Sound archiving and traditional song transmission in Scotland : exploring a confluence of practice
Harvey, Naomi Elysia
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This thesis focusses on the interaction between access to sound archives and the performance of traditional song heritage. Specifically, the questions that my research seeks to explore and answer are: (a) How do sound archives play a role within current practices and performance of traditional song in Scotland, in both Gaelic and Scots song traditions? and (b) In what ways do contemporary approaches to sound archiving have an impact upon such practices? The research centres on uses made of traditional song from archival recorded sources in Scotland, looking both at the archival activities and processes which preserve access to these materials, and at the lived experiences and perspectives of singers and performers who access and make use of them. The thesis draws its data and evidence from three areas of study, which are presented in two main parts. Firstly, a series of interviews with traditional singers and archivists presents a consideration of the activities and attitudes connected with these two realms of practice. The second part presents an exploration of the Scotland's Sounds network as an innovative approach to sound archiving in Scotland, with a particular examination of two song-related projects carried out by this network. A third area interwoven with these reflects on my own practice as a singer and my experiences of working with archives, in a series of 'song studies' which are accompanied by audio recordings. The thesis proposes that human interactions with archival recordings enable the 'activation' of the archive: through the activities of archivists who engage communities of users and the actions of singers who learn, perform and pass on songs from the archive, stereotypical notions of archives as being 'dead artefacts' are undone. Furthermore, the actions of specialist practitioners whom I have described as 'singer-archivists' are shown to enable a confluence between sound archives and traditional song by forming a 'conduit' between the two. Such conduits increase opportunities for the interactions between archival and song practices to flow in both directions – inwards, to influence archival processes, and outwards, to form part of the carrying stream of tradition.