School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Vic Gammon

Guest Member of Staff

Background

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.

The quickest way to contact me is via my home email, please reconstitute this: vic dot gammon @ icloud dot com (no spaces).

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.  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 in 2017.

The new CD I have been working on, Early Scottish Ragtime, (Fellside Records), was officially released on the 27th July 2016. This is an interesting project (a CD, insert and internet notes and an article to follow) 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 were given with Sandra Kerr at the Whitby Festival and the Hartlepool Festival in 2016 (both session were a hoot)  and a more formal paper will be given at a conference on aspects of ragtime at Huddersfield University in May 2017.

Critical response to the album has generally been very positive, just occasionally puzzled. On the radio Mike Harding called it 'a brilliant new album'  and Genevieve Tudor remarked 'Fabulous, isn't it' after playing one of three tracks she aired. A writer in Living Tradition  described it as an 'intriguing CD' and an internet reviewer wrote 'As I was expecting, Early Scottish Ragtime (CD) is amazing' and yet another wrote that the CD was 'full of tunes you wouldn't otherwise hear, the weird and the wonderful, in a fascinating hour of traditional music'. It is good to get such feedback.

I have just had an email from Routledge who are bringing out my book Desire Drink and Death in paperback. Good news, but it is still quite expensive at £34.99.

I created a new Academia.edu page back In January 2014 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. For what such things are worth, I was recently informed that the downloads on my page put me in the top 1% of academics but now seems to hover between being in to top 2% and 4%. What has the world come to that we pay attention to these inanities!

I was over at Lancaster University in January assessing a very good PhD on song in Cumbria. It is good to see that folk music studies is producing some excellent research.

I recently did some tune tracing research and made some recordings of eighteenth century Newcastle election ballads for Professor Matthew Grenby's 'Proto Democracy Project'. I had come across election ballads before but was surprised at the number that survive from just a few elections in the 1770s. The singers were Jim McGeean and Benny Graham and Chuck Flerming accompanied Benny on fiddle. All put in excellent performances.

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')  These are good topics for presentations should you want me to speak at your seminar or event - the topics are current in my mind.

I will be speaking at a number of conferences in 2017. May 6th - 7th I will be at Huddersfield University for Recontextualising Ragtime where I will give a presentation on 'Proto-Ragtime in British tune books before 1900' to start the event.

On the 16th June I will be down in Greenwich to give a full-length presentation at a day in celebration of the life and work of A L Lloyd. I have a complex relationship with Lloyd as I have been critical of some aspect of his work. This said he was the most significant person in my life in terms of stimulating my interests and research so I am very pleased to be present at this event.

In October (6th and 7th) I will again be in London at Cecil Sharp House for a conference on tunes and airs. I am not yet sure what I will do there but will be happy to contribute to the event - there has not been a conference on this subject for many a day.

Over the summer I will be doing some performances with Dearman, Gammon and Harrison, including the Whitby Folk Week in August

I have done well on the musical instrument front recently having acquired both a Sobell mandolin and a Deering tenor banjo, both outstanding instruments. But by a strange turn of events a wonderful Vega Whyte Ladye tenor banjo came my way - a classic instrument dating from the 1920s which plays and sounds wonderfully - so I intend to sell the Deering!  I still keep up my anglo-concertina playing but am having something of a stringed instrument fixation at present.

I recently complete a long (six day!)  life story interview for the British Library (part of their Oral History of Oral History project - I was active in the OH movement in the 1980s) and a shorter (though not that short!)  interview for Concertina World which has recently been published. Both were interesting experiences with intelligent interviewers asking good questions.

I am pleased to see my friend Dave Harker has just published his Cat-Gut Jim the Fiddler: Ned Corvan's Life and Times. It is beautifully presented, richly illustrated, full of fascinating material and a bargain at £15.

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 (retired member)

            Musicians Union (retired member)


Research

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, tenor banjo, mandolin 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.


  • '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. The essay has been submitted and is in the proofing stage. 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.

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, improvisation in English traditional instrumental music,  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, Leeds and Sussex 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



Publications