The Waning of Scottish Fiddle Music: 1822–1881

Ronnie Miller Gibson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


The waning of Scottish fiddle music in the nineteenth century is a popular trope in histories of the subject: Alburger claims that ‘there was little creativity left’ after the so-called Golden Age of Scottish fiddle music (c.1780–c.1820), during which time an unprecedented number of dance-tune collections were published. Similarly, Hunter asserts that ‘[b]y 1820 the great fiddle era was past’, not to peak again until the 1880s with the rise of fiddler-composer, James Scott Skinner. However, while it is true that the volume of publication decreased significantly from the 1820s, it is narrow-sighted to malign the period as one of dearth. This paper will put forward an alternative interpretation based on a re-evaluation of the surviving evidence and a consideration of the changing function and status of fiddle music in Scotland. Further, it will argue that, contrary to received opinion, the years from 1822 to 1881 are central to understanding the history of Scottish fiddle music. Changes in musical tastes and aesthetics will be traced in an attempt to indentify continuities with both the preceding and subsequent periods, the impact of developing national identities (Highland Scottish, Lowland Scottish, and British) on Scottish fiddle music will be gauged, and an assessment will be made of the increasing tendency towards the formation of a canon, as demonstrated by Surenne’s anthology, The Dance Music of Scotland (1851), and Kerr’s Merry Melodies (4 vols., 1870s).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2013
EventMusic in Nineteenth-Century Britain Ninth Annual Conference - University of Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201327 Jun 2013


ConferenceMusic in Nineteenth-Century Britain Ninth Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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