Understanding Old Hispanic chant manuscripts and melodies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: School of Arts

Abstract

Context

Old Hispanic chant manuscripts do not specify precise intervals or pitches. This has constrained scholarly understanding of the melodies. In grant AH/H008306/1, we began to understand Old Hispanic chant's musical language systematically, especially the cadences. We identified characteristic cadence gestures, and how they are adapted to different numbers of syllables and (sometimes) accent patterns. We also explored how melodic pacing interacts with text: there are often many notes on theologically important words, directing participants' meditations towards those words and ideas.

Aims

We will significantly increase the cultural impact of these research findings, through: digital exhibitions; public workshops in Madrid and Coimbra; incorporation of Old Hispanic chant data in www.cantusdatabase.org (the flagship digital archive of ecclesiastical manuscript contents); explanatory Youtube videos; and promotion of our online transcription and analysis software.

We will reconnect locals who visit archives and museums in Lamego, Coimbra, Madrid, León and Valencia with this almost-forgotten aspect of their cultural heritage, as well as reaching out to tourists. An interactive digital exhibition will combine with display - in their home institutions - of some fragmentary manuscripts. The exhibition, co-produced with the five institutions, will raise consciousness of Old Hispanic liturgy, the broad outlines of its history generally, and the history of these fragments in particular. We will also introduce the general public to some of our melodic findings, through a beginners' guide to reading the notations, and a primer to help people recognise cadence shapes and appreciate how the melody paces and parses the text. Some exhibition materials will be presented in short videos, also posted on Youtube (further broadening the potential reach). All exhibition materials will be presented in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Old Hispanic material will be included in ww.cantusdabatase.org for the first time. As well as academics, this is the first port of call for choirmasters and amateur chant/liturgy enthusiasts, who may be struck by the liturgical and theological distinctiveness of the Old Hispanic chants and want to explore further: we will add links to our web-based Chant Editing and Analysis Program, where they will find the digital exhibition and our transcription and analysis tools.

We will use social networking and communicate with special interest groups to spread knowledge of our activities.

Potential applications and benefits

We will engage audiences in ways that go far beyond superficial appreciation of the beauty and antiquity of the materials. The benefits are cultural: certainly aesthetic and historical, likely giving people the joy of spotting meaningful patterns across initially incomprehensible signs, and (for some) devotional and spiritual as well. Although it is little known nowadays, the Old Hispanic liturgy is theologically and musically complex; the sophistication of the liturgies put together for individual feasts and for whole seasons bears comparison with other treasures of the medieval age. The proposed activities allow a large number of people to engage with this cultural treasure.

We will develop a network of new Iberian partners, with whose institutions we will explore the possibility of similar knowledge transfer in future, on the innovative model proposed here. Our longterm aim is a three-way collaboration between our analytical software, www.cantusdatabase.org and SIMSSA (McGill University, in the opening phase of developing optical neume recognition software). The proposed project brings together the two parts of this research that are ready for public use, while continuing to develop three-way dialogue with SIMSSA.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries will be: archivists in Iberian institutions with Old Hispanic chant holdings, both within and beyond the direct collaborators; the collaborating institutions themselves; visitors to those institutions; chant aficionados internationally.

1. Archivists in the collaborating institutions. Our co-produced exhibition will animate 1000-year-old musical fragments whose cultural value was previously static. Through an interactive digital exhibition, the fragments will be brought into outward facing dialogue with our research findings. These archivists will have the opportunity to become much more familiar with the contents and context of the musical fragments in their care, as well as to explore novel ways of sharing the value and significance of these artefacts with a lay public.

2. Other archivists. During the project, we will set up a network of new partnerships with archivists of other institutions, introducing the exhibition to them, and discussing how it might be expanded in future, with the addition of material specific to their own Old Hispanic chant holdings.

3. The participating institutions. They will get the benefit of an exhibition - built using our research findings plus digital materials and design - that will significantly enrich the experience of their visitors. In 4 of the 5 cases (Coimbra, Lamego, León, Madrid), this will involve a direct encounter with one or two medieval manuscripts. In Valencia - a major regional cultural centre - the exhibition will invite visitors to reach imaginatively beyond the earliest musical manuscripts preserved in the area. Longer term, these institutions will be able to extend or repeat the exhibition.

4. Medieval musical manuscripts can be hard to appreciate beyond their beauty in an exhibition space: the script, language, liturgy and musical notation are all several steps removed from everyday life. Our exhibition will introduce visitors to the historical background, contents of each fragment, musical ntation, melodic language, and interaction of Latin text and melody. Summary information will combined with more detailed interactive materials, including short videos, acting as a "mini-tutorial" for visitors. In the immediate term, this will be an unusually rich encounter with a medieval music fragment. Longer term, visitors will have new understanding of how musical languages work and can be communicated through writing.

5. Users of www.cantusdatabase.org will, for the first time, encounter Old Hispanic materials among the (more familiar) Gregorian uses of particular chant texts. This database is used not only by scholars but also by members of the general public who perform chant, practise liturgy, or who have an amateur interest in the topic. Old Hispanic chant is fascinating to many of these people but, because it cannot be performed, it remains mysterious. Linking the CANTUS database with the digital exhibition and with our Chant Editing and Analysis Program means that these enthusiasts will be able to explore the Old Hispanic materials in more detail than hitherto, learning to navigate the musical language despite it being notated only in unpitched neumes. Further, because the Old Hispanic liturgy is assembled in a unique way, our primer will have a long term impact in helping CANTUS users find their way around Old Hispanic liturgical manuscripts (even at the basic level of understanding how the liturgy is constructed). These activities will result over time in a greatly increased understanding and appreciation of the Old Hispanic materials by non-academics already interested in chant.

6. Through social networking, immediately reaching several thousand people, we will inform chant and liturgy enthusiasts about the Iberian exhibitions, perhaps increasing their footfall, and also about the digital exhibition, Youtube videos, and CANTUS indices. They will benefit in a similar way to the CANTUS users.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This was following funding for impact and engagement; it did not fund new research. However, we have made some crucial findings in terms of developing those impacts, mostly on the technical side. These are: developing both the exhibition software and the analytical software; classifying the notational scripts in order to include them in our analytical database as part of the outreach; developing methods and tools for including materials of the Old Hispanic rite in Cantus Index/Spanish Early Music Manuscripts database (both of which were developed primarily for Gregorian chant/Roman rite).
Exploitation Route It is now easy to add new Old HIspanic chants to the Spanish Early Music Manuscripts database (as we are currently testing with university students in Bristol). The chants already there can now be used by scholars and chant enthusiasts in their explorations of medieval chant transmission. The software for the digital exhibition can form the basis for us to expand it to new manuscripts (and institutions) with future funding, or for others to make similar exhibitions, since the software is open source. The taxonomy of the notation that we had to develop in order to transcribe the chants (and to introduce them in the exhibition) will be a fundamental research tool for our research team and others doing Old Hispanic chant research in future. The transcriptions we made will facilitate future analysis of the repertoire.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Description This was an impact award and, as such, non-academic impacts were the major component. The primary impact has occurred through the digital exhibition, which institutions in Iberia have used to introduce the general public to the esoteric manuscript fragments in their custody.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Title Chant Editing and Analysis Program - new data 
Description Within this grant, we added new material to our existing database, and improved the analytical software with which we interrogate that data. (the link is to one sample chant, of those added to the database) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None yet; we have started using the software in teaching, and as the database builds, it becomes more useful to colleagues 
URL https://neumes.org.uk/view/628
 
Title SEMM entries 
Description This is the Spanish Early Music Manuscripts database. We added materials relating to the Spanish fragments described in our exhibition: http://musicahispanica.eu/source/20036 http://musicahispanica.eu/source/20037 http://musicahispanica.eu/source/20041 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact It is too early yet; there will be impacts among scholars and chant aficionados, as the textual relationships between Gregorian and Old Hispanic chant graduate percolate into general (chant aficionado) knowledge. 
URL http://musicahispanica.eu
 
Description Cantus Index 
Organisation University of Waterloo
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We included the Old HIspanic fragments of the exhibition in Cantus Index (via SEMM, the Spanish Early Music Database, which is linked to Cantus Index). This set up the database needs for entering Old Hispanic materials into this flagship online chant text database.
Collaborator Contribution proofreading, creation of text codes, tech support
Impact database entries for manuscript fragments included in the digital exhibition
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with BNE 
Organisation National Library of Spain
PI Contribution We provided a digital exhibition, introducing Old Hispanic chant and liturgy and, in particular, one of the manuscript fragments preserved in this institution
Collaborator Contribution The Biblioteca put one of their fragments on display, together with display space, installation, exhibition staffing, publicity, and two related workshops.
Impact digital exhibition. Multidisciplinary: palaeography, liturgy, musicology, history
Start Year 2016
 
Description Leon cathedral 
Organisation León Cathedral
PI Contribution We provided a digital exhibition, introducing Old Hispanic chant and liturgy and, in particular, one of the manuscript fragments preserved in this institution. We also launched the exhibition with a talk by Raquel Rojo Carrillo
Collaborator Contribution exhibition space, manuscript display case, staffing, local arrangements, publicity
Impact digital exhibition. Multidisciplinary: palaeography, liturgy, musicology, history
Start Year 2016
 
Description University of Coimbra 
Organisation University of Coimbra
Country Portugal 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided a digital exhibition, introducing Old Hispanic chant and liturgy and, in particular, one of the manuscript fragments preserved in this institution. We also launched the exhibition with a talk by Raquel Rojo Carrillo
Collaborator Contribution exhibition space, manuscript display, staffing and a workshop
Impact digital exhibition. Multidisciplinary: palaeography, liturgy, musicology, history
Start Year 2016
 
Description diocesan Museum of Lamego 
Organisation Diocesan Museum of Lamego
PI Contribution We provided a digital exhibition, introducing Old Hispanic chant and liturgy and, in particular, one of the manuscript fragments preserved in this institution. We also launched the exhibition with a talk by Raquel Rojo Carrillo. We paid for staffing of the exhibition also
Collaborator Contribution exhibition space, publicity and a poster
Impact digital exhibition. Multidisciplinary: palaeography, liturgy, musicology, history
Start Year 2016
 
Description valencia university 
Organisation University of Valencia
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided a digital exhibition, introducing Old Hispanic chant and liturgy and, in particular, one of the manuscript fragments preserved in this institution. We also launched the exhibition with a talk by Raquel Rojo Carrillo
Collaborator Contribution exhibition space, local arrangements and publicity
Impact digital exhibition. Multidisciplinary: palaeography, liturgy, musicology, history
Start Year 2016
 
Title digital exhibition 
Description The main component is the user interface, written in Purescript and Halogen. It is designed primarily for use in a public place with a 23" touch screen, and no keyboard. The entire interface is a single page application, with a single entry point into the Purescript code. Once loaded, it has all of the data it needs, apart from static images and videos. Therefore everything can be delivered from filestore, and no server is required. (There is an AJAX call for logging - see below - but it is not essential to have a server listening for it since it is OK for it to fail.) For use at the exhibition sites, the HTML page is loaded and run using a simple Electron application. This application sets full-screen kiosk mode, and has code to prevent zooming. It also provides a trivial HTTP server used for recording very compact logging information, which can be used to create estimates of the numbers of visitors, and the extent to which they explored beyond the introductory page. The HTML used in this situation contains javascript code to return to the start page after a timeout, and to suppress unnecessary and potentially confusing touch-screen gestures, such as long touch. With only very small changes, the same HTML page is used for an online version of the exhibition. Also cut-down static pages are created for mobiles and tablets, since small devices are unlikely to be able to zoom out sufficiently to accomodate the full user interface. The data required to drive the exhibition is all determined at build time, but it is relatively complex: there are tables of timings within the videos, used to control the display of illustrations and the scrolling of the transcripts; texts of transcripts and short messages are provided in three languages; and a few hundred static URLs point to images and videos. In order to keep these under control, and to check that the static resources are actually present at build time, the data structure is created as a JSON object using a simple web server written using Yesod. This server is used only during the build, and the page it creates is simply captured for stand-alone use (after minor post-processing). 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Presentation of digital exhibition online and at venues across Spain and Portugal, as well as (on a temporary basis) in the UK and Czech republic 
URL http://expo.neumes.org.uk
 
Description Digital exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Digital exhibition, presented in the five partner institutions along with (in four of them) display of a medieval fragment in their possession. The original arrangement was to display the exhibition for 3 months April-July 2017. It was so well received that four of the institutions (Leon, Madrid, Lamego and Coimbra) have continued the exhibition to the present, and Madrid have confirmed that it is now part of their permanent exhibit (but without the manuscript fragment on display). Estimated footfall during the original three months was 45,000 (the majority in Madrid); we are currently seeking more up to date information about visitor numbers and engagement. The exhibition is also freely available online, and has been displayed for periods of time at Bristol University and also at the Med-Ren conference in Prague (Summer 2017), to expand the reach to colleagues and their students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://expo.neumes.org.uk