Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The beginning!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

For some years now I have been researching the work of the Gloucester composer and poet Ivor Gurney. In January 2008 I began a full time PhD based at the Gurney archive in Gloucester, where I am cataloguing all of the manuscripts and transcribing all of the poetry for a complete OUP edition, which I am co-editing with Professor Tim Kendall at Exeter University. My work on the music is continuing alongside all of this, and I hope to post on this blog details of some of the exciting finds that I make. Some of these excitements may be exciting only to myself, but I hope some might share them!!

But what have I done so far? Well, in January I was inducted as an honorary member of staff at the Gloucestershire archives and received some training in the ways of the cataloguing system they use. Since this time I have done some work on the poetry, transcribing a few unpublished poetry collections from 1925 before realising that one should really start at the beginning, so I started to reconstruct the chronology of the poetry from the beginning. It has been fascinating to work through the notebooks used by Gurney during 1917, identifying which poems the drafts relate to and discovering the order in which the published poems were written, as well as the many that didn't make it into the published volumes. These include a number of unpublished love poems written at Seaton Delaval whilst he was engaged to Annie Nelson Drummond. It can sometimes be slightly tricky to put a firm date on when a notebook was in use, and thus when the poems were written (poems were sometimes sent to Marion Scott in letters at later dates than their apparent composition, judged by their placing in the volume), and there is also the question of whether Gurney worked in the notebook from front to back, or worked from either end, but it is all rather good fun, and is most satisfying when one can date something with certainty.

Today I was looking at some of the music sketchbooks, as I had decided to do some detailed cataloguing of the music. I had compiled the first catalogue of musical works during 2006 and had begun to make a few revisions to this as I was finding things in the archive and elsewhere (such as the removal of the missing setting of probably Robert Burns mentioned by Finzi in a letter: I came across the programme and found that the setting apparently performed in the recital at the RCM wasn't anything to do with Gurney and just happened to be performed alongside the Gurney as a pair.) One revision I have thought I would make is the thorough expansion of the dating of manuscripts. i.e. where I have given editorial dates, because no date was given on the mss and no identifying references were to be found in correspondence, to give a full justification of that dating. (Quite obvious really, but something I didn't think about at the time, just going through the process of dating things and recording the outcome.)

To get back to the point: today I was looking through a sketchbook and came across a couple of sketches I hadn't been able to identify previously. I read through the dots on the one page and immediately recognised it as a piece I have been working on in my idle moments for the past six months: it was the first chorus entry in the Whitman cantata, 'Anthem of Earth'. I had previously dated this large work for baritone, chorus and orchestra as c.1921, it being on the same paper and in a hand akin to that used for the score of the Gloucestershire Rhapsody, which Gurney dates as 1919-1921. However, today's identification changes this, suggesting that the cantata was written in direct parallel with the Rhapsody, since the sketch immediately precedes a very rough outline of the setting of Edward Thomas's 'Lights Out', composed in March 1919. I was also able to identify another unlabelled sketch from later on in the book, which happened to be another work I have edited in the last 18 months: part of the 1919 A major string quartet, although here sketched in A flat major.

Some might find this rather tedious; others merely of passing interest. However, if you do feel an element of excitement as you read about these fresh snippets of information, please do visit again to hear how things are progressing. I don't know how often I will be posting on this blog, and can't guarantee a wave of exciting discoveries with every visit, but do call again if it might be of interest!

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