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CORDIS

Scribes of Musical Cultures. Decoding Early Technologies of Music Writing in Latin Europe c. 900–1100

Project description

Understanding how early singers read and performed music

Music writing was invented more than 1 000 years ago in Western Europe. However, little is known about how scripts were shaped and exchanged within networks of singer-scribes. The ERC-funded SCRIBEMUS project will enhance the results of established methodologies with computational musicology (machine learning) to study the first spreading of musical notation in Latin Europe. This is one of the most debated topics in historical musicology since the 19th century. Bringing together an international team, the project will carry out the first large-scale and fully interdisciplinary analysis of hundreds of surviving musical sources between 900 and 1100 CE. SCRIBEMUS will use special software to explore the scribes' intellectual approaches that guided their graphic representation of sound.

Objective

From Bach to Beethoven, Verdi to The Beatles, whether elite or popular genres, our collective musical culture was shaped by complex technologies of music writing first invented c.1200 years ago in western Europe. SCRIBEMUS will elucidate the first spreading of musical notation in Latin Europe, one of the most debated topics in historical musicology since the 19th c. The project will address significant lacunae in our understanding of how music scripts were shaped and exchanged within transregional networks of singer-scribes. It will assess how scribes mediated contemporary writing practices and visual culture in the creation of musical notation, as well as the impact of politics and monastic institutions–especially convents–in the first adoption and diffusion of the musical staff. The project's international team will undertake the first large-scale and fully interdisciplinary analysis of hundreds of surviving musical sources across two centuries (c.900–1100); we will literally read beyond the surface of extant palimpsests manuscripts using multi-spectral imaging and digital processing to reveal a corpus of so-far 'hidden' melodies. SCRIBEMUS will go significantly beyond the state of the art in the field by exploring the scribes' intellectual approaches that guided their graphic representation of sound; this will be achieved through the development of software NeumSyntax. We will combine innovatively computational musicology and machine learning for the study of early musical notation with vocal performance practice through a collaboration with the music ensemble Dialogos. In three intersecting work packages, the project will cross the disciplinary boundaries between music, Latin palaeography, linguistics, the study of past musical cultures, and computational science. SCRIBEMUS will fundamentally advance our understanding of how early singers developed sophisticated ways to visualise, read, and perform musical sound, changing the course of music history to this day.

Host institution

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI PAVIA
Net EU contribution
€ 1 464 672,00
Address
STRADA NUOVA 65
27100 Pavia
Italy

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Region
Nord-Ovest Lombardia Pavia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 464 672,00

Beneficiaries (2)