Seminar in medieval and renaissance music

medieval network

Hidden in our publications: Uncovering concordances, citations, and influence in Medieval music through databases and programming’ with speaker Michael Scott Cuthbert (Massachusetts Institue of Technology) hosted by All Souls College.

New musical manuscripts and archival finds in fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century music nearly always bring with them new and often surprising discoveries. Some of these discoveries reveal themselves immediately through instant recognition of similarities with other known works. Others can lie dormant for decades before they are uncovered. It is impossible for even the best read scholars to know about every minor source or obscure publication, let alone to have at the recall every melodic gesture in every song from an entire century of music history.

Dedicated searching through collected editions can reveal many connections between a given piece and other works, but as given hundreds of publications and thousands of works, eventually boredom or inattentiveness is bound to let some citations or concordances slip through. The tool available today that does not get bored and works tirelessly is the computer. A search through for connections between one thousand pieces requires almost a million comparisons; what could take a century for humans to accomplish can be done in a few hours by the computer, but only if all the data has been entered once.
This paper introduces EMMSAP, the Electronic Medieval Music Score Archive Project, which contains a repertory of over 1500 polyphonic works from 1300–1430 encoded in MusicXML along with the tools built on music21 for finding connections and analyzing these works. The talk will spend half the time describing the project and the other half presenting the fruits of its discoveries: a new complete Credo assembled from two seemingly unrelated fragments, new concordances for fourteen works, and further evidence for the influence of Francesco da Firenze (Landini) on Johannes Ciconia.

All are welcome.


Oxford Medieval Studies

Contact name: Margaret Bent
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all