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AHRC-funded Project 'The Production and Reading of Music Sources, 1480–1530 (PRoMS)'

A major AHRC Research Grant has been awarded to the Bangor University School of Music, in association with the Warburg Institute (University of London), for a study of the Production and Reading of Music Sources, 1480-1530. The project will be funded with nearly £ 800,000, the biggest ever sum awarded to a single project in Music by the AHRC.

The project will for the first time study the mise-en-page of Renaissance sources of polyphonic music in a systematic fashion. These sources not only convey a rich repertoire of some of the most impressive music ever written; they are also objects of striking physical appearance and often great artistic beauty. They are also among the most complex sources of their time, by combining verbal text, musical notation and other visual devices.

The project will examine mise-en-page – the ways in which these three layers interact on the page – for the period c.1480–1530, when polyphonic music had spread across the whole of Europe and had achieved its fullest variety in terms of source and repertoire types; it will explore the ways in which meaning is constructed through these interactions by the makers (music scribes, text scribes, illuminators) and users of these sources.

The material will be analysed and presented in two different ways. First, a catalogue of mise-en-page information will be compiled for all extant sources from this period (c.300 manuscripts and exemplars of c.80 printed editions). Concurrently, a template for the taxonomic description of page information and a terminological glossary for sources of polyphonic music will be developed.

In a second stage, a number of selected sources will be researched and analysed with regard to strategies of production and use as evident in their layout. These sources will represent the full geographical and chronological range as well as the full breadth of source-types with regard to formats, functions, repertories, and languages. The visual, notational, and textual elements of a select number of openings will be mapped in detail and cross-referenced to the catalogue and to other openings with similar (or opposing) strategies of visualization; a detailed prose commentary will be provided for these sources. In addition, the team members will publish research papers on topics arising from the project.

Finally, the project will explore with performers how an understanding of the mise-en-page  informs how the music is sung and heard. The performances and a combined CD/DVD release will include multimedia projections of the sources to convey this to the audience, providing a guide through the various visual layers.

The project is a collaboration between Bangor University and the Warburg Institute; it is led by Professor Thomas Schmidt-Beste (Bangor); co-investigators are Professor Charles Burnett (Warburg) and Dr Christian Leitmeir (Bangor). The technical implementation is the responsibility of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (CCH) at Kings College London.

The project will employ two research assistants, one in musicology based in Bangor, the other in art history, as well as a funded PhD student who will work on the printed sources. Most of the work will be conducted on the basis of digital images within an online database environment, with input shared along disciplinary lines where appropriate. In the second stage of the project, each of the research assistants will have main responsibility for a number of individual sources, but also retain responsibility for aspects of his/her discipline.



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