxos Classical.
How to get your replacement hearing aid batteries during COVID
There is a special COVID-19 service in operation so that you can get replacement hearing aid batteries.
To get supplies of hearing aid batteries while libraries are still closed, contact the audiology department in Lauriston Building.
For replacement batteries, please contact the audiology department by phone or email. If you are unable to do this, you can also send your yellow battery book to the address below.
For repairs, post the faulty hearing aid to the address on the back of your battery book with you name and date of birth and description of the problem. Audiology will try to repair hearing aids on the day they are received and post them back the same day via first class post.
Audiology contact details: NHS Lothian Adult Audiology Level 1, Lauriston Building 39 Lauriston Place Edinburgh EH3 9HA
Take your yellow battery book which shows how many hearing aids you have and what type of batteries you need to your nearest open library.
The type of battery you need is shown on the inside cover of the battery book.
Library staff will check your yellow battery book and issue you with the correct replacement hearing aid batteries.
If you do not have your yellow battery book Library staff will still issue you with replacement hearing aid batteries. They will remind you to bring the book next time. If you have lost your yellow battery book you will need to contact the audiology department and they will send a new book out to you. See contact details for audiology above.
Edinburgh City Libraries actively seek to raise awareness of diversity and inclusion in the public arena by participating in various Awareness Weeks throughout the year.
We are honoured to highlight Deaf Awareness Week by hosting an ‘in conversation’ with two highly prominent professionals, whose life and work experiences have enabled them to talk so personally, interestingly and eloquently, that by watching this video you feel like you are all in the room together!
Nick Coleman is a qualified psychotherapist after 30 years spent as a writer and editor on broadsheet newspapers (chiefly Independent and Independent on Sunday) after starting out as a music journalist for NME and Time Out. He has written over the years for The Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, New Statesman, US Vogue, GQ etc. He is the author of three books: The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss; Pillow Man (a novel); and Voices: How a great singer change your life (all Vintage/Cape).
Professor Raymond MacDonald – after completing his PhD in Psychology at the University of Glasgow, investigating therapeutic applications of music, Raymond worked as Artistic Director for a music company, Sounds of Progress, specialising in working with people who have special needs. He joined the School of Music in 2012 having worked at Glasgow Caledonian University previously. Between 2012 and 2013 he was Director of Postgraduate Studies and was Head of The School of Music between 2013 and 2016. As well as working as a saxophonist and composer he is also a Chartered Health Psychologist and has published over 70 papers and co-edited five texts.
We’re delighted to host ‘Coming through it together’ – a conversation around music and deafness between Nick Coleman and Professor Raymond MacDonald.
Hearing Aid Batteries To get supplies of hearing aid batteries while libraries are still closed, contact the audiology department: NHS Lothian Adult Audiology, Level 1, Lauriston Building, 39 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9HA 0131 536 1637 (10am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm) or email email@example.com. When libraries are open, you will be able to take your yellow battery book to your nearest open library for replacement batteries.
And later this week on the blog: In conversation with Nick Colemanand Professor Raymond MacDonald We are honoured to be in conversation with two renowned professionals raising awareness on music and deafness. Nick Coleman and Professor Raymond MacDonald.
Composers, musicians and hearing loss Douglas and Natasha from the Music Library will take a look at some composers and performers who have experienced hearing loss and highlight their music available to enjoy on Naxos Music Library.
Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Service, do just that…we provide information and services. We also highly value our partnerships where we can share resources to the benefit of our customers. One of these partnerships has developed into a gift that keeps on giving. Networking is key to building connections and it was during one of these events we met Dr Jean-Christophe Denis (JC), NBIC and Ogden Outreach Officer at Edinburgh University.
This chance meeting turned into a solid connection where JC works with Edinburgh Libraries to bring the joy of physics to our Children and Young People (CYP), JC introduced us to Dr Kirsty Ross who taught our CYP the magic of science using nanoparticles and now his introduction to Amy Cook bringing stories and fun to STEM. All of which we can share with our CYP. Below Amy tells us a bit about herself and why she loves reading and physics and how they work together.
“I am a 4th year Astrophysics student at the University of Edinburgh and have always been fascinated by space. However, if I hadn’t chosen to study Astrophysics at university I would have chosen English. It was up there with Physics as one of my favourite subjects but I decided that I didn’t want to study it as I wanted to make sure that reading and writing always remained an enjoyable and relaxing activity for me. I have always loved reading and almost always have a book on the go – and have done from a young age. I have always enjoyed reading books in the fantasy genre – I still have all my copies of the Harry Potter series that have been very well thumbed! I still really enjoy any good fantasy or science fiction series. Some favourites of mine have got to be The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I liked this so much I wrote my English A-Level coursework on it!), the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers and The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit books – these last books are definitely for the more ambitious reader though. Incidentally, these are all available in the library catalogue if anyone wants to give them a read!
I am naturally curious, which lends itself to being a scientist very well, but is also very beneficial for those who love to read, write and generally be creative. Being creative is definitely an aspect of science that isn’t very well known but it’s very important! I chose to use creative writing as a key part of the development of this project as I myself am a keen writer. I used to do a lot of writing when I was in school, but since coming to university it has fallen by the wayside as I’ve been preoccupied with university work (which rarely includes writing creatively). In order to “flex my creative muscles”, I decided that creating a project joining physics and storytelling was the way I would feel really passionate about what I was creating and, most importantly, I would enjoy doing it!
It was easy to decide on doing a space related story as space is the thing I love to talk about the most in physics. It was hard to decide what space topic to focus on but during my research I found out about an influential astronomer from the 1700s, Caroline Herschel, who overcame many challenges in order to discover several comets and become the first professional female astronomer. As a female student studying in this field, I found her story inspiring and decided that this topic was perfect. Forces was a little more tricky to decide on, but Isaac Newton is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of physics as his discoveries led to what is now known as Classical (or Newtonian) Physics. Forces and Newton’s laws of motion are at the heart of physics today, so why not implement them into a story?
I really hope that you enjoy my stories and that you can participate in the follow up activities and really get the most out of them. Reading and writing is something that everyone deserves to enjoy as it’s the most wonderful form of escapism – and if it teaches you physics at the same time? Well, that’s a bonus!”
Here are the links to Amy’s stories and activities: Forces Fiona and the Laws of Motion story