Ramsay's Musical Sources: Reconstructing a Poet's Musical Memory

Aaron McGregor, David McGuinness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article sets out the editorial issues in preparing music for an edition of Ramsay's songs, assessing the relevance and usefulness of various sources in developing an understanding of his musical language. Ramsay only specified the titles of the intended airs rather than providing musical texts of his own; however, the musical sources most directly associated with him and his song texts tend either to be instrumental in conception, or to relate to performance practices quite removed from his apparent intentions. This paper argues that individual musical sources should be viewed as witnesses to points in the transmission process, rather than definitive instructions for performance. The function of musical notation can be subtle when the music is also aurally or orally transmitted, and in order to reveal Ramsay's most likely conception of a tune when composing a song, earlier musical sources may be more relevant than those with a clear connection to Ramsay's own texts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-71
Number of pages22
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2018


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