Mary Emmett has almost completed a PhD focused on the Hunting Songs of the Lakeland Fell Packs – a tradition which has never previously been academically researched. It has involved collecting over 300 songs, many of which share tunes with each other. When it came to cataloguing the collection, Mary discovered that there was no existing system that could effectively catalogue tunes so that they might be musically searchable.
Mary will be working with Xiaojing Liu to develop a system that would solve this problem for future song researchers/collectors, part of which would be to create a programme which could be integrated into existing library catalogues.
Once they have developed the programme, they plan to present a workshop at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, at University of York’s Library and Borthwick Institute, and to submit a paper about the system to the Music Encoding Conference.
In this project we set out to develop a system through which it would be possible to search musically for tunes held within a database. And I am delighted to say that we were relatively successful in doing so. Manually entered note queries consistently deliver really accurate returns, but more work would be needed in the case of singing/humming tunes into the system.
Our paper for the Digital Libraries for Musicology conference was accepted, and we presented this at the conference at the end of July in a fascinating paper session. Our paper, ‘An archive-exploration system for the Hunting Songs of the Lakeland Fell Packs’ can be found here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3469013.3469014.
Our presentations for the British Library and the Borthwick Archives both went really well, and we received some particularly enthusiastic feedback from the British Library. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, we were unable to work with the school on this occasion.
My original ambition had been to use this work as a pilot project before developing the work into a postdoctoral study, but I have actually decided against taking this work any further myself. I am really grateful for the funding received from the Jane Moody Scholarship to be able to try out my ideas, produce some work that I’m really proud of, but, ultimately, have the opportunity to discover that this area of research is not actually ‘for me’.
Hopefully this project will act as a springboard for someone else to take on these ideas and develop them further in the future; there is certainly a great deal of interest in the system we have created so far and its potential uses in library settings.