Dr Vic Gammon
Guest Member of Staff

  • Email: vic.gammon@ncl.ac.uk
  • Address: School of Arts and Cultures
    Armstrong Building
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU
Introduction

I retired from my post at Newcastle University 31st July 2010 but have remained as variously a Guest Member of Staff and a part-time Strategic Research Advisor since then. I continue working on my research projects and having some involvement in extra-curricular music activities.

Background

I joined the International Centre for Music Studies at the University of Newcastle in September 2004 as Senior Lecturer in Folk and Traditional Music. I was previously Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds where I managed the BA in Popular and World Musics. My interests in the vernacular musics of Britain and North America, in social history and my continuing activity as a performer form the basis of my teaching and research.

News

I have finished a lot of things off recently.

'How Good a Music Transcriber was Cecil Sharp?' and 'English Folk Song Collectors and the Idea of the Peasant'' the latter (joint work with Arthur Knevett) have both recently been published.

The new CD I have been working on, Early Scottish Ragtime, (Fellside Records), has been produced and officially released on the 27th July. This is an interesting project (an article and  a CD ) which will draw attention to American tunes in British popular/traditional dance tune books in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Details and extracts from the CD are at http://www.fellside.com/shop/fe-cd/early-scottish-ragtime/ .  Presentations on the project will be given at the Whitby Festival, the Hartlepool Festival and at a conference on aspects of ragtime at Huddersfield University in the summer.2017.

 I have recently  submitted an essay on 'The Street Ballad Singer in the Nineteenth Century' for a new book edited by Steve Roud and David Atkinson, probably due out next year.

I have been back teaching at Newcastle - on a part-time basis. I was contacted in September 2015 to see if I could fill a gap in the teaching schedule, so I dusted down my module on 'The Musics of the Southern States' and taught it. It was very enjoyable - even after a five year gap. The module recruited  an enthusiastic, interested and varied group of students. I enjoyed it so much I am going to do it again in the 2016-17 academic year.

2015 was  a busy a year. I  contributed to a symposium at King's College, London (a part of their Music in London 1800-1850 project) in March (which was extremely interesting) and to another at Notre Dame University in June. I made a contribution to the English Fiddle Symposium at the end of April at The Sage, Gateshead, I helped organise the Traditional Song Forum meeting in Newcastle on the 9th May, and had a trip to Italy, also in May. I did a mini-tour with Dearman, Gammon and Harrison and in August our regular performances at Whitby Folk Week. In October I went down to Leeds University to a research seminar and to see old friends and colleagues.  

In January 2014 I created a new Academia.edu page for a goodly part of my published work (most of that which is not currently in print in commercial books) to make it more easily available to students, colleagues and people interested. http://newcastle.academia.edu/VicGammon is the address. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest that has been shown in my writings.

I remain busy with academic projects, I have pieces of work in progress at present: they are available as presentations but not yet written up ('Barbara Allen: The Cultural Resilience of a Seventeenth Century Song' and 'The Night Visiting Song Revisited') All these are good topics for presentations should you want me to speak at your seminar or event and the topics are current in my mind.

I have done well on the musical instrument front recently having acquired both a Sobell mandolin and a Deering tenor banjo, both outstanding instruments. I still keep up my anglo-concertina playing but having something of a strings fixation at present.

2016 is being another busy year with trips to Sussex, London, Scotland and Italy and of course Whitby - so much for retirement!

  • Roles and Responsibilities

    Member, Editorial Board, Folk Music Journal (1984 - present)

    Member, Advisory Group, Traditional Song Forum

    Degree Programme Director, BMus in Folk and Traditional Music (2005-2009)

    Organiser, Research Forum, International Centre for Music Studies (2006-2009)

    Qualifications

    BA, MA, D Phil, PGCE (all University of Sussex)

    Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (formerly ILTm)

    Memberships

    Social History Society

    English Folk Dance and Song Society

    Traditional Song Forum

    University and College Union

     

Research Interests

British (particularly English) traditional song and instrumental music; North American traditional song and instrumental music; English venacular religious music; music social history; political song.

Other Expertise

Performer of English traditional song and instrumental music. My main instruments are, anglo-concertina, melodeon, G plectrum banjo and voice.

Current Work

Current Research

  • ''Barbara Allen: the cultural resilience of a seventeenth century song' a presentation was given at a at a symposium at Newcastle University entitled Memory and Community in Early Modern Britain, 7th and 8th June 2013. I also gave it at the Social History Society conference in Newcastle in the Spring 2014. I am in the process of writing up the pieces as an academic paper.
  • 'How good a music transcriber was Cecil Sharp?' Few would dispute that Cecil Sharp’s collection is the most significant body of material we possess which was generated in the crucial period of English and US traditional song collection in the early years of the twentieth century. In the light of the importance of his collection, it is vital to ask how good as an aural transcriber of musical material was Sharp. Unlike Percy Grainger, Sharp left very few audio recording of his source singers. Using these recordings, and a few made of one of his key singers after his death, I have tried to assess the quality of Sharp’s transcriptions. My method was to make my own aural transcription of the music of the located recordings prior to looking at Sharp’s own transcriptions. I then checked the accuracy of my transcriptions by using two computer software packages. I compared my results with Sharp’s to assessing the degree of reliability we can place in Sharp’s transcriptions. Throughout the work I reflected on the issues it raised, the qualities and limitations of Sharp’s methods and the validity of my investigations. The presentation was delivered at a national folk music conference at Cecil Sharp House in October 2013 and will be written up as a contribution to a book of the conference (to be edited by Steven Roud and David Atkinson and published by Camsco Books in the USA). The paper is complete and has been submitted to the editors.
  • 'English Folk Song Collectors and the Idea of the Peasant'. Joint work with Dr Arthur Knevett What did the word 'peasant' signify to the folk song collectors of the nineteenth and twentieth century? In this research we are trying to unravel the usage and complex and sometimes contradictory layers of meaning of the term to the folk song collectors of the period. This exciting project is finished and is submitted to a journal for consideration.
  • 'The Night Visiting Song Revisited'.  I contributed to a Radio 4 programme called 'The Night Visit' introduced by Tim Van Eyken and broadcast in October 2013; this was a very fortuitous as, looking at the material on night visit songs, I decided that an up-to-date academic paper on the subject of night visiting songs was needed. I made this my contribution to the celebration of the work of Professor Alun Howkins in Sussex in July and will probably be a contribution to the subsequent festschrift.

 

  • The Street Ballad Singer in the Nineteenth Century' is an essay drawn from my longer-term work on the street ballad trade. It is for a book on nineteenth century street literature to be edited by Steve Roud and David Atkinson. It is due to be submitted in the Summer 2015. It is planned and much of the research is completed.

 

  • AHRB project 'Hit songs and their significance in seventeenth-century England' (AH/K003100/1). It is an ambitious project that aims 'to create a website featuring digital images and new recordings by the Carnival Band of 100 of the best-selling ballads from seventeenth-century England, with full scholarly apparatus for the benefit of users.  The site will be freely accessible and hosted by Cambridge University Press (CUP).  (See profile page for more details). This three year project started in January 2014. I have reduced my role in this project to that of occasional consultant due to time constraints.

 I have two other long term projects

  • 'The street ballad singer in pre- and early industrial society'. This work is based on a wide variety of sources, and explores the lives, work, musicality and significance of street ballad singers and the ways in which they were represented and understood by contemporaries. I hope to finish this book over the next two years. 
  • 'Musics, Musicianers and Songsters: Vernacular and Traditional Music Making in the South of England, 1800-1914'. (This is a proposed book bringing together and extending my work on this subject undertaken over the past three decades).

Postgraduate Supervision

I have supervised masters and doctoral students in traditional music and music education related areas. Topics areas supervised include music in the nineteenth and early twentieth society, popular church music, the history of the tonic sol-fa movement, traditional song collecting and editing, traditional fiddle pedagogy, ballad studies, Tyneside song, primary and secondary music pedagogy, bass guitar pedagogy, practical music assessment and creative work.

Esteem Indicators

  • I was awarded the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in 2011. The Gold Badge is 'awarded for unique or outstanding contributions to folk music' and is the highest honour that the Society bestows.
  • I have been frequently asked to referee for research grants.
  • I have been external examiner for various universities including Sheffield (master's courses) The Institute of Education (master's courses) and Goldsmiths College, University of London.
  • I have examined PhDs for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Durham, Huddersfield, Northumbria, Sheffield, Liverpool and Leeds universities.
  • I have been an external research superviser for Leeds Metropolitan University and Goldsmiths College.
  • I am asked to broadcast on national radio or television on average two or three times a year. I recently made substantial contributions to 'The Choir' (Radio 3) and 'The Singer Not The Song' (Radio 4). I recently worked on a BBC4 TV social history series 'Rude Brittania' and 'A Very British Murder'.  
  •  I have acted in an advisory capacity for a number of organisations and projects, including the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and the AHRB-funded Carpenter project.
  • I have contributed to the DNB, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens

 

  • I am an Adviser to the Traditional Song Forum