Desert Island Discs – Eamonn from the Digital Team

The latest library staff member to be banished to our desert island is Eamonn from the Digital Team.

We hand over to Eamonn to explain his choices –

1 Vol.4., Ethio jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1969-1974

I feel that nothing sounds quite like Ethiopian music. I suppose like many people, I became familiar with the country’s music through the fabled 30 volume CD series called Ethiopiques which focuses on a “golden” period of music in Ethiopia’s cultural history.

The series highlights the time between the mid 1950s and 1974 where a huge wave of outstanding big bands and singers had emerged – sparking off a massive musical explosion, resulting in the production of hundreds of recordings. This was all brought to an end in 1974 during a revolution, which left the country in the hands of a military dictatorship that remained in power until 1991. With rigorous censorship and strict curfews, many musicians were imprisoned, forced to stop playing or escaped into exile.

I love the series – the attention to detail, from programming to design, to notes, to mastering – have defined this body of work which has become virtually the sole representation of an essential musical culture.

Many volumes are worthy of a Desert Island Disc or two but perhaps the best entry point is Vol. 4 – showcasing the man who invented ‘Ethio-jazz’, Mulatu Astatke and devoted to his blend of Abyssinian swing.

2 Life on Earth: Music from the 1979 BBC TV series / composed by Edward Williams

Life on Earth was a landmark television natural history series produced by the BBC and Sir David Attenborough which aired in the UK in January 1979. Surprisingly, for such an influential series, its soundtrack was privately pressed – only 100 copies were ever made and distributed by composer Edward Williams to members of his orchestra. Scarce copies languished in thrift shops for three decades before finally being resurrected (with Sir Dave’s blessing) in 2009.

What surprised me further still was how beautiful the music was – a Desert Island Disc session would not be complete without staring into the sea surrounded by the magical, ambient sounds of science, nature and music for jellyfish.

3 Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble

Phil Cohran was my favourite jazz composer – his ensembles contained one of the most idiosyncratic takes on 60s avant jazz this side of Sun Ra (Cohran was once an early member of Ra’s arcane troupe). He wasn’t just a musician but an inventor of musical instruments – from customised violin-ukes to his most famous creation, his Frankiphone – an amplified thumb piano which rattled spookily around his ragged rhythm tracks. I’d hope with time that I would develop the patience and ingenuity to fashion my own desert island instrument – or at the very least I could always find a shell that made an interesting noise when blown into!

Book: Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec

I think this book would keep me occupied on the island – Perec’s output is extremely varied in form and style: sometimes bewilderingly so. From crossword puzzles and poetry to palindromes, autobiography and straight narrative – he did the lot and made a rule to never write the same thing twice. In his novel Void, he systematically avoids the letter ‘e’, for an entire novel! He did balance things out though – writing a short story after Void where the only vowel used was ‘e’ (easy peasy lemon squeezy… ok, so it’s harder than it sounds!).

Life maps the interconnecting lives of the residents of a fictitious apartment block in Paris with an unfolding structure that follows the logic of chess moves.

It was written according to a complicated writing plan (thankfully with ‘e’s included this time) and its 99 chapters can be read in any order. Guided by a 70-page index, a chronology, a checklist of 100 or more main stories, an apartment block elevation plan as a 10×10 grid of the building in which the action takes place and a profound interest in jigsaws. This book is the literary equivalent of a sudoku puzzle – one that you will keep returning to and worthy of being stranded with.

Luxury item: Tin of Vaseline (Aloe Vera) – no sense in having chapped lips in the sun!

Blair’s Edinburgh Views

Our current exhibition on Capital Collections is a collection of atmospheric scenes of late 19th century Edinburgh landmarks and landscapes, taken from watercolour paintings by artist John Blair.

The Old Town from the Waverley Bridge

The images are taken from a volume of loose lithographic prints dated 1892 which were printed in Paris and published by Aitken Dott of Castle Street. Many of the pictures contain moonlight or fading light and evocative weather conditions. The views are scenes of Edinburgh’s famous streets populated with typical residents of the time or picture postcard vistas looking from different geographic points towards the city’s famous skyline.

There is one picture however, which sits apart from the rest. It is a view of the Scott Monument looking east along Princes Street. The street characters seem in this view more defined and there are three men walking in a line towards the viewer each wearing sandwich board advertisements. On closer inspection, the signs are promoting a Castle Street exhibition of watercolours by John Blair – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the artist himself and his publishers.

The Scott Monument and Princes Street

View the full set of thirteen plates on Capital Collections.

LGBT history in the Art & Design Library

February is LGBT History Month and, in the Art & Design Library we’ve been looking at some of our books that explore this rich history and its amazing contribution to the visual arts. All are available for borrowing from the Art & Design Library.

A Queer History of Fashion: from the Closet to the Catwalk edited by Valerie Steele, published 2013.
From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. This book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion.

Art & Queer Culture by Catherine Lord & Richard Meyer, published 2019.
Art & Queer Culture surveys artworks that have constructed, contested, or otherwise responded to alternative forms of sexuality. Rather than focusing exclusively on artists who self-identify as gay or lesbian, the book instead traces the shifting possibilities and constraints of sexual identity that have provided visual artists with a rich creative resource over the last 130 years

A Queer Little History of Art by Alex Pilcher published 2017.
The last century has seen a dramatic shift in gender and sexual identities for both men and women, reflected in a period of artistic experimentation as artists have sought to challenge social conventions and push the boundaries of what has been deemed acceptable. The result is a wealth of deeply emotive and powerful art intended to express a range of desires and experiences but also to question, criticise and provoke dialogue. This book showcases a selection of works which illustrate the breadth and depth of queer art from around the world.

Drawing difference: connections between gender and drawing by Marsha Meskimmon and Phil Sawdon, published 2016.
Drawing Difference’ analyses how both drawing and feminist discourse emphasise dialogue, matter and openness. It demonstrates how sexual difference, subjectivity and drawing are connected at an elemental level – and how drawing has played a vital role in the articulation of the material and conceptual dynamics of feminism.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 edited by Clare Barlow, published 2017.
With a focus just on British queer art, this book has sections on ambivalent sexualities and gender experimentation amongst the Pre-Raphaelites; the science of sexology’s impact on portraiture; queer domesticities in Bloomsbury and beyond; eroticism in the artist’s studio and relationships between artists and models; gender play and sexuality in British surrealism; and love and lust in sixties Soho.

We’ve many more biographies and analyses of works by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender+ identified artists. From Diane Arbus and Francis Bacon to Keith Haring, Gilbert & George and David Hockney, we’ve got them covered. Drop into the Art & Design Library for more information.

February’s Exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The February Exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a group show by two Scottish-based women artists: Barbara Mackie and Rowena Comrie.  Colour in Play is a celebration of their vibrant and striking use of colour to convey landscapes and abstract ideas and emotions.  The exhibition opens on February 3rd.

Rainbow Light by Barbara Mackie

Barbara Mackie is based in Midlothian and first studied painting and drawing at Edinburgh College of Art.  She has participated in numerous exhibitions including group and solo shows at the Scottish Arts Club, Riccio Gallery and West Dean College in London.  “There is both abstraction and representation in my work that I refer to more as ‘settings’ than landscapes. There are traces of skies, coastline, valleys, mountains, farmland and fenland for these are memories carried from the various places I have know or seen, part referenced, part imagined. The nature of my work can be bold and yet restrained in both colour and form.”

Subaqua by Rowena Comrie

Rowena Comrie has worked as a professional artist for the past 30 years; in January 2010 she relocated from Aberdeen to Glasgow where she now works from a WASPS studio in Glasgow’s Briggait. She was born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, and in 1982 completed her BA(Hons) in Fine Art at Reading University where she embraced expressionist colourfield painting with confidence and passion.

She continues to develop this dramatic and emotive painting style saying: “I make these works from a specific aesthetic point, that personally expresses sublime elements of human experiences. Over many years I have refined and developed my technique, a process that continues to challenge and intrigue“.

The exhibition is open throughout February and runs until 28th.

100 years of the Edinburgh Competition Festival

A new exhibition opens in Central Library this week celebrating 100 years of the Edinburgh Competition Festival. 

Initially called the Edinburgh (Musical) Competition Festival, the first festival was held in May 1920 and, apart from 1931, has been held annually ever since.

The exhibition displays archives from the Edinburgh Competition Festival’s 100 year history including printed music, programmes, minutes, adjudication sheets, sketches of the redesigned logo and profiles of some of the now internationally acclaimed winners. On special loan from Edinburgh Museums and Galleries are some of the trophies including the Duchess of Atholl’s Shield presented by the Duchess of Atholl (1874-1960) for Open Competition to Junior Choirs and the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union Challenge Trophy for Continuation Class Choirs.

The early festivals featured mainly choral music but, during the 1920s, classes for folk dancing, including Scottish country dancing, elocution, solo singing, piano and string instruments were added.

Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Granville Bantock and John Masefield were amongst the internationally renowned musicians, actors and poets who have adjudicated during the Festival.

The Festival now has over 100 classes and, in 2020, over 900 entrants. The Festival concludes with the Highlights Concert held this year on Sunday 15 March in the Queen’s Hall featuring exceptional performers from a range of classes, ages and instruments. This concert also provides an opportunity for the four concerto finalists to perform, accompanied by the Friends of the Festival Orchestra.

The exhibitions runs from 29 January to 25 February 2020 in the Mezzanine cabinets next to the Music Library. The Edinburgh Competition Festival of Music runs 3 to 15 March 2020.

Much of the Edinburgh Competition Festival’s archive has been kindly donated to the Music Library where items from the archive can be viewed on request.

History of the house – Falcon Hall

Continuing our History of the House series, we move a wee bit out of the city centre and travel south to Morningside. The house (rather a large one) is Falcon Hall. Built in 1780 by Edinburgh hosier and future Lord Provost, William Coulter. Originally called Morningside Lodge, it stood in what was then the Canaan Estate.

Falcon Hall ,1907

Coulter was born in Edinburgh in 1754 and had a house and shop at the head of Jackson’s Close on the Royal Mile. As well as serving as a Dean of Guild from 1806, he was also Lord Provost between 1808 and 1810, dying in office at the age of 56. He was by all accounts something of a character. When he died he was honoured with a public funeral. A look in our resource the British Newspaper Archive (BNA) features a page from the Scots Magazine from 1820 describing the funeral procession, with the 1st Regiment of Royal Volunteers leading the funeral procession “firing three vollies over the grave while the earth was putting on”.

Following Coulter’s death, the house was bought by Alexander Falconar. At one time a Chief Secretary to the Governor of Madras, Alexander settled with his family in Edinburgh in 1811, on his retirement from colonial service. In 1814, he bought Morningside Lodge, and nine acres of land surrounding it, and with the help of architect Thomas Hamilton, refurbished and enlarged it, renaming it Falcon Hall. Featuring elaborately styled wrought iron and stone piers, with large stone falcons, they were a magnificent sight to behold. Life-sized statues of Nelson and Wellington – both immensely popular figures of the era – flanked the main entrance to the house itself.

Falcon Hall , interior 1907

Searching Find My Past we can see that the first recorded Census taken on 6 June 1841, finds Alexander, his wife Margaret and 4 daughters living in Falcon Hall, together with his son-in-law Henry Craigie, husband of the only married daughter, Jessie.

The census also records that Falcon Hall, had 1 male and 6 female servants, a conventional number at that time for a gentleman of Alexander Falconar’s wealth and social status. Alexander continued to live at Falcon Hall until his death on 10 December 1847.

As Morningside began to change and develop over the course of the 19th century, so did the fortunes of Falcon Hall. The gate pillars and falcons were removed in 1874 and repositioned on the slopes of Corstorphine Hill where they form the entrance to Edinburgh Zoo. The house remained in the Falconar family ownership until the death of his last surviving daughter, Margaret in 1887. It lay empty for a while before reappearing as a boarding school and ladies’ college.

Edinburgh Zoo gates showing falcon from Falcon Hall

The last inhabitant of Falcon Hall was Dr John George Bartholomew, a co-founder of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the owner of the map making company John Bartholomew & Son Limited. John enjoyed close acquaintance with many leading academics and travellers of the time, including Ernest Shackleton, Henry Stanley, and Cecil Rhodes, working with many of them to represent their work and discoveries in map form.

George lived in Falcon Hall with his family from 1899 to 1907 before it was demolished in 1909. When John Bartholomew & Co moved from premises in Dalkeith Road to an entirely new building in Duncan Street in 1911, the entire facade of Falcon Hall was transported from Morningside and re-erected in Duncan Street along with the entrance hall and staircase gallery with ornamental bronze balustrade which once formed part of the Morningside mansion house. Another feature is the domed roof which is ornamented with four great sculptured falcons.

Facade of Falcon Hall used in the building of John Bartholomew and Co, Duncan Street

The name Falcon was subsequently given to the Morningside streets later developed on the property’s former site.

You can discover more about Duncan Street, home to the Bartholomew mapmaking firm from the National Library of Scotland’s Duncan Street Explorer website.

Are you interested in discovering the history of your home? The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has a vast collection of material which can help you.

Read more articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark
History of the house: Bowhead house
History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place

Desert Island Discs – Eleonora from Central Lending Library

Eleonora has been with the library for a few years now, working in the busy Lending department. She is also part of the imaginative team who run our Childrens’ Art Club. The thriving art club runs every second Wednesday and program a wide and varied selection of arts activities for their members.

We unfortunately had a to and fro of emails, as we were unable to provide Eleonora’s original choice of Music, so today we have no Metallica, listened to so much the cassettes were destroyed or, Faith No More which reminded Eleonora of studying for her art degree in Bologna.

Desert Island Discs

1
John Grant  –  Pale Green Ghosts
Eleonora says:

“amazing album I used listened all the time when I moved in Scotland, is perfect for any kind of mood”

2
Eleonora would like “anything by Ella Fitzgerald” so we suggest Ella Fitzgerald   –  At The Opera House 

3
and she also asked for anything by Creedance Clearwater Revival, so we offer The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Book(s): The Name of the Rose and American Psycho …as we had a bit of difficulty fulfilling Eleonora’s music choices we have allowed both of her requests…

Eleonora said,

“I would like if I can chose two books, they are very important for me”

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco I just love the book and the movie as well, I got this book in my father’s “personal library” at home, when I started to read, I did not stop for hours. It reminds me my father and my house in south Italy.

 

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – it was one of the books for my art degree. This book just drove me nuts, if I can say so. Brilliant book.

 

Luxury item: One of my father pipes, because sometimes I like to sit and smoke next to the window, look outside and get lost in my thoughts.