Research: Music Folklore and History

With Kitty and Cadaver book scheduled for a June release, I thought I’d share some of my reference books on music that I dip into for it. (And will continue to use for a sequel!)

Apart from the medieval research I did for “Hoorfrost” (which is in the Scar Tissue and Other Stories collection) and my reading on water-related British folklore (that’s for the as yet unwritten second K&C book), I need from time to time to refer to music-related folklore that I might adapt for the history of the band, as well as more practical references to musical instruments and trends throughout the ages.

Music Through the Looking Glass is a kind of modern lexicon – perhaps it can be seen as ‘folklore’ if you squint. It’s “a very personal dictionary of Musician’s jargon, shop-talk and nicknames, and a mine of information about musical curiosities, strange instruments, word origins, odd facts, orchestral players’ lore and wicked stories about the music profession’.

For example, there is a condition called “cellist’s nipple’ (cured through the use of a more padded bra) and “flautist’s chin” (an allergic reaction to the silver) and “fiddler’s neck”, which can look like a love bite.

Apparently “domino thumper” was a 19th century music hall slang term for a pianist and “licorice stick” was an American nickname for the clarinet.

The Larousse Encyclopedia of Music is a much more sensible book, and I got it so I could look at more historically accurate elements of music when I’m writing stories set during the band’s 700 year history. I haven’t had to use it much yet.

I’m more fond of Troubadour’s Storybag, as I’m looking for folk tales that I can adapt as having a “true story” involving a band with the magic gift of the Minstrel Tongue.

The stories retold come from all over the world – Nigeria, Greece, New Zealand, Japan, the US and Turkey, among others. The Dancing Shoes are there, and The Pied Piper, but also stories of singing bones, magic fiddles, nightingales and flutes.

All in all, I wish I’d had more call to dip into these research books. Perhaps I need to randomly select entries and use them as prompts for some short stories set in the Kitty and Cadaver universe.

Do you have any favourite musical folklore to share?