Prose & SongCorrespondence & Poetry

Confessions of an Unjustified blogger

I’ve never blogged before, on anything ever: I wouldn’t know what to say. But i’m breaking my web-silence for the Editing Robert Burns for the Twenty First Century project to try and explain a little bit about what my engagement with the project is, and the things that I do for the Centre.

I’ve had a very busy and varied year so far as a Research Assistant working on the project. Among the most unexpected, and yet rewarding was helping to produce a CD of Robert Burns’s songs as soon as I’d started. As someone whose previous experience of music was limited only to listening to it, being entrusted to work with a team who were going to produce it was something of a change of pace from my normal academic work. My own engagement with Burns’s songs is admittedly limited. I am more comfortable working with the Bard’s prose and poetry rather than in the performance element of his lyrical output. Nevertheless this turned out to be an enjoyable experience, opening my eyes up to a new area of Burns that I had before, shied away from. As part of the creation of the CD I got to work with recording artists working at the forefront of their fields who had recorded versions of his songs for the project website. I spent an enjoyable afternoon, along with colleagues from the Centre listening to lots of different songs and choosing which ones should appear on the CD. I also worked with sound engineers and graphic designers who helped to create the sound and look of the finished product. It was fantastic to see the CD ultimately produced, and even more exciting to hear that it had passed muster with the artists themselves. You can hear the songs on the CD (and a great many more) here at the Project website.

I also worked on a number of online projects during my first year. In particular I produced two online exhibitions focusing on two of Burns’s most well known Songs: Auld Lang Syne and O My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose. This more closely resembled the research based work that I was more familiar with from my time as a PhD student. For the Auld Lang Syne exhibition I delved into the history of this most famous of Burns songs to try and piece together where Burns had taken his inspiration from. I was helped in that by a visiting student from Denmark, Pia Osberg, who thanks to the other RA on our project, Vivien Williams, alerted me to an interesting Danish dialect version of the song. I think this demonstrates the potential links that Burns has throughout the world, and the expansive reach that he has, not only in our culture but in that of other nations. It also illustrates the work that the Centre for Robert Burns Studies can do in reaching out to potential Burnsians in Europe and further afield, while at the same time, shows how much we can learn from those who appreciate the Bard in other contexts.

Although I have, of course, done other work for the project, I wouldn’t want to burn out all in one blog. However, I will update more regularly than before about the latest areas that I am working on for the Centre.

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