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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Scottish Ethnology

Undergraduate Course: Traditional Song - Scots (SCET10036)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThrough a series of thematic case studies, this course explores traditional song (in Scots and English languages) in Scotland from early times to current day including key themes, concepts and contexts.

One piece of required reading and listening will accompany each seminar and a study trip will take place as part of the course. A rich variety of field recordings from the School of Scottish Studies Archives will be complemented by commercial recordings from contemporary singers.

There will be opportunities to sing and experience examples of traditional song repertoire and participants are expected to participate and encourage each other as part of this process.

NB There are level 11 (PG) versions of this course and UG/PG students attend the same seminars.
Course description Traditional Song - Scots provides a platform to understand traditional song practice and repertoire (in Scots and English languages) more fully, to contextualise traditional song through listening and/or playing, analysis, critical evaluation of leading scholarship and discussion. The discipline of ethnomusicology, which seeks to understand music in its social and cultural contexts and from the perspectives of those who make it, will be emphasised throughout the course. This is supported by the introduction and development of key skills of fieldwork and descriptive analysis.

In this course, Traditional Song is viewed through a Scottish lens with an emphasis on Scots language and international examples and connections feature throughout.

Themes and case studies will respond to the interests of course participants and can include: Alan Lomax & co: collecting and curating Scots voices, Burns Night: Influence of Robert Burns in 1700s, Ballads and tunes, Women and scots song, Songs of war, Greig-Duncan and new audiences, Revivalist agendas in twenthieth century, Bothy songs and competitions, Contemporary voices: (re)interpretation and performance style.

In addition to essay and presentation, class tasks provide the opportunity to engage with archive materials, historically-informed performance, creative/contemporary performance and a range of traditional song sources and performances. Weekly required reading and listening will be provided to complement seminar topics.

NB Music notation skills (reading or writing) are not required, but music notation will be introduced and explored in seminars.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed:
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Scotland and Orality (SCET08008) AND Visualising Scotland (SCET08009) .
Additional Costs There might be the opportunity for a study visit to a live concert. If funding cannot be sourced for this, the cost to be met by students will be approximately 10-15.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students must have a background within the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  28
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Oral Presentation (20%) - 10 minutes
Essay (40%) - 3000 words
Folio of tasks (20%) - three tasks approx. 800 words or 3-5 minutes each.
Participation (20%) - automated quizzes (10%), reading journal (15%)
Feedback Participants will receive verbal feedback in class discussions in addition to verbal and written feedback following the oral presentations (mid-course) and written feedback following the proposal (early in course) and essay submission (end of course).

There will be an emphasis on next steps and development ('feedforward') in all course feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate familiarity with case-studies of traditional song and some awareness of characteristics of the tradition as a whole
  2. Demonstrate familiarity and critical engagement with selected key texts (written and recorded) which deal with the subject of Scots song
  3. Critically assess issues connected to song, e.g. authenticity, orality and literacy, transmission and revival, community, identity, innovation, parity, commercialism, creativity, collaboration
  4. Show competence in transferable skills(e.g. critical evaluation of source material, independent reading, coherent and clearly structured writing, group discussion, time management.
Reading List
NB Listening/viewing, specific reading and digital sources will be provided in weekly seminars.


Elliott, Kenneth et al., 'Scotland', in Grove Music Online (Oxford University Press, 2014) [accessed September 2, 2019] See particularly section 5: Song

Freeman, Fred, 'Back to Burns', Studies in Scottish Literature 37: 1 (2013), 83: 94 [Available at:]

McGuirk, Carol, 'Jacobite History to National Song: Robert Burns and Carolina Oliphant (Baroness Nairne)', in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 47: 2/3, (2006), pp. 253-288

Munro, Ailie, 'Lizzie Higgins, and the Oral Transmission of Ten Child Ballads', Scottish Studies 14:2 (1970), 155-88

Shuldham-Shaw, P. and E. B. Lyle 'Folk-Song in the North-East: J. B. Duncan's Lecture to the Aberdeen Wagner Society', Scottish Studies 18 (1974), 1-37

Western, Tom, ''The Age of the Golden Ear': The Columbia World Library and Sounding Out Postwar Field Recording', Twentieth-Century Music, 11: 2 (2014), 275-300


Buchan, David, The Ballad and the Folk (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1997)

Bronson, Bertrand H., The Ballad as Song (Berkeley: California University Press, 1969)

Bronson, Bertrand H., 'Folk-Song and the Modes', The Musical Quarterly, XXXII (1946), 37-49

Bronson, Bertrand H., The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (vols 1-4). (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1959-72) See especially the Introduction to vol. 1 and the Preface to vol. 2.

Brown, Mary Ellen, Burns and Tradition (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984)

Burns, Robert, The Merry Muses of Caledonia. [There are several editions with different editors. This is a collection of bawdy songs (without music).]

Campbell, Katherine, Songs from North-East Scotland: A Selection for Performers from The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2009)

Campbell, Katherine and Emily Lyle, 'The Perfect Fusion of Words and Music: The Achievement of Robert Burns', in Musica Scotica: 800 Years of Scottish Music, ed. by Kenneth Elliott et al. (Glasgow: Musica Scotica, 2008), pp. 19-27

Campbell, Katherine and Emily Lyle, The Traditional Sources of Two of Robert Burns's Songs: 'There Was a Lass and She Was Fair' and 'Robin Shure in Hairst', School of Scottish Studies Occasional Papers Series, No.2. (Edinburgh: School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, 2000)

Cohen, Ronald ed., Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997 (New York: Routledge, 2005)

Collinson, Francis M., The Traditional and National Music of Scotland (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966)

Crawford, Robert, The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography (London: Jonathan Cape, 2009)

Crawford, Thomas, Society and the Lyric, (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1979)

Dick, James C., The Songs of Robert Burns (London: Henry Frowde, 1903)

Donaldson, William, 'Oliphant, Carolina, Lady Nairne (1766-1845)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 7 Oct 2014]

Gregory, E. David. 'Lomax in London: Alan Lomax, the BBC and the Folk-Song Revival in England, 1950-1958', Folk Music Journal, 8: 2, 2002, 136-169

Irvine, Robert P. ed., Robert Burns: Selected Poems and Songs. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Johnson, James and Robert Burns (1787-1803), The Scots Musical Museum 1787-1803 (vols 1-6), ed. by Donald Low (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1991)

Karpeles, Maud, An Introduction to English Folk Song (London: Oxford University Press, 1973) See chapter 4 'The Modes'.

Kinsley, James ed., The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns (vols 1-3) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968)

Low, Donald A. The Songs of Robert Burns. (London: Routledge, 1993) [See especially the Introduction, pp. 1-38]

Low, Donald A., 'Burns and the Traditional Ballad' Studies in Scottish Literature, 26:1 (1991) Available at:

Lyle, Emily, 'The Collecting of Gavin Greig and James B. Duncan', in Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007) pp. 284-291.

Lyle, Emily, 'Matching Andrew Blaikie's Ballad Tunes with their Texts', in Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition. (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007) pp. 203-08.

Lyle, Emily, Kaye McAlpine and Anne Dhu McLucas, The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris (Edinburgh: The Scottish Text Society, 2002)

Lyle, Emily ''Thus With Me Began Love and Poesy': Burns's First Song and 'I Am a Man Unmarried' in Love and Liberty, ed. By Kenneth Simpson (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1997) pp. 334-340

McCue, Kirsteen, 'The songs of Robert Burns: how we recreated what they originally sounded like' (2016) [last accessed 15 Jan 2019]

McCue, Kirsteen, 'Women and Song 1750-1850', in A History of Scottish Women's Writing ed. by Douglas Gifford and Dorothy McMillan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997) pp. 58-70

McVicar, Ewan, ''Dunking their Heels in the Corn and Custard': About Alan Lomax in Scotland' in 'Tis Sixty Years Since: The 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh and the Scottish Folk Revival ed. by Eberhard Bort (Ochtertyre: Grace Note, 2011) pp. 45-59

Munro, Ailie, 'Lizzie Higgins, and the Oral Transmission of Ten Child Ballads, Scottish Studies 14: 2 (1970), pp. 155-88

Munro, Ailie, 'Abbotsford Collection of Border Ballads: Sophia Scott's Manuscript Book with Airs.' Scottish Studies 20 (1976), 91-108. Reprinted in Emily Lyle: The Persistent Scholar, ed. by Frances J. Fischer and Sigrid Rieuwerts. (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier) pp. 212-30.

Porter, James, Genre, Conflict, Presence: Traditional Ballads in a Modernizing World. (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2009)

Porter, James and Herschel Gower, Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995)

Rieuwerts, Sigrid, 'Reconstructing Women's Repertoires' in Ballads and Diversity: Perspectives on Gender, Ethos, Power and Play, ed. by Isabelle Peere and Stephan Top (BASIS, vol. 1), pp. 207-217. (Trier: WVT, 2004)

Roy, G. Ross ed., The Letters of Robert Burns (2 vols) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985)

Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick, Emily B. Lyle et al. ed.s, The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, vols 1-8 (Edinburgh: Mercat Press for the University of Aberdeen in Association with the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, 1981-2002)

Szwed, John, The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax (London: Heinemann, 2010)

Thomson, George, A Selected Collection of Original Scottish Airs, vols 1-4. (London, 1803)

Wollstadt, Lynn, 'Controlling Women: Reading Gender in the Ballads Scottish Women Sang', Western Folklore, 61: 3/4 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 295-317
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Problem solving
- Critical and analytical thinking
- Digital literacy
- Ethics and social responsibility
- Self-awareness and reflection
- Independent learning and development
- Decision making
- Interpersonal skills
- Verbal communication and presentation
- Written communications
- Planning
- Organising and time management
- Assertiveness and confidence

Including the ability to:
- plan, prioritise, and effectively use resources to achieve goals
- analyse facts and situations and apply creative thinking to develop the appropriate solutions
- identify, evaluate and create options in order to solve complex problems in critical work
- analyse, synthesise, critically and methodically appraise ideas and information, recent scholarship and practice to break down complex problems into manageable components.
- evaluate information thoroughly; identifying assumptions, detecting false logic or reasoning and defining terms accurately in order to make an informed judgement.
- use and maintain IT and ICT skills, including familiarity with word processing, presentation software, digital archives, and use of internet search engines
- learn how to deal with setbacks and failures and learn and develop from these
seek and value open feedback to help self-awareness
- have the ability to produce clear, structured written work
- develop oral communication of complex ideas and arguments using a range of media
- be able to communicate complex ideas and arguments in writing using a range of media from formal writing to social media
- develop and use emotional intelligence and empathy
- effectively adapting emotions, thoughts and behaviours to environments that may be unfamiliar, uncertain and/or diverse
Special Arrangements Jointly taught with postgraduate students.
KeywordsTraditional,song,music,folk,oral tradition,Scotland,scots,revival,context,historic,ballad
Course organiserDr Lori Watson
Tel: (0131 6)50 8415
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
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