Funded by the AHRC, ‘At Home with Music’ uncovered the hidden world of private music-making in Georgian Britain and explained how musical activities in the home contributed to contemporary concepts of emotion, gender, family and class.
Researchers at the University of Southampton are investigating the intersections of material culture, musical repertory and performance practice that characterised domestic music-making in Georgian Britain. Our work involves collaborations with heritage organisations and custodians of historical properties, such as the National Trust, Cheshire East Council, the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, and Chawton House Library.
Among the most important musical sources for this research are bound albums of sheet music compiled by individual owners, reflecting the interplay between personal taste and musical fashions. Amateur performers also owned manuscript books, which they used to copy and share music much in the way we use iPods today. Among the albums and manuscripts we have consulted are books owned by Jane Austen and her family, by the Sykes and Egerton families at Tatton Park in Cheshire, and by the Acland family at Killerton House in Devon. These collections contain a vast array of music, mainly songs and keyboard works, ranging from opera extracts to sentimental ballads and from simple dances to elaborate variation sets. In interpreting the repertory, we draw on letters, diaries and account books, as well as writing about music in newspapers, conduct literature and fiction.
This project seeks to uncover the hidden world of private music-making in Georgian Britain, and to discover how musical activities in the home contributed to contemporary concepts of emotion, gender, family and class. And in addition to work from a historical perspective, our project aims to bring this repertory to life through recording and performance, so that domestic spaces in heritage properties ‘sound’ for today’s visitors in informative and stimulating ways.