ECOLM - An Electronic Corpus of Lute Music
ECOLM II - Project Proposal
Edited and abridged for publication here
ECOLM will store and make accessible to scholars, players and others, full-text encodings of a representative selection of sources of music for the Western-European lute, together with graphical images of manuscripts and printed music, rich source detail, and bibliographical metadata.
Other music incorporated might include keyboard versions of lute pieces, but would where possible also be as full-text encodings of sources. Typically this would consist of music for keyboard, wind or string instruments, especially the viola da gamba, or vocal ensemble.
The technical resources of ECOLM will include facilities for online searching of the bibliographical and musical material, and access via the WWW.
ECOLM will store and make accessible to scholars, players and others, full-text encodings of a representative selection of sources of music for the Western-European lute (and other relevant sources), together with graphical images of manuscripts and printed music, codicological and paleographical detail, and bibliographical data.
Relevant ‘other’ sources might include keyboard versions of lute pieces, but would where possible also be full-text encodings. They would typically comprise music for keyboard, wind or string instruments, especially the viola da gamba, or vocal ensemble.
The technical resources of ECOLM will include facilities for online searching of the bibliographical and musical material (the latter via the OMRAS project � see http://www.omras.org), and access via the WWW (suitably restricted according to the classes of material, ownership and user). Also viewing, playing (via computer sound-system or MIDI) of lute music, and (restricted) printing.
Although its primary focus is musicological, the project is highly cross-disciplinary, involving the disciplines of Music, Humanities Computing and Computer Science. It builds on a long-standing programme of such activity at KCL, which led to the successful bid for AHRB development funding for ECOLM I. For institutional reasons the project is to be transferred to City University soon after the completion of ECOLM I.
ECOLM II will be maintained in a form allowing:
- Entry of data by distributed users in a variety of formats: textual, numerical and musical;
- Data-retrieval of music both via meta-data fields, and via content-based searches;
- Analysis and comparison of musical data to allow systematic studies of concordances (closely-related copies of the same piece) and relationships of style and influence;
- Extraction of sub-repertories (e.g. works by an individual composer) or individual pieces in the form of tables, catalogues, indexes or musical scores;
- Cross-comparisons with databases of other suitable repertories in compatible formats;
- Audio playback and translation into standard musical notation of music otherwise unintelligible to most musicians;
- An ongoing resource with a vital future well beyond the scope of the present research project.
Throughout its history the lute used a highly idiosyncratic form of notation. Known as tablature, this provides the information necessary for the performer, rather than describing the music in any formal sense. It says nothing about the names of the notes, nor their duration; a competent player deciphers these and performs accordingly. Only a small proportion of the repertory is available in modern editions for scholars and musicians. Lute-players today prefer to read tablature, often from facsimile editions, of which a large number have appeared. At the same time, the amount of lute music available in commercial recordings has increased steadily, leaving for non-lutenists an imbalance of access between the recorded repertory and its source-material.
The project is seen as a preliminary phase of an ongoing programme based on the pilot study represented by ECOLM I. It selects five coherent classes of sources on a musicological basis, the principal criterion being the likelihood of meaningful research outcomes. In this sense, the project is more than merely a corpus-building exercise, since a number of musicological ‘case studies’ will be pursued on the material as it accumulates, as detailed below.
Feedback, comments and suggestions from many scholars in several countries have been received in the course of ECOLM I. Plans are being laid for an application to a relevant research fund within the EU for a medium- to large-scale international collaboration on musical sources of direct relevance to ECOLM. We envisage this will involve scholars and students from France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Spain, working on manuscripts and prints of music for lute (and related instruments), keyboard instruments and vocal or instrumental ensembles. The initiative will be discussed informally at the International Musicological Society’s conference in Louvain/Leuven (Belgium) in August 2002. Among other objectives, it will seek to overcome the current imitations of RISM, which precludes the entry of incipits of music for ‘polyphonic’ instruments such as lute or keyboard.
Aims and Objectives
There are two principal aims in this phase of the ECOLM project:
- To build a corpus of encoded lute pieces representative of the general repertory and sufficiently large to demonstrate the enhancements to conventional research offered by modern ICT techniques and to make this available to scholars, musicians and other interested parties.
- To carry out a programme of musicological ‘case studies’ on the encoded data, each of which has independent research validity.
A three-year project cannot hope to capture the entire lute repertory in full-text encodings. This would involve cataloguing, encoding, checking, editing and commenting at least 1500 MSS with an average of around 60 pieces in each. Rather, we have identified a few coherent classes of sources from which useful musicological research outcomes might be expected. These will be stored with detailed bibliographical data, and musicological studies carried out with the aid of technical facilities as they become available. As more sources are added, and as the tools become more sophisticated, we can repeat these studies with the additional data incorporated.
It will be useful to test the technical methods of the system and organisation of the material in studies that do not necessarily require encodings of complete sources. A programme of ‘case studies’, each with a different type of research outcome, will be conducted on the growing datasets. This research will be directed towards testing the outcomes of traditional methods against what is made possible by the technology. Further details are given in Appendix 2. (The figures given under ‘data’ in each case are maxima; the studies will not be exhaustive, but, rather, demonstrative in nature. Each of them, however, has musicological validity and represents a novel application of technology to humanistic research.)
Musical Style Study (i)
Common motives in the work of Silvius Leopold Weiss and related works by his contemporaries (data: c. 635 movements by SL Weiss, and c. 500 movements by others, including J.S. Bach)
Given a corpus of works by a single composer which can be independently verified as genuine, is it possible to show whether or not a questionable work shows similar features?
Musical Style Study (ii)
Provisional encodings of all John Dowland’s solo lute music, with variant versions from all sources (data: c. 100 pieces; about 50 variant versions)
Dowland’s works are fairly limited in number, yet in their style they are hard to distinguish from the work of his contemporaries. Can computer techniques help here?
Interpretation and Performance (i)
The French duple-time gigue, its notation and performance (data: c. 30 pieces)
Gigues were frequently notated in duple time, yet it is known from various sources that they were usually performed in triple time. Exactly how this was done is sometimes not clear. Later German sources of French 17th-century gigues often write out the music in ‘tripled’ form, with varying degrees of explicitness. Comparison between the various versions can give a clue to general principles of performance that may have been followed.
- Interpretation and Performance (ii)
Preludes, capriccios, fantasias and similar improvisational genres from the baroque period in France, Austria and Germany (data: c. 100 pieces)
The French ‘prélude non mesurée’, in which rhythmic notation was omitted in the interest of an improvisational style of performance. was adopted and modified by later Austrians and Germans, culminating in the numerous superb fantasias and preludes of S.L. Weiss. Common features in the repertory can give clues as to the style of performance, especially when these also arise in other affective musical genres such as the ‘tombeau’.
Instrumental idiom and genre (i)
Vocal music of the 16th century and its instrumental arrangements (data: c. 12 popular French chansons and a selection of their arrangements; V. Galilei’s treatise, Il Fronimo (1584 edition); about 150 pieces in all)
Instrumental settings of vocal music were rarely as literal as theoreticians such as Vincenzo Galilei would have wished. Given the arrangements and their models in electronic form, some general conclusions about the arrangers’ priorities (which need not be consistent with one another) might be drawn.
Instrumental idiom and genre (ii)
Lutheran chorale settings for lute: chorale melodies well-known from settings for organ or four-part vocal ensemble, especially those by J.S. Bach which are already available in electronic form (data: c. 100 pieces)
There is a sizeable mid-18th-century repertory of Lutheran chorale melodies set for lute. Some of these, principally in MSS associated with the city of Leipzig, are not unlike those of J.S. Bach, whereas others are clearly more primitive in style. Computer-assisted comparisons can help to signpost telltale points of similarity or difference.
- Web-site providing access to the encoded material, with a variety of means of presentation, and links to bibliographical metadata, literature and related literature.
- Published results of musicological ‘case studies’.
- Experience for further development of the resource in an international context.
- A corpus of test data for the OMRAS project (and similar projects).
- A methodological and technical springboard for the development of new musical-analysis tools.
The development of the ECOLM resource would proceed along two parallel paths:
- data-acquisition and corpus-building
- musicological ‘case studies’
Building on the experience gained in ECOLM I, data of two distinct kinds will be acquired and maintained. The first type of data is symbolic in nature: the primary focus of the project is on encoded versions of the music in the sources, which will be entered using the TabCode ASCII format (see Appendix 2). The second type of data is purely graphical. We will store images of selected pages of the original documents. The main reason for including images is to provide a validating reference to the inevitable ‘editorial’ decisions that must be made in the encoding process. The various strands of data will be linked together using an XML document-description format based on standard cataloguing methods; this will provide the possibility of links to other online resources (for example via the Z.39.50 protocol). Significant attention will be paid to proof-checking and data-validation at all stages.
This project will not be devoted exclusively to the acquisition of data. It is important to demonstrate that the musical material can in fact be used in a creative and flexible manner to advance musicological understanding. A mere digitisation project would possibly, for all its merits, have little impact upon the obscurity of the repertory unless a clear case were made for its usefulness to a wide community. All the case studies are intended to show approaches that might in fact be applied to any musical repertory, and most actually involve data from other musical repertories as well.
The principal mode of dissemination will naturally be the project itself, through its website. This will be complemented by reports on the musicological case studies in scholarly articles and conference papers. The ECOLM project will be represented at the International Musicological Society’s conference (August 2002), to which Tim Crawford has been invited as a panel-member on two sessions relevant to the ECOLM project. The first is on instrumental music in the early modern period (a report on the pilot study of John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae Pavan’ from ECOLM I), the other is a session of the IMS Study Group on Musical Data and Computer Applications (on technical aspects of ECOLM); while this (5-yearly) event occurs before the possible commencement date of ECOLM II, it considerably raises the international profile of the project. At the IMS conference the first informal meetings will also be held to create a larger-scale international project around the ECOLM initiative, in order to build a corpus based on a wider distribution and range of sources and to integrate such an effort with the work of existing resources such as RISM. It is hoped that towards the end of the ECOLM II funding period it will be possible to hold a dedicated international conference related directly to ECOLM’s activities, although this will require separate funding. Mr Crawford has also had a paper on ECOLM accepted for Digital Resources in the Humanities 2002 (Edinburgh, Sept 2002).